Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Tuesday 22 July 2014

At Summer’s Happiest

A few weeks ago, I bought a little Collins book entitled Short Walks In Northumberland, which I knew we’d make use of in the coming months.  Inside are a set of twenty curated, circular walks around various different places in Northumberland, and luckily, almost all of them are unknown to us, which meant we’d meet our goal of visiting one new place a week!  So we packed a picnic (ewe’s milk and lavender cheese sandwiches, with home-grown lettuce, flask of proper coffee and blueberry cake) and headed out for a walk around Wylam, on what turned out to be a very hot and humid day indeed.

Though it’s only July, there were signs of autumn popping up everywhere.  It won’t be long until these hawthorn berries turn red and then we’ll know that autumn is really on the way.

On the way, we came across George Stephenson‘s house, the man known as the “Father of the Railways” and whose engineering prowess not only brought the Industrial Revolution into being, but also gave us lasting inventions like our railways, bridges and locomotives (like Stephenson’s Rocket).  The Stephenson family were poor, living in just one room of this house, all seven of them sharing one small box-bed.  It was George’s desire to better himself, and an almost innate ability to engineer things, that set him on the course to glory.  The house is now looked after by the National Trust and the one room that the Stephensons lived in has been faithfully restored to its original glory.  The outside also houses a nice rest-stop for the walk, with a tea-room and pretty (but very small) garden.

We stopped for a cup of tea and were ‘found’ by this very tame baby robin.  Can you see, he/she’s still all spots and freckles?  We stopped for a cup of tea on the way out and a sneaky ice cream (Beckleberry’s raspberry – how I have missed you!) on the way back.  All the time, we were aware of the robin (and other birds) scampering around us.

Sweet peas!  I haven’t grown these for years (not since we left Northumberland) but plan to have lots of them next year, as they remind me of so many good things.  These were growing in the cottage garden of Stephenson’s cottage and though they weren’t scented, they were stunningly beautiful.

Once we’d made our way onto the walk, we began to come across such lovely things.  This view of the river really is stunning.  What you can’t see from the photo alone is the darting birds, swallows and swifts, diving over the river and the sound of the moorhens and coots, the cawing of crows and calling of seagulls (and also the swarming of thrips and midges!).  It was alive and very fast-flowing indeed.

Another thing to keep your eyes out for, should you ever visit Northumberland, are the harebells.  Most of the time, I associate them with Scotland, but as I was explaining to a friend of mine the other day, we are almost in Scotland (indeed, anything North of the Wall!) which is why we get such a proliferation of different species here from the rest of the UK.  Aren’t they beautiful, though?  I think I’d rather see these than bluebells, you know.

At the sight of elderberries, I always recount the tale of my mother’s foray into wine-making, which somehow went a little awry, producing something more akin to 40% loo cleaner than drinkable wine (someone who enjoyed a regular drink, upon drinking my mother’s wine coughed and proclaimed with watering eyes “It burns!”).  It makes us laugh now.  As someone who doesn’t drink, the need for wine making has kind of passed me by, but I can imagine that making your own wines from hedgerow ingredients must be very satisfying indeed (I will try nettle beer for Mr VP next year!).

Of course, one of the best bits of the walk was finding ourselves in amongst the pines and the larches again.  I can’t wait until I can look out at the pine trees at the bottom of our garden once more and hear them sing in the winds.

It was a deep, wooded walk and full of all sorts of flora and fauna.

Pine cones!  Squee! (Can you tell it’s been too long?)

Paths, literally and metaphorically speaking, are something that hold a lot of importance for me now.  Choices we make at forks in the road; how we interpret our situations and how we come to decisions are all interesting and important now.  The more I think about it, the more I think that our paths are an exceptionally complex system of ring-roads and straight lines, u-turns and unforseen bends.  Sometimes we can’t see the path for the weeds and sometimes we’re not sure of the course we should take.  But I don’t think there’s a bad path, there are just detours until we get back on track.  But we never can see what’s round the next corner, however much we crane our necks.

Sorry, more pine needles.  Up-close and personal.  So close you can smell the pine sap on the air.

By this point, we were absolutely boiling because of the heat.  Thankfully the shade brought some relief from the sun, if not the humidity.

Of course, it’s not just pine trees here, but larches too.  They have soft, sometimes-deciduous needles and oodles of cones.  They sing the loudest when a gale rushes through.

This stretch of the Tyne is much-loved by canoeists and fishermen and is much cleaner than it used to be, though due to previous workings on the banks of the river, it now has its own ecosystem distinct from the rest of Northumberland’s flora and fauna.  Species that can only otherwise grow in very specialised settings, like chalk downs, can be found here and nowhere else in Northumberland.

Seeing the red berries of the Mountain Ash / Rowan tree, reminded us both that we sat in the garden the other day and watched blackbirds vigorously eating the berries, plucking and wrenching them off in big beakfulls.  We have had a lot of birds in the garden this year and some of the loveliest to watch are the baby hedge sparrows and blackbirds as they fumble their way around, begging food off their parents and looking very sweet in their speckled plumage.

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to appreciate just how beautiful rosebay willowherb actually is.

I have stopped to revel in silver birches before.  It’s always nice to see them, wherever they might be growing.

This photo was taken about two miles into our walk and at the point where we decided to head back to the car as it was very hot indeed (and we’d almost done the whole circular 4 1/2 mile walk).  This view of steeple, cows and hedgerow was well worth the walk.

On the way back, we saw different things, like this row of pines.  But one of my favourite parts of the walk was seeing…

Wild raspberries!  Oodles of them covering a whole bank.  Lovely!

One thought on “At Summer’s Happiest

  1. Marie says:

    What a beautiful walk. I’ve never seen a baby robin, but his/her plumage is stunning.

    Sweet peas – my favourite scented garden flowers, but I’ve not had much success with them during these last two summers….no flowers at all last year and this year, I think that they have been stunted by the heat and humidity. I had hoped to have numerous bunches of them for the kitchen, but none so far.

    Enjoy your walks and discovering new parts of Northumberland.

    Marie x

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