Thursday, July 29, 2010

Northumberland: Beautiful County I Love

Last week was spent exploring Northumberland with Martin: we managed to cram in loads of stuff somehow.
I had always wanted to see the Alnwick Garden. It is surprisingly small considering the fuss surrounding it, but it is perfect for children and even has little green and yellow tractors for them to fight over and rattle around in. I also liked the fact that no plants were so special that you had to be a clever gardener to grow them. And the lovely rose garden! It was raining when we went and you could stuff your nose into all manner of rose fragrances, from the strong and opium-like to the hint-on-a-breeze type. Lots of the petals had fallen to the ground and covered the earth with a layered carpet of crumpled pink and cream.
I could have stayed there forever.

The next day we went to the Farne Islands. This was a brilliant trip on a little boat that bounced us around the North Sea. Seal's noses poked upwards in the water.
'That's how they sleep', explained the fisherman who was steering us out to sea. 'We'll soon wake them up!' As we buffeted towards them, their heads poked out of the briny like crooked fingers. They look like doggies, with long muzzles, unlike the West Coast ones who look like teddies. 
They slurped about in the waves, camera-shy and sleek.
We landed on Inner Farne, almost tripping over tern chicks who were lazing about on the walkways.
The smell of gull goo was overpowering and the noise was dense and internimable.
(did you know that in Chile they mine guano for use as a fuel? Wotcha think of that, BP?)
Guillemot, Kittiwake, they sound like Victorian children's names... of course, the puffins are the best. They zip about on unfeasibly small wings, red legs akimbo. Their chicks are in holes in the ground, guarded by smart generals in black and white livery with painted beaks who stand to attention and point North, South, East, West, to make sure predators don't creep up behind them.

Lindisfarne was next: we drove through the rippling tide on the causeway and avoided the tourists by slipping round the side of the church, where we discovered, in the wind-carved holes in the stones, a sparrow with a secret nest.
Over on the other side of the island, upturned boats had been converted into fisherman's lockups. Someone was growing a forest of exotic coloured lilies in their garden, something I would not have believed possible in the salty and fresh climate of the north-east coast.

Last day, we walked to Dunstanburgh Castle from Craster, witnessing the weirdest event of the week.
A herd of young heifers were bullying a pigeon, who was Not Scared of Them. The pigeon stood on the ground, while the heifers, with their heads down, mooed at it full-volume through sloppy noses. The pigeon walked forward at leisure, with the cows following it, mooing all the time.
From time to time, one cow took a rest before joining in with the gang again, bowing its head and steaming the pigeon with its moo-ey breath.
The pigeon led the cluster of cows across the path and perilously close to a small cliff.
Had it murder in mind?
We didn't wait to see: there were fossils on the beach and our own cliff to sit on and look at the breakers.
That night, we made chili for John Cavener and his wife, and talked music into the night. 
We have a virtual band, a little bit Daintees, a little bit Band of Holy Joy, a little bit Chefs and  little bit Sureshots. Who know where it might go?


Anonymous said...

Ooh don't yer blog look posh missus?

Rich C

Anonymous said...

The Wilky annual 'get away from it' break is 3 nights on Holy Island. Been going there for about 15 years. Only this year did I discover that the pile of stones on the north shore that I'd walked past many times is in fact a little cabin you can go in, with a visitors book and all sorts of paraphenalia, and totally unvandalised. Magical. I would have not noticed the entrance again this year had another visitor not pointed it out. I'd been sitting with my back to it reading 'The Philosophy of Music' for probably an hour at the time. Sometimes, you miss the obvious...

Craster has a superb fish restuarant. Well worth a visit

The water cascade at Alnwick is kinda wonderful too

Wilky of St A