St Cuthbert’s – Beltingham

I get places on a motorcycle – in July last year it was St Cuthbert’s at Beltingham, an out-of-the-way place in Northumberland with surprising connections.  Today we returned on foot.  According to the Spirit in Stone website, St Cuthbert’s is a much loved and regularly used Grade I listed church, it’s the finest example of 15th Century Perpendicular style in the country. Restored in 1884, a vestry was added, an earlier window remains however as does a squint, a small barred open window. There are fine stained glass windows by Kempe 1891 and two of his pupils, and a modern window by Leonard Everetts 1982. A medieval font stands by the entrance, where Bishop Ridley was baptised, who was martyred by Queen Mary in 1555. In the stone window frames on the south side there are relief carvings of a rabbit, flowers, fleur-de-lys and a grotesque mask.

Adjacent to the churchyard is a restored Pele tower, and an old family home of the Bowes Lyon (Queen Mother’s family), both in private ownership. In the churchyard, there is a Roman Altar and Nancy Ridley author is buried by the Lych gate. There is a shaft of a Saxon Cross c. 680 AD on the the East side, and a large Yew Tree on the North side, possibly 2000 years old. The South and East walls of the church are marked by scratches, thought to have been made by archers sharpening arrowheads.  In the graveyard the Bowes Lyons have their own personal section, walled and gated from the rest of us.

I have passed by on a number of occasions and always the doors to the church have been locked.  Today we got lucky:

Inside St Cuthbert’s, Beltingham – one of the occasional days it is open.

Outside St Cuthbert’s, Beltingham

A fading story – headstone at St Cuthbert’s

Gravestone, St Cuthbert’s, Beltingham

Etched in stone – a sad story – St Cuthbert’s

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November …

… in Northumberland (and elsewhere) – a selection of images from the the month which first appeared on Blip. It started out relatively mild and I kept riding but, since the 19th the temperatures dropped, the wind got up and the Yamaha has been locked up in the garage (the other two are off road for the winter). The last game of golf was on the 23rd – I could be in for a long winter 😦

Mixed weather at Kielder

Last of the light – Northumbrian reflections

Whiteside and the epicentre of nowhere.

The Angel

Storm brewing near Hadrian’s Wall

The last golf outing – Newbiggin on the 23rd

Steamy, smokey, misty, Hexham

Remember when our songs were just like prayers.

Hexham Mart

I posted a couple of pictures on Blip yesterday, taken at the Autumn Collective & Vintage Machinery Sale, Hexham and Northern Marts.  The images generated a number of comments but three hit the nail on the head – this is primarily an all-male affair; they could have been taken at anytime in the last thirty years; when money is being exchanged, it is a serious business.  In summary, the local farmers who make up the majority of attendees would probably never think to invite the wife, they don’t have any truck with changing fashions and hard earned money cannot be wasted on frivolities.  Not a bad philosophy – a sensible bunch these Northumberland hill farmers.

Did you mean to buy that …

A critical eye

Telephone bidding

How much for Welsh slates …

Don’t even think of bidding for that!

Serious bidding

How much for three wheels …

Danger – do not proceed …

Owning a motorcycle is like owning a dog, you can get into long conversations with people who would ordinarily pass you by.

The stop at Bellingham was planned – the Yamaha has a fuel gauge but its advice is at best vague.  It always pays to independently keep track of mileage and expected range – about 150 miles maximum.  This is particularly so when heading north up the A68 – without diversions there are no petrol pumps between Hexham and Jedburgh.  Hence the plan to fill up at Bellingham – a scenic diversion which worked well except my arrival coincided with a tanker delivery.  Within minutes the driver had expressed an interest in my bike and so the fifteen minute wait was filled with conversation.  The same thing happened later in the day when I made a brief detour to the Holy Island causeway; an elderly chap was keen to tell me all about the Vincent he once owned and wished he still did

I was heading for Haddington to the east of Edinburgh – first to collect some copies of David Shaw Stewart’s excellent Views from the Tee and then to meet my eldest for lunch.  Rather than retrace my steps I returned via the A1.  This is a longer route home but the northern stretches near the coast can be spectacular and the dual carriageway allows the cobwebs to be air-blasted from the Yamaha.  These are just some images from the day – a splendid 220 mile ride out in perfect autumnal weather:

Filling up the filling station, Bellingham

Haddington in autumnal sunshine

Robert Ferguson of Raith memorial – Haddington

From the causeway to Holy Island

You have been warned

On the causeway bridge

Another view from the causeway bridge

A summer with Joan …

The White AlbumWhere I Was FromSlouching Towards Bethlehem – all stories of distant places in a distant time – scattered with searing observation that make place, time and distance irrelevant.  Joan Didion has the capacity to invade your thoughts, for days on end:

Notes from a Native Daughter (Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
Perhaps in retrospect this has been a story not about Sacramento at all, but about the things we lose and the promises we break as we grow older; perhaps I have been playing out unawares the Margaret in the poem (Spring and Fall – Gerard Manley Hopkins):

Margaret are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving? …
It is the blight man was born for
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Where I was From – Part Four
Flying to Monterey I had a sharp apprehension of the many times before when I had, like Lincoln Steffens, “come back”, flown west, followed the sun, each time experiencing a lightening of spirit as the land below opened up, the checkerboards of the midwestern plains giving way to the vast empty reach between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada; then home, there, where I was from, me, California.  It would be a while before I realized that “me” is what we think when our parents die, even at my age, who will look out for me now, who will remember me as I was, who will know what happens to me now, where will I be from.

…  We kissed, we had a drink together, we promised to keep in touch.  A few months later Nancy was dead, of cancer, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.  I sent the recital program to Nancy’s brother, to send on to her daughter.  I had my grandmother’s watercolor framed and sent it to the next oldest of her three daughters, my cousin Brenda in Sacramento.
I closed the box and put it in a closet.
There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.

It has been an obsessive and busy summer.  When thoughts jostle for space, I escape – two wheels at speed empties the head, concentrates the mind and lifts the spirit.  I seek out empty and abandoned places – I want no distractions.

Border Park Services

Abandoned years ago

Where the fuel prices are frozen in time

Before departing I had worked out a circular route going north along the A68, into Scotland towards Selkirk and then south to Kielder. Not for the first time, I was thwarted by road closures, this time the B6357. When did this become the norm rather than the exception – much to my annoyance, I was briefly distracted 😉

The Friends’ Meeting House

In the sparsely populated land between Plenmeller and Coanwood Commons, on the edge of Garbutt Hill is a burn which flows north to feed the southern Tyne.  Across a stone bridge which leads to Burn House, tucked into a fold in the land is The Friends’ Meeting House.  Wandering these lost lanes on a motorcycle, it is surprising what you find.  According to the Historic Chapels Trust, “Coanwood Friends’ Meeting House was built in 1760 not far from Hadrian’s Wall. The almost unaltered interior is a rare and eloquent survival of historic Quaker layout and it powerfully evokes the silence of Quaker worship in this remote place, where the only sound is usually the wind and, in winter, the fast-moving burn nearby”.

I first found the chapel in April but did not venture inside, just assuming the door would be locked.  Earlier this week I returned to its simple, peaceful interior:

The Friends’ Meeting House

The interior

Quaker Faith & Practice

Ordnance Survey Leisure Map

A bit like dogs, motorcycles get you talking. A local, removing moss from the nearby stone bridge, was a disappointed owner of a Harley. The conversation moved from bikes to Chapels and the equally interesting, if more ornate, ancient Church at Beltingham set in the centre of the tiny village. This is where I will head next.

Opposite the Friends’ Meeting House – that large screen has been replaced.

Alnmouth

This blog is being neglected, not as a result of a conscious decision but simply through lack of time.  In part this is due to the ongoing heatwave in the UK; I don’t remember anything like it since 1976.  We travelled in the first part of the year but now I am locked into a cycle of golf, golf administration and putting many miles on motorcycles.  In short, I am making hay while the sun shines because at some point this must end.

This set of images is from a trip to the coast over the weekend.  It is perhaps indicative of a compulsive tendency that the coastal walk should skirt two golf courses, Alnmouth Village and the Foxton.  Perhaps I am in need of help 🙂

The Foxton golf course, Alnmouth

Alnmouth beach as the temperatures rise

On the beach Alnmouth beach

One man, two dogs, Alnmouth beach

Alnmouth beach

Northumberland’s fields of gold

Amble Harbour, lazin’ on a sunny afternoon