… the bikes have taken me in the last few days in search of images. The old rolling stock being put to an agricultural use sits in a field above Allendale. Thorneyburn is way over yonder in the minor key – between Bellingham and Kielder. Linnels Bridge and the Mill are on the road between Hexham and Slaley. The transport for most of this can be seen in the last. What an unpredictable summer it has been.
The trip to Duns has become an annual pilgrimage. Last year in April, to commemorate fifty years since Jim Clark’s death at Hockenheim in 1968 and, this year, for the opening of the extended and much enhanced museum. Last year in the Elise, this year, 167 miles on the F850 GS on a perfect day for riding.
The displays include a new commemorative film, his trophies, a walk-around time-line of memorabilia and two of his iconic vehicles: the Lotus 25 R6 on loan from the Tinguely Museum Switzerland and a Lotus Cortina on loan from Dario Franchitti – perfect choices. Clark was stunning in any Lotus but for real entertainment, there was no better sight than Jim flying the Ford at ten tenths through the apex on three wheels.
Looking at the Cortina more closely, I was reminded that they were originally badged under the Consul brand. My parents belonged to the ‘Ford family’ owning three consecutive Consuls throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. They have appeared at various times in this blog, including the original MK1. Just at the time they might have gone down the Cortina road, they chose the Corsair – a big mistake, the first being so unreliable, it was quickly replaced by another. I can only assume at a significant discount.
The primary difference between the two Corsairs was that the first’s crunchy column-change was finally replaced with a standard floor-change in the second. Mother had learned with a column-change and in her usual determined fashion, she was sticking to it, long after it was a good idea. When they returned from working abroad in the mid 1970s they remained loyal to Ford, finally acquiring a Mk III Cortina. After that it was a Volvo 343 followed by a series of pedestrian Vauxhalls. As with many other aspects of their later years, automotively they had lost their way.
There is a terrifying beauty to this place. It appears post-apocalyptic which, given its history, is as it should be. Throughout the 20th century the site was used for a wide range of military research programmes, not least by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. Meanwhile, at the northern end of the ‘island’, the Cobra Mist structure stands as a monument to the experimental, Anglo-American, over-the-horizon radar system. The vast complex is now privately owned with rumoured plans to use the building to house an IT server farm.
To the frustration of local volunteers, much of the site is in decay and the National Trust has no interest in maintaining the infrastructure, their primary concern being the bird sanctuary. Even the lighthouse is under threat – perilously close to the shingle beach, the expectation is that one more violent winter storm could see it collapse into the sea.
Orford Ness provides a timely reminder of “Oppenheimer’s deadly toy“. The research that was undertaken on this site cannot be un-invented. The threat of Armageddon remains. Indeed, it could be argued that the threat is greater than at any time since the Cold War with the potential for terrorists and rogue states to get their hands on such technology. Leaving the ‘island’ behind on the ferry to Orford, there is the distinct impression that school children are being wound up to agonise and protest over entirely the wrong threat.
… and other monochromes, from a walk between Portmahomack and Tarbat Ness lighthouse. To get here, head for Inverness, cross the Kessock and Cromarty Bridges, follow the A9 north, by-passing Invergordon, until a turning right is signposted Fearn and beyond. We are here because of golf, a ‘research’ trip for Golf in the Wild – Going Home – golf doesn’t get much wilder than this.
It is also a fine place to stay regardless of the golf: Known in Gaelic as ‘Port MoCholmaig’ or St Colman’s Port, Portmahomack can trace its roots back to 800 AD. Today, this pretty fishing village is well-known locally for its picturesque setting. The only village on the east coast of Scotland that faces due west, Portmahomack can enjoy spectacular sunsets. And because it is situated in an area of the Highlands renowned for its low rainfall, the village doesn’t suffer with those pesky West Coast midges! – http://www.portmahomack.org/
A remarkably flat landscape for much of the road towards the tip of the peninsular, the landscape was purpose-built for aerodromes. More than seventy years after the end of World War II, there is much evidence of the decaying infrastructure that supported RAF Tain. It is also prime farmland, more reminiscent of the Great Plains than a land steeped in ancient Pictish history. There are the inevitable too-yellow fields of oil seed rape but also, acres given over to potato crops, much of which ends up in crackly packets of Walkers Crisps.
Once you reach the coastal village Portmahomack, the landscape roughens up such that the golf course is anything but flat which makes for a thoroughly entertaining 10-hole layout at the top of the village. Golf was first played here in 1894 and the current club established in 1909.
Portmahomack even has its own Carnegie Hall which, by happy coincidence, was playing host to Lizabett Russo on the night we arrived.
These photos ignore the golf as I am honour-bound to occasionally entertain the Good Wife/part-time caddie with walks that don’t include greens and fairways:
Bram Stoker spent a great deal of time in Whitby and at the Royal Hotel. It is said that while looking out of from his window at the Royal he found his inspiration for Dracula by watching a large black dog leaping from a ship that had run aground on the foreshore.
We have his room – the foreshore is visible, the wind is howling; there are any number of black dogs straining on reluctant leads in the sideways rain. The staff all have Transylvanian accents; the steaks are a touch too rare. At breakfast we are joined by the undead.
Whitby attracts the Goth community and it is easy to understand why – not just the Dracula connection but that very Victorian, very black material, Whitby jet can be found everywhere among the narrow streets and cobbled alleyways. It is a Hammer Horror film set with perfect backdrops – the steep, steep steps to St Mary’s and the ruined Abbey lording it over the town.
Despite this, it is also a place of romance, light and poetry.
Things Passed Away
In lapis, dun and grey, heave, swell and gale
are stilled; the whispering mast and shingle-roar
silenced. Small boats of larch and oak and prayer
take on the storm with slender oars and straining sail.
Umber and ochre beget beast and bale,
the harvest art, the scythe, the brooding moor,
and, as lowering clouds advance upon the shore,
the lover waits, the mother saves the veil.
But soon, beyond these whelming cobalt seas,
young men will reel, mistaking smoke for fret
and blasted shells for raining ore or jet,
seeking dolphins as they to darkness yield.
Then, painting dark on dark when life has ceased,
charred bones become ivory-black and stain the field.
Romeo, Romeo, I’m your Juliet
I’m the pot of gold that you haven’t found yet
And I’m here, right here
… to Errington, not in the Hindu Kush. An ordinary March Sunday in Northumberland, we parked the car west of Cocklaw and walked the 1.5 miles to Errington and back. A quiet corner of the county, there is little to see you might think. Except, the fields were full of detectorists hunting Anglo-Saxon gold and not finding it – the farmer presumably does well out of their optimism.
At Cocklaw Farm there is a pele tower built by the Erringtons in the 15th century and was the family seat for two hundred years until they moved into Beaufront castle closer to Hexham. It escaped the usual robbery of stone in the 18th and 19th centuries due to its isolation and is now used for storage of farm machinery and livestock. It still stands almost 40 feet high but the wooden floors have collapsed, leaving in place only half of the ground floor vaulted lower ceiling which will soon fall in – ecastles.co.uk
In this image of wary sheep, Chollerton Farm and Mill is visible on the horizon to the left – an early 19th century farmstead with a windmill, threshing mill, steam engine house, boiler house and chimney as well as farm offices and cottages – www.keystothepast.info
In a field adjacent to Cocklaw Farm was this fine beast:
This view north from near Errington is towards Middle Farm and Beaumont House – just east of the former, the OS map includes a marker for a ‘Hydraulic Ram’ but nowhere on the Internet is there any reference to this mysterious device:
We turned round once we reached Errington – this image taken last August when everything was greener:
So, nothing much to see 🙂
My room is beneath the first ‘L’ in Lochalsh and I am sat at the adjacent window, to the front, looking out on the Kyle as I type this post. If this was a postcard, I would scratch “I am here” in BIC biro.
It is now all too easy to pass by this hotel – once adjacent to the Isle of Skye ferry, it was at the centre of things as all vehicles bound for the island queued for anything up to five hours, but never on a Sunday. This little gem from Alan Whicker and the BBC Tonight programme, November 1964:
Sat at this window on April 24th 1973, I would have seen a dark blue Mitchell Van Hire, 18cwt Bedford CF, board the Skye ferry. The driver, dressed in a too-long purple jumper knitted by an earlier girlfriend, a pair of too-wide flared jeans, a straw hat and Mexican sandals made from old car tyres, we were heading for Glen Brittle and perfect Spring sunshine. How things have changed. The road now sweeps across the Skye Bridge, I have arrived by train, it is February and it is wet and very windy. It is an odd time of year to come to the Highlands.
I have always wanted to travel the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh railway, along with the Mallaig and Wick lines, some of the world’s most scenic railways. Up to end March it is possible to travel anywhere in Scotland on ScotRail for £17 return once you have purchased a £15 Club 50 card.
There was one slight flaw to my cunning plan – the journey north from Inverness was in complete darkness. I might as well have been travelling on the London Underground. Nevertheless, the journey south, tomorrow, starts at 12:08 so the landscape will be revealed in all its glory – assuming there is no mist.
To fill in time on a damp day, I took the bus from Kyle of Lochalsh to Elgol and Glasnakille, on the west coast of Skye. I was one of three passengers throughout the entire trip. The bus stops at Elgol for tea with the driver, Gordon, and immediately the BBC news comes on the radio at 1pm, we must get back on board and head for Glasnakille. It is timed like an Apollo launch.
It was at Glasnakille that I was joined by a local lady bound for Broadford – she described it as a ‘course’ day. The conversation flowed from there, covering such diverse topics as Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull who once lived in nearby Strathaird House; the clearances; education – up to eleven there is a local school but thereafter children must board at Portree, the only secondary school on the island; the high volume of traffic in the summer; midges – you just have to out up with them and, the dreaded camper vans. By the time we reached Broadford, I felt like a local. Gordon would be back at 15:22, on the dot, to take her home.