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 :


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 Garden Extravaganza

This isn’t a walk so much as a wallow in flowers at an Open Garden event last weekend.  I did propose a walk to nearby Witton Castle, but ‘someone’ was feeling lazy, so we opted to loiter instead.  Hillside Cottages are in the quintessentially English village of Low Etherley, a few miles from Bishop Auckland, in County Durham.  A look over the garden wall will show you the lie of the land.  Calm and pastoral.

I love nosing around a garden.  My plant knowledge isn’t huge, but I do enjoy identifying a friend or two.  Small explosions of colour lure me into the borders.  Rich plum, ‘poke you in the eye’ orange and soft pink mingle with the green.

There are two gardens, side by side, quite different yet so harmonious that the division between them is little more than a gap in the adjoining hedge, which I initially fail to spot.  The first swathes gently down the hillside, beds and borders speckled with colour.  The lady owner is obviously a lover of tulips, with all their nuances, subtle or flaunted.  Poker straight or curling seductively.

I can hear the sound of pipes, and rounding a corner I come upon the culprits.  I don’t pay them the attention that I should, because I am beguiled by the rhododendrons.  In the most glorious colours, the sun sparkles through them, bathing me in radiance.

This is the very best time of year, and life burgeons all around me.  I almost miss the delicate lemon magnolia, opening to the sun’s caress, high above my head.  Tea is brewing, alongside an array of homemade cakes, but first we must round the pond and slip through the fence to next door.

A sense of humour prevails in next door’s garden, where another pond winks at me in the sunlight.

This garden feels much more enclosed, and you wander beneath tall pines, seeking out quirks and fantasies.  By a summerhouse the owner lounges benevolently in a deck chair, chatting to some older ladies.  Probably they supervised the baking.

Don’t you just love the dog’s expression?  And what might these two gardens have in common?  Wait for it…

Scintillating rhododendrons, of course!  I’ve never been able to resist them.  I hope you didn’t mind me taking it easy this week.  This is the time of year when traditionally I share a few gardens with you.  I have a much more energetic one lined up for next week.

Wait a moment, I can hear you saying… what happened to the cake?  I can assure you that my rhubarb cake was moist and delicious, but there were no seats left, so I had to eat it perched upon a wall.  Not conditions that are compatible with cake photography.  Sorry!

Join me next time on Jo’s Monday walk?  It will be a Bank Holiday in the UK, but I’ll still be out and about.  After that I’ll be taking a break for my visit to Poland.  Many thanks to you all for your walks and for your great company.


Although I’m a sun worshipper, I love a moody sky. Enjoy a cliff top walk with Suzanne :

Standing vertical in the storm

Jackie never needs any encouragement to eat and drink.  Join her for a cuppa?

Coffee Break

I’m offered all kinds of walks.  Janet has some beautiful sculptures to share :

Monday walk… sculpture in old Scottsdale

And Drake, often one to surprise, takes us to a tobacco museum!

Smoke in the mountain

Adventures in sand, water and caves with Liesbet.  This lady likes variety :

Highlights in Southern New Mexico – A Long Weekend Away

Or take a stroll with Pauline and Jack.  They make such delightful company :

Out and about in Stanthorpe…

And speaking of delightful, a certain Mrs. Farrell has been busy on our behalf :

Following in the Footsteps of the Green Man

Denzil offers easy walking, not far from Brussels.  Sounds good to me :

A walk around Leefdaal

It’s surprising what you can do, if you really try.  Georgie was walking in a good cause :

Walking the Wight – how I walked 15 miles…

Meanwhile Eunice has taken a leaf out of my book this week, with a really beautiful Open Garden :

Hornby Castle Gardens

Finally, an Australian Autumn, where Rosemay finds what it takes to tire the grandbairn out :

Autumn at Araluen

Yet another lovely morning here!  I’m starting to take it for granted.  Let’s see if it holds for the Bank Holiday.  Meantime, have fun, and take care.  See you next week!

The 3 Day Quote Challenge #1

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

I’m not a great one for quotes, nor indeed for challenges and rules, but when a very lovely lady plucks at my heartstrings… well, I can’t help but respond.  If it’s good enough for Annika Perry, who am I to quibble?  I’ve long admired her writing, which seems to flow effortlessly.

The rules :

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Post a quote on 3 consecutive days.
  • Share why this quote appeals so much to you.
  • Nominate 3 different bloggers for each day.

Why this quote, from India’s first Prime Minister?  I’m always straining at the leash, to be somewhere else.  It’s a gentle reminder to self.  The world IS a beautiful place and I don’t always need to go beyond my garden to experience the wonder.  It’s all there, waiting for me.  A rhododendron, after the rain, my source of today’s delight.  Tomorrow?  Maybe a little further.

My nominees?  No hurry, ladies!  Join in if you’d like :

Tish, my Writer on the Edge

Sue, at Words Visual

And Pauline, who’s Living in Paradise

See you all tomorrow!


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:


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!


Six word Saturday


Good time on a grey day


The sun doesn’t have to shine to make me happy.  Being with people I love in a beautiful place does the trick too.  Thursday had me slip-sliding about at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (in the wrong shoes, again!)  But it was worth it when I found the rhododendrons in full flower in the woods.

I will be taking you there on one of my Monday walks, but I just had to share this beauty.  I half wondered if it would qualify as a wildflower for Jude’s Garden Challenge.  Then I decided it didn’t really matter.  She’ll love it anyway.

Happy Bank Holiday weekend to all you Brits!  Hope you find some sunshine somewhere.  Cate is having problems at Six Word Saturday.


Six word Saturday


An unintentional trip to the zoo?

These guys are so cute, aren't they?

Meercats are so cute, aren’t they?

My last day in Kraków started rather damply.  The plan was a woodland walk and, when we arrived, I was immediately captivated by a red squirrel.  He, though, was quite determined to evade me and disappeared through a fence.  The woods were, coincidentally, situated next to Kraków zoo, and I surmised that I might find more red squirrels inside.  Looking through the gate, I decided that a visit might be worthwhile.  The flowerbeds alone looked rather beautiful.  So- in we went!

See what I mean?  The rhododendrons were gorgeous!

See what I mean? The rhododendrons were gorgeous!

 The kookaburra was one of my favourites of the captive species

The kookaburra was one of my favourites of the captive species

This guy seemed determined to vie with the flowers

But this guy seemed determined to vie with the flowers

When he treat us to this display!

When he treated us to this display!

While the pelicans seemed more intent on personal grooming

The pelicans seemed more intent on personal grooming

Nothing was going to compete with these rain dropped beauties!

And nothing was going to compete with these rain dropped beauties!

But for adorable, these guys took a lot of beating

But for adorable, these guys got my vote

And antelope always make me smile

And antelope can always make me smile!

You know what I didn’t find, though?  Not even a single red squirrel.  Maybe the roaring of the lion scared them off!   So I settled for more rhododendrons.  Well, they are my favourite plant!

Aren't they lovely?

Aren’t they lovely?

I’m never too sure about zoos, though I know some of them do great conservation work.  I hate to see big cats caged, and the noise coming from the single beautiful lion indicated that he felt the same way too.  Paula was at the zoo in Zagreb earlier this week.  Why not ask her what she thinks?

Then you need to pay a visit to Cate at Show My Face.  She’s our generous hostess for Six word Saturday.  Are you going to play?


Say it with flowers

My walk into town took me twice as long as usual yesterday.  The camera just wouldn’t stay in my pocket!  So I have a small bouquet to present.  What better way to tell someone you love them?  These are for my daughter, Lisa.

I hope she likes them.  And that you do too, of course.  Let’s share some of nature’s magic.  Click on a flower to start the gallery rolling.