Alphabet of Travel Snaps: N is for…

Alphabet of Travel Snaps: N is for…

NORTHUMBERLAND!

The most northerly county in England, this sparsely populated swathe of wild moorland, deserted beaches and vast forests sits adjacent to the Scottish border and was once plagued by attacks from Border Rievers – raiders of both nationalities that pillaged their wealth from local homesteads.

NorthumberBLOG14

But now, protected by the Angel of the North, all is peaceful throughout the landscape.

NorthumberBLOG10

And believe me…it is SO quiet!

We stayed for a few days in the village of Bellingham, on the edge of Kielder Forest, in a gorgeous little Airbnb cottage, a converted former workshop. The village itself was fairly small but had enough amenities for our needs: butchers, bakers, well stocked convenience store, outdoor supply shop and (most importantly), several pubs and eateries.

NorthumberBLOG6

Although the weather was not on our side, we still made the most of the multitude of walking routes, (many of which started from the village: the Pennine Way runs behind the cottage) and set forth, armed with our backpacks and emergency ponchos!

Taken with NightCap. Long Exposure mode, 1.40 second exposure, 1

Kielder Forest itself is a working forest and the largest in Britain. It also has the largest man-made lake in the country, a distance of 27 miles around its perimeter. We only walked a third of that, going in search of the hidden sculptures that have been placed along the route.

NorthumberBLOG4

If you didn’t know it was there, it would be pretty creepy to find this head among the trees!

NorthumberBLOG3

What struck me about the place was the tranquility. At night, it was completely still, and we slept better than we often do at home. But that is nothing unusual about the countryside. Yet, during the day, it was blissfully quiet too. Until we stopped in the cathedral city of Durham on the way home, we could honestly say we saw less than a hundred people the entire trip.

And most of those were in Co-op!

NorthumberBLOG7

Although the Kielder has several boating and watersport areas, oodles of cycling and walking routes, plus wildlife rarely seen elsewhere in the UK (it’s home to ospreys and 50% of the dwindling red squirrel population), I was surprised that not a single person was out on the lake. Granted, we had very changeable weather, but go to somewhere like Windermere in the Lake District and it would seem like you were in the middle of a major city compared to Kielder!

NorthumberBLOG1

NorthumberBLOG8

One of the main reasons for visiting this area was the dark skies. Due to very low light pollution, much of the county has been granted Gold Tier Dark Sky status and holds regular stargazing events. We booked into one of these at the fantastic Kielder Observatory, high above the tree canopy, with me being eager to try out some astro-photography.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided the heavens were a little chilly, so wrapped them in a thick blanket of cloud! 😦

NorthumberBLOG12

Nevertheless, the three-hour event was fascinating, and humbling, being taken on a trip around our cosmos and examining meteorites, pieces of the Moon and Mars, looking at some stunning images they had taken of nebulae and the Milky Way (with a camera that had a lower spec than ours – jealous much!) and having our minds blown by time travel. Did you know that if there was life on a planet or star that was, say 70 million light years away, they would be looking back at Earth and seeing dinosaurs?

Amazing right?

We were also told that the entire annual budget for NASA is spent every 17 minutes on defense. I don’t know how true that is, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I also learned that I’m not an Aries – a great (free) piece of software called Stellarium, allows you to view the night sky on any given date. Well, on my birthdate, the Sun was nowhere near the ram, instead being so far into the waters of Pisces, it was nearly being poured out of Aquarius’ jug!

But Astrology is totally accurate…

Anyway, Northumberland is also famous for being home to Hadrian’s Wall. The largest Roman artefact anywhere, it runs across England for 73 miles, roughly coast to coast and once marked the northen-most boundary of the Roman Empire.

NorthumberBLOG13

I’m so mad I chopped the egde of the fort off here – in my defense, I almost blew off the top of the wall!

Large parts of the wall and attached forts still exist, although not quite as high as the original – even my stumpy legs could scale it now in one…maybe two leaps!

We walked a popular section, near Steel Rigg, clambouring down rocky outcroppings until we reached Sycamore Gap – so named because of the single tree that sits between the steep hillsides. Do you recognise it?

NorthumberBLOG15

Apparently, it’s the most photographed tree in the UK and appeared in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (as this grainy YouTube clip shows!)

So, by six degrees of separation, I’m now claiming I know Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman! 😉

NorthumberBLOG9

On the way home, we stopped for lunch and a wander around Durham. It’s both a cathedral and university city, the layout of which reminded me of a cross between York and Lincoln.

NorthumberBLOG16

We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch in an artisan cafe called Flat White – you can’t go somewhere like that and not order something quintessentially Hipster. So I had smashed avocado and poached eggs. I couldn’t go too overboard though, so scaled back any pretentiousness by having a proper English cuppa!

Although we had a mootle around the cathedral, the castle was unfortunately closed for a private function, but it’s a city I’d definitely go back to (parking was cheap too – only £1.70 for 4 hours), as is the county as a whole.

NorthumberBLOG20

We didn’t make it to the coast this time, but when we return, this is somewhere I’ll aim for. The wildlife havens of Lindisfarne, plus the castles of Bamburgh and Alnwick (Hogwarts!) are all on the list for next time.

So thank you Northumberland, ‘wuh had a canny time’! 🙂

Have you visited the county or been to any Dark Sky areas? Let me know in the comments. Bye for now! 🙂


Image Credits: All mine (or taken by Sam), so please be sweet and ask before sharing. 🙂 Video clip courtesy of YouTube.

Did you know you can follow the Bobbins on Twitter and Facebook? Come and say hi!

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “Alphabet of Travel Snaps: N is for…

  1. A wonderfully illustrated travelogue. Loved the ‘big giant head’ in the woods. I used to do some stargazing as a kid, so that part sounded cool. Shame the silver lining had clouds..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, it was a huge shame but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be clear tomorrow night and I can spot some of the Perseid meteor shower. Won’t be as dark but I’ll take my chances! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sold – Windemere wore me out this year and the your tales of a lack of people is very appealing. Also I’ve never been to Durham and that seems like an oversight I need to rectify too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We should have probably spent more time in Durham but it was mainly to break up the driving and fill our stomachs! What we saw of it seemed lovely though so will go back en route next time 🙂 But yes, get yourself up there – it’s lovely feeling you have an entire national park to yourself!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We love Northumberland and go to stay on a regular basis. We based in Paxton, near to Berwick, for many visits, have stayed in Belford/Low Middleton area, and have been to stay in Warkworth about 7 times. Fantastic County, people, coastline, and, as you say QUIET and DARKNESS. The beaches are superb, and most allow dogs. Who needs foreign travel when we have such fine places? When you go to Alnwick you MUST go to Barter books, you could spend a whole week there and still want to go back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I imagine a lot of it would remind you of Canada – the forest area at least. That’s what I think it looks like – purely based on what the country looks like on TV!

      Like

      1. That sounds like the sort of thing I’d say too – “There you go, have some info on this part of the world… If you want.”
        Well, if I ever get Lacunae finished, that could be my next project!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s called Silvas Capitalis – Latin for forest head. Apparently designed by American artists, SIMPARCH, it represents a watcher who has seen the landscape change over time. But it’s still creepy. You can climb inside and look out of its eyes!
      There are loads of sculptures around Kielder Lake though, from follies and cabins to state of the art wildlife hides. And then just random stuff! We just didn’t make it to any others as the weather got too bad 😦

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s