The Road to Nowhere

Travel theme: Dry – Everywhere in Northumberland is saturated but we should not complain, compared to the Somerset Levels and elsewhere, we are having it easy.  The only ‘dry’ image I could come up with was taken on the road between Fenwick and Matfen on Sunday morning.  The tarmac is damp but there are dry patches developing on the right:

The only 'dry' there is

Look into the fields and they are awash.  This is the view east from the narrow, private road that leads out to Fenwick Grange:


From Fenwick Grange a bridlepath leads back to Matfen – this is mud from beginning to end. We encountered several mountain bike riders along this stretch and they were all dismounted, it was easier on foot – one is just visible in the distance (click on the images to enlarge):

The bridlepath

Travel theme: Still

This morning we walked in a loop, west from Matfen village towards Burnside, West Moorhouses and Butcher Hill, conveniently passing Matfen Brewery at about half distance. It is the still time of year across the Northumbrian landscape.  There is a stillness in the fields, along the lanes and in the trees.

Across the fieldsAlong the lanesIdeal for conversionIn the trees

Apart from the brewery, this was the only activity we saw all morning – the squire riding out to take the air (incidentally, a very helpful and obliging chap):

Down the tracksI am disappointed, there is still no snow, a statement I may live to regret.

(click on the images to enlarge)

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in The Life

A day in the life – I guess it should be “my life” but I enjoy the oblique reference to Lennon & McCartney:

Woke up, fell out of bed 
Dragged a comb across my head 
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup 
And looking up, I noticed I was late 

Saturday 30th March 2013, the clocks change tonight in the UK and the light begins its return to the evening skies.  I hasten to add this is not a typical day, indeed these last few weeks it has been very untypical, there being more chance of snowboarding than playing golf. First thing this morning it looked like more of the same as our new neighbours looked distinctly uncomfortable in a north easterly blizzard. Nevertheless, as the morning progressed the weather eased and by 11:30 conditions were relatively benign.  The day starts from warming up the car, heading along the Military Road to Matfen Golf Club, completing a very enjoyable round, mostly in the sun, and then heading home to once again sit in front of a PC screen – I omitted a photo of the latter, it being sort of self-evident from this post.

All the photos were taken on a Samsung SII smartphone and then given the Instagram treatment:

Matfen Hall

It is good to be home and almost reassuring that we have no immediate plans to travel again in the near future; it feels like a good time to hibernate.  This week marked my first round of golf for 2013 at Matfen Hall.  I remember this course being built in the grounds of a Cheshire Home in the early nineties and these many years later it has matured to the point where it feels like an intended part of the landscape.  It is challenging and best played out of season when it is quiet and not over-populated with societies, those who feel they must line up at every putt as though the Ryder Cup depended on it and groups of casual visitors for whom the adjacent par 3 course is probably a test too far.  In the summer this is the land of the 5 hour round but on Thursday, with no more than a dozen hardy golfers out, it was just fine.

This is one of my first digital photographs; after years of conventional photography, I still remember the amazed delight at these instant results taken with a Fuji FinePix6900 Zoom on New Year’s Day 2002.  It shows the 18th at Matfen complete with resident swan on the River Pont; the tee shot is played across the water and the fairway doglegs left to a green just off the edge of the photograph.  It is a magnificent finishing hole in front of the Jacobean style mansion.

Matfen HallThis image is less successful but it does include the glorious stone bridge that takes golfers from the tee to fairway; it is a very solid construction, originally intended for the passage of cattle over the River Pont.

Matfen HallTwo features dominate the course – the quite narrow but deep and fast flowing River Pont which comes into play on four holes and the Ha-ha which cuts across the entire course and comes into play on another four, more if you have an unreliable swing. The Ha-ha comprises a drystone wall where the ground is built up on one side such that views from the main house are uninterrupted by animal enclosures; playing up close to a Ha-ha on the steep side makes for an almost impossible golf shot.  The same device surrounds the gardens immediately in front of the hall, thereby keeping livestock, but not agile golfers, off the main lawn.