I have been ploughing my way through David Nasaw’s biography of Andrew Carnegie.  I have been panning for gold.  Carnegie was an avid golfer and somewhere in this 878pp tome there are unique, if short references, to the man’s passion for the game.  Golf in the Wild research can be a slow and laborious process.

I mention this only because I have been itching to move on.  Intrigued by the reference to Nancy Ridley in the previous post, ‘buried by the Lych gate’, at St Cuthbert’s Beltingham, I was curious enough to buy her long-out-of-print Portrait of Northumberland, first published in 1965.  I am a short way into its pages but her descriptions of Roman Wall Country are instantly recognisable, a litany of names and places I know intimately by foot, by car and on motorcycle.  It is our home.

After too many years ping-ponging between northwest England and the south, chasing IT’s filthy lucre, it is odd that I should find myself tied to this place, at the very edge of England’s last wilderness. Now, nearly twenty-five years in the same place, it would be unthinkable to be anywhere else other than here.

‘Here’ is a landscape that would be entirely recognisable to Nancy but her introduction to Portrait of Northumberland is from another time entirely – “The Tyne still maintains its reputation as the greatest ship repairing river in the world” – “Every Northumbrian town has a live-stock mart for the sale not only of home bred but also Irish cattle” – “This is one of the most popular holiday districts in Northumberland where the same people go year after year.  There are many good boarding houses in Allendale Town”.  Sadly, the ‘same people’ are now most likely to be found on foreign beaches.

Nancy’s introduction also includes many references to the Great North Road which in her time would have run through the heart of towns and cities on its way to the Scottish Borders and beyond. The same would have been true of the old Newcastle to Carlisle A roads on their journey through the Tyne Valley.  We walk round with computing power in our pockets, unimaginable in 1965 but, the most visible aspect of change are the roads and vehicles on them – this from

In contrast, these recent images from around Beaufront Woodhead present a landscape unchanged since Nancy’s time and long before:

Lone trees on the lane to Acomb

Broken gate

Unbroken gate

Bridge on the lane to Acomb

This morning, while snow still lay all around we drove to the Allen Gorge car park and again walked to Beltingham, this time in search of Nancy’s grave. It should be easy to find but even after a relatively short time, the headstone is almost indecipherable:

Nancy’s grave – almost indecipherable

Time, she says,
“There’s no turning back,
keep your eyes on the tracks”
Through the fields, somehow there’s blue
Oh, time will tell, she’ll see us through

Finally a technical point re the images – generally I will shoot in Acros (+Yellow filter) so I can see the tones of a mono image on the camera LCD. Then, I will normally process the RAW image, sometimes colour, sometimes mono – for once these are all straight Acros jpegs from the ‘can’ – tweaked with the Camera RAW filter in PhotoShop CC. Interestingly, it is surprising how much shadow detail can be recovered even from a jpeg. Use of the original Acros image also preserves the film grain that Fuji have worked so hard to emulate.


  1. Sue · February 3, 2019

    Acros, Robin? You’ve lost me there…but whatever you’re doing, it’s delivered some great B&W images

    • northumbrianlight · February 3, 2019

      Many thanks Sue for your kind comments – hope you are keeping ok. Neopan Acros was one of a range of Fujifilm’s super-fine grain black and white films – still available I think but not for long as I think manufacture ceased sometime back. All the best, R.

      • Sue · February 3, 2019

        But you are using digital Acros??

      • northumbrianlight · February 3, 2019

        Confusing innit 🙂 Yup, it is one of several film simulations built into the Fuji X series cameras – e.g. Velvia and Astia etc – all Fuji based of course 😉

  2. jelleybaby · February 3, 2019

    Very interesting area you are in, and in the passed when using B/W film I nearly always used a Wratten Yellow (4), and after reading the above went looking for it and by today’s standard it is 49mm seems quite small. I suppose that using Photoshop and Lightroom allows you to add filters after you have taken the photo.

    • northumbrianlight · February 3, 2019

      Aha, how many of us remember the Wratten numbers. The Fuji X series allow you to add a range of filters in camera but normally I will do it in RAW post-processing with Photoshop and/or ON1 – the latter has a range of specific photo filters to choose from. My trouble is I tend to fiddle about too much 🙂

  3. Su Leslie · February 3, 2019

    Lovely images. And thanks for introducing me to Isakov. I could listen to this all morning. 🙂

  4. sustainabilitea · February 3, 2019

    I have no idea what you’re talking about, but your photos are always wonderful, so you’re doing it right. Quite the contrast between what has changed and what hasn’t, isn’t there? It makes me happy to know how happy you are where you are. Many people can’t say that. And thanks for sharing it as well.


    • northumbrianlight · February 4, 2019

      Many thanks Janet – ignore the techie stuff, it comes from a lifetime of playing with computers and cameras. Now they are entwined in ways I would never have imagined possible even 20 years ago.
      All the best, R

  5. Thom Hickey · February 6, 2019

    Really enjoyed this. So much magic in the air and Stones. Another trip for me ASAP. Regards Thom

    • northumbrianlight · February 6, 2019

      Many thanks Thom, trust all is well with you and yours. Good to know this post might inspire.
      All the best, R

  6. J.D. Riso · February 6, 2019

    I also can’t imagine you anywhere else but on the edge of that last wilderness. It’s an area I knew nothing about until I started following your work. A beautiful, intriguing land indeed.

    • northumbrianlight · February 7, 2019

      Strange where we end up and how – you should visit one day if you ever get the urge to roam again. I am now well into Nancy Ridley’s book and it becomes ever more intriguing – I already knew that some fairly prominent locals met nasty ends for their support of the Jacobite rebellion but there is much more nearby ‘horrible history’ than I realised. All the best, R

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