The bells, the bells …

There has been a church on the site of Hexham Abbey for more than 1,300 years, since Queen Etheldreda made a grant of lands to Wilfrid, Bishop of York c.674. Beneath the floor of the nave, the crypt of Wilfrid’s Saxon church is still intact.  A steep stair leads down into a dimly lit chamber where inscriptions show that many of the stones used to build the crypt came from the old Roman fort at Corbridge, 3 miles to the east.

Look up, rather than down, and there is a series of galleried walkways around the south and east transepts. Those on the south are accessed by a small wooden door to the right of the broad gallery at the top of the night stairs, a flight of 35 stone steps rising from the south transept.  Through the door, a very narrow steep spiral staircase leads to the first gallery – heading along the gallery another set of spiral steps leads to the ringing chamber.  Above that, yet more narrow steps lead to the bell chamber.  This is the domain of the Hexham Abbey Guild of Bell Ringers.

The Ringing Chamber, Hexham Abbey

John the bellringer explaining the mechanics of the Hexham bells.

The T Lester 1742 D# Bell mid-ring – the oldest of the ten bells.

The view from the southern gallery

The lack of head height and the narrow stairs confirms what we all know – that we are significantly bigger than our ancestors, some more than others.  And, this provides the perfect excuse to include my favourite clip from In Bruges 🙂 :

Sunny afternoon …

Snow was forecast for the weekend so it became a matter of urgency to ‘escape’ on one of the bikes, however briefly. The main incentive was to try out the GoPro chest mount, not trusting the sticky mount on my helmet – it is expensive equipment to see bouncing down the road in the rear view mirrors.

So, for those who do not suffer motion sickness, here is another slow TV episode, this time a brief ride around Hexham, taking in the Abbey, the A69, A68 and Stagshaw roundabout.  The backing tracks are royalty free and include:

Cataclysmic Molten Core – the Jingle Punks
Namaste – Audionautix
Mean Streetz – MK2

As I enter the A69 and head for the A68, Mean Streetz is replaced by the ‘music’ of a V-Twin on full song – with accompanying wind noise 😈

The still is “me and my shadow” on the A69 – see below for the video – hold on tight 🙂

Me and ...

This may occasionally look quick but no speed limits were exceeded – the buzz comes from the acceleration, not top speed. Nor were any animals/creatures harmed in the making of this film – one of the advantages of winter riding – a bug free visor 🙂

Plus ça change …

… plus c’est la même chose.  I posted this image on Blip this morning with the title “Praying for snow” :

Prayer candles ...

I had a vague recollection I had used the same title on WordPress and a search brought up a post from exactly the same day two years ago – almost spooky 😳  The words could have been written today:

Things can only get better – the UK weather at the start of 2014 has been dreadful, a combination of high winds, high tides and endless rain … The bike remains on charge in the garage, the golf clubs hide in the boot of my car and the cameras remain on the shelf – too dull/wet/cold to venture out.

The only change is that there are now two bikes sitting idle and on charge in the garage – “when will they ever learn

Travel theme: Arches

For years I have taken Hexham Abbey for granted but recently I have been paying it more attention – I have been inside at least three times this year which, for an irreligious chap like me, is quite good going. It really is a magnificent building supported by countless arches – an earlier post contains a video which captures it perfectly – A day in the light of Hexham Abbey.

From the Hexham Local History Society:  Hexham is dominated by Hexham Abbey. Originally the church of Hexham Priory, founded by Bishop Wilfrid in 674 A.D. The current church largely dates from c.1170–1250, in the Early English Gothic style of architecture. The choir, north and south transepts and the cloisters, where canons studied and meditated, date from this period. The east end was rebuilt in 1860 and the nave in 1904.

Arches Arches Arches

The images were taken with the faithful Fuji X100s, hand-held in poor light, without flash and pushed to ISO 6400 but you would never know – click on the images to see what I mean.

Hexham Abbey

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument.  The Abbey dominates the northern side of Hexham, we see it almost everyday and, as locals, take it for granted.  It deserves more of our attention.  There is an earlier post on the same subject but I am looking for an excuse to provide a link to A Day in the Light of Hexham Abbey, a film recently commissioned as part of the Hexham Abbey Project.  This is the view from its southern side but the film captures its real magic:

Hexham Abbey



The weather has turned for the worse again so I will return to the one bright day of the week, Tuesday and the early morning trip to the appropriately named Heavenfield.  Last week I posted photographs of Hexham Abbey and there is inevitably a link between the two.

The site of the small church is believed to be where King Oswald raised a large wooden cross prior to the Battle of Heavenfield (AD 635); the successful outcome of this conflict with Cadwallon, “the accursed leader of the Britons”, resulted in re-establishment of Celtic Christianity and the Golden Age of the Kingdom of Northumbria.

Monks from Hexham Abbey held an annual pilgrimage to Heavenfield where splinters from the cross were capable of divining miracles; the site became such a popular destination that a small church was established in the late 7th Century.  The present St Oswald’s was built in the 18th Century and is probably the third to occupy this site.  An annual pilgrimage from the Abbey to Heavenfield is still held each year on St Oswald’s Day, 5th August.

Set alone in a field, it has always struck me as the perfect location for a film set in the 18th or 19th Centuries there being no inconvenient evidence of the modern world; no tarmac to disguise, no road signs to remove, no overhead wires to constrain camera angles.  It is a divine place and also the end point of the St Oswald’s Way, a 97 mile long distance footpath from Holy Island.  It is time to get those walking boots on.

St Oswald's Heavensfield

St Oswald's Heavensfield

St Oswald's Heavensfield

St Oswald's Heavensfield

St Oswald's Heavensfield

Hexham Abbey

I pass this fine building several times a week and generally never give it a thought.  It has become such a familiar sight that it almost disappears from my peripheral vision which is an awful admission; it deserves to be noticed. So by way of contrition I went inside this morning to pay my respects.  I was rewarded by a warm welcome; the interior is kept at a constant 16°C, not for my benefit but for the organ’s (click on images to enlarge):

Hexham Abbey

Hexham Abbey

The Devil in the DetailHexham AbbeyHexham AbbeyHexham AbbeyThere is a wealth of information about Hexham Abbey here including many more photographs of its magnificent exterior: