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.
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.
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.
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…
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
4 Coach Lane NE13 7AS
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.
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.
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.
Some of these ponds were created deliberately and some are the result of subsidence from the mining.
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?
Oh, and some last shots of the dying sun on the last day of 2016. Goodbye to the old year!
Kirkharle, New Year’s Day
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.
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.
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
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.
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 walk around the lake is nearly a mile and suitable for buggies and most walkers, being flat.
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.
On our way back to the houses we could see the weather beginning another of its little spats.
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.
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.
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…
These old rural churches just seem to grow out of the land. I wonder how old those lichens are.
This was a very decorative tombstone and I did notice some typically Northumbrian names like ROBSON around.
Time to go but one last look back. Grand, old stone houses. Bet they’re warm inside.
That’s all folks. Hope you enjoyed our walks this deep winter.