shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Still busy, catching up with work, caught up with local campaigning Stuff; and it's not as if Bank Holidays are a big deal when you set your own working hours anyway. Nonetheless, the short version, with pictures.

Worked Saturday, and Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon we went out, as we often do on my father's birthday, to Finchale Abbey by the Wear, where he spent holidays as a child. It was a place of legend in my own childhood: my mother told us wild invented stories, but my father responded to the demand "Tell us about when you were a little boy!" with tales of camping at Finchale, taking a jug to the farm to buy milk, building a raft with his brothers... I think of him often, but Finchale's a good place to do it. Sunday was the first really sunny day we've had, and we wandered around the abbey ruind, feeling overdressed:

On Monday we joined S., who has been training for a holiday in the summer by walking the Northumberland Coastal Path. It was a fine day when we set out, but as we drove up through Northumberland, the mist closed in on us:

We parked at the Druridge Bay visitor centre, and walked along the beach, the dunes hazy to our left, the sea noisy but invisible to our right, other walkers appearing from nowhere as grey silhouettes. S. found the effect spooky, and perhaps it was, but I liked it. We passed the site of the rescue excavations at Low Hauxley, where the peat beds are emergenging from the dunes and being lost to the sea. At the very outskirt of Amble we came to The Old Storehouse, a large and slightly chichi pub which served us fish and chips for lunch (served on a plank, garnished with pea shoots, but with small plastic tubs of tartare sauce and mushy peas - see what I mean by 'chichi'?). We could probably have done better if we'd carried on into town, but we'd have had ro walk further, and we'd have had to walk it twice (once in each direction), so by the end of the day I was very glad we hadn't - I'm quite unfit.

By the afternoon, the mist had thinned a little, and the tide had come in too, so the sea was visible, though the foghorn was still sounding, and the wind had grown colder. On the beach, a man stopped to tell us "It's twenty degrees in Newcastle, y'knaa!"
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Yesterday was bright and sunny, and since today promised to be the same, I suggested to [ profile] durham_rambler that we should go out; and since he had mentioned that the Council had created a new route called the Locomotion Way, which wasn't long and wasn't difficult, we thought we could probably manage that. (It is altogether too long since we have done any walking worth the name; even our lovely pre-Christmas walk in London was only a couple of miles, though we spent all afternoon over it).

The Locomotion Way runs alongside the railway between Shildon and Newton Aycliffe, and is being presented as primarily utilitarian: "The three-metre wide Locomotion Way is a fast track for commuters by bike or on foot to get to work or school being exactly half the distance of the road route between the two towns." We agreed that we'd park at the railway museum in Shildon, and see whether any of the paths on the map would be a practical alternative to walking the same route there and back. This is something on which we continually disagree: [ profile] durham_rambler hates to turn round and retrace his steps, and I think that sometimes it's preferable to the alternative. Also, that a route looks entirely different when you are walking in the opposite direction. Noetheless, on this occasion he was right.

We found a footpath that ran along and above the railway, along the field edge:

It had been frosty enough overnight that what might have been mud was still frozen to firm walking, not icy but there were still very occasional patches of snow, and the puddles were crunchy. The path descended to the edge of a quarry (this was the slippery bit), then we turned up a lane where a few snowdrops were emerging, and so out into Newton Aycliffe. A brief walk along the road brought us to the point where by squeezing round a gate and ignoring a notice telling us that this was not a dedicated highway, we were able to pick up the Locomotion Way without going all the way to the station - and from there it was an easy but not very interesting walk back to Shildon.

[ profile] durham_rambler calculates that we walked 7km or 4⅓ miles: he made a map.

We dropped in on the museum, mostly just for bacon sandwiches at the café, though we did admire the film star - an engine in fake livery, which had starred in The Railway Children. And we made a detour on the way home to get a better look at a sculpture we had once seen from the road and wondered "What is THAT?" - and discovered that since it stands in the middle of a thicket and is completely inaccessible, it must be the artist's intention that you see it from the road and wonder "What is THAT?"

So, going out: a success and we should do more of it.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
When I wrote about our day out in London, I said that our afternoon's walk needed a post of its own, with pictures. And now that I have sorted through the 108 photographs that I took in the course of that walk, I'm ready to write that post. Ready, too, after a dew days of snow and wind and rain, for a sunny afternoon's walk. Under a cut, because inordinately long, and many pictures. Not all 108 of them, but many... )
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Birdoswald is a fort on the Roman Wall, which we have visited before, but long ago - certainly not since the metal bridge at Willowford was built in 2001. Our first visit was while it was still being run as a farm - until 1984 - but we've been back since then, surely? Though not since it came into the keeping of English Heritage. Anyway, I keep saying I want to visit, and we keep saying we will and then not doing it; it's just that bit longer a journey.

I said some of this to S., who is organised and efficient, and she replied that it would be a good trip for the three of us to make this weekend. So that's what we did on Friday.

It's a drive of about an hour west from Newcastle. The sun was shining and the hedges were heavy with blossom on the blackthorn, and the verges golden with dandelions: I've never noticed them blooming as thickly as they are this spring, and though it could be that I've never paid attention in the right place at the right time, I don't think so, I think there is a particularly good crop. We arrived at Birdoswald in time for coffee in their tea-shop, and for a look around the exhibition - all new since my last visit. The guidebook is lavishly illustrated with items found on the site, but these are mostly in the museum in Carlisle. The exhibition maintains that the really exciting things are here, or are intangible: the archaeology that revealed a great wooden hall from the post-Roman 'Dark Ages' built on the foundations of the granaries, the altar inscribed Deo Sancto Silvano Venatores Banniess ('dedicated to Silvanus by the Venatores [are they hunters?] Bannienses') from which we infer that the fort was known to the Romans as 'Banna', though it seems a substantial inference to build on one inscription. Nor could I see any sign of lettering on the stone which identifies the third century garrison as I Aelia Dacorum, though this I will take on trust, since I am pleased to learn how early the first recorded Romanian immigrants arrived.

I had a brief failure to grasp the layout of fort itself; leaving the courtyard, you walk round the old farmhouse (now available to rent, if you need hostel accommodation for 40) and find yourself in a fenced area like a gravelled garden. Beyond the fence is lush grass and a massive stone wall leading away - but this isn't the Wall, it's the wall of the fort, and the field it encloses contains not only sheep but the humps and bumps of the remaining buildings. It has, I think, all been excavated, but then covered over for conservation. We wandered around the granaries, and I took many pictures, but the camera doesn't see what the eye does, and refuses to convey the compositions of stone below, blue sky and bare trees above, and sheep peacefully grazing in between that I thought I was photgraphing. Still, it's hard to go wrong with Roman stone:

Old stones

This is the masonry of the east gate. When we had circled the entire perimeter of the fort, and gone to the edge of the headland to peer down at the river Irthing below (not far at all, and some of the outer buildings have already vanished over the edge), we were ready for lunch. We found this close by, at Slack House Farm, where I ate a ploughman's lunch consisting of two massive wedges of their own Birdoswald cheese (I preferred the younger, creamier version, though the aged was a perfectly respectable cheddar-type cheese), good wholemeal bread and pickles. Beyond the viewing window, someone was hard at work making more cheese.

After this we felt ready to return to the Wall, and follow it away from the fort, to the point where it crosses the Irthing - or rather, to the point where it used to cross the Irthing, which has now moved a substantial distance away. It's a steep descent from the milecastle to the new footbridge, and a path of loose stones which isn't pleasant to walk on. I took it slowly, and paused to admire the blackthorn, and two tiny violets huddling together in the grass. But the bridge abutment was well worth the effort, and we had the satisfaction of confirming that the climb back up from the river was much easier (I was expecting this, and was still surprised how much easier it was).

We drove back to Newcastle along the Military Road, which follows the line of the Wall: and S. gave us tea and biscuits and sent us home.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
I had no real expectation, when we explored a stretch of Sunderland's coastline, that the projected continuous coastal path would ever become a reality. But county by county a path is being traced around the coast of England, and on Tuesday we joined fellow members of the Ramblers' Association to celebrate the completion - and opening - of County Durham's coastal path.

The plan was that the region's local groups would each hold a walk before converging on Seaham for a short ceremony followed by tea at Seaham Hall (a fancy hotel which promotes itself heavily as a wedding venue: it is, after all, where Byron got married, and we know how well that turned out). I don't usually walk with the group: they walk too fast for me, and don't allow for stopping to look at things. But the day's walk was advertised as three and a half miles, leisurely, and I was interested to see how the new path tackled some of the problems - and willing to swell the numbers, too.

It was a lovely bright day, not too windy, perfect for a stroll along the coast. But our walk leader had different ideas, and for reasons known only to himself led us at a brisk pace inland. He was suffering quite badly from toothache, and perhaps his judgement was impaired. And it wasn't a bad walk - too much main road, but some pleasant denes and parkland, and I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Dalden Tower, the remains of a medieval pele tower, which was completely new to me:

Dalden Tower, niche

The route of the walk - which was more like five miles than three and a half.

I was more philosophical than I might have been about the non-coastal nature of the walk, because J. had offered, as a birthday treat, to take us, on a day of my choosing, for a day at the seaside, with a walk along the beach and fish and chips for lunch. My first thought was to go out today, which is my birthday, but there were other things we wanted to do today, so yesterday J. drove us up to Cullercoats and we walked back along the beach to Tynemouth. After a little recreational shopping (the bookshop in the Land of Green Ginger was closed, but I had fun in the wine shop) we caught a bus, which would have saved us the walk along the front if it hadn't then turned inland and taken us just as far from our destination.

By the time we reached the Harbour View in Seaton Sluice we were well ready for our fish and chips - which was just as well: you need a good appetite to eat there.

I had wondered whether the sculptures we saw on our previous visit on New Year's Day would have survived: but more than that, they had multipled. The girl on a swing had been joined by a mermaid, there was a valkyrie in one of the gardens, and Popeye clutched his tin of something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike spinach, observed by a peg-legged gull:

Peg-leg gull

Today we went swimming, shopped at the Farmers' Market and did some errands: and tomorrow we have another excursion planned.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
The clocks went forward overnight: another sign of spring. But after several days of sharp, cold showers, today we have mist. Whatever happened to spring? A rhetorical question to which I know the answer:

Spring in the orangery

Spring was on Monday. Luckily we didn't miss it, but took the day off and went to Gibside. It was so sunny that I decided to leave my waterproof in the car - and didn't regret it, my jumper was warm enough.

There have been changes since we were last there: the new car park is now open, much closer to the entrance and down by the river. So our exploration of the grounds started with a stiff climb up, past the new ticket kiosk, then through the walled garden, now completely dedicated to garden plots but with not much happening at the moment (that is, a stretch of fallen wall is being repaired, but there's not much growing). The orangery was a blaze of daffodils. We tried to strike down through the meadow to the river, and were rewarded with some dramatic silhouettes of the orangery against the sun, but hit a dead end, and had to retrace our steps to the junction of the paths, and reach the river past the ice house. We had soup for lunch at the café in the stables, which has moved across the courtyard, been spruced up and lost its second-hand books (they will be back, elsewhere in the stables, later in the summer, apparently). We looped round the monument but didn't detour, paid a brief visit to the old house, and returned along the avenue to the chapel.

I wonder why John Bowes decided to make so complete a break when he built his new house / museum by the Tees?
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Last weekend was all about the ephemerality of art. And about the visitors, that was a theme, too - and thinking about it, visitors with dogs: the expected visit from cousins who called in on the way from football at Sunderland to holiday cottage in Alnwick, but couldn't stay long because the dog was in the car, the unexpected visit from M. who was walking the dog and rang the bell on the off-chance we'd be in. All of this was good, but there's not much I can say about it, whereas I have plenty of pictures... So this will be a picture-heavy post. )
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Yesterday we both agreed it was time to go for a walk, and that since we haven't been getting out much lately, we should make it a very easy one. [ profile] durham_rambler suggested we visit Hawthorn Dene: someone had told him that the snowdrops there were spectacular just now. We got out the map, and plotted a short walk down to the sea and back. It became clear when we talked about where to park that my recollection of the area were of Castle Eden Dene, not Hawthorn, but still, adjacent coastal inlet nature reserve, what difference did it make? So I have only myself to blame for how muddy I got.

We parked as instructed on the roadside at the entrance to the dene, and follower the broad track into the nature reserve. Very soon a path led away, down into the wooded valley, with an enticing information board about all the things we might see there (though probably not at the beginning of March). Innocently, we followed it, and found ourselves snaking up and down short flight of steps as the path followed the valley side, sometimes on dry ground, sometimes through well-stirred mud, sometimes over duckboards. There were catkins, and dog's mercury, and blades of green promising that in a month or so the woodland would be carpeted with white stars and reeking of garlic, but not a single snowdrop. We discussed this: we had both anticipated that the snowdrops might be past their best, but not this total absence. It was bright and sunny and warm enough that I was glad to have decided against putting on another jumper, and just keeping on the path gave us plenty to think about.

Eventually, it climed up and met the track again; we could have taken the easy, level route all the way. But where's the fun in that? Still, when a lump of rock presented itself, we took the chance to sit down and look around us, across the meadow to the woods on the far side where something white glimmered under the trees...

We followed the path to the railway. The couple ahead of us were walking five dogs, and it took them a while to persuade (and mostly carry) them across the two stiles onto and then off the track, so we hung well back - and were just crossing the stile on the far side when a train came through. The sea was blue, but we didn't go down to the beach (I'd had enough steps for one day), walking along the cliff top as far as the footbridge, and into the woods we had seen earlier.

I was just beginning to wonder whether that blanket of white had been an illusion, an effect of the sun shining on the ivy that covered the ground so densely...

Snowdrop path 1
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Nothing out of the ordinary, just another pleasant weekend.

D. was with us for a brief visit - the first since he and [ profile] valydiarosada moved house, so there was plenty of news to catch up on.

We went to Alnwick, to visit D.'s family and Barter Books, and bartered some books: they accepted fewer books than I expected, and gave us more credit for them, and I found an Ursula LeGuin that I didn't have (and D. found the Pevsner for his new home county).

Today we went up Weardale to lunch at the farm shop at Bradley Burn, and a walk first - a pre-prandial stroll, a loop of only a couple of miles through the fields, but with enough mud and stiles to make it feel like exercise. There were hawthorn bushes red with fruit (and others with no fruit at all, and hedgerows of blackthorn, in all of which I saw one solitary sloe) and trees heavy with apples, and clusters of these dramatic autumn crocuses:


After lunch we headed for our separate homes: [ profile] durham_rambler and I drove back via the village of Thornley, for no better reason than that we've never been there before. And the rest of the day was a mixture of small tasks and relaxing. I've started reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which I borrowed from [ profile] samarcand: I'm not swept away by it, but I'm enjoying it.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Once we were settled in our room at the Bird Observatory, we took the sketch map we'd been given (a version of this one), and headed towards the sea: we thought we might just make it to the broch before dinner time. The beach at the south of the island is a crescent of fine white sand, the sea was blue in the sun and the seals bobbed along, keeping pace with us. More seals were sunbathing on the rocks at the end of the bay, where we turned inland. Here we were stymied: the lane ahead was barred, and there were sheep in the meadow, for shearing; June, who was out feeding her alpacas, introduced us to some of her elderly rare breed sheep, and showed us where we could get down to the shore, past the ruined store house with its "window on North Ronaldsay" which had provided the title for a book about the island. From here we could have scrambled round the headland on the stony beach, but we were running out of tie, so we turned back outside the sea dyke past the baby fulmars.

The next day we walked the length of the island, along the road to the lighthouses. There are two, both Stevenson lights of different generations: the red-and-white striped New Light, which was being repainted, and the Old Beacon, Scotland's oldest intact lighthouse, first lit in 1789, which is scaffolded:


We were told that funding had been found for renovation, but that work had ground to a halt because of disagreements about how far the keepers' cottage should be restored: this is what the North Ronaldsay Trust has to say. It's a perfect emblem for the island: a lighthouse, with all that says about safety - of sorts - in stormy seas, its history, the beauty of the building (and even the scaffolding has a certain geometrical elegance), the paradoxical conflicts between the heritage industry and the desire to keep things as they are...

Yes, well. Some word pictures: on the road north, the drystone wall topped a bank. Looking up, I saw above the lush grass and the stone of the wall, white cloud, blue sky and four bonxies wheeling. We approached the Old Beacon through a maze of stone pens, littered with wisps of wool from the recent shearing. There's a café at the New Light, where the staff wear t-shirts with the slogan: "Have you seen the light?" As recommended, we both ordered the mutton pie:

Mutton pie

It was delicious, with a filling of mutton, green peas, and - unexpectedly, though it shouldn't have been - mint jelly, adding a lightness and sweetness to the dark and savoury meat.

Back at the Observatory, we were invited to see what birds had been caught in the traps, and watched a linnet being ringed - and weighed, for which purpose it was popped into a film canister: what will they do when there are no more of these to be had?

The next day we walked past the standing stone - unusually, but not uniquely, it has a hole in it:


and peered over the dyke at the black guillemots. Here's the day's mystery object (not the only one of these we saw, but the most pleasingly placed):

Iron ball

We were heading for the old church, where there is an exhibition of material about the island's recent history. I was intrigued by the photograph of Tomima Tulloch, "the only island woman to have been recruited into the armed services (she may have volunteered) in WW1" and a project to photograph everyone on the island. Later, [ profile] durham_rambler set off on a second attempt to reach the broch, while I lounged about and read my book, and then went out for a much less strenuous stroll = and ended up again on the beach, watching the dunlins scurrying back and forth along the tideline.

We left North Ronaldsay the next morning: there was just time for one last visit to the beach, to say goodbye to the seals - and the seals came to the beach to say goodbye to us. There were also a family of ducks, and a very clear view of the lighthouse on Sanday, and then it was time to leave.

Photos of North Ronaldsay.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
It's the pre-digital equivalent of closing some tabs, disposing of old newspapers I've put aside as containing something of interest. It isn't always obvious what:

Romania, fair enough. But did I really think an article about cycling in the Carpathians would be useful? Apparently I did.

I don't expect ever to visit the salt flats of Bolivia - but isn't this an amazing photograph?

Though I obviously hung on to that issue for this article about wine tourism in Savoie.

(Over the page, their intrepid explorer Kevin Rushby goes looking for wildflowers in Weardale - and very nice, too).

Wales has a Coast Path, it seems; well, I should think so. It has a bilingual website, of course. We never go to Wales, I don't know why. We should...

Why did I save that one? No idea. Next!

Ah, here's Kevin Rushby again, in Yorkshire this time, where Simon Armitage has been carving his poems onto rock faces. Should this sort of high-class cultural graffiti be encouraged in wild places? Don't know. I have a soft spot for graffiti - and a scepticism about the kind of public art that carves poetry on things. Maybe I'd need to visit to find out what I think.

Blue Cabin by the Sea, somewhere totally impractical to stay on the Berwickshire coast - lovely pictures, shame about the website (wouldn't take much to make it function as it's obviously meant to). Or for somewhere totally impractical in the opposite way, how about the house Pugin built for himself in Ramsgate: "The house has a private chapel and a tower, from whose roof Pugin trained his telescope on ships in distress," and which now offers a view of more modern shipping from the freight ferry terminal.

Walking the Rhine gorge

Cycling along the Canal du Midi doesn't sound much fun: the cycling is painful, and the level, tree-lined canal becomes monotonous eventually. But I'd like to see more of the Canal by other means, and the article does suggest some hotels.

The Guardian seems obsessed with bikes: this time it's wine-tasting in Croatia - Istria, to be precise - which sounds good, except for the bit about the bikes. And a couple of days later, more about Croatia, in the news section this time, as they enter the EU.

And that's the last of that pile - but there'll be another supplement in tomorrow's paper (perhaps it won't be very interesting...).
shewhomust: (dandelion)
The weather forecast for our week on Lindisfarne was for rain; I packed books, writing materials, letters to answer. As it turned out, we had sunshine every day except Friday, the solstice itself (of course) which was grey and slightly - but only slightly - showery. I confess here and now that the prospect of an early morning walk in probably rain to see the sun fail to rise from behind the clouds (allegedly the whole purpose of our stay) failed to lure me out of bed on Friday morning. But I spent much of the rest of the week walking about, from gentle strolls down to the beach to hear the seals singing (I'm sure they were more numerous than in previous years) to more ambitious expeditions.

On Tuesday morning I surveyed the island from two vantage points which hadn't been available on our last visit, the Lookout and Window on wild Lindisfarne (picture set on Flickr by the architects). the Window is a sort of glorified hide handily positioned by the stop for the Castle shuttle bus, very boxy and brutal in stone, but a surprisingle pleasant space to be inside. Here I learned that the old coastguard watchhouse had been opened as a viewpoint, and an agreeable blowy walk along the Heugh took me there. In the afternoon [ profile] durham_rambler and I went into Berwick to shop: the bookshop, the Green Shop and a supermarket, with a short walk along the river and onto the town walls. Berwick grows on me.

Wednesday was the day for a real walk: we went to St Abb's Head, and walked around the headland: a steep climb up the cliffs, the village of St Abbs emerging from its shelter as we climbed higher, the view of the bays beyond becoming more extensive:

St Abbs village

then down to the sea at a little rocky cove and up again to the lighthouse, past some cliffs screaming with birds, bristling with guillemots, and inland back to our starting point along Mire Loch.

A soup and sandwich lunch at the visitor centre - with a big jug of water - revived us enough to visit the Chainbridge Honey Farm, with its extensive collection of bee-related stuff (bee-related postage stamps! china honey pots! a wasps' nest!) and I was strong and did not buy beeswax candles in the shape of puffins (because after all, I could never burn them). A stroll down to the Chain Bridge finished us off.

Thursday's walk was less satisfactory. On a previous visit we had collected leaflets about the villages of Ford and Etal, and walks between them, and liked the sound of a walk along the river Till, returning by the light railway. In practice, too much of the walk was on roads to be truly enjoyable, and even where it followed the river it was less beside than parallel to it. We cut back through the fields and drove to Etal, which gave us time for lunch at the Black Bull before going down past the castle to see the last train of the day come in. Not a dead loss, but disappointing, since it had sounded so promising.

And Friday, of course, was all about wandering around the island wondering where the week had gone...
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Despite the bleak weather, I'm daydreaming about the north, not the south: putting together a trip to Orkney in the summer. It's three years since we were last there, and then only a brief stopover on our way home from Fair Isle. Just as shocking, it's two years since I posted a photo from Fair Isle's North Light with a promise of context in "the next post". The day we visited the light was, by one definition, the first day of spring, since it was the day the first cruise liner of the year called in - and was greeted by a craft fair at the hall, mostly of beautiful but expensive knitwear. It was greeted, too, by a brief flurry of snow, but the day cleared and by the afternoon it was pleasant walking weather again.

My notes from that last day on Fair Isle are a series of disjointed jottings:

Everyone is friendly, solicitous, interested in how you travelled to the island: did you fly? "Oh, you came on the boat..."

The white kirk

There are two churches on the island - strictly, one church (the white Kirk of Scotland church) and one (Methodist) chapel, but a single congregation which alternates between the two.

A line of dialogue: "Oh, you said 'rabbits'. I thought you said 'raptors'."

Bill very kindly picked us up from the South Light, where we were staying, drove us up to the North Light and gave us a guided tour of the lighthouse. We opted to walk back, through sunshine and the odd snow shower. At a steep valley punctuated by ruined mills we ran into M and J, being guided round some of the island's sites by a resident archaeologist, and together we visited the remnants of the Heinkel which crashed there in 1941.

And the next day we took the Good Shepherd back to Mainland.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Sunday's walk was almost identical to this walk from October 2010: walk down past the Derwentcote Steel Furnace and consider the information that this quiet valley was once the centre of the British steel industry (in the early eighteenth century) to the river, then follow the river as far as Ebchester, where we scramble up the muddy valley side to the village and up and up to the railway walk, by which time we are ready for lunch at the Derwent Walk Inn - after which it's a gentle walk along the railway back down to our starting point.

Except that it's never quite the same walk twice. Last time we came this way there was autumn sunshine making the most of the turning foliage; yesterday was mild and dim, and the only flowers I saw were snowdrops, sometimes in great drifts, lovely but monochrome. The very muddy stretch to the first stream had been banked up, but the stile at the far end of it had gone (looked as if the whole fence had come down, and the farmer had replaced the fence but not bothered with the stile); further on, the stretch which had been tricky high above the river was now a good clear path - just as well, since where we had previously stepped over the wire into the garden to avoid falling, a solid fence now protected a large new shed. There are new houses on the skyline above the river at Blackhall Mill ([ profile] durham_rambler points out that you can't expect County Durham's planning department to take into account their effect on the view, since it's the view from Gateshead).

Lapwing country

If this were a painting instead of a photograph, there would be lapwings tumbling in that blank white sky; as it is, I could hear them but not see them. It is such perfect lapwing country, it made me think of [ profile] ursulav's account of going out in search of a rarity with a serious birder friend, the rarity in question being the northern lapwing. Context is all. I was much more excited to see a dipper, just as we had last time we came this way.

Then the long - long - haul up, the arrival at the pub, lunch and the return along the railway, with its wide views across the valley, where the most difficult bit is dodging the groups of cyclists (and they weren't numerous to be a real problem).

This was all too easy. At the last minute [ profile] durham_rambler played his joker, and instead of taking the signposted footpath back to the car park, opted for the next turning, signposted as access land, and persevered when the path immediately dissolvede into a tangle of ruts, mud and fallen trees. I should know better than to follow him into these labyrinths - once you lose your path in a forest, you never find it again. Any gap between two trees looks as if it might be a path, a clear track on the ground is probably a water course and a gap between two masses of trees is a firebreak. In this particular piece of woodland there were also low brambles to act as tripwires. Eventually [ profile] durham_rambler left me communing with a tree, and went off to thrash about and find a path without me complaining in his wake - and eventually he did find, not a path but a way through to the road. and so brought us back to the car. It was a very fine tree, though.

shewhomust: (dandelion)
For the first time this year, we spent the day at Beamish Museum. The plan was for a day of gentle walking, with plenty of places to stop and sit, and find something to eat, with a secret motive of buying an emergency birthday card at their shop. Plans being what they are, we were thwarted in our attempts to buy a card, and distracted from the walking. The distraction was fun, though: we got to look round the museum's store.

In the storesI remember visiting the museum in the very early days, and seeing a display in Beamish Hall (then the centre of the museum, now the adjacent hotel) of objects awaiting the development of the buildings in which they would find their homes. A room full of typewriters had a notice: "Please, no more typewriters!" We commented on this to the member of staff showing us round, who nodded and said: "And sewing machines..." Now the stores are in rolling stacks which shift to reveal books, or Sunderland lustre pottery, or musical instruments (brass and Northumbrian pipes and a lithophone - a set of slabs of what looked like slate, and a hammer), or dolls' houses or phrenologists' heads... There were carefully rolled and swaddled quilts and banners, and sanitary ware and rocking horses, and of course every wall was a mosaic of enamel advertising signs.

We had arrived in the middle of the Great Donate: it's always possible to arrange to visit the store, but we had been able to walk in because the museum is actively collecting objects - specifically, they are extending their collection throughout the twentieth century. They have grand ambitions for another town behind the present, 1910 town, representing life in the 1950s - and after that, it'll be time to start collecting the 1980s. The idea that things I remember, things I grew up with, are collectable makes me come over all Three Men in a Boat:
Will it be the same in the future? Will the prized treasures of to-day always be the cheap trifles of the day before? Will rows of our willow-pattern dinner-plates be ranged above the chimneypieces of the great in the years 2000 and odd? Will the white cups with the gold rim and the beautiful gold flower inside (species unknown), that our Sarah Janes now break in sheer light-heartedness of spirit, be carefully mended, and stood upon a bracket, and dusted only by the lady of the house?
(Thank you, Project Gutenberg!) And yes, of course they will.

Even now, when most of Beamish's presentation represents life in 1910, much of its popular appeal is precisely that it acts as a spur to reminiscence: grandparents bring their grandchildren, and tell them that yes, things really did use to be like this, why, even when I was your age... So it makes sense to bring the collection forward, to keep it within the reach of today's grandparents. A project on Category D villages was a disappointment, all activities for children and no real explanation of what happened and why - but work on the 1950s has barely started. A taste of cinder toffee at the sweet shop, and the sight of the woman who made it breaking up a 15 pound slab of the stuff, soon stopped me complaining.

On Friday we'd been at the Sage for a One Night in Gateshead concert with the Wilson family, and I had many intelligent things to say about it; it didn't really have any thematic parallels with the above unless your mind is prone to make that sort of pattern (which mine is), it was just an evening of good music. But I've run out of steam, and am going to bed.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
After the storm

Living up a hill on a street which is not officially a through road, it's easy to feel snowed in: but on Sunday we decided that we could not only get the car down the hill, we'd be able to get it back up again. So we went for a walk on the beach. It seems a waste, when we've had such thick and inviting snowfalls, not to go crunching through the blankets of untrodden snow - but I know my limitations, so we went to Roker. The row of stumps lined up along the edge of the pavement suggests that there had been a storm, but we had sunshine and a brisk wind, and even walked out to the end of the pier (though I wasn't tempted to linger there). A short walk there and back, with fish and chips for lunch at the midpoint, but a welcome outing.

Driving home, we crossed a distinct boundary, just where the sign marked the county border. In Sunderland we saw literally no snow: in County Durham the fields were still white, though green was showing through. The snow was thawing rapidly, and water streamed off the fields and across the road. A couple of times, at the bottom of a dip, we had to ford a substantial pool of water.

Back in the city, the river was high, still within its banks and with visible changes of level at the weirs, a swift moving torrent of iced coffee.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
On Sunday morning I chopped the oranges for marmalade while listening to Martin Carthy's Desert Island Discs; after lunch we went for a short walk in the Botanic Gardens. The afternoon was pale and bleak, and we didn't stay very long. Back home I finished making the marmalade - it's very ginger.

StumpI took the first photos of the year at the gardens. Once the cut surface of this tree stump was clean enough that someone chose it to explain the tree's growth rings. Now the green plaques with their notable dates are almost hidden under the fungus: it's like an ornamental fountain, a series of sculpted scallop shells down which the autumn leaves cascade.
shewhomust: (Default)
Autumn riverbank

Inspired in part by one of Bob the Bolder's photos, we decided to walk along the Wear to Shincliffe, and to see if J. was free to come out to play. And when we phoned her, she said that actually she already had a lunch date with F., and why didn't we all meet somewhere?

It was a beautiful bright morning, and there were lots of walkers and cyclists along the riverbanks, but the sun was shining and the leaves were all sorts of interesting colours, and the river was sliding along peacefully. At Shincliffe [ profile] durham_rambler was sure we had time to loop through the woods, and we didn't really, so the walk ended in a rush and a scramble, which always makes me bad-tempered - but lunch at the Seven Stars was agreeable, and the company delightful, so in the end all was well.

And J. gave us a lift home. So it was a very short walk, but a walk nonetheless.
shewhomust: (Default)
I'd almost forgotten about Esh Winning Miners' Memorial Hall. The first time we'd walked past this majestic redbrick pile we'd been smitten: such a massive classical edifice among the terraces of this little former mining village. For a time we told everyone about it: it was semi-derelict, needed someone to come and make use of it, the perfect base for an arts organisation we knew was looking for a home... But it was just too big for any of our contacts to take on, and no-one else seemed to have any better ideas. That was years ago, and things seem to have got worse before they got better - according to our MP, at one point the plan was to have the building moved almost brick by brick to Beamish, that repository of things from the past we no longer want but can't bring ourselves to throw away. And then [ profile] durham_rambler read in the local paper that the hall has been restored as housing for adults with learning difficulties. Hooray! So we thought we'd go and take a look.

The morning was still misty, and the night's heavy frost was still lingering when we caught the bus from the top of the hill, but as we headed west up the valley the sun began to break through, and we got off the bus in Esh Winning in warm sunshine. But almost as soon as we'd admired the renovated hall and headed down into the Deerness Valley to the railway walk, we found ourselves returning into the mist. Sometimes we walked for a while in sunshine, and sometimes a sycamore had turned to such bright gold that we felt as if we did. For much of the way the walk lies between the high banks of cuttings, so it wasn't brought home to us just how short a way we could see - but then we would emerge and realise that the curtain of mist hung just a field's length away:

Misty moisty morning

We lunched at the Stone Bridge, and while we were there the sun came out, so we took a slightly indirect route through some of the new housing developments - strange to find myself somewhere I've never been before so very close to home.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Approaching Saint Monans

A day walking mostly on beaches, a day of pretty little villages strung along the coast; with the help of the 95 bus we cut a day's walk short enough to have time to look round (which might mean a leisurely lunch in Pittenweem); and that brought us to Crail. [ profile] durham_rambler was up for the walk into St Andrews (14 miles, described as the toughest part of the route), I really wasn't - but that's why we'd scheduled two nights in Crail. So I had a happy day wandering about in the sun, poking my nose down alleyways and visiting the gallery and bookshop, while the intrepid rambler rambled intrepidly.

Then the following morning - which was yesterday - we closed the gap in our line by walking back to Anstruther, a pleasant four miles in blowy weather. Which also gave us the opportunity to visit the Fisheries Museum (and not only for the soup, although that is recommended). And it was while we were there that the long threatened rain started, and carried on through our evening in St Andrews and overnight: our taxi to the station was driving through floods, and the driver told us she'd found the coast road impassable earlier this morning.

Now on a crowded southbound train through Northumberland, under clear skies but between very wet fields.

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