In the deep midwinter……….

Just after Christmas I went up The Cheviot with one of my daughters on a very fine winter day. Having seen the snow covered Cheviots from Hadrian’s Wall the day before, and with a very good forecast, we set off early and took about two hours to reach the top from Langleeford in the Harthope valley near Wooler. The conditions were arctic – a strong westerly wind with drifting snow and beautiful wind blown ridges and furrows in the snow, known as sastrugi, commonly seen in cold, polar environments.  The snow was more than thigh deep in places where it had drifted, so quite slow going. The views were spectacular in all directions, looking north into Scotland, eastwards to the coast, and southwards across Northumberland National Park.

Furry Christmas

And now for something completely different….

Every year, our daughters Bronwen and Awena have been making an advent calendar for us, and each year as they progressed through school, the calendars grew more sophisticated as their artistic skills developed. Each year, before they cut the windows for the advent calendar, the design was scanned and then made into  Christmas cards to send to friends. This year, we decided to try them out as published cards, and they have just arrived this week from the printers. In the girls’ own words: “The design of this card is derived from advent calendars which we created every year for our family, depicting the many pets we grew up with over the years, and the wildlife around our home in the heart of Northumberland National Park. Any resemblance to real places is entirely intentional!”

Northumberland International Dark Sky Park

A recent BBC report stated that “A study of pictures of Earth by night has revealed that artificial light is growing brighter and more extensive every year. Between 2012 and 2016, the planet’s artificially lit outdoor area grew by more than 2% per year. Scientists say a “loss of night” in many countries is having negative consequences for “flora, fauna, and human well-being”.

Many people never see the stars properly, or even at all, due to the amount of light pollution in towns and cities across the world. There has also been a surge of interest in the night sky, and this is reflected by the huge popularity of the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, the largest area of protected night sky in Europe, covering 572 square miles (1,483 square kilometres). The area was awarded gold status designation in 2013 by the International Dark Sky Association in Tucson, Arizona, the world authority on light pollution. This status means that controls are now  in place to prevent light pollution and to protect the night sky.

This greeting card in the Cherish the Earth series shows the stars over Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland National Park,  with an accompanying quotation by His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, head of the Karma Kagyu lineage and one of the most eminent figures in Tibetan Buddhism: “When we can appreciate beauty, and feel awe and wonder at nature, we have the basis to dedicate ourselves to environmental protection.”    The Karmapa is well known for his interest and commitment to environmental issues, as well as social justice for all.  He frequently highlights the issues in his teachings and life’s work.

There are twelve cards in the series, ranging from honeybees to Himalayan mountains, wildlife to oceans, and there has been a wonderful response since publication. They are also available from the shops at Kagyu Samye Ling, near Eskdalemuir, Scotland, and Kagyu Samye Dzong London.

November rain

Well today is looking thoroughly wet, dark and grey, but we have had some lovely days in the last few weeks. November can be a beautiful month, and this view shows the hills at the foot of the College valley on the northern side of the Cheviots, on a day of wonderful light. This image has been included in the Seasons of Northumberland calendar 2018, available from this website, and from retail outlets across the region. The 2018 calendar features views of Northumberland through the seasons of the year, including Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle, Northumberland National Park, Hadrian’s Wall, puffin (Farne Islands), River South Tyne, Padon Monument, and Embleton Bay. It makes a great Christmas present for family and friends in Northumberland and beyond, and many Northumbrians living around the world.

The Sill Christmas Fair

Yesterday’s Christmas Fair at The Sill was a great success, with beautiful weather in the morning (sunny and frosty), lots of visitors, choirs, snowy owl, lots of great products on sale and a very happy and enthusiastic atmosphere. Many thanks to the organisers!

The Sill is the UK’s National Landscape Discovery Centre at Once Brewed in the Northumberland National Park. The building is the result of an innovative partnership between Northumberland National Park and YHA England and Wales. Named after the nearby Great Whin Sill, the centre is the result of a partnership between Northumberland National Park, Youth Hostels Association (England & Wales) and the Heritage Lottery Fund, which supported the development with a £7.8m grant.

This image shows the River Coquet from the bridge at Hepple, and is available to buy as Christmas card from the website.

New Hexham Christmas cards

There are now two new Christmas cards of Hexham and Hexham Abbey, which have just been produced as single cards –  160x160mm square – and they look absolutely gorgeous. The printers (Continuous Design Ltd) have done a beautiful job, and the cards are now available to order from this website or you can buy at the Card Shop in the Market Place, Hexham, Northumberland.