Lincoln Cathedral

Here I am in York after an evening walk around the medieval walls of the city and, very unfortunately, dreading having to get the travel blog off the ground again. While it has given me so much pleasure to share my adventures and observations up until now, the corruption of all my photo-galleries by WordPress’ dreadful software updates has quite spoiled my travel archive.

I now face the unenviable choice of leaving everything up until May 2014 in its incomplete state or re-loading each gallery individually to match the more recent ones. It was hard enough to keep up when I was working a system that I knew well but now that I have to re-learn everything it will be next to impossible. So, either I abandon the website altogether (like so many before me) or I find a more satisfying method of recording my experiences: one that enables me to enjoy the challenges of each day and still relax a little in the evenings.

The only thing that I can come up with, for this trip at least, is to abandon the galleries until later in the year and try to improve my writing. Perhaps I can paint pen pictures of sufficient interest to keep my family and friends entertained on our northward trek. Let’s see how we get on.

So how does the first post of my Scotland trip come to bear the title of Lincoln Cathedral while being written in York? The Great Northward Odyssey began at 5 am this morning when I awoke to begin stuffing Zoltan, Molly and various bits of all-weather kit into the Silver Lady in an attempt to cross London before the inevitable build up of Monday morning traffic. We made it onto the M1 by 7 am and by 10.30 am had covered the 188 miles that took us to Lincoln, a city literally crowned by one of the most beautiful edifices in England.

The three majestic towers of Lincoln cathedral look down over the surrounding flatlands from the top of a hill so steep it is actually named “Steep Hill” and, as one ascends, the overly broad proportions of the great West Front at first disturb and then impress. It is absolutely huge. Zoltan wanted to know whether it is bigger than Canterbury but I had to admit that my knowledge is not quite that encyclopaedic.

Similarly, I found myself unable to rattle off the dates of the various stages of Lincoln cathedral’s thousand year history. Fortunately an information sheet, available for the princely cost of 20 pence, showed how ambitious towers and spires grew up and fell down again throughout the ages almost like a speeded up film of trees in a dense forest. I was surprised to find that, in spite of its Easterly situation in the country and prominent position on the landscape, it had suffered little damage during World War II. This is especially surprising since it was so beloved of the British pilots looking out for it as they made their weary way back from sorties across the North Sea.

Skipping nimbly back to the twelfth century (with apologies to all those fascinating people who lived their lives in between) we make the acquaintance of one of the most interesting characters in English ecclesiastical history. Notwithstanding the fact that he was actually a Frenchman, the virtuous and highly principled Hugh of Burgundy so impressed the tempestuous and rather less principled Henry II of England that he was summoned across the Channel to introduce a more ascetic way of life for our clergy. The two were often in communication and Hugh stood up to Henry in an uncanny repetition of the defiance shown by Archbishop Thomas Becket some ten years earlier but this time it did not end with blood on the flagstones but with a measure of mutual respect.

Saint Hugh, for it is inevitable that such a virtuous man would have been canonised in that period, is remembered for his innovative plans for the rebuilding of Lincoln cathedral after the earthquake of 1185, for his vociferous protection of the Jewish residents of Lincoln in a time of great insecurity and for the unusual dedication of his pet swan. He is not to be confused with “Little Saint Hugh”, a child allegedly murdered by Jews in the following century when anti-Semitic propaganda was at its height but we will probably be hearing more about this sorry period when we explore a little of the City of York tomorrow.

I cannot claim to know Lincoln at all really but I remember tantalising stories from my days of riding the railways: stories of underground tunnels radiating from that central steep hill, tunnels along which two men could ride abreast, tunnels leading out to places that no one now remembers. Perhaps I will get the opportunity to return.

Our onward journey to York was uneventful, except when we came upon an unexpected toll bridge across the river Trent. I had to suffer the embarrassment of my co-pilot being unable to get the necessary change out of his jeans pocket coupled with the confusion of being completely unable to understand the bridge keeper’s East Riding accent.


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