Two more …

… recent rides out on the BMW GS.  In the first, a brief journey to Derwent Reservoir in County Durham where, like most places at the moment, the place was teeming with visitors. This included one very adventurous young boy who was running along the dam edge in pursuit of his friend on a bike.  He survived …

Everyone agreed, it was a miracle indeed that the boy survived …

Gone fishin’

Open Water

A few days later I headed west to Anthorn, the home of the Pips:

The airfield was built in February 1918 as a Fleet Air Arm (FAA) airfield. It was abandoned after World War I ended, however the RAF reinstated the airfield at the beginning of World War II as an emergency landing ground for nearby RAF Silloth.

The site was taken over by the Royal Navy in December 1942, and renamed as RNAS Anthorn. It was commissioned in September 1944 as ‘HMS Nuthatch’. The airfield served as No.1 ARDU (Aircraft Receipt and Dispatch Unit), a unit that accepts aircraft from their manufacturers and prepares them for operational use. The last official flight took off from the airfield in November 1957. It was then put on Care and Maintenance, before it closed down in March 1958.

In 1961 the site was chosen to become a NATO VLF transmitting site for communicating with submarines. One of its main functions is to transmit Greenwich Mean Time to the rest of the world. This time signal is heard as ‘pips’ on the radio and is used by everything from train companies to speed cameras. The aerial masts can be seen from miles around, especially at night with their distinctive red lights.

Text from the Solway Military Trail website.

Anthorn – home of the Pips

I dream of wires

The result of all these two-wheeled miles is that I am now just 4 miles short of achieving the 2020 #ride5000miles target. There was a time, earlier in the year, when this seemed a very unlikely objective.

The North East coast …

… is usually quiet, but not this year.  COVID-19 and the resulting staycations has resulted in a once quiet coastline being overwhelmed.  This is all good news for the local economy I guess but not what I have come to expect of Bamburgh and Lindisfarne.  Once the school holidays are over, I assume things will quieten down again, always assuming the little darlings can be persuaded to return to education.  The couple of Bamburgh images are from last week and the Holy Island images from today – 12th August:

Bamburgh Castle and an unusually busy beach in light and shade …

… and how I got there.

Holy Island Causeway

… and how I got there.

The alternative route

‘Pilgrims’ heading for Holy Island

Silloth

Silloth seems distant and out-of-the-way but was once a popular destination for Victorian holidaymakers travelling by train from Carlisle and Scotland.  The Carlisle and Silloth Bay Railway provided a connection from the east while trains from the north arrived by the Solway Junction Railway, a journey which involved crossing the Firth on the remarkable Solway Viaduct.  According to Visit Cumbria: The one mile 176 yard long iron girder viaduct across the water was damaged by an ice build-up in 1875 and again in 1881. It was repaired and continued in use until 1914 for passengers, and until 1921 for freight, and was finally demolished in 1934.  Apparently, part of the reason was that Scots, who then had no access to alcohol on Sundays, used to walk across to the more liberal English side, and returning in a less than sober state occasionally fell into the Solway, and were lost.

The well-tended, wide-open park, the grand hotels, the prom, all speak of a bygone prosperity.  It was all new to me but the Good Wife holidayed here as a child, staying at her aunt and uncle’s house adjacent to the RAF aerodrome which closed in 1960.  We went in search of her memories.

The house is still there and a happy-looking older chap was raking his lawn.  This was John, tending his front garden, as he has done these last fifty years.  Turns out, he not only remembered Pam’s uncle and his family, having both worked at the aerodrome but, his wife, Irene, went to school with Pam’s cousin. In his day, John was an aero-engineer working on the de Havilland Vampires and Hawker Hunters that chased across the skies of Silloth throughout the post-war years.  As he remarked at the end of the conversation, it’s a small world.

John in his front garden

Cote Lighthouse

The beach, towards Skinburness

Cote Lighthouse

The amusement hall

The Green

Harbour entrance

Silloth Station 1951 – By Walter Dendy, deceased

On Bale Hill

Sometimes the unplanned rides are the best.  I just knew I wanted to be on open, high ground as the sky over Hexham was full of promising clouds. Heading south from Blanchland, I found myself riding up Bale Hill towards Stanhope Common and there, on my right, was a scene from Poldark, a chimney rising from an untamed landscape.  Except, this was County Durham, not Cornwall.

The chimney belonged to Presser Pumping Station.  Some of its history was recently revealed by local resident Stanley Wilkinson who lived at the ‘villa’ at The Pressor (sic) from 1935 to 1956:  The 2 shafts and the big building and chimney were built for the lead mines many years prior to our family moving there. It was around 1953 when my father suggested the Durham County Water Board pump water from the old mine workings to augment the Consett water supply. He and I worked down the shaft clearing obstacles and making ready for the pump and piping installation; scary as hell but (we) completed the job. I migrated to Australia in 1964 and have lived in Indonesia for 25 years. (from https://www.geograph.org.uk/)

The clouds did not disappoint while the weather to the west was particularly ominous:

Heavy weather to the west, from Bale Hill – looking towards Townfield and Hunstanworth

Presser Pumping Station

The GS on Bale Hill

This drone flight takes you towards Hunstanworth and then back to the Pumping Station – it is a very fine portrayal of this wild landscape. John Twist, the drone pilot, is standing close to where I took my images.

Free at last …

It was inevitable that my resolution to post once per week on WordPress would eventually come unstuck.  That was predictable, the last eight weeks less so.  Cooped up for so long, it was also inevitable that when a hint of freedom appeared, all other priorities would be thrown to the four winds.  On 13th May it was finally decreed safe to ride motorcycles again, although not over the border into Scotland where the restrictions remain.  I have lost no time in clocking plenty of miles, some menacingly close to Reiver country …

The GS at Crindledykes

To Bamburgh

In Bad Company

At the Air Museum (closed)

Do it again …

In the mornin’ you go gunnin’ for the man who stole your water
And you fire till he is done in but they catch you at the border
And the mourners are all singin’ as they drag you by your feet
But the hangman isn’t hangin’ and they put you on the street

Return to Svolvær

Svolvær seems like a dream to me now.  We timed our trip to Norway to perfection.  It was always going to be sometime between mid-February and mid-March, to ensure there was still plenty of snow but a reasonable amount of light.  When I booked the flights, hotels and rail journeys, little did I know that there was another consideration, something I could never have imagined.  As I said in an earlier post, we arrived back in the UK on 7th March and Norway went into lock-down on the 14th.

Like everyone else, I guess, we are dreaming of where to go when the world returns to normal, whenever that might be.  Mostly I think of places I would like to go back to and, of course, Svolvær is at the top of the list.  Some of this is because every Saturday night at 21:00, I am reminded of how it looks.  By coincidence, BBC4 are showing the Nordic thriller Twin, filmed in and around Svolvær.  A slightly bizarre and hardly believable story, the compensation is the scenery, although I can’t help thinking they should have talked to me about the best time to film 🙂

All this inspired me to dig through some of my unused images from the trip and return on a virtual tour.  I have selected as a soundtrack one of the songs used in Twin – God Don’t Leave Me I’ll Freeze by the Norwegian band, Highasakite – full marks for the name!  Is it me or does it sound vaguely inspired by Sami folk music.

The view from Svinoybrua

The view from Lamholmen

Austerøya

Svinøya

Svinøya

Svinøya

A last ride out …

… probably for some time, unless I start shopping for essentials on two wheels.  These were taken yesterday, on a trip into Northumberland designed to avoid almost everyone and everything.  Hexham to Cambo can be done via B roads and from there it was a circular trip around Harwood Forest.

From door to door it was exactly seventy miles and I hardly saw a soul – these roads are empty, virus or no virus.

Wallington Bridge

Harwood Forest

Harwood Forest – somewhere near the ‘U’ in Rothbury

This final image shows the railway bridge to the left at Scots’ Gap and the converted station buildings to the right.  Sited about midway between Redesmouth and Morpeth on the Wansbeck Railway, the line closed in 1952.  According to Disused StationsThe station opened as Scots Gap on 23rd July 1862 being renamed Scotsgap in October 1903. The station was poorly equipped as a junction with no branch bays and a single platform on the down side. The station building was solidly built of local stone with a stone signal box at the east end. The station had two parallel loops with two sidings on the north side. There were three short spurs, one serving a locomotive turntable. The outermost siding served a goods platform and cattle dock and a goods warehouse.

Scots’ Gap

More from Norway

Having posted a series of images of magnificent Norwegian landscapes, these are ad hoc moments captured along the way.  It turns out, by good fortune, we just about timed it right.  We returned to the UK on 9th March and this was announced on the 14th:  Millions of Norwegians and foreigners living in or visiting Norway will be impacted by a drastic set of measures announced by Erna Solberg today. Norway is essentially shutting itself down for two weeks, in a bid to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease.

Gardermoen Stasjon from the airport concourse

All points on the compass

Black Crow Blues

Honeymoon couple

Start them young

Some don’t seem so keen

As we left Svolvaer Airport – one last abiding memory.

Mono landscape

Eight train journeys, four flights and I am home.  Every connection was made but that’s not to say everything ran like clockwork – a landslip heading north delayed the train’s arrival into Bodø by one hour and, on the return leg, the sleeper service was cancelled between Trondheim and Oslo due to a derailment.  It is reassuring to know that it is not just the UK that struggles to run a reliable rail service, although, in the land of darkness, snow and ice there may be better excuses.

The day we arrived in Svolvær, it was a Fuji Velvia day – a bright, vivid landscape and light, nature’s colour saturation turned up a notch or two.  The next day, we toured the northern islands under leaden, monochrome skies – regardless, it remains a spectacular place to be and already, I am plotting my return:

A cormorant drying its wings.

The road to Gimsoy.

Morning light.

Abandoned landing stage.

Light and shade.

The beacon at Kabelvag

Kabelvag harbour.

Where sand, sea and snow meet.

Near Lofoten Links.

The bridge to Henningsvaer.

Henningvaer harbour..

Gimsoysand

Svolvær

It has been some journey.  Over two days we flew from Edinburgh to Oslo, caught the sleeper train to Trondheim, swapped onto the daytime Vy.No service to Bodo (complete with line closure and bus detour) and then, this morning, we flew the red-eye island hop into Svolvær. This trip was always going to be as much about the journey as the destination, the railway journey into the Arctic Circle being a highlight. The problem with rail journeys is they provide little opportunity for effective photography – through glass, at speed and with reflections, it is never going to produce good results.

Svolvær, our destination, provides more than adequate compensation. This morning we walked the road bridge to Svinoya and Kjeoya islands – dried fish central. There is a distinctive smell to these small islands – and this is their unlikely destination – Nigeria.

Racks with a view

Dried fish head anyone?

The source of the smell

Fortunately, there is more to the beautiful Svolvaer than dead fish …

Svolvaer Harbour, Lofoten Islands, Norway – colourful and busy.

The view from the bridge

Something fishy going on …

Svolvaer Harbour, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

The view from the small islands

… Svolvaer skyline