… the way I intend to continue – on a bike on January 1st. Plenty of rain meant there was no salt on the roads and the temperatures well above 10ºC – almost perfect riding conditions, but for the mucky surfaces. I am fortunate to live among country roads, not best for a sports bike, but ideal for the Scrambler. A couple of miles north and I am on the Military Road, which runs from Heddon in the east to Greenhead in the west. For much of its length, it runs parallel to Hadrian’s Wall and north of the old Stanegate Roman road. There are any number of diversions, south or north, which take you away from this almost arrow-straight tarmac, built by Field Marshal Wade in 1746 to enable easy movement of the troops and equipment necessary to supress the Jacobite uprising. It is a wild, exposed, glorious landscape.
… in Northumberland (and elsewhere) – a selection of images from the the month which first appeared on Blip. It started out relatively mild and I kept riding but, since the 19th the temperatures dropped, the wind got up and the Yamaha has been locked up in the garage (the other two are off road for the winter). The last game of golf was on the 23rd – I could be in for a long winter 😦
It was like grasping water to think how quickly the years had passed here. They were nearly gone. It was in the nature of things and yet it brought a sense of betrayal and anger, of never having understood anything much. Instead of using the fields, he sometimes felt as if the fields had used him. Soon they would be using someone else in his place. It was unlikely to be either of his sons. He tried to imagine someone running the place after he was gone and could not. He continued walking the fields like a man trying to see.
John McGahern – Amongst Women (1990).
I last walked these fields in March 2014, how quickly the years have passed. Nothing much has changed in the land between the Wall, Hangman’s Hill and Davy’s Brig Well. On that occasion I had recently watched Pat Collins’ Silence, a remarkable, meditative film about loss, silence, history, memory and exile. In a similar moment of coincidence, today I was brought back to the words of John McGahern by this film, A Private World. I am indebted to Poetry and Environment for posting this video and reminding me of McGahern’s great art …
All we have is the precious moments, and the hours, and the days.
Travel theme: Trees. You can’t see the wood for them supposedly but look closely and you might see some ethereal sheep. This is Square Wood, near Fallowfield and Written Crag, just south of Hadrian’s Wall:
(click on the image to enlarge)
A motorbike is all about the bare essentials; it is minimalist engineering at its finest. I have been looking for an excuse to post some pictures of the Scrambler and then a link to the video at the bottom of the post appeared in my inbox – it explains everything. The first picture was taken at the top of Dryburn Moor above Allendale and the second near Sycamore Gap along Hadrian’s Wall a few weeks later … two icons in close proximity. The eagle-eyed will spot the change of exhaust between the first and second image – the single pipe of the new version looks much neater and, more importantly, sounds wonderful. If I were to remove the baffle it would wake the dead – I am tempted 👿
(not quite what the challenge had in mind but what the heck 🙂 )
Northumberland is a big empty county and we live on the edge of that emptiness. On Tuesday we walked the few miles from our home to the southern edge of Hadrian’s Wall. From up there the views south cross the Tyne Valley to County Durham and the views north stretch across a cinerama-wide landscape to the Scottish Borders – everywhere there are distant horizons, even on days when every season is represented:
(click on the images to enlarge)
Just an evening amble up the lane from Beaufront Woodhead towards Hadrian’s Wall, that demilitarized zone between Hexham and the empty uplands of Northumberland. The skies were clear, the light sharp and the fields gold. Far up, a hawk fluttered on the hot rising air:
I bend my stone arm up till the hawk
hovering over the hayfield
on my wrist.
(click on the image to enlarge)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned. Just south of Milecastle 24 along Hadrian’s Wall there is an abandoned farm and outbuildings. Further south the OS map shows Hangman’s Hill and Davy’s Brig Well but the farm has no name – abandoned in thought and deed. It seems that until recently the house was used to store hay but even this purpose is lost – the floors and roof have collapsed and the interior is now fully occupied by broken timbers and the fallen stone roof.
The buildings sit alone in a field, exposed on all sides to big skies and heavy weather. There is no evidence of access roads or even pathways to the farm, it stands in absolute isolation (click on the images to enlarge):
Standing on the high ground above the Tyne Valley the absolute silence was only broken by the sudden swooping sound of a lone lapwing. This place and this abandoned farm resonates with a film I watched just a few days ago, Pat Collins’ Silence. A remarkable meditative film about loss, silence, history, memory and exile:
“The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, drive quicker, kick better, swim harder, hit further, or ride faster.”
Adapted from Bryce Courtenay’s, The Power of One
Anyone who has driven the Military Road or walked Hadrian’s Wall west of Chollerford and Walwick will be familiar with this one, lone defiant tree: