We didn’t recognize most people on the bus. There was Maureen and some of her pals from the Walled Garden, Andy the residential volunteer, our leader Vicky, and a handful of us from the Wednesday Conservation Group. And there were lots of other people, all volunteers. Gibside and many places like it – National Trust or not - depend on volunteers. This was the Gibside volunteers’ annual charabanc outing. Our guides at Aukland Castle last Thursday were of the familiar breed of volunteers: well-informed, enthusiastic and entertaining.
|The Entrance to Aukland Castle|
|Carved wooden panel behind altar|
Aukland Castle, home to the Prince Bishops of Durham for eight centuries, is quite an impressive place. Its chapel – converted from the Castle’s great hall - is stunning, inside and out, and full of detail – both decorative and historical. We give no further account of it here; go and see it. And whilst you’re there, have a wander in the Deer Park. We did; we saw no deer, but we did see the English Heritage cared-for Deer House, which is an extraordinary, extravagant affair – built to give shelter to deer and provide somewhere comfy for the bishop’s visitors to watch them. It’s hardly surprising that the deer keep away from the tourist bits when there’s so much shapely parkland to hide in.
|The Deer House|
|Aukland Castle Grounds|
On a day out, the coach ride matters. For those of us not familiar with north County Durham, our return journey by our driver’s scenic route - in order to avoid the rush-hour mayhem of the A1(M) - was a revelation and a delight. Tony isn’t a proper grumpy coach driver, not like they used to be in the olden days. Throughout the day, Tony was helpful, smiling and pleasant, interested and interesting. That makes a difference on a day out.
Phil Coyne & Steve Wootten