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Pump and go

Last Saturday was the Durham County Cat show, held in the Nissan factory sports centre, outside Washington. I went last year with Steve and Helen; Helen and I had a lovely time driving along the coast and enjoying being at the seaside. This year though, we'd looked at the weather forecast, and decided that indoor activities might be a better bet.
  So after dropping Steve off at the show, and taking a look around, we headed for Sunderland. We planned to visit the Ryhope Engine Museum and the Winter Gardens and museum in Sunderland, which Helen insisted were close to one another. We drove into Sunderland, with Helen commenting on how well signposted the routes were, and then tried to follow the directions on the Google route map she'd printed. Once we were in the city centre, street signs vanished and once again we got stuck in a one-way system. We spotted the Winter Gardens, couldn't see any convenient parking, and went on in search of the Engine Museum. We ended up heading out of town, which made sense to me as I was sure the pic I'd seen showed it in a field, but Helen insisted it was closer to the museum. As there was no sign of it, and no signs for it, we turned around and headed to the museum. After more wrestling with the one-way, we found a car park near the Winter Gardens and settled for that.

The Winter Gardens are fairly new (2002), a replacement for the lovely Victorian Winter Gardens that were destroyed in the Blitz. It is a circular building, with a canopy level walk, and a pond with colourful koi carp to admire. We liked the museum too, which had displays of local pottery and glass, which neither of us knew Sunderland had produced. There was also a fabulous exhibition of knitted objects from everyday life: a knitted dustbin with knitted cans, fish bones, etc inside. We had lunch at the museum and asked for directions to the pumping station. We also asked why there were no signs for the musuem, which is obviously a big investment and tourist attraction. The staff grumbled, as the local council won't put up singage because they don't have their own car park !

We followed directions, and ended up going back out along the road we'd turned back from earlier. This time we continued on and found the engine museum in a village just outside town. We'd chosen to go partly because they were having a steam day, with one of the pumping engines up and running. The museum was a water pumping station, built around 1867.  It was built with wonderful attention to detail; there are fluted iron columns in the main hall which are purely decorative, to enhance the cathedral-like feel of the space. They serve no architectral purpose whatsoever.  The scale of the spumping engines was fabulous and watching it gracefully move up and down was almost hypnotic. It was pretty quiet too  - no effort to hear one another speak.  And of course there was that wonderful smell of hot oil and hot metal that you get around steam engines.

After a slight diversion down the A19 in the wrong direction (just like last year), we arrived back at the show as the last stragglers were leaving, picked Steve up, and headed home after another pleasant day out.

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