After last year’s very mild winter, it was good to see sparkling sunshine and frost again this week. Last winter, frosts were few and far between, and there was hardly any snowfall here in Northumberland. Given the climate change data reported everyday in the mainstream media, this is no surprise, and there should be no doubt that we are in a climate emergency. So it was with some pleasure that I was able to enjoy a winter walk and to take some new photos, this time not with a camera, but a new mobile phone. In the five and a half years that I have used a so called ‘smartphone’, the technology has certainly moved on and the new phone is very easy to use, very responsive and has a very good camera. This gave me some glimmer of optimism that with our knowledge of the world’s processes and our rapid technological progress, there is hope. It must be possible to respond to what is happening, apply our minds to the climate emergency and start to really make a progress towards an ecological age, a new era of looking after our planet and its life forms. Time for change…and fast.
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.
Northumberland is the most sparsely populated region in England, and one of the many benefits of this (along with quiet roads, open spaces, and unspoiled landscapes) is the darkness of the night sky, which makes this area one of the best places for observing the stars and planets.
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.
One of my best selling cards is the view of Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland National Park, in winter, when on clear nights the stars glitter brightly in the dark skies to the north of the wall, a region with vast empty spaces and just a few remote farms and hamlets scattered across the land towards the Scottish border.
Today was one of the most beautiful winter days for a long time, with a completely clear blue sky and bright sunshine across Northumberland National Park, and the last leaves of autumn still adding some colour to the landscape. Not cold enough yet to freeze over on the rivers, but the weather forecast is for high pressure for some days to come, and cold, frosty nights. This image show the River Allen from Cupola Bridge a few years ago during a cold spell. It has been used in a previous Seasons of Northumberland calendar, and is still available as a Christmas card in the Northumberland Winter series. Hard winters are not welcomed by everyone, but the dry weather makes a pleasant change from some of the wet winters of recent years, and I have never met a photographer who does not enjoy at least a taste of traditional ‘winter’ weather from time to time.
The year has passed quickly and already the Christmas buying has started. Producers have to start planning Christmas months ahead, even though my personal Christmas plans are left until December. However, there are some new Christmas designs available, in the Northumberland Winter series, as well as the favourite subjetcs of Hadrian’s Wall, the Northumberland Coast, Northumberland National Park, and the castles, woodlands, rivers and hills of Northumberland. All the designs are available to buy online from this website, and I will be delighted to supply these cards for you to send Christmas greetings to your friends and family, whether here at home, or across the world.