Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Walking - River Wansbeck History from Morpeth to Bothal Mill

This is the second post from a walk taken on 27th May.  The route map is here, including all my little diversions while visiting charity shops in Morpeth and deciding what to eat.  The first post was about the walk and how pretty it is.  This one is about some of the historic things to see on the way.

This is the bluebell wood at the western edge of How Burn.

There's a long history of mining in How Burn.  It contains bell pits which were old mine workings and it's thought that the local monks may have worked the mines.  There were 18th century collieries and Howburn Colliery itself was producing coal from the 1860s to the 1920s and had its own tramway.  There are still old mine workings to be found - though the signs say to stick to the footpaths because otherwise you're liable to end up at the bottom of a shaft rather than the top.

This picture is unexciting isn't it?  It is known as Pestilence Close.  Tradition says that people who died in the plague of 1665 were buried here.

Descending to the river the bend takes you past the sites of a large quarry and a mill before you reach the railway line which crosses the river valley on the Pegswood Railway Viaduct.  The railway between Newcastle and Berwick opened in 1847 but the original bridge was wood.  It was replaced in 1849-50 by the nine arch stone viaduct which was designed by Robert Stephenson.

Carrying on you reach this unassuming stone.  The inscription reads "Jubilee Well 1887."  The well was in use before that date but there were celebrations for the jubilee of Queen Victoria and the stone was placed there then.  Really the well was a spring and there are now no signs that it was built up into a well structure.

Nearby is this site.  This is the Lady Chapel, or Newchapel, or what remains of it.  It was probably built some time around 1480 as a chantry.  It was abandoned in the 16th century - presumably for reasons connected with the Protestant Reformation in England but restored by the Victorians.  Vandalism over the years means that this is all that remains.

This stone is near the chapel.  The inscription reads "Lady Catherine's Chapel 1752" although it's very hard to make out a date now.

Just above the chapel is the face of a quarry and you can still see engravings there including Latin inscriptions such as Fidelis Servus (faithful servant) and this coat of arms.  This is similar to that of the Mulcaster coat of arms and it's been suggested that the church curate carved it himself when restoring the chapel in 1857.

If you're interested, a local history researcher from Northumberland has an extensive and fascinating blog post on the well and the chapel.  It's worth a look for the stories and for the pictures he has of the chapel and well.  Here it is.

Continuing along the river you reach Bothal Mill.  There is still a mill building there but this picture is of the remains of the sluice across the river.  The mill was originally used for grinding corn.  Later it was used to grind bones as part of manure for fields.  For years the river was crossed near the mill using stepping stones.  A wooden bridge was built in 1882 and this was replaced by the current road bridge in 1982.

The walk leaves the river and heads up the road until another footpath is found at the top of the bridge.  If anyone can recommend to me the best way to proceed on foot from Bothal Mill eastwards along the river to the bridge at Guide Post please let me know - is there a much better way than following the roads?

On the return to Morpeth the walk crosses over the railway and fields before descending back through the woods past an old quarry to the river before returning to Morpeth.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Walking - River Wansbeck Circular from Morpeth to Bothal Mill

My behindness in blog posts is evident.  Today I'm writing something about a walk from five weeks ago.  I'd found the route for this one online and it looked good.  Starting at Morpeth it heads along the River Wansbeck as far as Bothal Mill before heading uphill and walking back to Morpeth.  The AA claim the walk is 8.5 miles but mapping it for myself it was only 7.  The route map can be found here.

The AA give a walking guide too but I'd warn anyone using their guide that there are a couple of errors.  Where it says to turn right immediately after the Old Red Bull Inn it would be useful to know that the Inn was demolished a couple of years ago.  I spent time wondering how far along the road I had to walk but fortunately turned right in the right place on the grounds that if it was wrong it looked to lead towards the river anyway.  Not much further the guide tells to follow a path signed a certain way.  It isn't.  Two mistakes in, or at least very out of date information, and I was only on paragraph one of the guide.  Not an auspicious beginning.

The walk was great.  I'd recommend it.  And I was very lucky with the weather.  The forecast wasn't great but during the whole walk I only got lightly hailed on for a couple of minutes.  I was lucky.  The end of this post shows just how lucky.

I won't say much about it.  The photos can speak for themselves.  To begin, a couple of trees in the woods above the river valley near the beginning of the walk.

The walk then drops down past Pestilence Close - which I'll mention next time - to the river and pretty soon all you can hear is the water and the birds.  It's really very pretty and it felt so good to be away from the city again.  Finally I could climb down the bank to the river.  At this point someone messaged me and I responded with jealousy creating photos saying "I am here, now!"

That's the view one direction.  Here's the view the other way.  A viaduct designed by Stephenson.  Something else to mention in the next post.

Yep, another tree.  I like trees - and there will be plenty more tree pictures in posts to come from days out walking.
Climbing off the path at about this point I saw a little piece of pottery just sticking out of the ground.  I dug out the little pot and have it as a permanent reminder of the day.  It's the one seen in my gratitude diary from a month ago.

Hey, Happy Christmas everyone.

This was attached to a tree.  It might have felt more appropriate if I'd been there just a few hours later and experienced that weather.

The halfway point in the walk is Bothal Mill - another thing to mention in the next post.  You cross the river there using a road bridge on a minor road.  It's not an exciting bridge and replaced an earlier bridge in 1982.

From there the walk leaves the river and heads up the road towards Hepscott - it's steep - until turning off at the top of the hill along a footpath.  I was pleased on that path to see a couple of llamas on someone's property.

The walk then descends back through the woods and past a disused quarry back to the river and follows the riverside paths back to Morpeth.

It had been an enjoyable time and though I was aching due to being immensely unfit I was up to touring the charity shops of Morpeth.  I should return sometime and explore the town properly and be a proper tourist, doing touristy things like visiting the Bagpipe Museum.

I had been walking in a coat at the start of the walk, then a T-shirt for a while.  Ten minutes after arriving home, I took this photo.  It doesn't show the weather well but it snowed quite heavily for a while.  Yes, I really was fortunate with the weather that day.

Next time I will look at a few of the places of historical interest on the walk - there are others and I need to go back and find them all eventually.  After that I will share Blob Thing's day out.  And explain Blob Thing.  I have been asked to give him his very own blog.  Not just a photo here and there or his own little post but an entire blog.  And why not?  He's been a busy Blob Thing recently.  Two nights ago he was on stage in Manchester.  Briefly - until I was told "You can't put things on the stage," a statement which was quite obviously false because I had put something on the stage.  Blob Thing can wait until that post.  That gives you fair warning.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Happy Times in Whitley Bay - Pulp Fiction plus Bay Sweets and Gifts

A month ago I arranged to meet with a friend for lunch.  Honestly, we arranged it two months ago but things kept happening and the universe seemed to be conspiring to stop it happening.  But we succeeded on the fifth attempt - even though the Metro service tried to scupper us!  Hmm, maybe I'm personalising events a bit much there.

We arranged to meet in a cafe in Whitley Bay that I'd walked past before and stared in the window.  It looked good.  Cosy, reasonably quiet and with a decent menu.  I wanted to try it but I've been getting less willing to spend money on a lunch on my own when half an hour away there is lunch at home.

I arrived from the half-functional Metro at Monkseaton and it began to rain.  Heavily.  Really heavily.  But I only had minutes to get to the cafe so there was no choice but to get wet.  Just as I arrived at the cafe it stopped raining.  And the sun came out.  It then turned out that my friend was more delayed by the Metro than I had been - she had come up from Sunderland - so was late.  If I'd known all those things I'd have stayed dry.

The cafe.  Pulp Fiction Future Food.  It turned out to be a good choice.  I will gladly recommend it to anyone - unless you think that meat is an essential part of your meal.  In which case steer clear.  There are no pieces of corpse on the menu.  I'd also not recommend it for anyone afraid of dogs.  Having to share the toilet with a large dog is not a suitable experience for anyone with such a phobia.  I'm not sure it's really a suitable experience for a cafe at all but at least the dog didn't cause any problems or want to be fussed over when I was sitting on the loo.

There was music playing in the cafe but it wasn't loud.  My senses weren't doing well though and I had to ask for it to be turned down.  The staff were pleased to do that and the music from then was really soft and not intrusive.  I'm slowly learning that it's okay to ask for music to be turned down if I can't cope with it rather than suffering through it.  And that it's okay to just walk out if it's too much.  For all my life I've just put up with music in cafes at whatever volume.  Which has meant I've very often not been able to enjoy either the company I've been with or the food I've been eating because the noise is too overpowering.  Yay for a touch of sensory processing disorder.  But at least I know my hearing is fine - I had it tested today too to pass the time while waiting for something else.

We ordered from the special dishes that day.  My friend wasn't that hungry so had the soup.  Purple sprouting broccoli and some other such vegetable.  It looked really good even though it contained broccoli which is one of my pet hates.  I always had the theory that there was no broccoli in the Garden of Eden and it was part of the curse God put on Adam and Eve after the Fall but some evil broccoli loving scribe had removed it from the text.  As theories go, there aren't many with less truth in them than that one.  But people believe things that are just as crazy and will vigorously defend such things as the Queen being a reptile or there being a Nazi base on the dark side of the moon.  Well, it's obvious to them isn't it?

I ordered the Moroccan tagine dish with a healthy order of couscous.  I think it cost £4.50.  And it was delicious.  Very good indeed.  For drinks we each had one of their range of teas and my tea was lovely too.

Blob Thing came too.  And he had a marvellous time.  Couldn't keep the smile off his face.  I'll warn you in advance.  He may be getting his very own blog post soon from his adventure near Morpeth.

We left the cafe and wandered into Whitley Bay to explore something we both like: Charity Shops.  Whitley Bay has quite a lot of them.  For a few years after moving here I didn't know about half of them because they are on a couple of streets that I hadn't explored.  The day I accidentally found them was a happy one, only made sad by the fact that I was on my way somewhere and didn't have time to venture into any of them.  I have remedied that quite often since.  A pleasant day out for me is to take the Metro to Tynemouth, walk to the Tyne estuary and then up the coast along the promenade and beaches - and rocks if it's low tide - past Cullercoats to Whitley Bay.  Then eat lunch, visit every charity shop and head for home.  It's a good day.  I must post photos of the walk sometime.

There are also plenty of good independent shops in Whitley Bay.  It's worth exploring if you want something that you wouldn't see in a shopping mall.  If you find the range of shops in the Metro Centre or the Arndale Centre dull then you might like the ones in Whitley Bay.  These are the cards in one window.  I can't remember why I took the picture - possibly to inspire myself with some art.  But that hasn't worked!

And then, before we left for home, joy.  Oh what joy shall fill my heart.  We were passing a sweet shop, Bay Sweets and Gifts, and I happened to take a look at the window and I saw it.  And my heart leaped in happiness.  I saw Zout.  Yes, Zout.

Zout is a type of liquorice.  It's gorgeous.  I had to go in and buy some.  And then to my deeper joy I learned that the shop didn't just sell Zout.  It sells maybe two dozen different kinds of liquorice from the continent including several kinds of salt liquorice.  I bought lots and since the Zout box was empty I asked for the box.  Even better, it's not expensive.  I've seen salt liquorice for sale in a few places - a shop in Brighton and at least two stalls in Bury market sell it.  But every time it's been on sale for £1.99 for 100 grams.  In this shop prices ranged from 95p to £1.35.  The most expensive is the Zout, but it's worth it - and satisfies for much longer than a chocolate bar of the same price.

I've had to go back to the shop in the month since.  I took all my liquorice to Manchester and ate lots with Amanda, leaving the remainder with her.  I went back for myself to replenish my stocks - and got a second box.  And then Amanda put in an order for some more so I've been back again.  They're really friendly there, sell lots of other good sweets too, and I'm happy to pay their prices.  They must be making enough profit to make the shop worthwhile, so the other places must have a massive mark up to charge as much as they do.

Yes.  I recommend Whitley Bay as somewhere to explore - visit the beaches, buy ice cream, enjoy the cafes, spend time in the varied shops, and of course eat liquorice.  Unless you hate the stuff.  It's strange, but some people can't stand it.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Days of Gratitude - To Jeremy Hunt: We Have A Seven Day NHS Already

Some more good things from my life - even though one of them was nine months ago.

Saturday didn't go quite as planned.  Having to visit two hospitals wasn't how I'd seen the day going when I went to bed on Friday night.  Every single person I saw in those hospitals was courteous and treated me well.  On a Saturday!  You know, one of the two days of the week the Health Secretary seems to think we don't have an NHS.  How I wish someone had made a video containing all the times he has said the words "seven day NHS."  It would be like the Donald Trump "China" video but much, much, much longer.

Yes, on a Saturday I was seen at one hospital, referred to a second hospital, was seen and assessed by nursing staff and treated by a urologist at that hospital (which thankfully could be sorted pretty easily) and was let out at just gone 2pm.  On a Saturday.

20th May

Grateful to have got out for a while with my wife and taken her somewhere pretty.

Happy to see a heron too.

And grateful for YouTube, to be able to relax in bed in the evening with some of a Broadway production of Into the Woods.

21st May

Today didn't go totally to plan.

Grateful that Jeremy Hhhhhhhunt is wrong when he says in every single sentence "seven day NHS" as if we haven't got such a thing.

Grateful that the seven day NHS existed for me when I got up this morning and had to go to one of our three walk-in centres urgently and got referred from there to emergency admissions at the Freeman.

Grateful that it's not a serious thing. It needed sorting otherwise it would have become a more serious thing but they managed it. It's not unlikely that it will happen again in which case I'd have to have some surgery.

Grateful that they discharged me from the Freeman Hospital at 2.05 and the bus was ready to go at the bus stop so I was able to get to church for 2.30 which I'd been thinking wouldn't be possible.

Grateful for Rev. Cecilia Eggleston and for what she's done at MCC and in the wider community and for me too during my time at that church.

@reveggleston  A wonderful woman
Grateful that thanks to the staff of Westgate and the Freeman I could still be at her blessing out service despite my little medical emergency. As of today she is no longer the pastor of Northern Lights MCC.  Here's something she wrote a couple of months ago about moving on.

22nd May

Grateful for being able to have a day on which I did almost nothing to follow all the fun and hospital games of Saturday.

But I didn't take any pictures. So here's one from nine months ago because I've thought about that day a lot.

This is the chapel of Giggleswick School shortly before a big thunderstorm arrived. The picture was taken on August 23rd though rather than August 22nd - there were two big thunderstorms that weekend.

Nine months ago today someone invited and encouraged me to dance and play barefoot in the storm. That evening changed both our lives.  I went to bed that night hoping beyond hope that I had found a friend.  I had.  We have talked every day since and seen each other quite a bit even though we live quite a distance from each other.

Very grateful for thunder, lightning, heavy rain, and unexpected invitations.  Without that storm and without a disco that neither of us could cope with the last nine months may have been very different.

23rd May

Grateful for NHS vouchers and special offers. So the two pairs of new reading glasses didn't cost £180 but £50 instead. Yes, I went posher than necessary.

Grateful that Blob Thing enjoyed his pot of tea afterwards and that the sun was shining over Monument.

Also nice that The Stand Comedy Club was handing out some free tickets. Yay!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Walking - The Newbiggin By The Sea Art Trail, Northumberland

This post, belatedly, follows on from the two posts about a walk I enjoyed a month ago from Stakeford to the estuary of the River Wansbeck and then along the coast to Newbiggin by the Sea.  The route map can be found here.  It's only a 5 1/2 mile walk but I enjoyed it and I'll walk it again sometime and perhaps extend it.  It's short but includes a river to follow, a pretty estuary, a long sandy beach which only had one person walking on it at the time including me, a cliff top path and a promenade into Newbiggin.  That's good value for money!  Especially if you're in the very fortunate position of not having to pay for the bus fare.  If you want an easy walk with a bus stop at both ends you could do a lot worse.

Steps leading up from Newbiggin promenade

While following the prom I noticed pictures on some of the walls at the bottom of the gardens of houses facing the sea.  Being me, I took pictures of some.  They're scattered right round the town and there are lots that I didn't see.  One day it would be good to go back and find them all - on a Saturday because a few are indoors in buildings that are only open on a Saturday.

In addition to paintings and mosaics there are sculptures, a photography exhibition and "Couple" by Sean Henry, which is the first permanent offshore sculpture in the UK.

If you're in the area, head for Newbiggin and find the art, visit the Maritime Centre, eat chips on the promenade, have a walk and generally have an enjoyable day.  If that's not enough for you, detour to the Woodhorn Colliery and explore the museum and park there.

This post is an easy one to write.  It's just photos!  It's not a rant or argument or discussion of mental health or autism or Christianity and spirituality or transgender issues.  This is just photos from a day I thoroughly enjoyed.

Here goes, photos from the art trail.  If you want to follow it yourself one day, there's this guide.