Travel Theme: Through

Last week we walked to a hidden-away place that I had been meaning to visit for some time – it looked interesting on the Ordnance Survey Map (Landranger 87).  In the triangle between Allendale, Ninebanks and High Staward is the intriguingly named Old Town, sited just north of the now abandoned Hexham to Allendale Railway which closed in 1950. There is much evidence of the line’s high embankment whilst the road beneath Old Town descends in a deep cutting underneath a long since collapsed railway bridge.  It was here that the sign in the first picture was encountered – you can get through but definitely not in a van or lorry:


The railway is no more and but for a few farm buildings, so is Old Town – I suspect that is all there ever was.

As with all the best walks, it was largely unplanned and once we had descended the steep lane to the Allen River at Oakpool, we had the joy of an equally steep ascent on the other side.  Turning right after about half a mile we headed towards Hindley Hill, emerged on to the A696 and then cut back across the fields to Bishopside.

Hindley Hill

The weather was a strange mix of very bright sun and dark clouds, the light breaking through every so often to illuminate specially chosen patches of the landscape:

From BishopsideAbove Bishopside(click on images to enlarge)


Captains’ Drive In – Allendale Golf Club

Saturday 6th April 2013 dawned a glorious sunny day giving rise to the first hint of Spring across the Northumbrian landscape.  This sudden and welcome change in the weather was perfectly timed for the Captains’ Drive In at Allendale Golf Club; under bright blue skies each new appointee took their turn at the first tee.  The new Gents Captain, Andy Gray, was first to launch a magnificent drive down the furthest reaches of Allendale’s first fairway, the aptly named 417 yard par 4, Long Reach.  As the applause from the gathered members subsided, this was followed by an equally imposing drive from the new Ladies Captain, Shirley Brown.

Traditionally this kick-off to the new season is followed by a friendly team match between Captain and Chairman but unfortunately the Drive In marked the end of the outdoor proceedings for the day.  Despite the presence of a warming sun and steadily rising temperatures, this was not sufficient to melt the deep snow which still covered much of the course.  As the two Captains walked down the first to retrieve their respective golf balls from the centre of the fairway, the galleries dispersed to the clubhouse with some disappointment.  A couple of members walked the far reaches of the course to inspect the depth of the problem – in the shaded hollows it was probably near twelve inches; there may have been no golf but they were rewarded with some spectacular views of the Allen Valley brush stroked with snow – there is no finer setting for the game of golf, conditions permitting.

The first monthly medal of the year, due to be played the following day, was also postponed awaiting the disappearance of the last of the melting snow.

Back home

I am slowly catching up after four weeks absence.  The post wasn’t piled up behind the door because a helpful neighbour came in every day and kindly stacked it in a cupboard – it looks slightly less intimidating when ‘filed’ neatly.  Amongst the many different sized, different shaped, multi-coloured envelopes, all designed to catch my attention and failing, there were four back copies of The Week; having previously admitted that I read these from cover to cover I am now assiduously working my way through the backlog.

I have lived these last few weeks in the world according to Sky News, the range of channels available at sea being very restricted.  It is an odd view of events; ‘expert’ opinion, supposition and speculation is endlessly regurgitated and dressed up as ‘news’.  How often do these ‘experts’ have their track record examined; and while we are on the subject, when Sky (and I am sure others) next devote so much air time to IMF growth forecasts perhaps they could display an accuracy graphic for the preceding 12 quarters.  “In-depth reporting” is limited to intrusive hounding of individuals haplessly caught up in the latest ‘major’ news item.

Bearing in mind that everything I am reading at the moment is 2-3 weeks out of kilter, I was prompted to write this after enjoying James Corrigan’s assessment of Europe’s chances of retaining the Ryder Cup  This is an extract from The Week’s synopsis of his Daily Telegraph article written before the event:

Europe hold another advantage.  Ever since he was appointed US captain Davis Love III has been “feted like the Queen of Sheba”, and the tournament built up as “some sort of homage to the great man”.  The last time that happened was in 2008, when Nick Faldo turned the occasion into an “overdue memorial to his golfing brilliance”, taking just one assistant (most have three), and filling the tea-room with pictures of himself.  It didn’t end well; that was the only Ryder Cup the US have won this century.  If Love follows Faldo’s lead expect him to be “announcing how proud he is of his losing team” on Sunday.

As speculation goes, that’s probably as good as it gets.  There must be vacancies at Sky News for such a talent.

In the company of the good Sir Colin, today was my first round in over four weeks at my home club, Allendale.  It was good to be back home.

The eighth - Allendale Golf Club

Great Golf Holes of the North – Allendale’s 17th

Today, July 18th 2012, the Newcastle Journal has published number three in a series of Great Golf Holes of the North, this time the 17th at Allendale, my home club.  The fine words were by Norman Harris and the picture is mine.

Just occasionally events fall into place.  Despite our awful summer, the weather briefly brightened, the view down the valley cleared, one of our members (Andy Morgan) turned up on cue and chipped a ball onto the green, the camera was already on station 5 meters up a pole, the wireless shutter triggered, the ball was caught in mid-flight (I promise it wasn’t added afterwards, just slightly enlarged) and it all fell into place.  Norman was eventually persuaded that this was the best view of the hole and with some ‘post-production’ figures added to the tee, everyone was content.

Then it appears in newsprint and the detail that provides the atmosphere has gone, the contrast has disappeared and there is no depth to the picture.  So, to set the record straight, here is the original – still not as good as the high resolution version (WordPress compression does it no favours) but still a marked improvement on the newsprint version.  Click on the picture to see a slightly enlarged version.

Postscript:  It turns out the Journal also fiddled with one of the paragraphs.  This is what Norman Harris actually said:

Intriguingly, there was once an issue with this 17th hole. When the course was established in 1992 the nine holes were played twice from the same tees. Then came the idea of having alternative tees on the second nine.

A number of players thought that a retrograde step – though possibly  this resistance was all down to the new 17th seeming to be just too difficult. Not least by the ladies, who opted to play their tee shot from the drop area.  Now, they face up to the challenge of clearing the canyon, regardless of the possible consequences.

Here comes the flood

We were all surprised and caught out but in fairness to the Met Office, they did warn that the north east would be subject to thunderstorms and intense rain, just not the apocalyptic variety that arrived.  There are many tales from the day, some of them very unpleasant for those involved but here is some light relief.

The fifteenth at Allendale Golf Club is called Perdition and is descibed on our website as follows:

As in life, disaster and final judgement are but a short distance from triumph and elation.  The 15th is the hardest hole on the course but no matter how hard, surely it is better to play than not at all, for that would be true perdition:

Remember the story of the fanatical golfer who died and found himself on the most beautiful golf course imaginable with rows of shining clubs to choose from.  He contentedly concluded that some fortunate mistake had been made by the recording angel and that he must be in heaven after all.  But then his caddie, a slight figure with narrow red eyes, enlightened him – there are no balls.

I was out on Perdition yesterday afternoon with Ian, Billy and Alan, playing in a seniors match when someone turned the lights out and the skies erupted.  Four golf umbrellas resolutely continued walking regardless of the torrent, regardless of the thunderclaps, there is no klaxon at Allendale.  My second shot cleared the line of trees that cross the fairway and my third, a nine iron, just held the right hand edge of the green, now two thirds water.  A chip from the edge of the green left a four foot tester; with no umbrella for protection, water trickling down my neck, my glasses misting up, two cups appeared.  I aimed between the two and sank the putt to go three up with three to play; our friends from Bellingham conceded to us, the weather and fate.  We headed for the clubhouse drenched.

Are we completely insane or what.

The view from the clubhouse

And for the lyrically minded, some appropriate words from Peter Gabriel, if a little OTT:

When the flood calls
You have no home, you have no walls
In the thunder crash
You’re a thousand minds, within a flash
Don’t be afraid to cry at what you see
The actors gone, there’s only you and me
And if we break before the dawn, they’ll
use up what we used to be.

Lord, here comes the flood
We’ll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It’ll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you’re running dry.

And then watch the artist at work:

Great Golf Holes of the North

Well, it has appeared in today’s Newcastle Journal but the reproduction on newsprint is always disappointing.  The original shows quite a lot of detail through the mist and into Acomb on the other side of the Tyne Valley – most of this has disappeared.  Maybe I am too critical – here are the two versions for comparison:

Fine words Norman.  Actually the image above suffers some more by being scanned, so the comparison is not entirely valid.  Anyway, this is as nature/Photoshop intended:

In fairness to the Journal, the online version is almost identical apart from some injudicious tree felling:

Allendale Golf Club and the 17th next!

Children in Need

Up early this morning to welcome Jocky Wilson and Phil Ginger, both of Alnwick Castle Golf Club in Northumberland who are on the second day of what many golfers would envisage as being an impossible task.

On Thursday the 10th May 2012, they  tee’d off at Bellingham Golf Club, the first of 585 tee shots in ten days for each of them.  Full details at their web site.

The challenge is in aid of Children in Need so Jocky & Phil are hoping YOU will either sponsor their efforts, or make a bid for one of the fantastic “Four Balls” kindly donated by participating clubs.  Donations and bids can be made through their website.

Unfortunately the weather has not been kind but keeping to Allendale’s tradition of “We Never Close” the committee was out in force to welcome them and donate £100 to this worthy cause.  Captain John Woodcock acted as caddy for the 9 holes.

Their efforts were thwarted at Hexham due to the course being water-logged – some clubs need to get their priorities right, not least Close House who would let them on but only if they paid £100.  Loadsamoney to sponsor Lee Westwood’s cap at the Masters but nothing for this charitable enterprise.

Allendale Golf Club Video

This is by way of an experiment  to see how good embedded Youtube video looks on this blog page.  The video was produced in 2010 for Allendale Golf Club – the royalty free soundtrack is the best I could find.  It is actually constructed to fit with Boy 1904 by Jonsi and Alex – so if you have a copy just turn down the Youtube sound and start this track at the beginning of the video and listen to/see the sublime results.  The images are mostly tone-mapped.