December in old England has been mild and easy, the quiet before the storm? I am still playing golf, walking with the camera and, very occasionally, venturing out on two wheels. At heart, I am a fair-weather rider and there are plenty of reasons to keep the machines safe in the garage – ice on the roads, salt that creeps and corrodes and, not least, the wind chill factor when riding at 70mph into the face of a cold northeasterly.
Nevertheless the desire to be out eventually over-rides common sense and off I go – only ninety miles this month, better than nothing. These are some images from the month to date, including yet another timelapse sunrise across the fields. Northumberland has finally lost its autumnal glow:
The roads are still salty, on most days they are uncomfortably wet and the air is still piercingly cold but, there is no resisting the call of the wild and the open road. Against better judgement I ventured out on two wheels on several occasions in March and was never disappointed. The still image is from a ride out to Carrshield and the video from a late afternoon ride to Allendale Golf Club – Home of Golf in the Wild. This is now accessible from the club’s website just in case visitors have difficulty finding the course – follow satnavs to NE47 9DH and you will be taken to High Studdon Farm.
“The course is tucked away in the hills of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and must therefore be discreet. The road south out of Allendale winds down the Allen Valley along the B6295 towards Allenheads, following the course of the East Allen River. A mile or so south of the town, as the road breaks free from overhanging trees, a sharp left turn is signposted to the club. The track is rutted, rabbits run for cover and depending on the time of year, will wear a layer of rich agricultural muck. The track climbs 167 feet in a third of a mile which is more or less the difference between the high and low ground on the course; it helps to be fit. The clubhouse sits at 1077 feet above sea level on the west facing side of Green Hill which peaks at 1374 feet – it is not entirely inaccurate to say the course is situated on the side of a mountain. A wind turbine installed in 2010 marks your arrival. On a plain 9-metre tower with dark coloured blades, it blends into the agricultural landscape in a manner reminiscent of the iconic multi-bladed windpumps of America’s central plains.”
An accidental selfie, captured by the GoPro – I am wearing a backpack, just in case you were wondering 🙂
This will probably be my last post until after Christmas Day so a very Merry Christmas to all my followers, many thanks for taking the time to like and comment on my ever random thoughts throughout the year and all the best for 2016.
Our plan had been to be lazy on Christmas Day and eat at the Boatside Inn, just over Warden Bridge. Sadly, especially for the owners, the building was flooded in the recent storms and will not open again until the New Year. Consequently we are eating at home and chef will be catering for five, possibly seven – my normal limit is two 🙂
This year’s Christmas card reflects my passion for hitting small balls with unsuitable sticks in wild places – hopefully the snow provides a sufficiently seasonal touch. This is the second at Allendale, a place you can now fly over at Aerial Golf Caddy. When you have a spare moment between the main course and the pudding, take a look; you may begin to understand my obsession with the place (two of the best ‘flights’ are at the 3rd and 12th, both par 3s).
It was only recently that I became aware of the connection between Philip Larkin and Haydon Bridge, the next town along the Tyne, west of Hexham. For some reason I take some delight in his shared knowledge of the area. Since the by-pass was built a few years back, the town has returned to the pace of life which Larkin would have remembered. The second set of patio doors, overlooking the Tyne, is the back of 1A Ratcliffe Road:
Writer Philip Larkin and Monica Jones, his companion of 40 years, shared this secret love nest from 1961 to 1984.
“I thought your little house seemed … distinguished and exciting and beautiful … it looks splendid, and it can never be ordinary with the Tyne going by outside … a great English river drifting under your window, brown and muscled with currents!”
Philip Larkin April 1962
On this bright, frosty, December day, the Tyne was anything but brown and muscled – a sleeping giant. This is almost, but not quite, the view from the back of 1A Ratcliffe Road:
According to Wiki: “One of his better-known later poems Show Saturday is dedicated to the 1973 Bellingham Show, which they attended. They also went to the tar barrel ceremony in Allendale, and dined at Blanchland. It was a record of Tommy Armstrong’s Trimdon Grange Explosion which Larkin heard at the cottage that prompted him to write his own late poem The Explosion.”
“I am always trying to ‘preserve’ things by getting other people to read what I have written, and feel what I felt.” – Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
Like many of us.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Object – earlier in the week we went for a four mile walk across the high ground above Allendale – Hexhamshire Common. This is magnificent, wild, empty moorland with not a man-made object in sight – except, Stobb Cross, which seems to act like a magnet. We thought we were entirely alone, but no, sat at the base of the cross was another lone walker. Contemplating life, taking deep drags on a cigarette, he too thought he had found complete solitude, but then we popped up:
I admired his determination to be alone. It was long after we had drifted west that he finally headed east – if you click to enlarge the image, on the distant horizon you can just make out the solitary figure rising from the cross:
As we travel, we make connections all the time. There is a connection with my previous post – when I climbed in the car and took this series of phone images the route was inevitably the one I use out of habit nearly every day.
There is a connection with one of my followers who uncannily observed that this road would be “precarious if icy” – suddenly it is there the next morning, an Olympic, winter sports grade, skating surface.
When I arrive at my destination, there is the wind turbine with the sun rising over the hill behind – it has a connection to the National Grid although on a day like this, what’s the point.
Golf is all about connections – hands to club, club to ball, ball to hole….or ball to rough, never to be seen again.
There is the connection with another recent post – More notes from the Madhouse – you have to be slightly unhinged to play golf in these conditions, some might say at all. Finally, to make one final connection – in answer to the question, Golf? What’s the story?……sorry Mark, I haven’t a clue 🙂
When you need it most….
Plays shorter on ice…..
The master and eventual winner at work….not me!
When giants walked the earth…
A perfectly timed ending
All images taken on a Samsung SII smartphone and then over-saturated in Photoshop 🙂