Northumberland

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.

 

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.

Jo’s Monday walk : Vindolanda Roman Fort

Knee deep in history this week, I spent a fascinating day out at Vindolanda, on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.  Come and walk with me, in Roman footsteps.  Can you believe, this tiny child’s boot, found here on this site, is from Roman times?

At the edge of the Roman Empire, the Wall was to stretch 73 miles across Britain, from coast to coast.  A formidable undertaking!  The garrison at Vindolanda was the first of a series of bases enabling the Wall to be built, and then defended.  The name means ‘white field’ or ‘white moor’, and I can testify that freezing conditions are often to be found at the border in winter.  On a warm Spring day, the beauty of the surrounds was what struck me first.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s build the suspense a little.  What might I find here?

I had, of course, heard all about the Vindolanda Tablets– telling scraps of bygone lives, written in ink on wafer thin slivers of wood, they are the oldest surviving hand written documents in Britain.  But what would they look like, and how did they come to be still intact after almost 2000 years?  This UNESCO World Heritage Site has ongoing live excavations, and it was incredible to watch history being unearthed before my eyes.

Meet Graham, and his merry team, and let him enthrall you with tales of some of the finds from the 14 years he has been helping to excavate this site.  The twinkle in his eyes can’t disguise the passion he has for this very special place.  The stories will give you goosebumps.  It was from Graham that I first heard the explanation as to how well preserved everything was.  The first 4 forts here were made of wood, but over time they were demolished and 5 new stone forts were built over the top.  Each layer of new building sealed the previous levels, creating anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions, effectively preserving them from decay.  An unbelievable 6000 items have been recovered so far.  As they continue down they hit further pockets of discovery, adding to the already amazing haul.

Throughout the site information boards help you to reconstruct what once stood there.  The Romans were very resourceful, channelling water from nearby streams in stone aqueducts or timber pipes.  They had underfloor heating systems, steam rooms and communal but comfortable toilets.  It was a well-ordered society with a recognised chain of command and luxurious, for the times, quarters for the Governor and his guests.  It is believed that the Emperor Hadrian himself once stayed here.

On the Vindolanda website there is a detailed timeline and enough information to keep you reading for a considerable time.  I can only skim the surface here.  The Romans arrived in the mid AD70s and were here for more than 300 years, building and rebuilding a sequence of forts and, from AD120, Hadrian’s Wall.  When the Romans withdrew from Vindolanda it continued to have a life for a further 400 years, before falling into decay.

It is a spectacular site, built on a hill, and would have been easy to defend.  Follow me down to the reconstructed Temple of the Nymphs, in the valley below.  The Romans worshipped a number of gods, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Neptune among them.  The wall paintings inside are based on examples at Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The museum is in a beautiful setting, in what was formerly Chesterfield Cottage.  It was purchased by Vindolanda Trust in 1974 and has been extended and modernised, and includes a very friendly little restaurant.  If you can make it here, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  One of the collections that I found extraordinary was the shoes.  I had no idea that the Romans had so much choice in the range of footwear available to them. (especially if they had plenty of money)  Coloured socks are believed to have been worn with the latticed style, to highlight the pattern.  The soles were studded to prolong wear, children’s shoes being a smaller version of adult footwear.

Whatever attracts or interests you, I’m sure you can find something to marvel at, be it fine bronze armour, worn by the legionaries, oyster forks, a range of keys, painted glass from the Rhineland or the military standard and horse brasses of a cavalry troop.

Goods were made locally by craftsmen but were also trafficked throughout the mighty Roman Empire.  Leather for clothes, shoes and tents for the military was produced at Vindolanda, and woodworking was an essential craft.  A workbench belonging to ‘Atto’ bears his carved name and the punch marks from his tools.  Another compelling recent find is a pair of ancient ‘boxing gloves’, probably used by a soldier during fitness training.

In a darkened corner I finally find what I’ve been looking for.  Described as ‘postcards from the past’, the Vindolanda Tablets inspire awe.  I peer into the illuminated cabinets, trying to decipher the writing from a world 2000 years ago.  Defeated by language, I gaze numbly through the glass.  Many hours have been spent transcribing these events from everyday life, and many more could be spent reading them.

Finally I pull myself away, and head back outdoors.  Clouds have scudded in and I feel the chill that must once have settled on Roman bones.  I linger just long enough to climb one of the wooden forts, hoping to find a degree of shelter from the wind.  Looking down on the remains of a bathhouse, I shiver and then march briskly, back to the car.

I hope you enjoyed this venture back in time with me, and can only urge, if ever you have the chance, that you visit.  The rewards are rich.  Full access details for Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum (to follow) are on the website.

Another bumper crop of walks to share with you this week.  Many thanks to everyone for their efforts, and for many hours of pleasure.  Join me any time on Jo’s Monday walk.  You’ll be very welcome.  Definitely time to put the kettle on!

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Drake was swift off the mark with a bit of fun this week :

Garden party

Closely followed by Lady Lee, with a garden of her own :

The moon, apple blossom and our garden

And then Lisa took us all the way to Israel :

From Crocodiles to Tarantulas

Always fascinating to see where someone lives.  Let Suzanne be your tour guide, with quiet atmosphere:

Morning walk

And, not to confuse you, a very different Suzanne takes you on a forest walk :

A saunter down GRAND AVENUE

Grab a coffee next, and go look at some books with Janet!

Monday walk…book walk

Then check out life with Jesh :

Between bricks or rocks

And a few thoughts on life from Geoff and friends :

Walking Talking Reminiscing…

My good friend Pit takes you on two, quite different, sculpture walks :

Sioux Falls/SD : A stroll along Sculpture Walk

Galveston 2017 – Impressions #2 (Tree Sculptures)

Wonderful to find yourself alone in one of the world’s most popular cities- a lovely photo walk with Jaspa :

The Calli, Campi and Canali of Cannaregio, Venice

And talking of popular cities, I wish I could join Susan in this one :

Walking Lombard Street in San Francisco

Two Susans this week, and it’s so nice to have this one back :

A Jane’s Walk in Douglaston, Queens

I love a lady with wanderlust, and you can certainly describe Pauline that way :

Reasons to return : Preview…

It’s always pleasant to see a bit more of Belgium with Denzil (and a daughter too!) :

Walking around Lavaux-Sainte-Anne

And what is it about villages with a stream running through?  Join Eunice on a sunny day!

Bank Holiday walk round Barrow Bridge

It’s another sunny morning here in the north east, and I shall be making the most of it.  Have a great week, everybody!

Jo’s Monday walk : The beauty of Bamburgh

Last Monday I left you with one eye on the sky, looking towards beautiful Bamburgh.  Soon after, I was high in the battlements of the castle.  It’s just 3 miles around the coast from Seahouses, and the coach whisked me there in minutes.  You know I would have prefered to walk, but time was of the essence.  I had never before gained access to this, one of the north’s mightiest castles, and was hugely excited to be there.

Bamburgh is a small village, totally dominated by the castle, seat of the former Kings of Northumbria, and the burial place of Grace Darling.  I would have loved to visit the museum to her memory but today I was on a mission.  I had just a couple of hours and it wouldn’t be wasted.

The sky was dark but the flag flying proudly as I climbed the hill towards the gateway, and caught my first glimpse of the dunes.  In the far distance, the Farne Islands, home to a colony of puffins and numerous seabirds.

Inside the gateway a sequence of information boards gives a brief history of the castle, and then you’re approaching the battlements.  A small boy is very enamoured of the tubbiest canon, and I wait patiently while his Dad coaxes him away.  Beyond the battlements an expanse of green stretches out, a roller propped against a wall testifying to hours of work to maintain its pristine appearance.

The castle astounds with its scale, and venturing through the doorway you may well pause in surprise.  The walls are thick, as a castle wall should be, but light flows in from high windows. The alcoves are deep and have been used to display the castle’s many treasures.  I am particularly taken with the clocks, which appear throughout the castle, and there’s a fine collection of Chinoiserie, historic paintings and photographs.

Be prepared to gawp in admiration as you enter the King’s Hall.  Built on the site of the medieval Great Hall, it is a Victorian masterpiece.  The ceiling is made with teak from Thailand. The King of Siam, as it was then known, was a good friend of Lord William Armstrong, the industrialist who was responsible for completing the restoration of the castle.

Perhaps it’s time to squeeze a little history in.  There is archaeological evidence that as early as 10,000BC this area was inhabited.  The Romans arrived sometime between 43AD and 410AD, to find a Celtic fort, and knew it as Din Guayrdi.  Written history begins with the Anglo-Saxons, when Christianity was brought to the area by saints Oswald, Aidan and Cuthbert.  The Vikings destroyed the fort in 993, the Norman castle and tower which eventually replaced it being the foundation of the present one.  The Percy family, Earls of Northumberland, were based at the castle when a 9-month siege by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, ended the Wars of the Roses in 1464.  King James 1 then gifted the castle to the Forster family.  Somewhat surprisingly it became a surgery and dispensary for the poor and sick under John Sharpe.  Finally, the castle was bought by the first Lord Armstrong in the 1800s, but he died before restoration could be completed.  It’s obviously much more complicated than this, but I’ve brought you full circle.  The Armstrong family still own the castle today.  Now let’s enter the King’s Hall.

Impressive, isn’t it?  Did you spot another clock?  A little too ornate for my mantelpiece but looking fine against the wood panelling.  And so it goes on.  Opulence follows opulence and I spent considerable time admiring.

But that clock was ticking and, after a brief interlude in the kitchens and scullery, I tore myself away and made for the outdoors.  A quick tour of the castle walls, then will I have time to make it down to that beach?

At the rear of the castle I find a narrow pathway down through the dunes.  A sign points it out as the Victorian path to the beach.  I imagine swishing skirts and parasols, and certainly the steadying arm of a gentleman friend.  I follow it most of the way down but it twists and turns and I doubt that I have time to make the return trip.  I retrace my steps to the front of the castle.

A band is setting up on the huge village green and I wish I could hang around for the festivities, but it’s time for my return to the coach.  I hope you enjoyed walking with me in this beautiful part of the world.

The Bamburgh Castle website is a beauty, and will give you many more details than I can provide here.   You can even stay at the castle, if you wish.  Meantime, let’s get that kettle on and visit a few more walks.

Many thanks to all my contributors and to you folks in the armchair too.  You liven up my Mondays beautifully.  If you’d like to join me there are details on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Please do!

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Anabel finds a little incredible beauty of her own :

Kananaskis

Much nearer to home for me, and looking lovely in full bloom :

Simonside Hills – A walk amongst the Heather in the deceptive heat

Jackie’s menu planning and sunshine!

Pot-au-feu

A misty lake and horses!  Nice combination, Janet :

Let’s go the lake

Liesbet has some very interesting formations to show us this week :

Day Trips around Santa Fee, NM : Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument 

And I can always rely on Jude for something beautiful :

Loe Bar Circular Trail through Penrose Estate

Delighted to welcome Madhu here, with some fascinating insights into Brussels :

Brussels – Glimpses of an Eclectic Cityscape

Drake takes us back to his Danish roots, where the living is easy :

Lazy living mood

Welcoming more beauty with Meg’s rock hunting post :

Eurobodalla beaches: Tomakin Cove (north) and Barlings Beach (south)

Woolly’s back on the Memorial Trail this week :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk35

We all need a little of this, and Annika’s sharing :

Creative energy

And lastly, a wonderful surprise for me-  Gilly playing hopscotch!  Enjoy Florence, hon  :

The High Lands of Orcombe

That’s it for another week!  Fabulous, aren’t they?  Please do find time to visit.  I’m off out walking with my group, if the rain holds off.  Have a happy week ahead!

 

Jo’s Monday walk : A sally round Seahouses

Recently I ventured further up the north east coast than usual, to the little harbourside village of Seahouses.  Over the border and into Northumberland, in fact.  Aside from the beaches stretching north and south, the main attraction of this village is the prospect of a trip to the Farne Islands, a well-known seabird sanctuary.  Boat trips run to the islands year round, weather permitting, and from April to October it is usually possible to land on one of the islands for a closer look at the wildlife.  Puffins are the stars of the show.

I strolled along the pier eyeing the queues, and smiled when I came to the ticket office for Billy Shiel’s.  The Shiel family have been running boat trips to the islands since 1918, just after the First World War.  They started the business to supplement their income from fishing, escorting a few keen ornithologists. Allegedly there are 28 islands out there, but many of them are submerged at high tide.

I was on a coach trip that day, and had opted to spend more time at Bamburgh, just around the bay, so no boat trip for me.  I carried on around the harbour, in the direction of the golf links. Something to eat, maybe?  Those views across to the islands are very tempting.

There was bunting up in the village, and I like a warm welcome, but I discovered there was to be a bike race the next day.  No matter!  I felt welcome enough as I strolled back through the village.  It’s typical seaside, with buckets and spades, crazy golf and a smattering of knick-knack shops.

Back at the seafront I survey the scene.  It’s a wide and wild vista.  The craggy shoreline and harbour, and off in the distance the mighty bastion that is Bamburgh, my next destination.  Will the weather hold out for me?  I do hope so!

There are lots more details on the National Trust pages about the Farne Islands, including how to get there.  I think they’re worth a trip.

I expect you’re disappointed not to have something to eat?  Fish and chips are a popular choice around here.  You might remember that a couple of Saturdays ago I posed you a question?  I totally forgot to give you the answer.  Did I have chocolate and almond brownie or creme brulé? I could very easily have eaten either, but let me tell you the brownie was delicious!  Many thanks for staying with me.  I do appreciate your company.  Time to put the kettle on now, and share a few walks.  If you’d like to join in, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  You’re always very welcome!

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It’s a bit shivery, but undeniably beautiful where Amanda is this week :

Walking with Edmund at 760 metres

Bunkers on the beach!  Quite an unusual sight, from our man Drake :

Concrete nature

Come trainspotting in Hamburg with Lady Lee?

Holiday in Hamburg, part 2

You can always rely on Jackie for cake.  And the rest!

Wedding Cake

I love the diversity my walks attract.  How about some quilting with Violet?

263 times 120 feet

Things are looking a little brighter for Denzil this week :

La Foret du Pays de Chimay

I know nothing of Adelaide, but it looks like there’s plenty to know.  Please say hello to Anne-Marie :

Footsteps in Adelaide Walk Seven : Stepping Out along the Beach

And while we’re at the beach, look what Woolly’s found!

Jo’s-Monday-Walk-Wk34-Logans-Beach-Whale-Nursery

Not too many walks today!  It’s been the Summer hols for some of us.  Time to dig the boots out again. Have a great week!

 

Six word Saturday

What is it about the oriental?

Remember I mentioned a quilt exhibition in my walk at Belsay Hall and gardens on Monday?  I thought that some of my craft working friends might like a closer look.  Personally, I can look and admire, but I’m not much good at the making.

The hall is a mighty Palladian building and you step inside respectfully.  The wood panelled walls and lofty ceilings create an interesting exhibition space, where my eyes are drawn immediately to the kimonos, bobbed hairstyles and coy smiles of the oriental ladies.  There are many more traditional quilts, ranged throughout a series of rooms, with knowledgeable ladies, poised to enlighten and inform.

It was the last week of the exhibition when I was there, but Belsay regularly hosts events in the house, castle and magnificent gardens.  Debbie has us dangling this week in Six Word Saturday. Why not join in?

Wishing you a great weekend!

Jo’s Monday walk : Belsay Hall and quarry

If there’s anything in life that gives me a kick, it’s a rhododendron!  Find me a quarry full of rhododendrons and perhaps you can imagine the effect. So I was very happy to make a return visit to Belsay Hall in Northumberland, a week or two ago.

Managed by English Heritage, the Belsay estate dates back to 1270, when it was first bought by the Middleton family.  Heritage on the grand scale, it comprises a medieval castle and a Greek Revival mansion from the 19th century, linked by some truly wonderful gardens.

As you can see, it’s not only rhododendrons vying for first place in this beauty contest. Bypassing the more than stately hall, I cannot wait to feast my eyes.  Frilled tulips and those with plainer frocks, delicate iris, and a shy magnolia are just some of the blooms that greet me. The grounds are the very essence of grandeur.  There’s even a croquet lawn, for that most refined of pastimes.

Tree heather lures me on and I find myself shoulder to shoulder with these beauties. Don’t they just sing with colour?

Even looking at them in photographs, I am mesmerised.  But this is only a beginning. Next, the quarry, with its magical patterns of light and shade.

The colours are rich and mellow, and the quarry towers above you.  It’s like a fairy glen, scaled up for a friendly giant.

Are you speechless yet?  I don’t know where I’ve ever seen a better display.  The castle is close by, approached through a bluebell wood.

In this serene and pastoral setting it’s hard to credit that a family would need a castle for protection.  When it was constructed, in the 14th century, conflict and border disputes were commonplace between England and Scotland.  The castle has one of the best preserved examples of a pele tower- built by rich families in this area in the Middle Ages for self defence.

From past experience, castles make a good subject for Paulas’s After and Before in Black and White Sunday.  What do you think?

The Middleton family lived in the castle, with modifications, until the completion of their mansion, at Christmas, 1817.  Inspired by a honeymoon in Greece, Belsay Hall was built with rock carved from their own quarry.  Let’s stroll back round there now, past the lake and the grazing sheep.  I try to get a close up of a cluster of cygnets, but they’re too far away to be more than a splash.

There was an exhibition of quilts taking place inside the hall, but I’ll save that for another day. Let’s adjourn to the tea rooms.

Directions on getting to Belsay are on their website.  I hope you enjoyed our visit. Many thanks for your support and the wonderful contributions I have received again this week.  Details of how to join in are always on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Let’s settle in for a good read:

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Almost missed Eunice last week, so she’s starting us off today :

A reservoir ramble

Can there be anywhere lovelier for a dawdle?  Thanks, Drake!

Wet wet streets

Budapest has a lot to recommend it too, as Anabel can show you :

Budapest: Margaret Island and Obuda

Jackie gets up to some strange things, doesn’t she?

Dirty laundry

Geoff, Dog and a lighthouse- I’m happy!

A wander about#sundaywalks

Ann Christine takes us back to terrible times in Irish history, but with a happy ending :

A Peaceful Walk in Belfast

A whole heap of lovely photos from Lady Lee :

Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past

If ever you’re needing a beautiful view, or three, tap Debbie on the shoulder.  She’ll have them :

Moorish to more Moorish

Becky uses that eagle eye of hers to good effect in the Algarve :

The Military Stairs of Alcoutim

That lass Jude knows how to make me smile.  A splash or two of azalea in a National Trust garden:

Garden Portrait: Coleton Fishacre

SO excited to be sharing this from Madhu!  A small part of her beautiful Indian heritage :

Kashmir – Afoot in Shehr-e-Khas

How would I describe Gabe?  Warm and whimsical, I suppose.  Go and see for yourself :

Hiking in Venice

So lucky and privileged this week!  Another wonderful share from Paula.  Don’t forget to listen too!

Light Catcher

What do you know of Peru?  Not much?  An interesting read here from Jill :

Ollantaytambo at dusk

And, much closer to home, Carol finds me some stone circles :

Walking in Circles

That’s it for another week.  All gems!  Hope you enjoy your long weekend (if you’re having one). Take good care!