Sunday, 30 September 2012


D'you know hanging out with youngsters does have some advantages? By youngsters I mean 18 to 40 year olds- young enough to be techno knowledgeable and old enough to have patience with their technodinosaur elders(well- sometimes) - and they often have the financial back up to buy the equipment necessary to be technowizards. These Tweenies (ie between unsalaried scholars and pensioned silver surfers) have been educated in the computer world so are relaxed and informed there but are old enough to realise they are going to be elderly one day and beyond the optimism of Youth that says it will never happen to them..... They know about i-pods and i-pads and androids and laugh but kindly at my Nokia 33-10 mobile phone. I bought a new mob last week and I received more sweet smiles from the next generation down when I said I had to upgrade as my mob (which was safe as it would never be worth pinching at school- though I hear it has a cult following!?) was no longer holding its charge- so I had bought the next model up and it can take photos (not that I know how to download them on to my PC yet - but I am working on it!)

Anyway D3 asked if we wanted to go geocaching yesterday- is the Pope a catholic?- Yes! We are known for loving games and treasure hunts so (rain) coats, hats and gloves on (its blinking cold for September) and we were off; oops sorry- we downloaded the app (yes! as in application- you can tell me nothing now I have been geocaching- well! have you been geocaching?) on her phone. So off we go.....there are so many places where other geocachers had hidden 'treasures' for us to find and sign in on.
We found maps showing the location of several caches near us and headed off- in this case ie yesterday- to the woods. Today we got soaked in a rainstorm but there we were again, keen as mustard, clambering through wildlife reserves, locating wildcats in neighbouring estates, twisting and turning according to compass degrees, or striding out paces in certain directions- in order to find standard, small or even nano caches hidden in such inventive containers tucked away in exciting hiding places- if you can find them! We found 3 but had to search so hard for the last cache- the app recorded a family finding it 6 days ago but it eluded us. We signed in the logs inside the caches and later logged on to record comments online. The caches are hidden all over Britain so get cracking.

Yahoo! Northumbria University devised the geocaching app (c.geo) so one feels duty bound to show support....... actually no! Just do it because it is such good fun- your kids and grand kids would love it too- and their eyes might be sharper than yours for spotting secret treasures!!

Got to go- Downton Abbey calls- I love Sunday nights!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Felton fox

Right now there is only me awake in the whole world; well, me and the wind rustling through the black leaves of the beech. I woke up a hot hour ago and having tossed and thought, I cogitated it was worth getting up, doing something and going back to bed later. I decided against the ironing (well you would , wouldn't you?); I wondered about sewing up the hems on those jeans but 4a.m. eyesight is not keen enough so in the staring glare of a desk light (which hopefully does not pierce the darkness of the inhabitants of the other rooms on the landing) I am quietly tapping away on a keyboard.
Why am I awake? Was it the stimulating company and conversation of old friends? the red wine I am no longer used to? habit as I find myself going through periods where I am awake in the early hours and other times when I sleep like a log? as I was reminded last week- 'too many birthdays' so maybe this is another thing which happens when one ages? but I don't feel old so I am going to dismiss that- after all I am not yet a daytime snatcher and snoozer..... as a fruit tea drinker I am gazing at the alarm clock probably as a result of taking a strange fancy to the strong coffee at the restaurant!

It is almost October, the autumn equinox is behind us and I need to alter the porch light to come on earlier. The harvest is in and I have the dried fruit bought for the Christmas cake.

I remember nestling in the boughs of an old, lichen encrusted apple tree in Felton; I holidayed with the grandmother of family friends; Nana Peat lived in a cottage terraced along Felton's main street; behind her home was another world- a big garden dominated by a gnarled tree heavy with fruit and us. Nana wore a floral pinny and checked, pompommed slippers which shuffled. We went to Felton recently to walk. We sipped in the heavenly smell of fresh baking in The Running Fox and bought a set of local walk booklets. Best foot forward and we were off........

Along the river bank, under the canopy of trees and past hedgerows of nettles entwisted with honeysuckle.
Past the gentle murmur of munching sheep not yet aware of the coming trauma of separation for market.

Had Ratty and Mole been there before us?

Much of the walk was through fields in which the harvest was being gathered and through some fields where the wheat was yet to be taken in.

Northumberland is host to lots of Halls tucked away in the countryside by Victorian entrepreneurs and now put to a different use; we have been told this Hall may be a residence for some kind of Christian fellowship or retreat house?

Meanwhile we move through the corn- well wheat- like girls in a Cadbury's advert

Where are we? The county we know so well still holds surprises as we march past drive entrances- what is up there?

and continue to wind along lanes hung with bells of fuschia

and butterfly enticing buddleia bushes

'Let's head for home via a cuppa in the village' so we leave the land and wander through the history living in the names of houses on the old A1.

A grand walk!
Now  'Home James and don't spare the horses'........

Thursday, 27 September 2012


Lindisfarne (or the landward Farne) is more often known by its other name, Holy Island. I worked out the tides to get us the longest day on the island; the causeway is covered twice a day by treacherous currents which isolate the island for hours. We called in to see friends but they were in absentia; the village was full of tourists so we headed past the upturned keels of fishing boats (used ages ago for scenes in a television series of a Dickens book- was it David Copperfield?Now used for storing fishermens' tackle?)

past the Castle,

past Gertrude Jekyll's garden and with a backward glance over our shoulders to see if the world was following us

we headed to the birdhide overlooking the Lough;

in the solace of silence afforded by the hide D3 and I sat for moments until we realised that on the branches immediately outside, fledglings were surveying us as we were searching for them!

After a chat with friends found in the dunes- isn't it a small world?!- we continued north and east up the Island. The eastern coast is kissed by the North Sea and only a few find the quiet beaches across the  protected Nature Reserve. D2 and M found this beach as rumour hath it this is where their marriage proposal was made!!

Sometimes I  'just sits and thinks... and sometimes I just sits' (Mark Twain?) so I did.

 Even then there were signs of the approach of nuts on the hazel...flaming berries on the rowan.... where can we go next before summer ends and the nights start drawing in?

and no! this is not a reminder of Christmas dinners to come- just companions on the speedy walk back to get over the causeway before the tide came in.


Really I have come on my PC to register some books for Bookcrossing; this morning I stayed in bed and finished 'Rivals in the Tudor Court' by Darcey Bonnette; men and their ambitions- while really women quietly rule the world.....
When we set off for Alnwick we envisaged exploring the Gardens but so did the rest of the world that day- so we avoided the Duke and Duchess' domain and mooched round the town, solving a murder mystery which D3 had bought online; daft but good fun- and got us hunting for clues/finding things we would never have noticed otherwise.

We strolled into the marketplace only to find we were in the middle of Alnwick International Music Festival! A drink in the sun accompanied by clompen Dutch groups and Belgian singers- what a grand way to spend a summer's afternoon.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Penshaw Monument

The Ladies walked in Harrington Park recently; as always we got rather lost en route; Washington new town or old village can be difficult to navigate successfully but the old town is well worth the visit( particularly if you are American and want to identify your political roots)- as is the Wildfowl Trust.
The weather was sombre and after a walk round the park we headed for the tea room attached to the Garden Centre across the road. We debated taking our newest member up to Penshaw Monument but as clouds threatened rain we postponed and a downpour finished the possibility of climbing up there that day.

Black Middens Bastle House

We ended our Greenhaugh day with a visit to this bastle house; these are dotted all over north Northumberland.They were an attempt for isolated families to keep themselves and their animals safe from the marauding reiver clans of the Borders- the Kerrs, Ridleys, Armstrongs etc.

I reckon these buildings would be a vain attempt at self protection because taking your animals in downstairs (meaning body warmth is shared with their human hosts)and your family upstairs would not have stopped the Reivers from attacking and stealing folk and livestock.


It is weeks ago since we three walked at Greenhaugh; we always have a drink at the Hollybush Inn but not that day!We were  forced (by D3) to call in at the tiny bakers at Bellingham so- thwarted by no free range eggs in the village honesty box and no drink at the pub, we had to take solace in fresh pasties (formerly called Cornish!)

 then walk off the calories......

The grass verges were drifted with creamy meadowsweet.

Meadows were carpeted in harebells, vetch and orchids.

while rosebay willow herb overlooked the vast array of grasses which in turn stood tall over clover.
Everywhere there were signs that summer was coming to a close; pods on the broom,

sycamore 'helicopters' winged new and lime green on the trees but evidence of a change of season. A final flush of poppies painted long grasses; our trainers ended up wet with the early morning's rainwater

but the sun peeped at us at regular intervals, winking like an eye of day and keeping its promise of a good day to walk.

An enthusiastic laddie provided us with news of comings and goings 'down on the farm'. Names and personalities of colts and mares were disclosed;

who was pursuing which jobs..... one brother was baling the hay

while another was tedding (turning the hay to dry in the sun) and yet another was walking the bounds, checking animals and fences.

So the winter feed is in and the cereal crops are harvested. Depending on latitude and altitude, soon the ram will don his jacket and be put in with the ewes...... and the year turns full circle from withering and dying to new life.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Looking back at summer

The day has been sunny but there is an autumnal nip in the air. The porch light has had to be brought forward a tad; crunchy leaves are already littering the pavements and students are back at Newcastle's universities for Welcome Week. I am looking forward to lots of autumn things.... getting in to see this year's tranche of students, a Halloween party, Guy Fawkes Night, the leaves turning, a new baby in the family......

My garden has had cottage garden borders this summer. At last I have grown my favourites- sweet peas- though I admit they were perennials; I did manage to grow a few annual sweet peas but they were a bit spindly.

Perfumed clumps of dianthus peeked out from under rock roses. while pink Japanese anenome success every year makes me think I should procure the white variety too.

I've got some bonny roses of all different types tucked into all the borders. The heads of the campanulas - a gift from my friend M - hung lower, more vivid and heavier this year.

What sort of a gardener am I that I don't know the names of some of my plants? Maybe you can tell me their names.

These are lovely and seem to grow in most aspects BUT they flop all over on the ground.

These are about the only flowers I have managed to grow under beech trees; the bees adore them so I dare not weed around this clump as it is usually alive with insects who may think I should be attacked and I learned my lesson last year!
Nearby under the beech and bird station are the hostas which burst a terracotta pot last year so got planted out; inspite of the perimeter 'fence' I made of crushed eggshells, it is obvious that the slugs have made a meal of them.

The rest of the perennials are as loyal as ever eg astilbe and long-flowering peace roses.

I have resorted to troughs of geraniums these last few years as they seem to thrive in drier conditions so I don't have to water them as much as potted petunias, surfinias etc.

 Even now they are covered in blood-red heads. I might take some cuttings and grow them inside on a window sill over the winter- try and save some money in 2013.
These Spanish wall pots have survived winter and summer for approximately 25 years; I do not like begonias but they have done me proud this year- perhaps courtesy of D's nettle concoction.

After the excitement of Newcastle's drawn game with Everton, I can not keep my eyes open; or maybe it was the TWO loud, late-night parties on consecutive nights behind us- I wish they had invited us to whatever the celebration was!!!!