discovered from the local paper
that timbers from the 'Willington Waggonway' were on show for one day only at the Stephenson Railway Museum
, and we took time out yesterday to go and see them. This was part of the same 'Festival of Archaeology' as the presentation we went to last week, about the Lanchester Diploma, though I suspect both events would have happened sooner or later anyway.
We'd never heard of the Stephenson Railway Museum, either - it turns out to be a small but good collection, right next to the Silverlink shopping center. They'd set up a container outside the building, containing a young woman (who turns out to be Dominique Bell, Project Coordinator) and several lengths of untreated timber:
These are mainly the wooden rails of the 'Willington Waggonway', a late 18th century waggonway, built to carry horse-drawn coal carts - which makes it a rare survival of one of the world's first railways. THe timber at the left of the bottom shelf is irregularly shaped because it's just the branch of a tree, used as a sleeper to support the rails.
This rail has been recycled from the timbers of a ship (if I've got this right, the peg sticking out of it on the left is part of the railway, whereas the peg going across it further right is part of the construction of the ship).Here's Dominique's blog post about her 'waggonway adventure'
- going to York to collect the treated timbers for display. Obviously, they are trying to raise money to treat all the surviving timbers.
Some of the treated timbers were on display inside the museum, and I'm afraid I didn't find them anything like as exciting as the untreated ones outside; but I suppose if we want them to survive, it has to be done. There were plenty of other things to admire in the museum, too, shiny engines and suchlike, and we enjoyed our morning there.
In fact, we were sufficiently in holiday mood that we decided to lunch at the Citron Vert
, a new 'French bistro' in High Pittington (formerly the Duke of Wellington) which we had seen reviewed in the Durham Times
They weren't busy when we arrived, despite which they didn't have a table set, gave us the table hard by the counter and kept us waiting for the menu. That wasn't auspicious, but it picked up from then on. The table rubbing elbows with the staff meant we could chat to la patronne (the staff aren't French, but the enterprise certainly is!) as she opened the champagne and made kir royale for the party in the window, who were celebrating someone's birthday (they were displaying a balloon that said so). We both chose salade niçoise from the short menu (the black olives were the sort you buy ready stoned, which don't taste of much, but the eggs were cooked just right, and the anchovies were excellent, and plentiful), and a glass of Touraine sauvignon. I'd wondered how the Durham Times
review had managed to square its ratings for quality and value with the prices they were quoting, but the answer may lie in the prices they weren't quoting: the wine, especially by the glass, was not cheap, and the sauvignon was pleasant but not special. However, when la patronne asked how we were doing, and we said what it a pity it was that they didn't offer rosé by the glass to accompany the salad, she said oh, but they did, it just hadn't made its way onto the menu, and poured me a complimentary half glass of Anciens Temps rosé
, which was exactly what I would have chosen - pale, dry, with a faint caramel edge. I see from their online menu that their dinner menu includes a café gourmand, which I would probably have preferred to the chocolate brownie (nice enough, not as squidgy as I like it and the ice cream frozen too hard) I did have.
So if I had to give actual marks (which happily I don't) they would include quite a lot of on the one hand, on the other hand
. But I think they are aiming for the right targets, even if they don't always hit them.
Also, our bill was handwritten on a picture postcard, and our card was one of the set issued by Penguin, showing the covers of their books: we got the Puffin edition of Heidi
. I'm not that easily seduced, am I?