A couple of days of unpacking, furniture construction and cardboard recycling is enough and so I was sufficiently stir crazy to venture out of the apartment into the city of Durham itself. (A 9.00pm emergency dash to Sainsbury’s on Tuesday doesn’t really count).
It’s going to take a while before I get sufficiently used to my new home to know where to find the interesting images, so you might have to be forgiving in the meantime. That’s not to say that beauty is hard to find in Durham, it’s just that it’s mostly been photographed before. Arriving today though it was bright and noticeably warmer than my previous coastal abode so I strolled along the riverside for a little while, my route taking me to the point where the most cliched image of Durham is usually shot.
I have a vague childhood recollection (I’m doing well to remember anything from that long ago) of my Aunt Lil having a picture at the top of her stairs of Durham Cathedral with the old Fulling Mill on the riverside beneath. I think it was a small
tapestry, but it could have been an old photograph, or a print of a painting. The point is that for many people this is the defining image of the city, containing as it does the river that loops around the historic centre, the sense of height that the Cathedral’s vantage point on the peninsula defined by the river possesses, and of course the cathedral itself, visible for miles around. That cliché looks like this.
(Surely I’m allowed to resort to it on my first proper Durham blog?)
Cliches are of course meant to be subverted in some way. First option was to simply align my camera to shoot landscape rather than portrait. This gives a better sense of perspective and some nice leading lines. Look closely and you will see the beginning of a weir (on the Wear!) beside the Mill. This sweeps right across the river, and so by walking further upstream you can eliminate much of the turbulence, and on a day like to day take advantage of the stillness to get a reflection. That’s a less obvious shot again.
Walking on brings me to the Prebends Bridge, a Grade I listed monument and one of the three stone arched bridges that cross the Wear in the City and I cross to the opposite bank where I meet a lady enjoying the sunshine and tackling her crossword puzzle. She will be today’s portrait and, appropriately enough for such a peaceful day and my proximity to the great Norman edifice above, her name is Grace.
Emerging from one, I spotted this woman whose backlit cigarette smoke looked promising, but she turned at an awkward angle, until, just as she brought the cigarette back into line with the sun another pedestrian walked into shot and the moment was lost. Still as I said, there’s plenty of time to explore here.
Although I’ve crossed the Prebends Bridge before, it has usually been in the opposite direction when leaving the cathedral, so until today had not seen this inscription. The words are by Sir Walter Scott. Not very remarkable you might think, and you’d be right but for the fact that as I returned home I switched the radio on to the inimitable sound of Mariella Frostrup. She was presenting this… http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01s39zb. Funny old world.