Countryside of Contrasts

First there is Hadrian: milecastles, hill forts and temples and bucket loads of history from its turbulent English – Scottish conflicts. Where man and beast walk on the wall.Hadrian's Wall

sheep on wall

Then there are the green fells and bubbling rivers stained tea brown from all the tannin, and the heather-clad Pennine landscape where sheep abound and rare alpine plants can be found.

Cottage Mile after mile of roller coaster roads with their blind summits and hidden dips, twisting hairpin bends and narrow single lane bridges arching over wee burns. And long forgotten viaducts striding over a river many vertiginous feet below.

lambley viaduct (2) Invigorating walks lead past houses built in a golden stone with pots full of bright red geraniums and purple petunias cascade and where inviting tea-rooms with a friendly welcome are set amidst old rail tracks. Stop at a traditional pub, some dating back to the 12th century, others used as a meeting place in the Jacobite Rebellion, where smiling bar-staff greet you with their warm northern accent and make you reluctant to leave.

The Garden Station Explore villages and small towns where houses are crammed together supporting one another, wander down hidden snickets and narrow cobbled lanes with secret gardens. Where churches with ancient churchyards are open at all times welcoming strangers to view their beautiful stained glass windows, bell towers, carved pulpits and unusual altars or simply to admire the craftsmanship of the home-made pew cushions, lovingly stitched by the congregation.

Alnmouth Finally there’s the coast and the castles. Wide, sandy beaches, river mouths and harbours and huge dunes with wild flowers. Tide timetables to consult, micro breweries and Craster kippers to taste, seals and summer sea-bird colonies to see and a walk to a castle last occupied during the Wars of the Roses. A church cut off from its village by the river changing its course in a violent storm over two centuries ago. History is around every corner.

lindisfarne 257

Derwent reservoir
Derwent reservoir

Herons and cormorants and twenty-five white swans on the River Coquet at Warkworth, swifts and finches flying in and out of the barns, stopping to briefly rest on the top of a stone wall beside you, but not long enough for a photo. The call of an owl, the sighting of a hawk. Dozens of rabbits scurrying around a churchyard at dusk. Grouse strutting nonchalantly along the lanes as if they know it’s not the shooting season.

sheep And the sky – the big open sky – cumulus clouds, a rainbow over the fells, the zillion stars and the Milky Way. You want to gaze at it all the time. Your eyes are drawn upwards.  And driving home in the dusk after a very long day you round a final bend and slam on the brakes as a young deer glides across the road in front of you. It stops, hesitates, eyes shining in the headlights before turning around to disappear back into the gloom of the woodland from whence it has come. Serendipity.

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

74 thoughts on “Countryside of Contrasts”

  1. Oh my goodness Jude it is the land of fairy tales! Such astounding photos however the sheep on the rock wall is stunning. I feel transported as though i am standing and looking at it from the field. Absolutely lovely.

    1. We had very mixed weather, but that didn’t seem to matter as we just got out there and explored – a new area for me – and I loved it!

  2. This is my favourite post of yours too – so far! Every word and photo is a delight and made me feel like I’d be at home there, lovely, lovely 🙂

  3. I thought I was watching Robson Green on ‘Northumberland’ for a while there, Jude. 🙂 I was wondering when you’d snuck up this way but the question was asked for me. (one of the advantages of always arriving late) Wonderfully lyrical. I’ve been trying to drag the other half up to the Wall for the last 3 years! Determined to do it this year. Lovely post- I enjoyed it very much.

    1. five years ago Jo, before our move to Shropshire, I dragged the OH oop north 🙂
      We had a great week flying around the countryside, very hectic as I was determined to get to the coast, but we stayed quite a way from it in the middle of the countryside. Loved every minute… 😀

      1. Some better than others but he found me a wonderful place I’d never heard of to put on the list for when I do get there.
        I’m heading more in your direction for the Bristol Balloon festival in August and have promised Dad a couple of Norfolk days sometime in the Summer. The year is filling up fast but right now is dreary 🙂 Anything with the house?

        1. If nothing does, Cornwall in April will still be blissful. Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂 We have just a glimmer of sun this morning, though it won’t last. 2 beautiful cards from the young uns- one exquisitely handmade and the other totally unexpected! Life could be worse 🙂

        2. Hah! You are the lucky one – I have a lovely card from the daughter and a text message, an email from Aussie son (and it’s not even Mother’s Day there until May) but zilch from the 2 boys here – I expect one is still submerged with baby brain and the other wouldn’t even know what the date is 🙄

  4. This is where I want to go! Has been on my list for ages. Your pictures here may just help my case… I’m doing the drip feed approach with H so that he ends up thinking it was his idea all along. 😉

  5. Brilliant post, Jude. Your photos and narrative are quite remarkable. I don’t recall visiting this area, even as a child. There is so much of the British Isles that I haven’t seen, except on TV, and now on your blog. It’s really lovely to see all that beautiful green countryside.

    1. One of my aims is to have spent time visiting every English county and hopefully Wales, Scotland too! There aren’t many I haven’t been through, but several I haven’t actually stayed in.

  6. Jude- you are such good writer (as well as photographer!) -a nd but the time I got to this part: “Herons and cormorants and twenty-five white swans…” I was feeling the beat and truly a gorgeous region (and how interesting that church was cut off like that)

  7. I have decided that I need to follow you here too. We do not have castles in our countryside. All that history must be wonderful to visit. Beautiful photography Jude. I would love to see it myself someday.

  8. What wonderful homage to a varied landscape. I love the impressionistic way you use words in this post, and the way words and photos play off each other. And you’ve given me the gift of a new word – ‘snicket’ had me off to Google. There are so many convenient words in the English rural vocab. It’s one of the things I enjoy when I read Robert Macfarlane and Roger Deakin.

    1. Not my usual writing I admit, but for some reason once I had started on this piece (and it was a few years ago) the words just tumbled out of their own accord. Almost as if I was on a journey. Here in Shropshire ‘snickets’ are known as ‘shuts’ When I first arrived in Shrewsbury I was fascinated by them 😉

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