Two more …

… recent rides out on the BMW GS.  In the first, a brief journey to Derwent Reservoir in County Durham where, like most places at the moment, the place was teeming with visitors. This included one very adventurous young boy who was running along the dam edge in pursuit of his friend on a bike.  He survived …

Everyone agreed, it was a miracle indeed that the boy survived …

Gone fishin’

Open Water

A few days later I headed west to Anthorn, the home of the Pips:

The airfield was built in February 1918 as a Fleet Air Arm (FAA) airfield. It was abandoned after World War I ended, however the RAF reinstated the airfield at the beginning of World War II as an emergency landing ground for nearby RAF Silloth.

The site was taken over by the Royal Navy in December 1942, and renamed as RNAS Anthorn. It was commissioned in September 1944 as ‘HMS Nuthatch’. The airfield served as No.1 ARDU (Aircraft Receipt and Dispatch Unit), a unit that accepts aircraft from their manufacturers and prepares them for operational use. The last official flight took off from the airfield in November 1957. It was then put on Care and Maintenance, before it closed down in March 1958.

In 1961 the site was chosen to become a NATO VLF transmitting site for communicating with submarines. One of its main functions is to transmit Greenwich Mean Time to the rest of the world. This time signal is heard as ‘pips’ on the radio and is used by everything from train companies to speed cameras. The aerial masts can be seen from miles around, especially at night with their distinctive red lights.

Text from the Solway Military Trail website.

Anthorn – home of the Pips

I dream of wires

The result of all these two-wheeled miles is that I am now just 4 miles short of achieving the 2020 #ride5000miles target. There was a time, earlier in the year, when this seemed a very unlikely objective.

The North East coast …

… is usually quiet, but not this year.  COVID-19 and the resulting staycations has resulted in a once quiet coastline being overwhelmed.  This is all good news for the local economy I guess but not what I have come to expect of Bamburgh and Lindisfarne.  Once the school holidays are over, I assume things will quieten down again, always assuming the little darlings can be persuaded to return to education.  The couple of Bamburgh images are from last week and the Holy Island images from today – 12th August:

Bamburgh Castle and an unusually busy beach in light and shade …

… and how I got there.

Holy Island Causeway

… and how I got there.

The alternative route

‘Pilgrims’ heading for Holy Island

Silloth

Silloth seems distant and out-of-the-way but was once a popular destination for Victorian holidaymakers travelling by train from Carlisle and Scotland.  The Carlisle and Silloth Bay Railway provided a connection from the east while trains from the north arrived by the Solway Junction Railway, a journey which involved crossing the Firth on the remarkable Solway Viaduct.  According to Visit Cumbria: The one mile 176 yard long iron girder viaduct across the water was damaged by an ice build-up in 1875 and again in 1881. It was repaired and continued in use until 1914 for passengers, and until 1921 for freight, and was finally demolished in 1934.  Apparently, part of the reason was that Scots, who then had no access to alcohol on Sundays, used to walk across to the more liberal English side, and returning in a less than sober state occasionally fell into the Solway, and were lost.

The well-tended, wide-open park, the grand hotels, the prom, all speak of a bygone prosperity.  It was all new to me but the Good Wife holidayed here as a child, staying at her aunt and uncle’s house adjacent to the RAF aerodrome which closed in 1960.  We went in search of her memories.

The house is still there and a happy-looking older chap was raking his lawn.  This was John, tending his front garden, as he has done these last fifty years.  Turns out, he not only remembered Pam’s uncle and his family, having both worked at the aerodrome but, his wife, Irene, went to school with Pam’s cousin. In his day, John was an aero-engineer working on the de Havilland Vampires and Hawker Hunters that chased across the skies of Silloth throughout the post-war years.  As he remarked at the end of the conversation, it’s a small world.

John in his front garden

Cote Lighthouse

The beach, towards Skinburness

Cote Lighthouse

The amusement hall

The Green

Harbour entrance

Silloth Station 1951 – By Walter Dendy, deceased

Empty Chairs

It is Christmas 1961 and I am, as ever, behind the camera.  This was the year I was given a flash unit to fit the family Kodak Brownie Cresta.  A sizeable attachment with a large reflector, it fired off one-time flash bulbs. Filled with fine magnesium wire and oxygen, a small current was sufficient to instigate the flash – all very satisfying to a boy who liked playing with fire..

You can tell I am responsible – it is taken from a low angle and the subjects tend to occupy centre stage.  I had not yet learned the rule of thirds  In the first image, dad is seated far left smoking one of the many Kensitas that would eventually take him.  He is at the beginning of his forties while mum, sat next to him, is still in her thirties.  My sister is too busy eating to take notice of younger brother’s antics but boyfriend Ricky is smiling keenly at the camera, also with cigarette in hand, possibly one of dad’s.  A too well-presented eighteen year old, I knew big sister could do better.

Cigarettes were socially acceptable at home but there was little or no drink. My teenage smoking habit went undetected until I tried Blue Book, a brand for “the discerning smoker”.  Each packet contained Turkish, Russian Egyptian and Havana blends.  An afternoon smoking these with an equally discerning friend and the house smelled like a souk.

It is the end of Christmas dinner and house-proud mother has already cleared most of the table.  The posh sideboard, table and chairs from Kendal Milne, Manchester;  the Regency striped wallpaper; the Wedgwood dinner service; the Peter Scott print; the understated decorations – all in the best possible taste.

Ricky took his time to leave – another three years before he abandoned my sister and her life took flight.  Now everyone has gone – empty clothes that drape and fall on empty chairs.

The ‘posh’ dining room

The living room – always coal fires burning

Big sister and boyfriend, Ricky – driving gloves and a too smart coat

On Bale Hill

Sometimes the unplanned rides are the best.  I just knew I wanted to be on open, high ground as the sky over Hexham was full of promising clouds. Heading south from Blanchland, I found myself riding up Bale Hill towards Stanhope Common and there, on my right, was a scene from Poldark, a chimney rising from an untamed landscape.  Except, this was County Durham, not Cornwall.

The chimney belonged to Presser Pumping Station.  Some of its history was recently revealed by local resident Stanley Wilkinson who lived at the ‘villa’ at The Pressor (sic) from 1935 to 1956:  The 2 shafts and the big building and chimney were built for the lead mines many years prior to our family moving there. It was around 1953 when my father suggested the Durham County Water Board pump water from the old mine workings to augment the Consett water supply. He and I worked down the shaft clearing obstacles and making ready for the pump and piping installation; scary as hell but (we) completed the job. I migrated to Australia in 1964 and have lived in Indonesia for 25 years. (from https://www.geograph.org.uk/)

The clouds did not disappoint while the weather to the west was particularly ominous:

Heavy weather to the west, from Bale Hill – looking towards Townfield and Hunstanworth

Presser Pumping Station

The GS on Bale Hill

This drone flight takes you towards Hunstanworth and then back to the Pumping Station – it is a very fine portrayal of this wild landscape. John Twist, the drone pilot, is standing close to where I took my images.

Out and about …

… in deepest Northumberland.  Another series of monos from recent walks and motorcycle journeys. The first set is from Colt Crag Reservoir – from Wiki – The reservoir was built at the end of the 19th century for the Newcastle and Gateshead Water Company. The reservoir forms part of a series of reservoirs along the A68 which are connected by tunnels and aqueducts from Catcleugh Reservoir to Whittle Dene from where drinking water is supplied to Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, and some surrounding areas.

In the image of the Boat House the bird in flight is a house martin – again from Wiki – One of Colt Crag’s main attractions are the great crested grebes, and there is also a colony of 20-30 pairs of house martins that return each year to nest under the eaves of the boathouse.

Three small figures in a landscape

The Boat House

The Dam

 

The second set is from Bewcastle, a place I last visited in March 2018.  On that occasion I was riding a Yamaha MT-09 Tracer.  This time I was on a BMW 1250 GS and there has been an F850 GS in between.  Do I possibly have a problem 😉

Bewcastle Cross

St Cuthbert’s Church

Free at last …

It was inevitable that my resolution to post once per week on WordPress would eventually come unstuck.  That was predictable, the last eight weeks less so.  Cooped up for so long, it was also inevitable that when a hint of freedom appeared, all other priorities would be thrown to the four winds.  On 13th May it was finally decreed safe to ride motorcycles again, although not over the border into Scotland where the restrictions remain.  I have lost no time in clocking plenty of miles, some menacingly close to Reiver country …

The GS at Crindledykes

To Bamburgh

In Bad Company

At the Air Museum (closed)

Do it again …

In the mornin’ you go gunnin’ for the man who stole your water
And you fire till he is done in but they catch you at the border
And the mourners are all singin’ as they drag you by your feet
But the hangman isn’t hangin’ and they put you on the street

Northumberland in Mono

This set of images were all taken within a 1.5 mile radius of our home – I know this for certain because I haven’t ventured outside this geofence since 24th March.  Hexham is a mystery to me now – the Good Wife has taken over responsibility for all socially distant shopping, mostly because I cannot be trusted to buy organic.  Any consequential savings I would spend on chocolate or similar.  Nevertheless, I am not complaining, I seem to have slipped into this secluded life all too easily.  The only thing I miss desperately is getting out on the motorcycles which, as any rider knows, is just self-isolation at speed.

Lean on me …

Always keep a-hold of nurse

Beaufront Castle Lodge …

In a big county …

The entrance to Fern Hill Farm

Five-bar Gate …

Do not disturb …

Another gate above the old kennels, Beaufront Woodhead.

The impression created by these images is of a country life continuing as usual, uninterrupted by world events. Isolating has also meant not listening to ‘news’, keeping socially distant from statistics and mortality rates but, just occasionally the bubble is burst. Peter Turnley’s images portray an entirely different, distant, monochromatic reality:

 

Compensations

In our fifth week of lock-down, I realise that this week we should have been staying in a coast-side apartment at the western end of Swanage.  I was looking forward to revisiting Studland, the Poole Harbour ferry, Sandbanks and Canford Cliffs, familiar places I have known from my earliest years.  Instead, we remain in deepest Northumberland – we should be grateful – many would consider this a holiday destination and the weather has been glorious.

Had we been away, we would have missed this – drawn outside by a golden light falling on the trees to the east of our home, we were treated to this spectacular light show across the Tyne Valley.  There are many compensations for staying at home, out of choice or otherwise

The beginning …

… the middle …

The end.

Return to Svolvær

Svolvær seems like a dream to me now.  We timed our trip to Norway to perfection.  It was always going to be sometime between mid-February and mid-March, to ensure there was still plenty of snow but a reasonable amount of light.  When I booked the flights, hotels and rail journeys, little did I know that there was another consideration, something I could never have imagined.  As I said in an earlier post, we arrived back in the UK on 7th March and Norway went into lock-down on the 14th.

Like everyone else, I guess, we are dreaming of where to go when the world returns to normal, whenever that might be.  Mostly I think of places I would like to go back to and, of course, Svolvær is at the top of the list.  Some of this is because every Saturday night at 21:00, I am reminded of how it looks.  By coincidence, BBC4 are showing the Nordic thriller Twin, filmed in and around Svolvær.  A slightly bizarre and hardly believable story, the compensation is the scenery, although I can’t help thinking they should have talked to me about the best time to film 🙂

All this inspired me to dig through some of my unused images from the trip and return on a virtual tour.  I have selected as a soundtrack one of the songs used in Twin – God Don’t Leave Me I’ll Freeze by the Norwegian band, Highasakite – full marks for the name!  Is it me or does it sound vaguely inspired by Sami folk music.

The view from Svinoybrua

The view from Lamholmen

Austerøya

Svinøya

Svinøya

Svinøya