Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Northumberland Day 2 - A hidden waterfall & windswept coasts

Out for sunrise at Bambrugh again and the conditions were a lot more promising than the morning before. There was very little cloud in the sky apart from a gossamer ribbon lying across the horizon, ready and willing to be illuminated beautifully by the rising sun.

I got a few shots of the castle with some grass covered dunes in the foreground, their lush thatches trembling and shuddering under the whims of the boisterous breeze. All too quickly though the sun ascended the cloud bank, its glaring rays penetrating directly into the lens, which made continuing to shoot towards the castle a pointless exercise.

Bambrugh Castle and grass covered dunes in the morning sun.

I wandered onto the beach and captured the ripples and flows of the loose sand from the dunes being herded swiftly across the shore towards the waves. Where, in time, after being churned up by the rowdy surf, it would probably be deposited back onto the shore, and perhaps return to the dunes again.

It was quite good fun watching the ground travel past me.

The sand built up around anything on the beach, creating small hillocks that caught the light.
I passed this solitary hut on the way back and I was rather taken with it.

I headed back to the cottage for some breakfast and then took the road west in the hope I could locate Roughting Linn waterfall. Thanks to a bit of internet sleuthing before I left, I managed to find it down a small lane and off a track to a farm, as this pretty little fall is not signposted or marked anywhere.

Guessing that the small path which veered steeply off the main track and down into the surrounding woodland was the way to go, I rambled through the undergrowth, meeting a small stream and following its route, while listening out for the tell-tale sound of rushing water. Although it was only a ten minute walk from the lane that passes it, the place had a very secluded feel to it, which was helped by the fact I had it to myself.

A little oasis of tranquility.
Spray of water on the rocks below.

When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised by how much water there was tumbling over the rocks, considering there hadn’t been much rain recently. And I spent some time trying out various shots in the tiny secluded valley, while the trees towering above me whistled and shrieked in the ferocious wind. It almost felt like I was quite apart from the rest of the world, encased safely down there, while the landscape above twisted and ricocheted to the forces of nature, this place was untouched.

It was a good feeling and I was quite loath to depart, but there is only so much you can do with a small waterfall and I had all the shots I could reasonably get. Before returning to the car though, I took a diversion down a country lane, to try and get a shot of it snaking its way through the verdant, sparkling countryside, towards looming hills behind.

But thanks to the ever present wind, which was as much a factor in my photography that weekend as any three dimensional object I could capture, the task was a challenging one. A tripod was out of the question, and with the gale constantly buffeting me and sending me back on my heels, even standing still was not as easy as it sounds.

Once I’d hurried back to the car, thanks to the breeze at my back pushing me along like an impatient mother on a school morning, I took a drive into the Cheviot Hills, a spectacular breadth of rolling landscape which marks the border with Scotland.

The Cheviot Hills.

Created millions of years ago by volcanic lava flows, these hills are home to an abundance of wildlife, including the UK’s oldest and most elusive herd of wild animals – Northumberland’s Neolithic goats, who I always imagine to be sporting a protruding lower jaw and thick eyebrows knotted in permanent confusion, while carrying a wooden club and going ‘ug’ of course.

All I could find were sheep unfortunately.

The hills are also home to a plethora of ancient sites, most notably, Iron Age hill forts, of which there are some very well preserved examples. Which made my next stop, albeit an unscheduled one, rather timely. I had pulled into a small car park to have a look at the map and get my bearings, when I noticed a colourful sign welcoming me to Maelmin, which sounded interesting so I got out to have a closer look.

The Dark Age House.
Well it turns out it was interesting, I do like a bit of history, especially with a few reconstructed buildings thrown in for good measure, so I was more than happy to spend a bit of time there. Maelmin Heritage Trail is a small trail that takes you round various recreations of historical sites. Including a wooden henge, a Dark Age house and a Mesolithic hut, although the hut seemed absent on the day I was there, just an empty indentation in the ground, maybe it had been blown away?

I took refuge in the Dark Age house, to escape the whirling gusts, and to admire the carpentry involved in its construction, when an older couple turned up, presumably to do the same. They took one look at me, with my unsettling hair in wild disarray, and seemed visibly shaken. They didn’t stay long.

Once I had done the walk, trying to follow the information boards, which seemed wilfully haphazard to my mind, but interesting all the same after they had been located, I was off, and driving further into the hills, as the views were just getting better and better.

Once I had been for a bit of an exploration of the area, both by car and by foot, I drove back to the sea, the afternoon was wearing on, and I wanted to be around the coast for sunset. I soon managed to get comprehensively lost for a while around Longhoughton, which on the map looked practically impossible to do, but I seemed to manage it without any trouble at all.

Dunstanbrugh Castle under some intimidating clouds.

I ended up in Craster, a small fishing village and nearest point of access to Dunstanbrugh Castle, just as the sun was beginning to descend towards the horizon. After passing through the gate onto the National Trust land the castle stands on, I then walked along the grassy track towards the ruin before taking a detour down towards the sea, to set up shop among the huge rocks that line the shore.

There was a lot of cloud about and it was pretty grey, but the setting was spectacular, and the ocean sloshing around my boots was behaving itself, so it was no chore to spend time there. Some colour did start to appear in the ominous clouds as they rumbled overhead, the diluted evening sun imparting a sickly pallor to them. They seemed to dwarf the impressive ruins, making them look trifling and insubstantial, in comparison to the atmospheric bulk sailing above.

A long exposure shot of the overcast sky sliding over the ground below.
A bit of golden colour emerges in the sky.

As the sun got ever lower the feel of the light changed, and soon there were elegant stripes of pink in the nebulous mass. More than once, small gaps appeared in the gloom and spirited rays of light, as if escaping from the protection of the clouds, travelled at speed over the ocean, sparking off rainbows in the stormy clouds that hung over the sea behind me.

I managed to miss getting a shot of the main display, but did get the tail end of one of the rainbows.
Spots of colour over a dark ocean

It then started to rain quite heavily, and I took the opportunity to have a chat with a local photographer who had been hunkered down in the rocks on a similar mission, and was now heading home. Once the rain had fizzled out I thought about packing up as the mood was incredibly drab, but thankfully I didn’t. The sun, which had now disappeared from view, began to produce a glorious swan song, in the form of a sublime streamer of colours in the clouds above.

I was glad I stuck around as dusk put on a bit of a show.
A long exposure of the departing colours.

After about 10 minutes the clouds settled back down to their previous sombre hue, and all trace of colour evaporated. The light was now growing quite dim, so I picked my way back over the rocks towards more level ground, before taking my leave and motoring back up the coast for a bit of dinner and to dry out.

Day one in Northumberland

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