Jo’s Monday walk : Cragside

I’m interrupting my Polish stories to take you briefly to Northumberland.  The reason being that it is rhododendron time of year at Cragside, and if we don’t go soon you’ll have missed them.  I managed to capture them in the last week of May, when they were looking truly fabulous.

Cragside is rightly famous for being the first home in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, and makes a fascinating tour.  My interest, however, lies in the acres of woodland walks and the formal gardens which surround the house.  Former owner, Lord Armstrong, is described as a landscape genius, and I saw nothing to make me dispute that claim.

To get the lie of the land you can take the 6 mile circular carriage drive around the estate.  On a sparkling blue sky day it is a sight to behold.  Within that there are a selection of waymarked trails and over 40 miles of signposted footpaths.  Enough, even for me?

As always I am magnetised by the water and my first stop is Nelly’s Moss, where there are two lakes to walk around.  Craggy boulders split the woods and some of the trail is made up of solid stone slabs.  No-one to disturb, but a curious duck or two.

No doubt you can tell I’m besotted by the rhododendrons, but the pleasures don’t end there.  In fact, they’re just beginning.  There’s even a Trim Trail, should you wish to test your fitness levels.  Perhaps I shouldn’t define that as a pleasure.  I’m content to drive back to the Visitor Centre, fronted by lovely Tumbleton Lake.  Parking and restaurant are close by, or you can simply picnic beside the lake.  Some folk like to travel in style.

The Armstrong Trail follows Debdon Burn, past the Archimedes Screw and the Pump House, through woodland leading to the Iron Bridge.  From here you can climb through the sea of azaleas and rhododendrons up to the house, or you can take a detour to the formal gardens.

I don’t remember these from my long ago visit, but the setting is superb.  On a truly radiant day, with the valley below rolling down to Rothbury in the distance, you just want to sit on a bench and breath deeply.  No such luxury for the gardening team, but they seem happy in their work, rooting out disobedient weeds.  I linger over tubs of tulips, beside a bedraggled rose and among the cool greys of the fernery.

Irridescent colours gleam at me, and it doesn’t really matter that many of the flowers are past their peak.  I can still luxuriate in their finery.

I hope you enjoyed sharing Cragside with me.  Full details are to be found on the website.  Meanwhile I’d like to share another great selection of walks.  It’s been a busy but wonderful couple of weeks and I won’t be posting a walk next week.  Instead I’ll be taking life a little more easily in the Algarve.  Among other things I have a wine tasting session that I need to attend.  Time to put the kettle on now, and settle in for a good read.

I always know it’s going to be a great week if it starts with a walk from Debbie :

Wandering around the park at Hellbrunn

Cheese anybody?  And don’t miss Jackie’s recipe for Slow Mongolian Beef :

Cheese platter

Let’s accompany Janet to the mall next, for some high end?

Monday walk…The Americana at Brand

Jesh is someone who doesn’t take beauty for granted, but often paints it, beautifully :

DON’T TAKE BEAUTY FOR GRANTED

And speaking of beauty, the happiest of memories brought back for me, from Lady Lee :

#SoCS June 9/18- “start with a noun”

Drake brought back more fond memories, of a long ago week at the Austrian lakes :

Idyllic Austrian colors

While Jaspa unintentionally brought back some not so happy memories of a Greek crisis for me :

Early Morning at The Parthenon, Athens

And Irene brought just a little more heavenly light :

Beams of Light

This post from Denzil gives you a choice of 4 walks and a lovely castle.  Not bad, hey?

Four walks starting from Horst Castle

Cathy hopes to be fit for the Camino in September, but meantime shares some fabulous views of her native America :

A hike above Wedding Canyon

As always, thanks to you all for walking with me and for sharing such wonderful companionship.  I need a little time out but I’ll be back as soon as I can.  Take good care till then.

 

Six word Saturday

The nicest rooftop bar I know!

Last Saturday I was saying a fond farewell to Poland in the rooftop restaurant at Hotel Pod Wawelem,  Kraków’.  I can highly recommend it, both for the views and the hot apple szarltotka with icecream.  You’ll have to wait for that photo and the accompanying walk because this is all about Becky’s Roof Squares.  And, of course, to wish you happy Saturday in Six Words (or more).

Apologies to both ladies for the links, as I’ve scheduled this post, while I’m enjoying the high life in Nottingham.

Jo’s Monday walk : An adventure with Gilly

The raw energy of a city is compelling, even if a little intimidating.  Riding into Warsaw on the airport bus, my eyes were on stalks, collecting impressions on every side.  Such a bustling, modern city, the buildings twisting and turning to point to the blue sky overhead.  Anxiety was swept away by excitement.  I was here!  And I stepped from the bus into the warmth of Meg’s arms, those lovely eyes twinkling at me.  All angst was neatly deposited in Meg’s backpack- my tour guide for a day, found!

Turning from her momentarily, the beaming smile of Gilly reached me from across the square, as she descended the steps of the Palace of Culture and Science, arm in arm with her friend Lindy.  Gaggling like geese, we blindly followed Meg as she led us from the centre to a restaurant.  Puzzling over the menu, we laughed when the wicker basket of knifes and forks arrived, bearing chopsticks in an elegant green wrapper.  My efforts to eat my noodle laden broth produced more smiles, along with the slurps.  Two thirds of the way through our meal, a mighty crash of thunder and coin drops of rain pounded our table.  The wide, creamy umbrellas over the tables were scarcely adequate.  More merriment and we scrambled indoors.

In no time, the sun was blazing through the open windows again.  Meg was recovering from a heavy cold, and starting to wilt a little, having been tour guiding all day and shown the ladies lovely Stare Miasto in the morning.  Lindy was struggling too, which left me and Gilly to get up to mischief.  Arrangements were made for early next morning, and Meg deposited us at our hotel.  A swift cuppa, and it was time to hit the streets.  Already it was 6.30 on a warm Warsaw evening.  Fortunately, Gilly was not at all critical of my reckless tour guiding style.  Of course the bus would take us to the river!  And so it did, with just a little walking involved.

The road stretched ahead, seemingly endless, the traffic buzzing past, the architecture varied and interesting.  On the horizon we could see a stadium, which we knew to be on the other side of the river.  Praga was not advisable after dusk, I was informed, but reaching the river the greater challenge was to get down to the riverside.  With the agility of a monkey, Gilly swung around the barrier and scrambled along the bank, hand over hand along the railings.  I followed, more sedately, concerned for my pretty, navy city shoes.

Nobody seemed to notice, and I was immediately at home, with a young crowd blithely enjoying the throng of beach bars, deck chairs and food stalls.  Boats bobbed serenely, while overhead trams clanged past and bikes dominated the footpath.

Appetising smells beguiled my nose, but a drink seemed more pressingly urgent, in the sultry evening air.  Dusk was beginning to fall, the warmth felt heavy with insects and an awareness that we were far from home.  How to get back on the bridge presented something of a challenge, but I dared a few words of Polish and waved my arms at the bridge.  The two young men politely gestured to where the steps were hidden.  Gilly and I agreed that we would not have chanced it after dark.

What else?  Hop another bus to take us nearer to the centre, a little judicious food purchasing and a bit of naughty jay walking.  Subways can get tedious, can’t they?  But please don’t tell.  I’d hate to be in trouble with the authorities.  The bottle top on my cider didn’t look promising, but it did unscrew.  I had no spoon for the delicious yogurt though.  Collapsed in my room with just my diary for company, I really didn’t care.

I hope you enjoyed our adventure.  I really didn’t intend to post today, but realising that next Monday I will be on my way to the Algarve, and that I have a fine collection of your walks ready to share, I thought it best.  Meantime, I’ll be off to see my daughter in Nottingham on Thursday.  And yes, I did manage to get those tickets reprinted.  Thank you all for your concern.

Where will we find Lady Lee this week?

In the country

A treat or two in store, from lovely Sherri.  Anyone else get to the Bash?

Surprises, Diana’s Dresses and the Annual Blogger’s Bash 2018

A bargain ‘two for one’ from Anabel, and both just a short walk apart :

The Kelpies to the Falkirk Wheel

A glimpse of ‘that’ wedding and lots more food, from Jackie :

Beer Money

When Sue shows willing, you simply have to sit up and take notice :

A stroll around Chartwell

‘Join the fun!’ says Jesh.  You know you want to :

Rounding up May

Suzanne delights me with fossils, shells and a little Autumn gold :

A walk to Shelly Beach

The end of Autumn

Calvi and Honfleur- two of the most scenic of places, shared by Drake :

Backdrop but scene too

The sunny side

Remember my lovely rhododendrons?  Eunice has found me some more :

A quarry walk with a difference

And Carol turns up some interesting treasure of her own :

From Trash to Treasure

How do you think of New York?  Jane’s wonderful photos show us it’s calmer side :

Hudson River Ramble

And a wonderfully scenic hike with Cathy ends in tears, but don’t worry- she’s ok!

The Mt. Sanitas hike in Boulder, Colorado

Not too very sure when I’ll be posting again.  Life does seem a little hectic.  Meanwhile, enjoy the sunshine, thanks for your company, and I’ll visit you all as soon as I can.

Anticipation and angst

I can’t remember a trip when I was quite so angst-ridden.  I do angst very thoroughly, and most trips, unless it’s my beloved Algarve, as the date for departure approaches I lose sleep worrying over the ‘what ifs?’  In my head I’m a control freak, but reality is often far beyond my control.

Lake Czorsztyn in the Pieniny Mountains

I well remember being let loose by the Polish family in the Pieniny Mountains.  A trip river rafting in the Dunajec Gorge was in the offing, but where to catch the bus?  My other half always reads timetables meticulously and was unconvinced either that we were in the right place, or that the bus would turn up.  This despite a visit to Tourist Information to enquire.  ‘You’re the one who speaks Polish!’ he said, accusingly.  If only this were so!  The sun beat down, and we waited.  And waited.  Eventually a tiny minibus pulled to the curb, destination unknown.  We looked at each other.  This one?  Fortunately a good-hearted, English speaking couple had witnessed our confusion.  They were going hiking in the Gorge.  “Come on!  We’ll tell you where to get off.”  Huge relief and, ultimately, one of my best ever days in Poland.

But I digress.  What makes this particular trip so worrisome?  I had always known that I would return to Dad’s homeland one day, even though Dad was no longer with me.  The Polish family were so kind, and so accepting when we walked into their lives after all those years of absence.  Dad was welcomed with open arms.  Here I was, going back alone, and still without the benefit of Polish language, try as I might to make sense of it.

You might recall from My Call to Poland that I have elderly family.  The need to see them is pressing, but I want to cause the least possible inconvenience.  This means not flying into Kraków and expecting to be driven 3 and a half hours north to the family home, which is what always happened when Dad was alive.  A wild notion had occurred to me.  My lovely Australian friend, Meg, was back in Warsaw for 6 weeks.  This might be an opportunity to see her again, however briefly.  It all hinged on whether I could find transport from Warsaw to Bełchatów.  When Gilly leapt, with gay abandon, onto the scene, announcing she had booked 3 days in Warsaw and was going to see Meg, it was just the catalyst I needed.

A sequence of emails took place.  Kind Adam, in Kraków, declared that I was welcome in his home at any time.  Lovely Jadzia in Bełchatów said that my timing was perfect to celebrate her birthday with her.  Meg, more than generously, offered to put me up for the night on my arrival in Warsaw.  I didn’t contact Gilly,  hoping to surprise her.  Now all I had to do was pore over online timetables.  Endless timetables!  Until my head hurt.  It wasn’t simple, but finally I secured a prized bus ticket from a Russian company- the small print indecipherable.

And speaking of language, it was again time to seek out my ‘Colloquial Polish’.  I started a course at a local college about 10 years ago and purchased the required book.  The course was discontinued, due to funding, long before I reached the end of the book, but I did acquire a lasting friendship- another lady with a Polish Dad.  Each time I have visited Poland I have started the book again, with renewed enthusiasm.  Never have I reached the last page, but it has accompanied me proudly on each of my visits, and sat on the table as a declaration of intent.  This time it must stay home as I need to travel light.  A pocket dictionary will have to do.

Transferring from Bełchatów to Kraków is equally problematic.  The train service I relied on has changed providers and disappeared.  Buses go in random directions, sometimes taking as long as 13 hours.  I could reach the Pacific in less time.  Angst heightens.  Meantime, Gilly asks questions about my visit.  Nothing to do but confess and hope she won’t mind my gatecrashing her meeting with Meg.  Assuming I can find them in the teeming metropolis.

And just as I’m about to embark on this journey, I discover that I’ve lost the coach tickets to visit my daughter in Nottingham, scheduled just days after my return from Poland!  I can’t reprint them because I don’t have the ticket number.  Much hunting and an email to the coach company.  It can only get better?  By the time you read this I should know the answer.

Meantime I’m linking to Cathy’s Anticipation & Preparation: Spain and Portugal in 2013 on Wander.essence.  It holds many fond memories for me.

Six word Saturday

Shout it from the roof tops!

It’s June, and Becky’s back again with a brand new series of squares.  Knowing how much everyone enjoyed the last series, I can’t help but feel I’ll be missing out, but I’m off to Poland tomorrow.  Plac Zamkowy (Castle Square) in Warsaw will be my only contribution to Roof Squares for now, but I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on those roof tops.

No Monday walk next week, but I have a post scheduled for Thursday, when I hope to be on my way to Kraków with a fistful of happy memories.  Apologies if my responses are slow.  Till then, have a great weekend and don’t forget to share your Six Words with Debbie.

Jo’s Monday walk : A lady and a folly

We’ve got our work cut out today, but I hope you’ll enjoy it.  We’re off to see a Northumberland garden with an Edwin Lutyens touch, but first I need to take you back in time.  It’s a warm, muggy day, totally unlike my last visit here when the biting winds cut through me and hailstones peppered my umbrella.

I was meeting a lovely lady, a poet and a craft worker whom I’d many times chatted to on the blog.  Though living in Brittany, Viv had a daughter in Northumberland and had suggested we might meet on one of her visits home.  Her choice of venue was Northumberlandia, at that time newly opened to the public.  In a particularly bitter March it wasn’t an inviting place, but the company was great and we valiantly struggled up the domes.

I wrote about that encounter with a smile on my face, little knowing that we’d never meet again.  In July 2016, Viv died suddenly, and my thoughts were full of her when I returned, to a much sunnier Northumberlandia, last week.

I hadn’t planned to visit, but the garden I had come to see belonged to the Blagdon Estate, who donated the land for this project.  The Ridley family have owned the estate since the 17th century, and Northumberlandia is in part an attempt to give back to the community some of the profits made through Shotton Surface Mine.  The story of the landscaping is a fascinating one, but now I’m going to leave the lady sleeping quietly and turn my attention to the magnificent gardens, just across the road.

You know you are amongst the landed gentry when the drive sweeps past a private cricket pavilion, with perfectly manicured lawn.  In the distance, russet coloured cows graze, the house sheltered from prying eyes by a stand of ancient trees.

Something entirely magical was about to happen.  Strolling beside the beech hedges which run the length of Lutyens’ canal, a rustling suggested a presence beyond the hedge.  Imagining the gardener not quite finished his chores in time for this Open Gardens event, I barely had time to register what was happening when out from the undergrowth burst a deer, in full flight mode.  With a graceful leap, he was beyond the canal and disappearing again into the woods.  I stood transfixed.

Nothing to do but continue into the formal garden, but I found it hard to concentrate.  My eyes were trained on the woods beyond, watching for movement.  Finally the walled garden distracted me.  Hard to ignore a couple of the beauties there.

But the fun was just beginning.  Behind a row of cottages, the Dene tumbles down to a stream.  Wild garlic carpets the banks and, following the tangled path through the undergrowth, your reward might just be a jewel burst or two of colour.

The path continues beneath the bridge, rounds a corner and there before you is a stately old viaduct.  A lovely fragrance surrounded me and I stopped to admire the vivid yellow blooms.  A gentleman asks do I know what they are and, with reasonable confidence, I declare them to be azaleas.  A lady disagrees, assuring us that these American rhododendrons are the only ones to have fragrance?  Jude is my expert.

Through a gate designed to keep out rabbits, the quarry lies in wait.  A sign declares that 6000 tons of stone were excavated in the 18th and 19th centuries to construct buildings on the estate.  I love the way it has been turned over to nature, with just the odd quirk or two.

The gardens were extensively remodelled in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, whose daughter Ursula was married to Matthew White Ridley, the 3rd Viscount Ridley.  Some have stood the test of time, while other areas are a little unkempt.  It must be an enormous task, taming a 27 acre estate such as this.  One more treat in store, before we retire for that hard-earned cuppa in The Clockhouse .  A figure of eight walk takes you around the lake and across the stepping stones.  A chapel folly peeps through the trees, and in the distance a Grade II listed temple.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our walk this week, and I’m sorry if it was a little lengthy .  There are some extraordinary photos of Northumberlandia you might like on the Blagdon Estate website.

No walk from me for the next 2 weeks, because I shall be in Poland and then visiting my daughter in Nottingham.  I’ll try and keep up with you where I can.  Meantime I have lots of lovely walks for you to browse.  Many thanks to you all!

Lady Lee was very swift away this week :

Skywatch Kew Gardens

Melodie has some quite beautiful walks.  I’ve selected this one because I haven’t done it and I love coastal walks :

Hike Whitehaven to St. Bees, Cumbria, UK

Suzanne finds a quiet corner of England for us to join her for a wander :

Neighbourhood Walks : Windlesham Arboretum

Debbie travels to the most interesting places, and we’re very lucky- she takes us along :

Arty Wanderings in Hongdae

Susan has a knack for taking me just where I want to be :

Walking Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Short and sweet, with Janet :

Monday on the Riverwalk

Lots of recipes at Jackie’s place, in case you’re hungry :

Baked goods

You never know what you’re going to find at Jesh’s, and that’s part of the fun :

City Walk

Another city, and one that’s always full of action.  Let Indra be your guide :

Hong Kong…..Walks

Fast or slow, you can’t go far wrong with Drake :

Quick steps in Strasbourg

I was followed recently by Tamar at Hike O Therapy.  Doesn’t ‘a Cornish gardener hiking through Northern Spain’ sound interesting?  Take a look!

Urkulu : A nature reserve and lake in the heart of the Basque Country

I have enormous respect for long distance walkers.  This week I had the pleasure of meeting John, for a friendly drink.  Cheers, John!  :

Nimrod

Eunice has a scalded foot so walking must be painful, but still she takes us to a lovely spot :

A local walk to Smithills Hall 

This one from Candy just scraped in before I hit the Publish button :

Serpa in the Alentejo

And this is a lovely way to finish, hand in hand with Pauline and Jack :

Surprises on the way home….

Enjoy your last day of the Bank Holiday if you’re in the UK, and to all of you, enjoy your walks!  Take care till the next time.

Six word Saturday

A grey day on the Quay

On Tuesday our luck ran out on the north east coast, and grey replaced the blue.  Was I down-hearted?  Not at all!  The Blacksmith’s Needle in forged steel still looked great, but when it started to rain I hot-footed it over the Millennium Bridge to Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art.

“Missing Time” by Serena Korda is inspired by the healing potential of sound and the Dark Skies of the Northumberland landscape.  You are invited to sit on a chair and listen to ‘the sound of the stars’.

Idea of North explores the sense of community, place and collective belonging, connecting historical moments with individual stories.  Partly inspired by Peter Davidson’s book, “The Idea of North”(2005), it poses some interesting questions.  Debbie’s a little slow with her Six Words this week but I’m sure she’ll be along later.  Meantime, enjoy her great photography and have a happy weekend!