The lovely autumn colours of 2018 are beginning to fade, as the leaves continue to fall. This is one of my favourite times of the year. The last week of October and the first week of November see the climax of the autumn in Northumberland before the days become ever shorter and the landscape changes into the more subdued colours of winter. This view looks across the North Tyne valley near Bellingham, towards Callerhues Crags, with the Hesleyside woods in the foreground, and is in the 2019 Seasons of Northumberland calendar. I’ve heard rumours of a cold winter ahead and am looking forward to some fine frosty days after this very mild autumn. This weekend I’ll be at the Christmas Fair at The Sill on Hadrian’s Wall, the National Landscape Discovery Centre – hope to see you there!
Last winter, just after Christmas, the weather was very clear and cold and so I set off very early for an ascent of The Cheviot on the England-Scotland border. The conditions were truly arctic, with a very cold wind, deep snow drifts, sastrugi (wind sculpted ridges and troughs in the snow, and rime ice all over the fence posts. There was a really magnificent viw of Hedgehope Hill from the summit plateau of Cheviot, which was wreathed in thin, freezing mist. We did not stay long on the summit descended back to the Harthope valley near Langleeford, before the long midwinter night arrived. Thius image is now available as a pack of Christmas cards in the Northumberland Winter series, and is also in the Seasons of Northumberland calendar 2019.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a long a slow build up, the autumn colours are at last looking pretty good, even though it is so late in the year and the leaf fall is well advanced. Autumn in Northumberland is a week or two late this year but the last few days have seen some cold nights and bright sunny days and this has enhanced the colours. So there are some new photos in the bag for future Seasons of Northumberland calendars. It’s always good to get out of my office and to spend some time in nature, here in the North Tyne valley in Northumberland National Park.
Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is 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 is a new Christmas card taken in the park (in fact it’s a view up the track from my house) and we have recently had some beautiful clear and starry nights and also aurora borealis or Northern Lights.