Moors and hills and rugged coast: walking Northumberland

Several of you commented on my coastal pictures from Northumberland, remarking on how relaxing the whole thing must have been. Well …. it recharged the batteries alright … but not by lying down on the beach with a good book. Certainly not.

Only birds sunbathe here……

We were at Nether Grange, an HF hotel, with our walking group. And we were there with other walkers – some in groups, others not. At Nether Grange, walking is what you come for. That and good food eaten in good company. We’d opted for guided walks. Three levels of difficulty are offered each day so there’s no excuse not to get involved. I chose one of each, so finished the week with 15.3 km, 12 km and 17 km. walks under my belt.

Moorland near Etal.

This is hill country. The Pennines, the backbone range that bisects northern England becomes the Cheviots as it marches towards Scotland. In the car you’ll swoop thrillingly up and audaciously down those hillsides. They provide a backdrop to the area which is at once dramatic and bucolic.

On foot, you’ll get to know about those slopes….. actually, we weren’t often faced with gradients that had us gasping, panting and begging for mercy. But we rarely had a long level stretch either. And our leaders were there to encourage, chivvy along, provide good humour and background notes on all kinds of topics … as well as read the maps, so we didn’t have to.

We walked moorland tracks, bouncy with springy turf nibbled short by sheep. We crossed hillsides bright with golden gorse. We tracked through woodland carpeted with bluebells.

A woodland glade … no bluebells this time.

We passed Ford Moss, an extremely ancient raised peat bog where we excited the residents: Exmoor ponies charged with grazing the vegetation and keeping it in trim.

Exmoor ponies going for a gallop.

We passed farms with shire horses and hissy geese.

And on the last day, we walked the local coastal path: St. Oswald’s Way. The section between Alnmouth and Craster-where-the-kippers-come-from is characterised by craggy cliffs, and are home, like the nearby Farne Islands, to many thousands of seabirds such as kittiwakes and fulmars. Here’s what the zoom lens on my new camera can do.

Cliffs and Dunstanburgh Castle seen from afar. The next three shots zoom in ….
Craster: cottages, a safe harbour, and a few tourists.

Our group, the 17 km one (10 1/2 miles to the non-metric) finished just beyond Dunstanburgh Castle. It was built in the 14th Century by the Earl of Lancaster, who was openly hostile to King Edward II – never a good idea, because the king had him executed in 1322. This fortification was built to make a bellicose statement, in an area crowded with castles. Now it’s a ruin, and an impressive one. We slogged to the top of the keep for the views, marvelling at the extra-thick walls as we climbed.

Leaving the castle behind us.

We finished the day, and our three days of walks, with a paddle. Gotta have a paddle. Or ‘plodge’ as the locals call it.

Plodging towards home….

With thanks to our walk leaders Chris, Helen, Paul, Richard: to Reuben and Team Nether Grange, and to our own Mike and Angela for organising the holiday.

And this is also an entry for Jo’s Monday Walk.

Beach patterns

I could take a walk on the beach every morning of my life.

We’ve just come back from four days in Northumberland, staying in the coastal town of Alnmouth.  Each morning before breakfast, I’d walk down to the sands to be both stimulated and calmed by the dragging, pulsing action of the sea.

There was the patterning of the sands to enjoy.  Those banks of undulations extending as far as I could see.  The designs etched in different coloured sands upon the newly-flattened beach.  Shadows and reflections in shallow pools.  The changing colours of the sea and sky towards the horizon.

Other beach lovers walked in contemplative silence too.  Their dogs preferred to celebrate the long, wide space, and simply ran and ran.

Todays Ragtag Challenge is ‘Patterns’.

Click on any image to view full-size.

My battered old notebook

I’ve known this notebook all my life.  It’s battered, scruffy … and almost empty.  I could use it for shopping lists or for all kinds of casual notes.  But I don’t.  And I don’t because this little book turns out to be an historical document, a recipe book from times when recipes were about so much more than food. 

Here are instructions for making horse powder (what?); cow drink; paste blacking (in fact several recipes for blacking); blue ink; black ink and crimson colour for show bottles (eh?).  There are instructions for making stomach pills; an efficacious receipt for the rheumatism;  red oils for bruses (sic) and sprains and two cures for cholera.  If you read this little book, you’ll know how to etch on glass; clean brass, copper and tin – and  note that brass is spelt the old-fashioned way, with an ‘f‘ in place of the first ‘s‘ when writing ‘brass‘.  This spelling fell out of use in about 1800 in England: and yet the index pages of this book are machine-cut.

On the other hand, cholera didn’t arrive in England till 1832, and was rife until 1854, when John Snow discovered the connection between contaminated water and the disease.  Does that date my little book to somewhere between the mid 1830s and 1850s?

I’ll leave you with one recipe, because I know you will want shiny black shoes in time for Christmas.

SUPERIOR BLACKING FOR BOOTS & SHOES

  • Ivory black 1 lb (that’s black pigment made from charred ivory or bone)
  • Treacle 1/2 lb.
  • Fuller’s earth 1/2 lb
  • Sweet oil 1/4 lb. (that’s olive oil).

Mix with water.

Click on any image to view full size.

 

Ragtag Tuesday: Flying the flag

Last time, we had to get to York to catch the coach to London.  This time, York had two coaches stuffed with its own.  Harrogate and Ripon had two, up from zero.  And Leeds had upped its game from two to five.

Coach to London?  Yes, to support the March for the People’s Vote.  You’ll know there were about 700,000 of us.  You’ll know the arguments.  So let’s just talk about a fun day.

A day in which I could take few photos, because I was on Team North Yorkshire, and often doing duty carrying one end of our banner. We did sing though.  All the Yorkshire marchers who could be found as we passed the Grosvenor Hotel were rounded up for a photo call.  A passing marching band (there were  musicians….)  struck up with ‘On Ilkley Moor baht’at‘ and all right-thinking Yorkshire folk joined in with lots of enthusiasm but little melody.

We talked.  How we talked.  We made common cause with voters from Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency, from Devon, from Northumberland, from Leicestershire – the banners proved that no part of the nation was unrepresented.

And we carried flags.  EU flags, Union Jacks, Yorkshire flags, Italian flags.  Progress was slow.  We snuck off to coffee shops (staffed by Italians) and pubs (staffed by any and every nation) for a quick breather and still easily regained our places.

 

Have you ever tried to fit 700,000 people into Parliament Square?  No, can’t happen.  In any case, thousands and thousands of us were still marching as the speeches started, as they continued, and after they had finished.  That was disappointing, as last time, I’d been inspired and energised by so many fired up and dynamic contributions.

Instead we got street theatre.  Anarchists on wildly decorated bicycles, a Boris Johnson look-alike, a tricycle.  It was, despite our serious purpose, lots of fun.  And tiring.

 

Look.  This is us on the coach home.  Our flags are still in place.

But I’ll end on this story, which makes me in equal measure sad and angry.

On the bus down, a French woman who has lived in the UK for 32 years told us that she no longer feels welcome in the UK, has suffered abuse, and has been told to ‘go home’.  She’d always previously loved Britain’s diversity and felt us to be accepting and tolerant.

And sadly, after two years of this different treatment, she’s decided she and her British husband have had enough and they’re moving to France. Even though she has considered Yorkshire her home for over 30 years.  This is not the first time I’ve heard tales like this.

It’s no secret that I voted Remain.  But nobody, however they voted, seems happy with how things are going.  If you believe that, having been given the chance to vote on continued EU membership, we should now be given the opportunity to vote on the Final Deal (including an option to remain), please write to your MP.  Here’s how.

Click on any image to see it full size.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘Flag’.

A window of opportunity

I’ve always loved looking at the contributions to Thursday doors, where bloggers from around the world share images of their favourite doors. Somehow, I’ve never got round to joining in.  But looking through my photos for something or other yesterday, I realised that I had the makings of a post about windows. Here it is.

Here’s an image from the last March for Europe in London in June.  I’ll be there again, probably as you read this, marching for a People’s Vote on the Final Deal.  I’m not sure how much I believe in another referendum, but what other hope have we got to turn the tide against the national disaster that is Brexit?

Happier times, happier pictures.  I started off by including images from Europe too.  But I’ll do England today, and maybe travel further afield another time.

Hull Minster, as seen from the office buildings opposite.

And Ripon Cathedral glimpsed through a camera obscura in early 2017.

There’s an osteopath in Ripon who always has a delightfully quirky window display.  Here’s winter.

Through the car window, a snowy winter landscape near Kex Gill in Yorkshire.

Train windows:  a view of Canary Wharf through the windows of the DLR line.

And the more rural landscape from the Wensleydale Railway.

I’ll finish with the photo I found that started me off.  This was the view I took outside our house on Christmas Eve morning last year.

Ragtag Tuesday: Driving. England; France; Spain. What a contrast!

We’ve just landed home from our epic car journey through France and Spain.  2,715 miles on the clock.  The worst of those miles were those completed here in the UK.

This morning near the Blackwall Tunnel, London.

I’m not being entirely fair.  We had more than a few traffic-jam moments in Barcelona and Toulouse, but we’ve also enjoyed miles and miles of empty motorways and other roads, particularly in France, where driving was nothing but relaxing.

RN 20 near Pamiers, France.

What really makes a difference though, are the motorway service areas.  I’ve written before about France’s quiet uncommercial aires, which complement the ones with restaurants, shops and all the trimmings.  Even these can be havens of peace though.  Look at the Aire de la Porte de Corrèze.  Yes, it’s got all the usual facilities.  But it’s got space and peace too: a country path, a woodland walk, and a quiet pond.

Now look at the ‘Extra’ service area on the A1 M near Peterborough.  Outside space is strictly for parking in.  Land is scarce and ruinously expensive in the UK of course.  But if only we could have stretched our legs and breathed a little fresh air as we took a break in our journey north.  It would have made so much difference.

Today’s Ragtag challenge is ‘Contrast’.

PS.  I arrived home to some good news from the Police in Barcelona.  They have recovered certain items following last week’s thefts.  I still don’t know what.  Watch this space!