I have been ploughing my way through David Nasaw’s biography of Andrew Carnegie. I have been panning for gold. Carnegie was an avid golfer and somewhere in this 878pp tome there are unique, if short references, to the man’s passion for the game. Golf in the Wild research can be a slow and laborious process.
I mention this only because I have been itching to move on. Intrigued by the reference to Nancy Ridley in the previous post, ‘buried by the Lych gate’, at St Cuthbert’s Beltingham, I was curious enough to buy her long-out-of-print Portrait of Northumberland, first published in 1965. I am a short way into its pages but her descriptions of Roman Wall Country are instantly recognisable, a litany of names and places I know intimately by foot, by car and on motorcycle. It is our home.
After too many years ping-ponging between northwest England and the south, chasing IT’s filthy lucre, it is odd that I should find myself tied to this place, at the very edge of England’s last wilderness. Now, nearly twenty-five years in the same place, it would be unthinkable to be anywhere else other than here.
‘Here’ is a landscape that would be entirely recognisable to Nancy but her introduction to Portrait of Northumberland is from another time entirely – “The Tyne still maintains its reputation as the greatest ship repairing river in the world” – “Every Northumbrian town has a live-stock mart for the sale not only of home bred but also Irish cattle” – “This is one of the most popular holiday districts in Northumberland where the same people go year after year. There are many good boarding houses in Allendale Town”. Sadly, the ‘same people’ are now most likely to be found on foreign beaches.
Nancy’s introduction also includes many references to the Great North Road which in her time would have run through the heart of towns and cities on its way to the Scottish Borders and beyond. The same would have been true of the old Newcastle to Carlisle A roads on their journey through the Tyne Valley. We walk round with computing power in our pockets, unimaginable in 1965 but, the most visible aspect of change are the roads and vehicles on them – this from newcastleuncovered.com …
In contrast, these recent images from around Beaufront Woodhead present a landscape unchanged since Nancy’s time and long before:
This morning, while snow still lay all around we drove to the Allen Gorge car park and again walked to Beltingham, this time in search of Nancy’s grave. It should be easy to find but even after a relatively short time, the headstone is almost indecipherable:
Time, she says,
“There’s no turning back,
keep your eyes on the tracks”
Through the fields, somehow there’s blue
Oh, time will tell, she’ll see us through
Finally a technical point re the images – generally I will shoot in Acros (+Yellow filter) so I can see the tones of a mono image on the camera LCD. Then, I will normally process the RAW image, sometimes colour, sometimes mono – for once these are all straight Acros jpegs from the ‘can’ – tweaked with the Camera RAW filter in PhotoShop CC. Interestingly, it is surprising how much shadow detail can be recovered even from a jpeg. Use of the original Acros image also preserves the film grain that Fuji have worked so hard to emulate.