Monday, 30 March 2009

And Standing Stones

This area is awash with history but some of it dates from long before the Romans came.

The area around Kings Crag has a real mystical feel and has bronze age remains dotted throughout the landscape, we have Kings Hill near Sewingshields and King Arthurs Well at Walltown. Ancient Northumbrians leaving their mark but now overshadowed by the Emperor Hadrian's Wall. If stones could talk what stories they could tell :)

As you drive along the Military Road from the west you'll come to the Milecastle Inn, as you approach the turn to Caw Gap glance to your left and you'll see two stones in the field.

Like me you may at first think they're simply stone gate posts, left in place when a wall was demolished. It was only after studying an ordnance survey map that I discovered they were the Mare and Foal Standing Stones. (grid ref: NY725663)

There is a public footpath through the field with a stile access just up from the Milecastle pub.

I crossed the stile and started up the field, I couldn't see the footpath clearly, the field is all lumps and bumps of the type beloved by the Time Team guys, bet they'd have a great time arond here.
The walk across the field took longer than I had anticipated but I did manage to reach the Standing Stones before the sun set completely.
Up close you can see they are spaced too far apart for gate posts, and they do have that 'atmosphere' you get around these ancient stones.
It's quite difficult to photograph them, you need to be very low down to get them against the sky and my knees gave up bending much some time ago.
Nice colour in the sky and I took a dozen or so shots from different angles before it got dark. The one here has Cawfield Crags and the Nine Nicks of Thirlwall in the background.
I decided not to go back down the bumpy field but headed for a gate, alas unbeknown to me, there was an area of boggy land between me and the gate.
I plowed straight in, got boots full of thick black sludge and had to pull myself out getting covered in mud in the process.

Headed back to the car wishing I'd left an offering to the stone, have you noticed how people hammer coins into the crevices of standing stones?
I'll be doing that next time, for sure.

From the Caw Gap road there's a nice image of the stones against the sky, they look tiny but I guess a good long lens will remedy that, and there are some nice old hawthorn trees on the skyline to the left making a nice setting for a photograph.

Catch you later :)

Sunday, 29 March 2009

29 03 09

Clocks changed this morning, I had my alarm set for a sunrise but when I got up the sky was clear and not ideal for photographs, I need a few clouds to bounce the light off. There was also snow on our Velux window and a heavy frost on the ground, what better excuse did I need to go back to bed for an hour or so :)
When I did get up it was to bright blue skies and a day begging you to take a walk.

Today's destination was Sewingshields Crag, it's one of the up and down sections of the Wall. You climb and climb thinking you're almost there and then as you crest one hill you discover there's an even bigger one still to be tackled.

The Cheviot ewe's from Housesteads Farm were up on King's Hill, making a nice picture against the clear blue sky.

One had managed to get over on it's back and while this looks quite funny it can be fatal for these broad backed sheep, they can't roll back over again and will die. I went over and hauled the sheep upright, she seeemed fine and trotted off. At this time of the year a dead sheep costs the farmer that ewe and also the lambs she's carrying, so if you see a sheep on its back please go and turn it over.

A few people were out enjoying the day, I went up to the trig point at Sewingshields, trying to get a good shot of the bits of Wall and the Old Repeater Station, a B&B unlike any other on the Wall!

From the top there are great views, the Cheviots to the North had snow on them but no matter how I tried I couldn't get the angle right for a shot so you'll just have to come and see for yourself.

The views over Broomlee Lough were lovely, the water looked so blue, I decided to go across and see if I could get some closer shots. There's a Pennine Way footpath that you can access from Kings Wicket ( no idea where that name originated) I set off overland towards the Lough, it was very, very boggy and although I got to the shore the photographs were a bit disappointing, very colourful but not nearly as good as I'd hoped so just enjoy the view from Sewingshields.

The other thing that I like about this area is the view west, you can see this remarkable landscape carrying Hadrian's Wall, it reminds me of a slumberling dragon with the various crags as spines and the head at the Winshields Crag highpoint. I don't have that many favourite views going east to west but this has to be one of them.

Hoping for a sunset tonight, I'm wanting to get the Mare and Foal standing Stones, check back to see if I've managed.

Catch you later.


Saturday, 28 March 2009

28th March 2009

It's been a funny old day, a real mix of weather but all with a cold wind.

Went out to the Once Brewed Visitor Centre, they're gearing up for the new season and will be open all week from the 1st of April, it's a great centre with such helpful staff make sure and call in, say I sent you :)

On the way home I called into Walltown, had a walk around the Quarry lake but it was a biting cold wind, I was looking for toad spawn, loads of frog spawn in the lake but nothing from the toads.
Stopped at the Olde Forge Tea Room in Greenhead for a warming cup of coffee and a cheese scone, it's been completely refurbished and is bright and shiny - food is good too.

This evening the wind dropped and it looked as though there might be a sunset of sorts. There's a pull in at Banks with a lovely tree and I've been trying to catch the sun setting behind it. I never seem to time it right and again the sun was too far to the right.

There are great bits of Roman Wall between Birdoswald and Banks but they're really difficult to make a 'good' photograph of. The road runs alongside the Wall remains and on the other side there are fences and no amount of great light helps.

I came back along to Birdoswald and wandered around the back of the Fort, there's a museum and tea room and while I have tried the tea room I have never been in the museum, something I shall have to put right this season.

Michael's lambs were full of beans running and jumping, they'd probably been huddled up against the Wall all day trying to keep out of the wind. They are so cute when they charge around in little gangs having a great time.
My sunset shots were nothing special so I'm leaving you a picture of the lambs on the outer wall of the Fort.
Catch you later.

Friday, 27 March 2009


We were visiting friends in the Scottish Borders today and decided rather than coming back along the A69 we'd take the scenic route past Birdoswald.

I had hoped to be able to take a photograph at the village of Banks but the weather was inclement (pouring) so we just headed on down the road towards Gilsland.

As we came to Birdoswald we saw someone doing a geophys on the field next to Birdoswald Fort - I watch Time Team so I know the terms :)

How exciting, I knew there was a dig going on at what is referred to as the Cemetery Field, but that's tucked away out of site of the road, whereas this was in full view of the road. If they decide to dig I'll be able to watch and maybe get some photographs.

I would love to find a 'relic' and to that end I am always kicking over mole hills (we have millions of moles), and you'd think at least one of them would bring up something with their spoil, but no luck so far.

You can pay to join the dig at Vindolanda but my knees don't work anymore so I wouldn't be able to get down and dirty in the mud.

A metal detector is also out of the question, that's illegal on the HW corridor.
I'm waiting for someone to invent a good walking shoe with built in detector so I can kick over the mole hills and get a beep if there's anything interesting. Imagine having a gold trinket in one of our local Hadrian's Wall Museums with a little note to say found by me and a mole - wouldn't that be something?

Birdoswald is a great place to visit - hard to imaging that the Wall in the foreground and the crags in the distance are some 5+ miles apart. There's a good carpark, museum and coffee shop at Birdoswald.

There is also some 'rude' Roman graffitti on the Wall at Birdoswald but I haven't found it yet but no doubt someone has it mentioned in a guide book so it should be easy to locate.
For Hadrian's Wall itself this is one of the best places for people with mobility problems to get close up and personal with this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site and genuine bit of accessible history.

Catch you later :)

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


Meandered off the Wall to Bellingham, it's about 10 miles from the Once Brewed Visitor Centre and one of the stopping places on the Pennine Way Walk. A thriving small Northumbrian Market Town although the cattle market is no longer there, there are pubs, cafe's and shops.
Fortunately I hadn't gone there to look for cows, but to walk to Hareshaw Linn a lovely waterfall at the head of a wooded gorge.
Managed by the Northumberland National Park Authority who have provide a small car park at the start of the walk, although if you find a spot in Bellingham keep it, as the walk starts just over the bridge by Barclays Bank, a five minute walk from the main street.
There's a picnic site with access to a small and very pretty waterfall, just before you enter the gorge proper. Much of the track has been paved at this point so you can look around without fear of tripping over tree roots, a perpetual hazard for photographers and nature lovers alike.
And nature lovers can happily rummage around looking at mosses and ferns, listening to bird song and enjoying many wildflowers. If like my husband you like to examine droppings and tracks then you'll be a happy bunny! Please remember this is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and don't be tempted to take samples home.
The wood itself hasn't been particularly 'managed' probably a policy of NNPA so there are lots of scrubby bushes and fallen trees, great for wildlife habitats but not so good for open views.
The first time I visited Hareshaw Linn, some 20 years ago it was a very strenuous walk, if the weather had been bad you couldn't get through some parts, now with bridges and boulder stairs it's much easier, today you can start out knowing you'll reach the waterfall at the end. There are even seats at intervals on the trail - a positive luxury.
Be aware though, it's not an easy stroll by any means and not suitable to anyone who has mobility problems.
There are a number of waterfalls along the way and I've known people not go far enough and miss the spectacular one. Keep going until you can go no further would be my advice. Access to the waterfall is very good and there are several good viewpoints so no matter how many visitors there are on a busy weekend you'll find a spot to get your shot.
You walk back the same way you came which, I normally don't like but in this case there's much to see and listen to, I was watching a flock of fieldfares in the tree tops, keeping just out of camera range.
There's a leaflet describing the walk to download and a GPS thingy if you're technically minded.
A real gem so if you're looking to take a day off from Walking the Hadrian's Wall Trail this would make a good excuse.
Catch you later.

Monday, 23 March 2009

23rd March 2009

The forecast was awful so I was expecting a day of
admin working on my computer, not something I look forward to!

I happened to glance out of the window and noticed some wonderful cloud formations, wow a reprieve,
hoping they would last a while, I grabbed my gear and headed out to Steel Rigg.

Now Steel Rigg is one of the most popular sites on Hadrian's Wall, great dramatic crags and awsome scenery, but look to the east and there is Winshields Crag. It looks fairly dull but climbing it brings you up to the highest point on our bit of Hadrian's Wall and the views are amazing.

Today I was looking for cloud pictures and they were there in abundance, lovely black rolling clouds, fluffy white ones and a particular favourite of mine the mackeral cloud.

However it was all to the west, no clouds to speak of down towards Steel Rigg which is a really beautiful panoramic view.
It was a howling gale, so fierce I had trouble keeping everything steady so I had high hopes that the clouds would shift around. They did but instead of going east they went south, isn't that just typical.

Lots of people around considering it's a Monday but they were all heading along towards the Sycamore Tree, that's one for another day although if you can't wait check out the pictures on my website

In all today I took a dozen shots and probably got the best of the clouds, it cleared so that by sunset it was an empty sky.

Hope that holds promise for a sunrise tomorrow.

Todays photograph is on the Hadrian's Wall Path up to Winshields Crag, there's a white trig point way up on the horizon that you might be able to see on the larger version.

Catch you later.

Hadrian's Wall webcam link

Gale force winds and rain showers today, not ideal for photographs but I've discovered there are webcams now at Cawfields and Walltown, great for checking what the weather is like on Hadrian's Wall.

Picture of Cawfields Quarry on a summers day, obviously not today :(

Sunday, 22 March 2009

22nd March 2009

Sunday and not only is it overcast but it's also very windy.
I want to take a sunrise shot at Greenlee Lough, a nature reserve managed by Northumbria National Parks Authority.
I usually do a recce first working out how long it will take me to get to the place I need to take my photograph from.
It's been some time since I was out at Greenlee and so I wanted to refresh my memory of the place.
I parked next to Gibbs Hill, not an official parking place but at this time of the year there aren't many people about so I took a chance. Following the footpath up around the back of Gibbs Hill on the farm track leading up to Greenlee Farm until I came to the finger post pointing me over the moor to the Lough.
At this time of the year it's boggy and I'm glad I put my lace-up wellies on, it's also very rough underfoot and if I do come out for a sunrise I'm going to need a good torch. Eventually I reach the boardwalk that takes me almost to the bird hide on the shores of the Lough. There's not access to the Lough shore except where the hide is. Some mallard take to the air as I approach and a couple of Canada Geese circle around but that's all I see on the water. Last year I approached the Lough from the footpath at Hotbank Farm on the south shore, I could see the bay with the bird hide was empty of wildfowl but the next bay was chock full so I guess birds know all about hides!
Checked my watch - I guess in the dark I'd have to allow myself an hour but I've heard there are often deer and mist rising off the Lough so I guess on a good day it will be worth it.
On the way back I notice a new board walk, I recall Michael the NNPA warden telling me he was putting a new route in so I decide that's my way back.
Of course I soon discover it's not finished yet, so I had a plodge through boggy ground to get back to the car. I ran into Michael at the Once Brewed visitor centre and he hopes to have it finished by May. It will be so much easier to use than the current footpath and I might just hang on for my sunrise shot.

Friday, 20 March 2009

19th March 2009 pm

Will it be a good sunset?
Only one way to find out, I grabbed the gear and headed off back to Hadrian's Wall.

My first intention was to head to Cawfields but as I approached Walltown I decided that would do nicely.
The Hadrian's Wall Path people have put in a superb footpath up Mucklebank Crag, using bolders and stones making a stairway to the top.

You get great views west from the slopes of Mucklebank, and at this time of the year it's spot on for the position of the sun setting.

I trotted along past Walltown Farm and cut up past King Arthur's Well ( yes, THAT King Arthur, he was really a Northumbrian King) and up the new path until I got just above the turret there, looking back west over Walltown Crags.
There were two or three sheep beautifully placed so I settled down to wait for the sun to set.

It was just about where I wanted it when I heard the sound of a quad bike and over the hill comes William from Walltown Farm, whistling and shouting instructions to his dogs, herding his ewe's to the lower pastures for the night.

I was surrounded by charging woolly backs and dogs.They all disappeared over the brow of the hill just as the sun went down.
Not my day ;)
I did get one or two shots that I can keep so it wasn't a complete waste.
Here's one of the sheep posing for me before their undignified exit.

Catch you later,


Thursday, 19 March 2009

19th March 2009

Up really, really early under the impression that we'd have a lovely misty sunrise.
Headed off to Steel Rigg, was ages early forgetting that with Steel Rigg you are just 5 minutes from the car park to 'set up'.
Took a few photo's of the moon just to pass the time and waited for enough light to be able to see where I was going, or more precisely what I was standing in!
As the birds started to sing I could see the mist - it looked suspiciously like fog in places, not a good sign.
I dashed back and forwards across the field in my normal demented way looking for the best composition to suit the light. Turned around to find another photographer watching me with a bemused expression.
Got a tiny bit of pink showing up on the contrails and then the fog blocked out all the light.
I took probably six shots - not really worth getting out of bed for, but you just never know do you?
Home for toast and honey for breakfast and a fairly relaxing day - then as 5pm approached my shutter finger started to twitch again.

Catch you all later,


Monday, 16 March 2009

15 03 09

Sunday and not a bad day weather wise.
There's a shot of Mucklebank Crags I'd like to get but it needs a figure in the shot to give it the right scale.(Mucklebank Crags are the two bumps in the distance on this photograph of Walltown Crags)
I head off to Walltown, I thought I'd be tripping over mating toads as usual at this time of the year but I don't see any at all, shame as I'd like some toadspawn for my pond. Toads return to the pond they were 'born' in, often travelling miles overland to get there.
I take the gentle incline around the lake and head up towards Hadrian's Wall and the gnarly hawthorn tree.
Photographers all claim this little tree as their own, but of course they're wrong, it's my tree :)
With a good cloudscape it can make a spectacular shot but today's is pretty average. Of course that doesn't stop me taken half a dozen anyway in case the camera sees something I don't.
Wander along following the line of Hadrian's Wall, Walltown has some fairly sunstantial chunks of Wall and they are fairly easy to access, as long as you can climb up to them.
The views across towards the Solway are amazing, you can see into Scotland on a clear day, nearer the views are across Longbyre and Gilsland.
The light is coming and going and there aren't many people about, certainly not as many as I expected. I catch some sheep grazing in the dip and set up the tripod. Don't know who has been training them but, as soon as they see a camera, they turn their backs like reluctant celebrities. I take shots all the way along the crest of Walltown Crags,although they're not my favourite type of photograph, you never know when you might need a simple sunny day shot.
I eventually get along the top of Walltown Crags to the spot I need for my shot of Mucklebank Crag, a bit of twoing and froing before I'm happy with the composition and then I wait for someone to come along.
A pheasant wanders across the view, stopping to cluck at me but not at all afraid, not quite the figure I had in mind.
Wouldn't you just know it - the sun goes in, and this time it stays in as big banks of cloud blow in from the west.
Putting a mental 'x' marks the spot I pack up and head back to the car. As often happens as I'm heading back streams of folk appear, I suppose I was being optomistic to think they'd be out before 10am on a Sunday :)
Not long until Easter, if the weather is good to us I'll get my shot then and I know exactly where to stand for it.
I was back home by 2pm for a nice cup of coffee and a Werthers. In a week or so's time the Old Forge Tea Room in Greenhead will re-open after a refit, I've heard they do amazing cupcakes, something to look forward to.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

12th March 2009

Not such grand weather this morning so I popped into Haltwhistle our nearest town, called into La Toot for coffee and a chocolate Brownie .

While Haltwhistle isn't actually on the line of the Hadrian's Wall Path it's worth a visit to stock up on your essentials, it has a good range of shops Billy Bells is one of those real old fashioned shops, fish, veg, meat, baked goods all at a good price. There's a bookshop, PO, Flower shop £1 shop, Boots, Sainsbury and the Coop. Be aware that some of the shops close for lunch but there are several places where you can get something to eat and rest your feet while you wait.
Internet access at the library but check the opening times.
While I was in La Toot one of my neighbours, Scott, came in to show the owners, Sue and Mike a door knocker he's made
The door knocker was beautiful with a ram's head as the focal point complete with lovely twirled horns.
Scott Goodfellow, a traditional blacksmith who's creating some beautiful things, I called into theforge at Chapel House Farm and borrowed a poker to photograph, and show you here.
I did wonder about a sculpture for the garden but it would probably be too expensive for me, I guess it takes a lot of time to create these lovely things.
Be nice to support someone starting out in a traditional business though so I will think of something.
Sheep are the main farming business here on the high crags of Hadrian's Wall, you'll see plenty of them if you walk the Hadrian's Wall Path or even if you visit for the day, so items with sheep are popular around here.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

10th March 2009

A great spring day, sunshine and lovely clouds - perfect day for a walk on Housesteads Crag with my camera.
I park in the 'red box' layby ( just west of Housesteads Fort), left over from those days when there were red telephone boxes, and head up past the restored lime kiln to Cuddy's Crag.

This footpath is part of the Pennine Way as well as a handy access point to Hadrian's wall.

The sheep of Bradley Farm, Cheviot ewe's watch me as I pass, they lamb in April and are being fed on the fells.

The view east from Housesteads is wonderful and on a crisp day like today you can see the line of the Wall as it climbs over the lumps and bumps of Kennel Crags, Kings Hill and onto Sewingshields Crag.

Someone had left a jolly little scarecrow, with green trousers and a straw bonnet, stuck into the ground and I wondered who and why, is it like the gnome who was photographed all over the world? Of course I took his photograph, who could resist that little happy face?

Something else that was in the picture is a white bag of stones, it's been lying in the dip between Cuddy's Crag and Housesteads Crag for a year now and look like a dead sheep. I'm going to see if I can get it moved but don't hold your breath.

The sunshine brought out plenty of visitors to the Fort at Housesteads, I hope it's a sign that we'll get plenty of visitors to our area this year, not just to walk the Hadrian's Wall Path but to visit our Roman sites and museums.

Larks were singing and one of my favourite signs of spring the bright yellow Coltsfoot was flowering as I headed back to the car, it's so nice to be out again.