On Monday 13 May we left Manchester – we’d had a very enjoyable four days there – and drove across the Peak District to Sheffield then on to Durham. We stopped at Fountains Abbey, a ruined Cistercian monastery near Ripon, for a National Trust lunch.
The narrow winding road across the Peak District was choked in both directions and it took us a long time to get through. At one stage, road works created a traffic queue, more or less at a standstill, for 20 or 30 kilometres. The very expressive English term for this is ‘a tailback’.
We had a family history reason for calling in to Sheffield. My step-grandfather George William Symes (1896-1980) was Colonel of the York and Lancaster Regiment from 1946 to 1948, and in his will he left a large sum to the Regimental Chapel for the York and Lancaster Regiment in Sheffield Cathedral.
The cathedral – given that status in 1914 – was built in stages over many hundreds of years. The east wall of the sanctuary has stones from the 13th-century church; the chancel hammerbeam roof was built in the 16th century; outstretched wings were added in the 1960s to the gilded angels at the end of the beams; and the west end of the Cathedral was expanded in 1966.
To the north of the nave is the chapel of Saint George, which commemorates the York and Lancaster Regiment and serves to house some of its colours and standards. The chapel has a screen made of the regiment’s bayonets and swords in memory of all those who gave their lives while serving with it, upward pointing swords indicating readiness to serve and downward pointing bayonets signifying the laying aside of weapons of war. Oak stalls commemorate particular members of the regiment. There is one for George Symes. A stained glass window in the chapel was given by George Symes in memory of all ranks of the regiment who served in Burma from 1939 to 1945. The ceiling is a memorial to George and his first wife Katherine, its construction made possible in part by his bequest.
Leaving Sheffield we drove north to Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal Water Garden. Greg and I had visited it on a cold overcast day in 1989. Thirty years later the weather was glorious. The ruins and gardens were beautiful; it was a shame we had to leave early, but we still had a long way to drive.
We got to Durham Cathedral at 4:30. We had been there in 1989; I had remembered being impressed with its Romanesque architecture and its pretty (and very defensible) position above the River Wear.
We had dinner with a few pints at a local pub. We had driven nearly 300 km from Manchester. I also did a lot of walking, more than 18,000 steps, most of them around Fountains Abbey.