A Feeling for Snow

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.

Northumberland Skies

The field next to our home is filled with sheep.  The red dye on their backsides confirms they have been seen to by the tup (ram) – he has been a busy boy. It is disappointing that, around the time the fruits of his endeavours begin to show, the flock is moved to the lower nursery slopes.

The ram has been rushed off his feet.

Looking exhausted

After a while you begin to notice how your neighbours behave.  On really cold, still nights, they gather beneath the trees to avoid the ground frost.  Generally timid, they will disperse as we leave the front door but, rattle a plastic bag that might contain ewe nuts and they will come running.  Lie down for any length of time and a significant number will limp away, appearing to suffer from dead legs.

I share their pain – a golf induced knee injury, rotten weather, salty slippery roads and various tiers of lockdown have all served to constrain the usual activities – travel, golf and motorcycles.  Nevertheless, there is always much to see, just look to the skies:

The sun going down in late November

… And sunrise

Christmas is coming – 23rd December

Christmas morning

Post Christmas steely blue skies – 29th December

And then modest snow arrived on Christmas Eve and hung around for the next day – a White Christmas for Hexham:

Fern Hill

Towards Fawcett Hill

So, to sign off for 2020, I wish my modest band of followers, all the best for a much-improved 2021.  Before I go, some 2020 milestones:

a.  In late 2020 I approached maximum disc space on wordpress.com after eight years – I am now subscribed with an annual fee which at least demonstrates commitment and should ensure my readers are not subjected to peculiar adverts;

b.  Despite lockdowns, I still managed to clock 7165 miles on the motorbikes – several hundred more than in lockdown free 2019;

c.  We still managed to get away – to Saughtree in the Borders, twice to Mallaig and once to north Northumberland.  A return to the latter was abandoned due to the second lockdown;

d.  The text for the Golf in the Wild sequel is now complete and due for publication in September.  Possibly the only golf success in a year when playing was much curtailed.

Finally, as parting shots, a couple of images of the ‘Bad Company‘ I kept on some of the most memorable days in 2020:

On the trip to Hawes

At the top of Rosedale Chimney Bank.

Northumberland in Mono

This set of images were all taken within a 1.5 mile radius of our home – I know this for certain because I haven’t ventured outside this geofence since 24th March.  Hexham is a mystery to me now – the Good Wife has taken over responsibility for all socially distant shopping, mostly because I cannot be trusted to buy organic.  Any consequential savings I would spend on chocolate or similar.  Nevertheless, I am not complaining, I seem to have slipped into this secluded life all too easily.  The only thing I miss desperately is getting out on the motorcycles which, as any rider knows, is just self-isolation at speed.

Lean on me …

Always keep a-hold of nurse

Beaufront Castle Lodge …

In a big county …

The entrance to Fern Hill Farm

Five-bar Gate …

Do not disturb …

Another gate above the old kennels, Beaufront Woodhead.

The impression created by these images is of a country life continuing as usual, uninterrupted by world events. Isolating has also meant not listening to ‘news’, keeping socially distant from statistics and mortality rates but, just occasionally the bubble is burst. Peter Turnley’s images portray an entirely different, distant, monochromatic reality:

 

Compensations

In our fifth week of lock-down, I realise that this week we should have been staying in a coast-side apartment at the western end of Swanage.  I was looking forward to revisiting Studland, the Poole Harbour ferry, Sandbanks and Canford Cliffs, familiar places I have known from my earliest years.  Instead, we remain in deepest Northumberland – we should be grateful – many would consider this a holiday destination and the weather has been glorious.

Had we been away, we would have missed this – drawn outside by a golden light falling on the trees to the east of our home, we were treated to this spectacular light show across the Tyne Valley.  There are many compensations for staying at home, out of choice or otherwise

The beginning …

… the middle …

The end.

Locked down …

… but, fortunately, so far, not locked in.  We are very lucky, living in the wilds of Northumberland.  For the most part it just feels like an extended winter without the temptation to take a motorcycle out on salty roads nor play golf on water-logged courses  In some ways, life is almost simpler.  Lacking other inspiration, here are some images of the neighbours who don’t seem to have got the hang of social distancing:

Ewe mucky kid …

Here’s lookin’ at ewe kid

Ewe don’t have to say you love me …

Don’t look back …

The local longhorn …

Time it was …

… and what a time it was …

… a time of innocence

It has been a tough week, saying a last goodbye to my big sister.  The service was held in the small church at The Lee, near Great Missenden.  A lovely place but, it came as some relief to return to the peace and quiet of deepest Northumberland.  There is always hope to be found in the wild places.

And so, the night falls …

Another quiet week …

… in Beaufront Woodhead.  The weather has alternated between dire and freezing, neither any good for getting out and about, especially on two wheels.  A couple of storms have passed through and trees have been lost.  We have had a couple of regular visitors to our garden and then, yesterday, they took the liberty of inviting all their friends.  The image from our rear bedroom window shows a handful but, just around the corner, there were twenty or so more – they have kindly, liberally, fertilised the lawn.

One bright spot, I have replaced the levers on my Triumph Scrambler – I get a disproportionate amount of pleasure out of such fettling – verb (used with object), fet·tled, fet·tling – Ceramics to remove mold marks from (a cast piece).  That may be the official definition but, in Manchester and probably elsewhere, it means to fiddle about with machinery – ideally in a relaxed and time-wasting fashion.  An alternative would be ‘ferkle’.

“Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you”  –  Dave Allen 1936-2005

… all are welcome, apparently.

… before and after

… super-wide – the 8mm Samyang on the X-Pro2

… winter moon over Beaufront Woodhead

… and Hard Rain along the Tyne.

… another tree down along the Tyne

… afternoon light, Beaufront Woodhead

A Resolution …

… and one I might struggle to keep – to post on WordPress at least once per week.  Not that I will necessarily have anything illuminating to say but, as I post on Blipfoto everyday, there should be no shortage of images.

It has been a quiet week in Beaufront Woodhead.  The hard frosts have disappeared, to be replaced by a gloomy light, plenty of rain and high winds.  Occasionally the sun has slid through a gap in the clouds and then it is a few short paces from the front door to grab the light.  This is a series of local images from the last few days rounded off by my middle son eyeing up his inheritance – we took the Elise 117 miles into the Borders because we could and because driving that machine is always a joy.  Thanks to the bikes I am very familiar with all the routes heading north from Carter Bar, to Newcastleton and south via Keilder:

The sun going down across the Tyne Valley

Taken before the sun disappeared for the day

The view from the trees back to Beaufront Woodhead Farm

A brief moment in time, the sun shining on Keith’s house – earlier today, 7th January.

Those trees again – again, 7th January

Matt, eyeing up his inheritance

Last sunrise …

… of the decade.  Yesterday I journeyed 94 miles on the F850 GS, riding into the sullen Scottish Borders – drizzle and heavy mist over the hills, having left the Tyne Valley in bright sunshine.  This morning brought a heavy frost and removed any temptation of venturing out again.  Ice and two wheels don’t mix.

… last sunrise.

… and a heavy frost.

… just north of Kielder

Riding the bike into distant empty roads focuses the mind, clears the head and banishes dark thoughts about the year gone by – it has not been a good one.  A new decade begins, turn, turn, turn

My big sister: 1944-2019

Harvest

I have been waiting for this for a while.  Driving up from Hexham, tell-tale dust was blowing across the road.  Armed with the X-Pro2 and the Fujinon 18-55mm zoom I was back to the field in minutes hoping to catch a monster in action.  It did not disappoint – a Claas harvester was lumbering around in ever-decreasing circles throwing up vast dust clouds to confuse the enemy.

It was a super-heated afternoon with a hot sun piercing high dark clouds – it was very ominous.  Within an hour biblical rain was falling on Hexham, the harvester and all souls beneath.  It seemed unlikely that the harvest has been completed in time and, sure enough, this morning there was still a large patch of uncut oilseed rape and an abandoned combine harvester.  The dust in the air had been replaced by expletives:

Will I see you give more than I can take

Will I only harvest some?

As the days fly passed

Will we lose our grasp

Or fuse it in the sun.