As I mentioned in last week’s blog I planned to get away for a few days and that’s exactly what I did. I’d mulled over going up to Islay in the Inner Hebrides for the week. However, I decided that in the end it was too far to go for the time I had available and that possibly the week’s weather forecast wasn’t favourable for north west Scotland.
In the end I decided to go up to Northumberland and I have to say it turned out to be a good choice. Although very windy at times it was bright and sunny for the week. Superb. I seemed to pack quite a bit in, so writing this seems as though it’s much more than a week ago since I did my last blog.
I stayed at Rock Farmhouse B&B in the little village of Rock just north of Alnwick. It proved a perfect base. I arrived Monday night, so Tuesday was my first full day which I used to visit Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle. So I did get to go to an island in the end. Holy Island is reached by a road causeway which is only passable at low tide and I made sure I was over well before the 10:45am cut off for that morning as I had a picture in mind that I wanted to get. I’d seen a few pictures of Lindisfarne Castle, one of which was on the front of my OS map that inspired me to try for a similar shot.
The particular shot was taken at low tide but was either taken late afternoon or early evening. Anyway, I had the rich autumn morning light which was perfect and just made the picture view point with enough tide time to get my shots along with some competition from a group of photographers who were there on an organised photography holiday.
Of course, once you are on the island at high tide you are there for the day, so I got to have a good wander around taking in the landscape and wildlife on this wild exposed Northumbrian coast. I particularly enjoyed getting up close to a group of Eider ducks taking shelter below the harbour wall opposite the castle. These sea ducks are known for being quite tame birds which allowed me to get some shots from the harbour side. The male birds have stunning plumage made all the better in the sunlight. For some tech info on the duck pictures I used my 1.7x converter on my 80-200 zoom. That on my D2xs gives me around a 500mm lens.
Wednesday, I came down the coast a bit to take in Bamburgh Castle and the fantastic beach it over looks. Another beautiful morning, fantastic light and a strong off shore winds made for an invigorating day along the shoreline. The beach is superb to walk along and reached after passing through the maraam grass clad dunes that characterise this area. It’s just wild open space under big skies.
The Farne Islands can be clearly seen from the beach here. They are famed for their birdlife, particularly the Puffins and Turns that nest there during the summer. I’m sure you have seen many a TV wildlife presenter getting dive bombed and pecked by the Turns as they protect their territories.
Drove a short way up the coast in the afternoon to take a walk along another superb section of beach. Had it to myself with views to Bamburgh to the south and Holy Island to the north. If anything this beach was even better than the beach I experienced in the morning.
Thursday I decided to have a look at Craster, a small fishing village famed for its kippers. The smoke house is just above the harbour and you can look in to see how it’s all done. The fresh kippers by the way are excellent. Just as I arrived in Craster there was a short heavy rain shower that produced a superb rainbow over the village.
Just managed to get round the harbour wall to grab a couple of shots before the rainbow faded and I had to take shelter. The rain didn’t last long and for the rest of the day I was back under the big blue skies I’d had all week. Took a walk from the village along to the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle about a mile or so up the coast. Watched Eider ducks diving just off shore and Oystercatcher and Redshank feeding along the shore line.
In the afternoon I drove down to Warkworth and took a few shots of it’s castle from the inlet that runs up from Amble. The light was superb once again. It’s was also an area I was trying to work out where the coastal caravan site was where we’d had a couple of family holidays when I was younger. Must have been nearly 30 years ago. Frightening! Didn’t quite figure it out so will have to ask mum and dad for a bit more info there.
Friday and time to start heading back home. Another beautiful morning and decided to head towards Carlisle along the A69. It was my intention to try and have a look at the Solway coastline but I saw the signs for Hadrian’s Wall and my plans changed. I’d always wanted to see the section of Hadrian’s Wall that’s always used on the postcards and in the tourist information leaflets. You know the one where the wall snakes and undulates over the rugged Northumbrian landscape as far as you can see.
I couldn’t remember the section name so I thought I’d find an information point just off my route and see how close I was to getting to my desired location. As luck would have it I saw the signs for the Northumberland National Park Information Centre so turned off the A69 and headed up the two miles or so of narrow lane to ask there. The centre was closed, but fortunately there were a couple of people in the rangers’ building who I was able to ask.
I couldn’t believe how close I was. ”Straight up to the junction here, straight across the dogleg junction and up the hill to the car park at Steel Rigg. You will get fantastic views from there.” I was told. It was a mile and a half max. Brilliant. I parked up and got my cameras together and headed east along the footpath that runs by the Wall. It had been cold over night and there was still frost and frozen puddles along the footpath. At first I thought perhaps I was still not along the right section but after about a mile the picture I was after came in to view.
The Wall dipped and rose over the craggy escarpment and the ruins of Milecastle 39 lay in the dip. Superb. It’s incredible to imagine how the Wall would have been constructed with it’s Forts and Milecastles in this wild open landscape. It’s definitely worth the walk to see. I continue further and if anything you get an even better appreciation of this Roman construction marvel.
Drove towards Carlisle and picked up the M6 to get on the way back home. Dropped in to Sizurgh Barn near Kendal on the way back. You can watch the cows being milked while you sit in the tea rooms above the milking parlour.
Saturday I ventured out on the bike, and put in 53 miles. Weather was a bit damp and drizzly at times. Sunday I met up with Simon, Steve and Mark for a run out to Hartington. Did a different route from last weekend which added another few miles. 65 miles in total. The weather was kind and after a few spits of rain early on it improved as the morning went on. A nice finish to a memorable week.
Back to it now. I’ve got a few things to get done this week including a Rides story to complete and I’ll go to Revolution 18 at the weekend.
That’s it for now. Catch up in a week.
Andy Jones is Cycling Weekly’s resident photographer, and has covered pretty much every major cycle race there is, from downhill mountain biking to the Tour de France. You can see many of Andy’s photos in our online Gallery section.