It started ordinarily enough – Monday I rode the Scrambler up the A68 and headed east into the lanes that lead to Throckrington and Bavington. An empty landscape, I got talking to one of the few, local inhabitants, an old guy who was exercising his black Labrador, Meg, by driving slowly along the road in his 4×4. It is the sort of place where this poses no danger.
Tuesday was only the third round of golf this year with an hour’s drive to the coast at Whitburn. Every time we visit I inevitably take the same image – the view from the 18th tee across the large hole in the ground that is Whitburn Quarry with the tip of Souter Lighthouse showing in the distance.
Later in the week we walked a short stretch of the abandoned Border Counties Railway from Waters Meet towards Wall, along the banks of the North Tyne – the weather was turning dull and grey and it has deteriorated ever since.
Then, on Friday, the sequel to Golf in the Wild – Golf in the Wild – Going Home was finally printed and delivered. Unfortunately, the delivery lorry was too large to get up the drive so I was left with the task of humping 1000 books up to the house before the rain arrived. I made it just in time. So begins the task of promoting, selling and packing – the least attractive part of the exercise. The first book pretty much sold out, largely on the basis of word of mouth so, I will take the same lazy approach with the sequel. It is orderable online, within the UK, from here.
Just before sunrise at Beaufront Woodhead
A mile east of Carrycoats Hall. Colder than I expected – the puddle to the left of the bike is frozen!
An outside chance of hitting a birdie – this is actually the South Shields course which runs close to Whitburn at the 7th
The obligatory shot from Whitburn’s eighteenth tee with Souter Lighthouse in the background.
The first railway bridge north of Hexham on the abandoned Border Counties Line
The price at the pump, near Acomb, Northumberland – this one is showing 5/4d which dates it around 1967 – according to Retrowow, petrol prices rose from 4/8d in 1960 to 6/6d by 1969.
Friday 4th February – the big day – 1000 copies of the sequel delivered
New Year’s Day was dull and grey. The next we awoke to a world changed. Overnight snow is the joy of winter. By some standards, it was a modest covering but sufficient to raise me from my lockdown position in front of several PC screens. If we must have winter, if I am unable to ride a motorcycle, if I cannot swing a golf club, then let’s at least have it pretty.
It is around this time of year I get itchy feet and plot escapes north, always by rail – Inverness, Wick, Kyle of Lochalsh and Bodø/Lofoten have been my destinations over successive years, although only the latter yielded the white stuff. This year, inevitably, I am going nowhere – locked up, locked down, call it what you will, I am told we are in Tier 4. News channels can speculate, offer opinions, call in experts, exhort, criticise and alarm – just don’t assume I am listening. I am out of reach and much the happier:
Crossing the Birkey Burn
Between Beaufront and Acomb
Hexham and Egger from Salmons Well Farm
Egger from north of Oakwood
The sheep get up and make their many tracks And bear a load of snow upon their backs John Clare – Sheep in Winter
The Victorian postbox at Sandhoe
Today I walked down the street I use to wander Yeah, shook my head and made myself a bet There was all these things that I don’t think I remember Hey, how lucky can one man get.
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 Wildresearch 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 newcastleuncovered.com …
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
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.
It had been a dull week, dark clouds threatening rain, snow or worse. At best, a dim light filtered through the short days’ clouds, then suddenly, on Thursday morning, there was an almost clear blue sky and perfect light.
I can carry a camera for days around our local lanes and not really see anything worth capturing but on this day and in that light, everything under the sun was photogenic, even the industriousEgger chimney:
Even the most mundane object stood out – this rusted lock, testament to the industry of Henry Squire & Sons Ltd, an independent family owned manufacturer since 1780:
This may be my last post for a while, much will depend on how good the Internet connection is on Hurtigruten MS Finnmarken. So, in case I cannot get connected, a very Merry Christmas to all my followers, many thanks for taking the time to like and comment on my increasingly random thoughts throughout the year and all the best for 2015. More importantly, many thanks for all the wonderful posts. The quality of television is in inverse proportion to the quantity i.e. the more channels there are the worse it gets – by contrast WordPress always entertains 🙂
I have been out of circulation for a few days. We have been on a rail trip to Inverness where we saw every conceivable type of weather except sunshine. It wasn’t until this afternoon that the sun finally emerged over righteous Hexham – it has been a long time coming. Fortunately, I was persuaded to abandon the keyboard for an hour and these are the results which, once again, owe more to Velvia simulation than nature. I like the effect so I have resisted de-saturating:
Despite the sun, in our absence, it would seem that Hexham has had a spot of weather too. Some of the roads are more like rivers:
Last year we travelled as far east as St Petersburg, as far west as Quebec, as far south as Tunis and as far north as Cape Wrath yet some days I think we would have been happier just walking up the road – there is not much beats Northumberland on wild winter days (yes, I know, St Petersburg is marginally further north than Cape Wrath – poetic licence 🙂 ).
After seemingly endless days hibernating in front of a PC screen I was finally persuaded to venture out – it was good advice. The lanes around our home were looking at their best under a blanket of snow despite flat grey skies.
There was more snow forecast overnight and it duly arrived with a vengeance – I am delighted. This is the view from our front door; I have no intention of venturing further although the tyre tracks suggest our neighbour has set off for work. Getting back could prove quite difficult – all roads up to Beaufront Woodhead involve a steep incline at some point.