I think that Northumberland is one of the loveliest parts of the United Kingdom, with the Cheviot Hills and in particular the beautiful golden sands along the coast of the North Sea. It also has a large share of castles. Since we moved here we’ve visited all of the coastal castles, except that is the ruins of the castle at Dunstanburgh. It’s a spectacular ruin standing alone on the coast on an isolated headland between Embleton and Craster, looking out over the North Sea.
Last Tuesday we decided it was time for us to go there. It was a lovely hot, sunny day and we walked from the car park down the road to the little village and harbour at Craster, well known for its kippers.
From there it’s about a mile and a half walk northwards along the coast to the castle, which is owned by the National Trust (NH) and managed by English Heritage(EH). But we never actually got to the castle, because the heat defeated us and my knee, which has been a problem for a few months now, became painful so we only walked about halfway there, then turned back. I took a few photos zooming in as close as I could:
Thomas, Earl of Lancaster began building Dunstanburgh Castle in 1313. He was the wealthiest nobleman in England at the time and later took part in the barons’ rebellion against Edward II, resulting in his execution in 1322. John of Gaunt modernised it in the 1380s and later during the Wars of the Roses it became a Lancastrian stronghold, finally falling into ruin in the 16th century.
We will go there again to see more. At least we enjoyed the coastal walk and the view of the castle, despite the heat. And as always I was trying to visualise what it must have been like when it was new and how it had changed over the centuries, thinking of the battles that it had seen, of all the people who had lived and died there.
My snapshots today are of Inchree Wood and Righ Falls in Glen Righ, on the eastern side of Loch Linnhe, near Glencoe. It was a cool day in September this year when we walked up the woodland trail to see the waterfalls, but the views were still spectacular.
The walk is through woodland with views of Loch Linnhe below:
The waterfall comes into view:
It cascades down the hill side:
The trail continues uphill through broad-leaf and conifer trees:
On such a beautiful sunny day, even reading The Madonna of the Rocks by Marina Fiorato (her new book due out in May) couldn’t keep me indoors, so D and I went out for a walk. Although it’s still only February it feels and looks as though spring is here. We went down a narrow uneven footpath near opposite our house to an old country lane and then across fields to the edge of a lake.
There were plenty of birds, including this heron perched on a fence in the distance.
And a swan:
As we continued on our walk overhead a red kite soared above the trees, chased away by the rooks making a terrific racket. The path home is over more fields rather wet and boggy after the wet weather and snow.
The cattle were also noisy, waiting to be let out into the fields.
Back over the fields. This is a well-used path but today we only passed one other walker.
On Monday D and I went for a walk with a friend alongside the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we enjoyed these views. This is the start of our walk.
The Wendover Arm was first constructed in 1797, but as sections of it leaked it was “de-watered”. From 1989 onwards it has been restored and this is what it looks like today.
Kingfishers can be seen along the canal, but we didn’t see any on Monday. There were lots of other birds though, ducks, moorhens, coots and dabchicks (otherwise known as little grebes), busy diving and collecting nest material.
The ducks were in fine form, taking off a high speed and then landing with legs flailing before splash-down.
Further along the canal we saw a swan sitting on a large nest over on the other side.
The canal opens up into an area known as the Wides, with areas of grass and shrubs with a tiny island on the far side. Trees have invaded what was once open water and without management the canal would disappear in a few years.
Then came a surprise – a pair of mandarin ducks. I’d never seen these before; they looked very different from the other birds on the canal, but just so beautiful. The male has very distinctive chestnut brown and orange fan wings sticking up above his body, whilst the female is a duller brown with white spots. They were swimming together in and out of the trees. When I came home I looked them up in our bird books. Originally from China these ducks like streams and overgrown lakesides in broad leaved woodland and they nest in tree cavities. The canal is the perfect place for them.