Winter Walks, winter skies

3 Walks

Bolam Lake

Havannah Nature Reserve

Kirkharle’s Serpentine Lake

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The North East has a silvery quality in the skies, which is all its own.  I’m a bit of a connoisseur of skies, having lived in and traveled through several places across our sceptred isles (always liked that phrase).  I can tell you quite confidently that the skies of my native Londonderry are clean and washed like my mother’s windows, the skies of Essex are golden but the skies here in the North East are cool and silver. We have big skies here so in this post I’ve made them into a bit of a feature.

And they can be pink.

Himself bought me a new camera for Christmas.  Plus, most interestingly, he found folk tales of Northumberland and Derry.

These are really nice books and very readable – I finished the first in two or three nights. I’ve taken a pic of the Northumbrian book for you – if you’re into folk myths at all, they’re definitely worth it. They record a love people have for their own land which is becoming necessary for me, a mere “blow-in”,  as I need to feel connected to the land beneath my feet.

Malcolm Green’s gorgeous and very readable book on Northumbrian legends

Well, when ya gotta new camera, what ya gonna do?  Or as the north-easterners would have it, wot ye ganna di?  We have since had it out a few times with some rather crisp results.

Bolam Lake


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Lake 10 hectares

Whole country park 37 hectares

Created in in 1817 by Lord Decies

Free parking for plenty of cars but leave by 4pm in the winter for the barriers will come down.


Bolam Lake in Northumberland

Swimming in the lake is forbidden because of hidden hazards and deep mud – but the walks around the lake are lovely enough. And you can use the lake for canoeing and orienteering.

The trees around the lake have always been full of character.  The beeches are enormous, typical for Northumberland.  However, the stark, dark lights in the lake suggest depths of history. It’s not difficult to imagine relics of bygone years here beneath the wind-blown ripples.

You might be interested to know that I am not the first to say how mysterious Bolam feels. Since I wrote the previous paragraph, I have read about a towering and misty 7ft hominid/yeti style creature who has been reported in these very woods- with glowing eyes no less. Big cat stories abound too but they do everywhere.

In any case, there is plenty of wildlife here: red squirrels, roe deer, nuthatches and spotted woodpeckers, which would provide plenty of rustles in the undergrowth.  You can find information at the visitor centre but I am going to read up on the Duergar,  subterranean and malicious figures from folklore linked to nearby Rothbury, who may emanate from an iron age hill-fort in the Simonside area…






Who would want to go into this water?  It’s clear but dark, if you know what I mean.

We found the stillness of the day reflected in the meditations of a man sitting quietly by the lake.

The following pictures, however, are reflections of the wonderfully child-friendly nooks and quirky details which must have pleased the many families around.  There may well have been a special event on because there was a fire surrounded by that nostalgic blue smoke, that makes you think of injun campfires…






Injun campfire for the youngsters at Bolam in Northumberland


It was getting dark by the time we left – time to leave the woods to the shadows and the crows.

Bolam Lake is easy to find – travel north through Ponteland on the A696, past Belsay then follow the signs, which include two rather awkward right turns.  We tend to park at the second entrance, which is closer to the coffee and tea shop, mostly because there is more hope of seeing bird-life at this end – the little chaffinches come to the bird feeders  in the car-park.

Havanna and Three Hills Nature Reserve

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40 hectares of mixed habitat: woodland, meadows, scrub, grazed fields, marshlands and ponds

Created in 1998 after the drift mine and slag heaps of Hazelrigg Colliery (1892-1964) were closed

Near Hazelrigg, North West Newcastle

New year’s Eve was cool but clear. Just before 3 o’clock we left the house, hoping to get some evening shots – darkness falls at 4.15pm these days.

We were also hoping to see some herons and, just maybe, seeing as it’s so mild for the season, a red squirrel or two.  Their numbers are increasing  in these parts and they have definitely been seen at Havanna; there has been much publicity about development at Woolsington 3 miles away having a potentially negative effect on the wildlife corridor.

Of course, we saw neither.  What we did see were some amazing winter skies, some more swans, more dark reflective water and some very delicate tree silhouettes.  Plus the odd family out with their dogs.

bleached colours at Havannah Nature Reserve
Rose Bay Willow Herb is beautiful even in the
Silver birch at Havannah Nature Reserve

The path from the car-park quickly leads you into a sunken path,where the tree silhouettes create dramatic contrasts against the low winter sun.

View from the sunken path at Havanna Nature Reserve
Wrinkles in the glassy water at Havannah Nature Reserve

It’s not just red squirrels which find a refuge in this park.  Apparently it’s also home to the great crested newt, yellow hammers in the bushes and hedges and also the dingy skipper butterfly.

Twisted hawthorn at Havannah NatureReserve
Rough crafted seat at Havannah Nature Reserve
Horizontal lines do exist in Nature. Havannah Nature Reserve

Some of these ponds were created deliberately and some are the result of subsidence from the mining.

Bulrushes at Havannah Nature Reserve

We took the following images of the delicately changing sky, a sort of cirrus cloud, we think, appearing to just hang there.

Well, I hope you like the sweet nuances too; they certainly made my evening.  The final pics are of the beautiful swans – what else can a person say?

Winter swans at Havannah nature Reserve

Winter swans at Havannah Nature Reserve

Oh, and some last shots of the dying sun on the last day of 2016. Goodbye to the old year!

Sunset at Havannah Nature Reserve on New Year’s day

Fiery skies at Havannah Nature Reserve
Spooky tree shot looking up at twilight in the woods at Havannah Nature Reserve

Kirkharle, New Year’s Day

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Our last walk was at Kirkharle, also to be found on the A696 going north from Ponteland, on New year’s Day – bitingly cold!

This is the original birthplace of celebrated gardener, Capability Brown (1716-1783), famed for landscaping the gardens of wealthy landowners in the eighteenth century. At the age of 24 he got his first post for Sir Loraine of Kirkharle but rapidly became the go-to gardener for the nation’s worthies up and down England.  Apparently he is responsible for a huge amount of very English landscapes.

The photographs show the massive and sturdy farmhouse and stone out-buildings, which have been converted into cafe and shops for arts and crafts.  They weren’t open that day but we weren’t the only people who wanted to walk around the serpentine lake in the freezing cold.

Northumberland is known is The Old Kingdom; it certainly has a peace and untouched beauty – or at least feels untouched- that attracts visitors and hold its own.

The stream that is directed to fill the serpentine lake at Kirkharle in Northumberland
Tree silhouette at Kirkharle in Northumberland

This towering and picturesque tree reminds me of the work of John Speight, the paper-cut artist, whose studio is here at Kirkharle. A few years ago I admired his work, saying it had to be laser-cut because his trees in silhouette were so detailed; he quickly proved me wrong, showing me a work in progress.  Do look up the work of John Speight.

Cottages at Kirkharle, which have been turned into shops for craft seekers
Kirkharle Hall, Northumberland

The farmhouse tearoom at Kirkharle,  part of the original Hall

Normally the warm and cosy tearoom is open in this building – though not on New year’s Day.

There are masses of arts and crafts shops.

The walk around the serpentine lake was a vision of his nibs, old Capability himself, but only realised last summer for his 300 year centenary celebrations. There is a gallery of information about him near the tearooms

Winter skies at Kirkharle

We set off on our walk in the cold, having listened to the gurgling, rushing water of the stream.

I can’t help finding the fuzzy layered look of birch trees against the sky irresistible.


Kirkharle Hall at the birthplace of Capability Brown in Northumberland

DSCN0445  If you’d like to hear and see the gushing brook, press on the brief movie link.

And I couldn’t help taking pics of these useful information plaques.

The serpentine lake curves sinuously at Kirkharle in Northumberland. Its edges are planted with native wild flowers.

The walk around the lake is nearly a mile and suitable for buggies and most walkers, being flat.

Delicate tree silhouettes at Kirkharle in Northumberland
Detail from the serpentine lake at Kirkharle in Northumberland

The conical and snail-shell island reminds me of the paths around Northumberlandia, the earth-formed “Lady of the North” between Blagdon and  Cramlington, which you can read about in one of my August posts.

Raindrops shine on the red dogwood at Kirkharle


Winter reflections in the Serpentine Lake designed by Capability Brown at Kirkharle in Northumberland
More mirrored trees at Kirkharle’s serpentine lake     

On our way back to the houses we could see the weather beginning another of its little spats.

Big skies tower over the manor farmhouse at Kirkharle in Northumberland

The following view was taken on the way back when we decided to run up to St Wilfrid’s church just as the light was beginning to go.

Trees on the skyline on New Year’s Day at Kirkharle in Northumberland

Well, we missed the show, didn’t we, but I am cheered to remember that the Capability Brown exhibition is still open in the tearooms.

Trees on the skyline near Kirkharle in Northumberland

I did try to open the door of the church but, not surprisingly, it was locked.  You don’t want complete strangers turning up in the near dark…

St Wilfrid’s church, built in 1336,  near Kirkharle in Northumberland. Home of Capability Brown, who was baptised here in 1717

These old rural churches just seem to grow out of the land. I wonder how old those lichens are.

Grave details in St Wilfrid’s churchyard near the home of Capability Brown in Northumberland

This was a very decorative tombstone and I did notice some typically Northumbrian names like ROBSON around.

Kirkharle Hall on New Year’s day

Time to go but one last look back. Grand, old stone houses. Bet they’re warm inside.

Can this be the old vicarage at Kirkharle?

That’s all folks.  Hope you enjoyed our walks this deep winter.

Linda BB

Penshaw by Preference

I’ve often thought it felt wrong to have started a blog on the North East and not done something about Penshaw monument. However, not being a native, I really did have to do some research – the good thing is, you don’t have to now!  However, the first half of this post has photos saved from the internet mostly because I wanted to show you the beautiful design of this northern icon.

Penshaw Monument, close to Shiney Row, Sunderland.  The North’s best known monument.

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Everyone here in the north knows about Penshaw monument.  Himself always prefers Penshaw to The Angel of The North and is quite vocal about it. There’s a steep slope up to it and quite a few of my old students have spent many a summer’s evening up there with school friends; I think it is a rite of passage for them and I hear them laughing easily and fondly about the old place.

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I found this glorious picture of it in the snow looking quite austere and pure with its 70 foot doric columns, standing 136 metres above sea level.  You can see the Cheviots 50 miles away from the top, apparently. And quite a way down into county Durham.

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National Trust Property

It’s now owned by The National Trust and has undergone some essential maintenance.  However, it was originally built as a memorial for John George Lambton, the first earl of Durham, and paid for by private subscriptions by his country men for his talents as parliamentarian, the offices of the  Lord Privy Seal, ambassador extraordinary,  minister at the court of St Petersburg and Governor General of Canada. Whew!  He sounds like a very capable man.  He died at the youthful age of 49 in 1840 and the monument was raised just 4 years later.

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Local tragedy

This picture shows the barred gate to the spiral staircase inside one of the columns, which remained locked for 80 years after a tragic accident involving a 15 year old boy, who fell 70 feet to his death from the parapet above on Easter Monday 1926, 82 years after it had been first erected. On certain occasions nowadays, however, it is possible to ascend.

Temperley Arthur Scott of Castle Street, Fatfield was passing a friend at one of the corners when it happened. It seems important to write his name in  conjunction with the monument; he’s part of local history.

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Grit stone and concrete

It used to be popular to walk around the top on a narrow walkway.  The worn stones up there testify to the tread of many feet. The buff coloured stone you can see in this picture are the new replacement reinforced concrete pieces used to support the pediment after it was found that subsidence from mining works beneath the hill had caused damage and structural weaknesses. The rest of the monument is in the local grit stone.

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Twice the size – nerdy details coming up…

Penshaw was built as copy of the Theseion the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens with links to the temple of Diana at Ephesus but at twice the size.  It was designed by John and Benjamin Green of Newcastle and built by Thomas Pratt of Sunderland. The Marquess of Londonderry presented the site.  It is 100 foot tall, 53 foot wide and 70 foot tall with 18 colums in a 4 x 7 arrangement.  It is the best example of a Doric hexastyle temple in Britain!

Here be witches

I quite like this little hand drawn map I found of the area.  I contains all sorts of details – I thought there were witches in Sunderland!  I mean, there are mysterious place names…

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Well, I reckon that’s about enough information so what else does the area have to offer?

Tea please!

Well, a stone’s throw away is a lovely little garden centre with the Penshaw Tearooms attached.  A few weeks ago at the end of Autumn some old school colleagues and I met up to exchange news over a cuppa.  I managed to get a few photos in before most of the girls arrived.

Penshaw monument in the autumn

Penshaw tearooms are not difficult to find. There is a proper car park but you can also park on the lane under the monument.dsc_0441


And it’s easy to come into the old farmyard


Honestly, I had to just click away because the autumn colours were gorgeous so without any more ado, I’m going to post a few of these glories.



The poly-tunnels were full of colours.


I thought the prices were reasonable  too. Look at the light shining through the foliage.







The farmyard has a very useful selection of perennials


winter-flowering pansies, fire logs and wooden planters.


The views from the cosy tearooms include the monument.


There is obviously more to this place than just plants…



Whilst we were there, there were plenty of punters but the noise level remained pleasant and I must say we were well looked after by the waitresses.


Absolutely gorgeous, homemade cakes and savouries. Definitely worth coming for the food alone.dsc_0471

Then homewards past the monument again


There it stands, a part of the landscape seen for miles around.


One last sight of Penshaw.

Penshaw monument

Housesteads Roman Fort in Northumberland

2000px-Vexilloid_of_the_Roman_Empire.png (1143×1600)Haydon Bridge, Hexham, Northumberland, NE47 6NN


Postcode: NE47 6NN

Latitude: 55.010691

Longitude: -2.327844

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Not too far up the road lies a relic from the past that is strangely familiar to us yet utterly different:  our Roman ancestry and Mediterranean cultural history.  I have …borrowed … the timeline from the beautiful website run by English Heritage because it is English Heritage who run this excellent centre, which we found to be full of information.  (If you hover the cursor over the pictures, you should be able to see that Philip Corke is the original artist.)

Family entrance price for 2 adults and 3 children is £18.10 – £20 with gift aid

Child entrances £4.10

Adult entrance £6.20

car-park entrance is £4

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122-32   AD      VERCOVICIUM

Construction of Hadrian’s Wall begins. The fort at Housesteads, known as Vercovicium, is built.

View to the North from Housesteads Roman fort in Northumberland

Look at those grey, grey skies and bleak, bleak moors.  Can you imagine living up here for months or years? Granted it has a certain rolling beauty where the sky lies over the land and here you can see for miles around.  England lies all to the south.  To the north lie dragons – no, just more of the same but with added northern tribes.

Now imagine you had come from the sunny cities or graceful hills of Italy or southern Europe and your commanding officer brings you up to the furthest reaches of the empire. You’d need a certain resilience of soul to survive.

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The Wall is completed at the end of Hadrian’s reign and is garrisoned by nearly 10,000 men. Housesteads is one of 15 forts along the Wall.


Two thousand years ago, these buildings housed men from all over the Roman empire.  Maybe they didn’t even speak Latin that well – or maybe they did.  Are we Roman?  These straight walls, right angled buildings, organised life-styles (with privies) and disciplined ranks that we read about – they would all indicate lives that we can identify with.

Roman soldiers even sent “postcards” home.

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The boy at Housesteads, Roman fort in Northumberland


The neighbouring Antonine Wall in Scotland is abandoned. Housesteads is garrisoned by the Tungrians, an infantry cohort of about 800 men, for the next two centuries.

Housesteads Roman fort in Northumberland

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Major building work takes place at the commanding officer’s house, the granaries and other fort structures.

Reconstruction drawing by Philip Corke of barrack 13 as it may have appeared in the 2nd century
Philip Corke’s work
Imagine Pictish hordes massing on these slopes Housesteads Roman fort in Northumberland

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According to the timeline…


Additional garrison units from Frisia (north-east Holland) join Housesteads.

Us looking northeasterly from Housesteads Roman fort in Northumberland – there were several walkers around heading off into the distance


The garrison is reduced in strength, the barracks are transformed, and the settlement outside the fort is abandoned.

Reconstruction by Philip Corke showing barrack 14 as it may have appeared in AD 270
More Philip Corke
The northern edge of Housesteads Roman fort in Northumberland


Immediate post-Roman activity at Housesteads is indicated by a ‘cist’ burial in a water tank close to the north curtain wall.

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I found this pic of a cist burial but I don’t know exactly where this one is from
The boy at  Housesteads Roman fort in Northumberland


Part of ‘House steads’ is reported as belonging to Nicholas Crane of Bradley Hall.



The area becomes a notorious lair for rustlers and thieves, chiefly the Armstrong family. Antiquary and traveller William Camden avoids the site for fear of the ‘ranke robbers thereabouts’.


The Revd John Hodgson carries out the first excavations at Housesteads.



The fort forms the highlight of John Clayton’s ‘Roman Wall Estate’.

Okay, so you get a great little walk up to the fort remains (and I would wear sturdy shoes for this bit, even though there is a good track of only a quarter of mile) and there’s a museum with a history of the fort very clearly displayed.

True, a little imagination is required to raise the low walls to full height, though the artist impressions do help quite a lot.  However, at some stage you do get a sense of the huge operation that this was, the largest Roman fort in Britain. It wasn’t alone on this hillside either; there was also a neighbouring village south of the fort which would have serviced it.

Now imagine men in their hundreds or even thousands marching in full Roman regalia, red being a predominant colour, sounding horns and flying banners stating the name of the legion.  There would be cooking smells and shouting.  I think an army like that could take on the world.

There are several Roman forts, relics and buildings that English Heritage cares for and the good people in the little shop will sell you maps to help you find them easily.  I understand that you could take in several in a day and the financial outlay will be less.  The only thing is, you really don’t want to rush through too fast – the atmosphere up on the hills is the thing you want.

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Ten things to do in Ponteland

Although we don’t live in Ponteland, we seem to find ourselves there at least once a week. So, what’s it got going for it then? In a word, FOOD. And lots of it. Plus a few other leisure activities, which don’t involve eating.

If you actually live there, you’ll be thinking, “I hope she mentions this… or that…” and you may get disappointed if I miss something brill. I’d love to know.

I usually take my own photos but it’s been a busy old half term and I found these on the internet – just saying!

So, first up, let’s imagine you’re coming  in on the A696 from the A1.

Penny Pieces Craft Shop

On the left you’ll see a sign saying “Penny Pieces,” which leads you up a lane behind some houses to some businesses which are all about home decor, including Authentico chalk paint you can use to tidy up junk shop finds. Great Christmas present ideas too. Lucky Pontelanders. I’ve found a nice blog called Cloud in a Teacup, which has a lovely post about it.  This picture is from it, thank-you.

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Good food Pub: The Badger

Next up on the right is our favourite pub and best eating house around: The Badger. This is a popular haunt of ours for when we want that homey feel away from home, where someone will serve you steak, chips and red wine in front of a roaring fire. I’m sure someone else will tell you that their food is soooo much more sophisticated than that, and so it is.  But the point is, that when we want good food, warmth, a sense of solidarity with the wider world and comfortable old fashioned surroundings, which sort of have a “real” feel and are not tacky at all, then The Badger is where we go.the badger.jpg (615×409)

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Garden Centre and delicatessen: Dobbies

So, you’re probably aware that Dobbies Garden Centre is right beside The Badger and Dobbies certainly falls into the bracket of decent garden centre, which you can trust to sell you good varieties of plants, trees, sheds, ornamental fish and conservatories etc etc etc. The grub’s good too and the delicatessen sells all sorts of local food, cheese, beef and beer amongst them.  I use the deli for presents for our southern family members.  I have also bought a very POSH SHED from them in the sale and it’s a good’un, which I’m proud of.

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Sainsburys, Fratellis and Waitrose

Now, at the roundabout, you can either head off to the left to the west side of Darras Hall or you can go straight ahead into the village itself.  Let’s go straight ahead.  Sometimes the traffic’s a bit sticky here but bear with it… The village has a Sainsburys, which is large enough to be useful (a smart restaurant above it too) and small enough to be comfortable – and the staff are extra friendly.  Just up the road there’s a Waitrose, whose car-park sports a fine selection of expensive cars… but, more importantly, also sells nice food, plants and has free coffee if you have a Waitrose card.  Oh how easily my soul is sold!

I sincerely hope no idealistic thirty year olds are reading this- they’d have a fit.  But they don’t need the comforts of life, oh no. Let them revel in puritanical smuggery and let us middle aged ones revel in the nice stuff.

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Ponteland Park

Let’s pretend you have the time for a little walk and we leave the car in Waitrose’s car park, and we’ll pop into Ponteland’s park.  It has a park?  Yes, indeedy. A lovely, little park with walks beside the Pont, which nurtures ducks and dippers, kingfishers and dragon flies.  I know two people who have seen kingfishers there, though I never have and I look every time.  Walk in dappled shade, play pooh sticks on a little bridge, watch trout bubbles in the water and maybe catch sight of a tree creeper or two.  It’s a great little park. Last year we went to a little fair there too and the grand children loved it. Watched Granddad try his muscles on the springy hammer thing, got a pony ride or three.

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Davidson’s Artizan Bakery on the Broadway, Darras Hall

Saturday morning sometimes has us heading for the bakery in the middle of Darras hall on The Broadway.  Last week we got a gorgeous new bread which had lentils in it and tasted just grand: chewy and soft at the same time and it kept brilliantly too.  Himself likes their sly cake and I’ll always go for eclairs or danish bites.

Don’t you dare even think about my waistline.  I’m keeping trim (ish) by sheer strength of will!


PC Lomas’ Plant Nursery

Now, let’s go up the back road towards Dinnington past PC Lomas’ garden centre which always has seasonal bedding and houseplants.  If you need colour in your life and don’t we all, this is always worth a try.  I managed to get trailing fuchsias there at the end of summer for very little expense and they’re still flowering.


The Cheese Farm, Make me Rich farm  Green Lane  Seaton burn

On the left you will see a lane gong down to The Cheese farm and this is a popular route for cyclists too.  The Cheese Farm sells plenty of Northumbrian cheeses in plenty of sizes and weights- definitely worth a look if you like cheese or just want a great present.  They will also sell you a whole cheese if you want or you can try their cheese soup with a roll, teas and coffees.  I like their stuff.  My daughter likes the great local rapeseed oil flavoured with lemon you can get there.


Horton Grange Country House Hotel

Carry on  up the road, past the turn-off to Dinnington and you will come to Horton Grange, our country house hotel.  This serves cream teas, nice lunches and gourmet evening meals – quite fantastic and delicious.  We had our wedding reception there and will always love it.  The gardens are lovely and the staff friendly and helpful.  We once made make the mistake of thinking we could just go there for our evening meal one night after work – well, let’s just say it came in a tad dearer than we’d bargained for. I’ve been trying to replicate the sorrel sauce the CHEF created that evening ever since, though.

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The Milkhope Centre

Finally, last but far from least is the Milkhope Centre, owned and run by the Blagdon Estate.  The old farm buildings are all in that lovely golden sandstone and the little shopping centre constitutes a coffee shop, country clothing shop, art gallery ( definitely worth a look ) beauty salon, home decor shop and, best of all, the food place: award-winning butchers, cheese counter, fresh and local fruit and vegetables, cakes and pies cooked in their own kitchens… Chicken and leek pie – yum.

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Well, that rounds up my 10 favourite stops in the Ponteland area: food, crafts, food, plants, food…  well, that’s sorted then.


The Newcastle Quayside

Himself and I had the grand-kids last weekend, when the air was bright and clear and cool enough for us to be glad of a jacket. It was time to revisit the quayside again and see if we could grab a bite to eat at the market, give the kids something spectacular to look at and remind ourselves of a setting which has always been dear to us.

We parked in the Sage car-park and the 3 hours cost us £3.20 –  just warning you if you worry about this sort of thing.

You emerge from the stairs or the lift on the eastern side of this smooth-skinned, reflective concert building.  It remains one of the most remarkable, iconic and, quite frankly, weird-looking buildings in the world.

I’ve got to say that The Sage building is probably the single best reason I enjoy returning  to the quayside. I include some facts below but you can skip that bit if stats are not your thing.

Channel your inner grandparent: It was opened in December 2004 and is actually 3 separate performance spaces , a 1700 seater, a 450 seater and a smaller rehearsal and performance space.  The gaps between each of the 3 buildings inside the arch can be seen clearly inside the glass shell.  A special air-filled concrete was used to help acoustics. Sage 1 was modelled on the renowned Musikverein in Vienna and features a ceiling which can be lifted and lowered. It was developed by Foster and Partners, who won an architectural competition.

The eastern edge of the iconic Sage building
The eastern edge of the iconic Sage building

Turning to the right, we carried on down the broad steps to the concourse beside the Tyne and then on to  The Millennium “Eye” Bridge.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see an eyelid complete with stylised lashes. 45 m high and 105 m across, it’s a pedestrian bridge, which tilts on its axis to allow ships to pass under. It’s the world’s first and ONLY tilting bridge.

The Millenium "Eye" Bridge over the River Tyne
The Millennium Eye Bridge over the River Tyne  was designed by Ramboll with Wilkinson Eyre .  Powered by by 8 electric motors, it takes 4 minutes to rotate the 850 tonne weight to its open position  

There are always people on this beautiful bridge – such a joyful, peaceful walk where you can look down the course of the Tyne.

peaceful view down The Tyne by
Peaceful view down The Tyne

The Baltic flour Mill has been an art gallery for contemporary art since 2002.  Everyone has their favourite, or at least most memorable, installation to talk about.

I know many people will remember the colossal nude art pictures in 2005 by Spencer Tunick.

My own memories include the hundreds of wooden boxes filled with coagulated glue and the fruit photographed by a time-lapse camera as it slowly decayed… sweet memories now in my mind but definitely weird experiences at the time.

"The Baltic Flour Mill" art gallery for avant garde art installations by
The Baltic Flour Mill art gallery for avant garde art installations

I had never noticed before how the neighbouring flats have copied the Baltic’s monolithic shape. Himself pointed out the nesting gulls everywhere and said they were famous so I  looked them up.

Fun facts: 800 breeding pairs of kittiwakes colonise the Baltic, Tyne Bridge and man-made kittiwake towers downstream of the Baltic.  They are not everyone’s cup of tea, being noisy and smelly but the Baltic has a viewing platform on the 4th floor and Newcastle city council supports this the largest inland nesting colony. They have their own season – mid March to August – but you can also google them and see films online.

the architecture of these new apartment monoliths reflects that of The Baltic
The architecture of these new apartment monoliths reflects that of The Baltic

Looking back at The Sage from the Millennium Bridge gave me this glistening image of the reflected clouds on the undulating domed roof of The Sage with the curved arm of the white bridge  and that of The Tyne Bridge creating satisfying patterns against the sky.

The silver slug aka The Sage concert hall taken from The Millenium Eye pedestrian bridge over The Tyne
The silver slug aka The Sage concert hall taken from The Millenium Eye pedestrian bridge over The Tyne

Everyone either knows about or wonders about the benefits of buying a flat overlooking The Tyne. It’s a bonny scene.   I’ll bet it was magnificent when the Tall Ships came;  even just watching the little boats going up and down the glassy surface would be mellow. This view towards Ouseburn is  sweet.

Oh to be a little white boat chugging down The Tyne
Oh to be a little white boat chugging down The Tyne

And looking upstream, you can see the whole Tyne scene laid out, including the law courts on the right.

The Tyne Bridge on a Sunday Market day
The Tyne Bridge on a Sunday Market day

Himself took this pic of us beside one of the arty Snowdogs, which will be auctioned by St.Oswald’s hospice to raise money for their Children’s hospice. Notice the typical Newcastle colours.

These snowdogs were organised by a charity all around The Tyne, each one dedicatedby a primary school
These snowdogs are a collaboration between St. Oswald’s chariy and St Mary’s Heritage Centre’s Winter Festival, inspired by Norwegian Folk tales

I think the following is the best shot I took that day – pure texture. Or maybe it was Himself.  We’ll just say it was me.

The Sage concert hall reflecting The River Tyne and the sky
The Sage concert hall reflecting The River Tyne and the sky

I’m afraid we got so busy buying lunch at one of the many booths, goggling at all the stalls and keeping an eye on the children that I totally forgot to take any pics but I can tell you that the Quayside’s Sunday market is a great place for presents and food. I did buy some almond butter, which I’m looking forward to.

The Sage concert hall with The Tyne Bridge soaring above it
The Sage concert hall with The Tyne Bridge soaring above it

Having sampled and inspected the stalls, which varied from Greek snacks, mens’ socks, victorian toys, leather ipod pockets, sweeties, jam, mirror work and I don’t know what … we climbed upon to the swing bridge to recross the river.

For those who don’t know Newcastle, The Tyne Bridge connects Newcastle with Gateshead, its sister city on the south side of The Tyne, and is one of the main through routes.

The swing bridge also connects Newcastle and Gateshead and has both pedestrian and vehicular routes.

Along the red swing bridge over The River Tyne
Along the red swing bridge over The River Tyne

On the right side of the pic above and in the following one is the high level railway bridge  linking Newcastle north-south with Durham and the south of England.  Loving the fingers of God!

Behind it is The Redheugh Bridge, which links Newcastle to the A1.

The high level bridge over The River Tyne carries the railway.
The high level bridge over The River Tyne carries the railway.

I’m including these blue shots of the bridge, the jetty and the sky because they sort of meet in the middle.

Market stalls by The River Tyne
Market stalls by The River Tyne
The Sage, The Tyne Bridge,the Quayside
The Sage, The Tyne Bridge, the Quayside

Those wooden jetties are almost totally rotten.  Not safe at all but a link with the past, when many more boats and ships must have moored here in Newcastle’s shipbuilding history.

Old quay moorings on The River Tyne
Old quay moorings on The River Tyne  
Cute, red lamp post on The Tyne reminds me of Paris ...
Cute, red lamp post on The Tyne       

Reaching the other side, it was an easy walk back up to the Sage. The Tyne bridge totally steals the show doesn’t it?

Fun facts: It was created by the engineering firm, Mott, Hay and Anderson and was opened in 1928 by George V. It was based on the design of the famous Sydney Bridge which was designed first but built later because it was so much larger.  It soars 80 ft over the Tyne.

The Tyne Bridge soars over The Tyne
The Tyne Bridge soars over The Tyne

We came upon this plaque about Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, one of my favourite childhood books.  I had never linked him to Newcastle before but, thinking about it, it’s about the dream of sailing away into the exotic blue distance.

Daniel Defoe knew Newcastl- upon-Tyne
Daniel Defoe knew Newcastle- upon-Tyne
The western entrance to The Sage concert hall on the banks of The Tyne
The western entrance to The Sage concert hall on the banks of The Tyne

The western entrance to The Sage has happy memories for us.  It is also a beautiful, light and airy vestibule for people to meet in, have a drink, a meal or just come to admire the views before going to a show.  This time it hosted several cute snowdogsthat our grand daughter wanted to view.

Light and airy,The Sage welcomes sightseers and coffee drinkers
Light and airy, The Sage welcomes sightseers and coffee drinkers  not to mention allowing  fine exhibits to interact with the public  

The curvy, glass walls create the sense being inside a huge sea creature.

Multi-layered concert halls at The Sage in Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Multi-layered concert halls at The Sage in Newcastle-upon-Tyne

She adored this exhibit.

Princess Glltterbug has found her favourite snowdog
Princess Glltterbug has found her favourite snowdog

The boy is way too cool to admit to liking snowdog but he did enjoy the sweet stalls.

Card shops and sweetie shops attract children and grandchildren alike
Card shops and sweetie shops attract children and grandchildren alike

The final pic is a shot of The Millennium Bridge.

White eyelid or dove-wing bridge over The River Tyne The Millenium Bridge"
White eyelid or dove-wing bridge over The River Tyne
The Millenium Bridge








Yorkshire Farming Museum

Some days have a kind of halo around them.

We all have good memories of family days out, days where parents and children enjoy themselves equally because there’s something to interest everyone.

About 3 weeks ago at the end of August, my darling daughter brought our London grand-kids north to meet us and, in spite of the rain, we had a fabulous time.

In the village of Murton on the outskirts of York is just one of those places, which is big enough  to keep the whole family occupied rain or shine for a full day: The Yorkshire farming Museum.

Yorkshire Museum of Farming
(& Danelaw Centre for Living History)
Murton Lane
Murton, York
YO19 5UF

Tel: 01904 489966

Fax: 01904 489159


If you’re from the North East, this is an early start but it’s worth it.

A standard family entrance is £18.

So, the teacher in me  wants you to know the following:the museum serves Key Stages 1&2 school parties so is well set up with activities and staff to answer questions; the exhibits are all clearly labelled and take you through aspects of life and farming from the Romans onward.

That is well worth knowing; this is a well-run operation!

Our photos were taken in the rain with a phone and didn’t turn out that well- and we still managed to have a good time. I include some of the best ones here because they will give you a flavour of the place.

But  a couple of days later, my daughter and her family went again and the sun was out so she sent us some sunny day pics in the second half of this post. So, you can skip through the fuzzy ones if you like to get to the good stuff.

So here we go…



We couldn’t stop the monkeys climbing up on the tractor; that’s a real, live, stuffed horse in the background.


Notice the wooden shingles on the viking houses.


And who could forget Snorry, the viking, who taught us how to make clay lamps, all carefully taken home and preserved with love.dsc_0385


More viking buildings, inside and out …







You can see the variety of viking styles here and they really were eye-catching.  In an upstairs exhibition, we found plenty of more modern ie C19th and C20th farming implements …










And outside we found animals for the children to talk to.



Then a day or two later, the kids all went for a second go and had a whale of a time …



This fort is used both for Roman and American exhibitions!


The kids and their dad are all vehicle fanatics.


There are all sorts of historic building styles.


They all enjoyed the short train ride.

Little grand-daughter in the sun.img_1364213340


Inside one of the caravans.


A medieval rebuild being examined carefully by the boy.img_1395213353

Gorgeous tiny house against a blue, blue sky…img_1393213352


My lovely daughter showing off some viking decoration. And, finally, a great children’s play fort.  End of the summer sun.


There were great exhibitions inside the buildings of farming implements plus a fantastic model farmyard to play with – just right for a rainy day. If my family wanted to go twice  in two days, well, that says quite a lot for the place.

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Tynemouth in some detail

Hey there. We had a great day in Tynemouth last weekend.  I took lots of pics at two places: Tynemouth Architectural Salvage and Tynemouth Station Market.  Follow and enjoy the visual feast. I bet you’ll see some desirable stuff too.

this plaque is on the neighbouring building

Tynemouth Architectural Salvage- you can park nearby on the roadside.100_3512

just to help you find it


Tynemouth Road 100_3516 The entrance is on the side of the building and you go down …




I have my eye on this door!

100_3524  100_3526 100_3527

And these lights are quite the thing in posh catalogues – how about a “stride” of standard lamps … yup, I’m gonna become THAT kind of old English teacher.  Ah well.





I covet these old sinks, it’s the white and gold, I think.



100_3530  100_3535





Gorgeous clam-shell light fittings…



What do you call a collection of  finger plates?  A hand?  A fist?





An arm of handles?  And … a rib-rack of radiators? Is there a patent office for collective nouns?







And the gubbins for radiators


And, finally for the salvage yard, printers’ boxes.  They used to be very collectible and I can see a certain grandson storing mini cars in one.





Tynemouth Market is a weekend affair at the beautiful Victorian, working railway station.

Plant stalls first.


I’ve already got a limelight hydrangea but they’re still worth a photograph.




Nothing like a bit of bunting to cheer the spirit,


lovely tools for a practical girl like me


and T-shirts for the peacock in Himself, he he …



Crazy, crazy horse lighting!



Look folks … treasures and exotica from the East.



Presentation skills are key to selling, I suppose but they definitely make for beautiful pictures.


Just couldn’t help photographing this vibrant glassware,



Zooming in for the gleam…


There are so many stalls ranging from toys to bags to flowers to unadulterated junk.





We always buy sausages from these people when we come






I couldn’t help trying to capture the egg-box skeleton of the station roof




but food always brings me down to a more basic level





and these … um … drawer handles are good enough to eat.100_3590


You can walk over the railway line using the bridge, which is just a bridge but seems so cute…



and try to imagine what it would like to step out of the train, seeing the world through a child’s eyes


Treasure upon treasure.


Great photos of Newcastle and great books to be had for a song.




I was fascinated by the feather paintings



and I can’t help enjoying little collections


or, for that matter, big collections


and a final pic of the glassware


then tea, latte and buns at the station cafe


before we left for home.  Aren’t these houses and buildings gorgeous?




Serendipity rules okay – didn’t realise this pic was the last one to come through …

Another great North-Eastern adventure.100_3600