Darlington and its surroundings, with an emphasis on North Yorkshire.

With York to the south and Newcastle-upon-Tyne to the north, tourists usually by-pass the town of Darlington, which means that its many delights exist primarily for local people. Also, because York and Newcastle-upon-Tyne are more obvious tourist destinations than Darlington, Darlington’s surroundings are largely unknown to outsiders. From the scenic point of view Darlington’s surroundings are not spectacular because the best you get outside the overwhelmingly flat Vale of York are gently undulating hills. But on the Vale of York, and among the nearby gently undulating hills, are some unusual old market towns and beautiful villages. The following photos seek to reveal some of the area’s fascination and beauty. Most of the places below are within a 25 mile drive of Darlington town centre. Towns and villages in North Yorkshire dominate the post, with Bedale, Catterick, Hunton, Patrick Brompton and the deer park at Hornby Castle all represented. There is also one photo of Darlington.

To exemplify the interest that exists in the area, here are some notes about the village of Hunton.

Hunton: a compact village with houses along both sides of three roads and two short lanes. Two or three streams meet in or close to the village and run through or beside it. The Countryman’s Inn serves good food at reasonable prices. There used to be a small church (St. John’s CE, rebuilt in 1794), and a Wesleyan chapel (built in 1829). Both buildings still exist, but as private houses. The village once had three pubs and a glove factory.

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Bilbao and its immediate surroundings, the Basque Country, Spain.

You can tell that Bilbao and its immediate surroundings made quite an impression on me, but it is now time to say farewell with this, the fourth post devoted to the city and its riverside settlements leading to the sea in the north. Here you will find a few photos which try to engage with both the conventional as well as the idiosyncratic. Photos embrace murals, churches, the river, Alhondhiga Bilbao, Areeta, the area close to Museo Guggenheim, and the one-time fishing port of Algorta. It was difficult narrowing down the photos to about ten because there is so much to enjoy in this, one of Spain’s least Spanish urban and suburban areas. Not that there is anything “wrong” with things overtly, proudly and passionately Spanish (far from it, as earlier posts confirm, I hope); it is just that Bilbao is definitely something a little less ordinary. In fact, despite all the pressures which threaten to turn most large cities around the globe into clones of one another, Bilbao has character and personality which mark it out as different. You love New York? Kolkata? Istanbul? So do I. Therefore, visit Bilbao!

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Lamiako to Erandio, Bilbao, the Basque Country, Spain.

Any journey on the metro from the city centre to the riverside suburbs or small towns along the coast will reveal what remains of Bilbao’s once-enviable dependence on heavy industry, heavy industry which included shipbuilding, engineering and iron and steel manufacture. Much has been done in recent years to remove evidence of the abandoned rust-bucket industrial sites, but, between Lamiako in the north and Erandio in the south, enough survives to interest people with an affection for edgelands, sacrifice zones and similar rundown, marginal and shunned places (see an earlier post entitled “Edgelands and Sacrifice Zones: Turkey, United Kingdom, etc.” for a description of what an edgeland or sacrifice zone might be).

One overcast afternoon punctuated by heavy showers, I took the metro to Lamiako and walked south to Erandio, weaving back and forth to spend time beside the river, among old factories, crossing derelict plots of land or examining drab housing which once sheltered the families of the local industrial workers. There was much to admire, even where landscaping has left sterile patches of open ground, open ground which will be developed, I am confident, once Spain’s current economic malaise is overcome.

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