Inspired by a tweet from Dan Jackson, earlier this week, I headed south into County Durham on the Scrambler: County Durham was among the saddest of the ‘sad shires’ of WW1 (with the Durham Light Infantry alone losing 13,000 men killed), but the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Hunstanworth in the North Pennines was lucky, and is the county’s only ‘thankful village’.
According to Wiki: The church, dedicated to St James the Less, was built in 1781 on a medieval site. The village was designed and built around the original parish church. The Reverend Daniel Capper commissioned architect Samuel Sanders Teulon to create the village in 1862-3; as well as rebuilding the church, Teulon delivered a vicarage and stable block, school and school-house and a mix of terraced, semi-detached and detached houses, all constructed of sandstone.
The church is also home to a hand-blown organ by Gray & Davison which was on display at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
… 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 …
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.
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.
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.
Today has dawned miserable again; a cold north easterly from Scandinavia has brought more rain and the threat of snow on high ground – we are on high ground, about 550 feet above the Tyne Valley. To the south are views of Dilston, Slaley and the northern hills of County Durham. In the foreground are Swallowship Hill and the woods that rise to the southern side of the valley. This is the site of the Battle of Hexham, 15th August 1464 – “the last battle of the first chapter of the Wars of the Roses”.
On that long ago Tuesday (5th March 2013) with the promise of Spring in the air, we walked these woods and looked back across the valley to see our home looking south towards Swallowship; even the name holds promise. Today there is just damp mist and no view at all, in either direction.
This is the view north from the lower eastern slopes of Swallowship Hill – to the right, off centre, Beaufront Castle can be seen towards the top of the ridge, shining in the Spring sun. Our distant home at Beaufront Woodhead is a ‘half an inch’ up and left (click on the image to enlarge).