Hidden Northumberland: Morpeth in Springtime

The plants coming back to life helps to lift spirits.

Whilst on my 365 Day Photograph Challenge, I am always trying to find new places in my hometown to photograph. Usually, I rarely spend any time wandering around Morpeth as I spend most of my time working in Newcastle and commuting to and fro. But, with the impetus of having to find at least one photograph every day, it has encouraged me to get out when I can and find new and different angles.

It has also made me appreciate just how well our public spaces are cared for and maintained. Perhaps something we can take for granted, but this year’s spring displays have been stunning and I would like to thank everyone who has worked on them. They are truly appreciated!

Here is a selection of some of my favourites.

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Cherry blossom against a stormy sky (juxtaposition to the max!), crab apple blossom, and Morpeth Cenotaph peeping out from behind tulips.

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Tulips and cherry blossom on the Newcastle Road

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Morpeth Court House viewed from Carlisle Park

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Cherry blossom next to the Chantry Bridge and Acers in full leaf in Carlisle Park

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Church of St James the Great

Hidden Northumberland: Howick Bathing House

Built in the early 19th century by the 2nd Earl Grey, the Bathing House was specifically for his children to go bathing in the North Sea. With its dramatic setting on a remote headland, it is a Grade II Listed Building and is currently a self-catered holiday home owned by Howick Trustees Ltd. It is located within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which encompasses 100 miles of coast from Berwick in the north to the mouth of the River Coquet in the south. The walk from the Bathing House along the coast to Craster and onto Dunstanburgh Castle is beautiful and is well worth doing on a bright, sunny day.

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Interesting sandstone geology.

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Golden sands are a common feature of Northumberland’s beaches. The sandstone cliffs provide natural shelter making the cove a safe place to bathe (in the frigid waters of the North Sea!). The ruins of the 14th Century Dunstanburgh Castle some 5 miles to the north can be seen in the distance.

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Brave/foolish/crazy girls jumping into the sea from the cliffs.

Hidden Northumberland: Howick Hall & Gardens

Home to a 19th century social reformer.

Built in 1782, Howick Hall is the (former) seat of the Earls Grey. The most notable resident was Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister of the UK 1830-34. Perhaps better known for lending his name to Earl Grey Tea! A Whig Politician (Liberal), his government oversaw the Great Reform Act of 1832 which reformed the House of Commons and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 which largely ended slavery throughout the British Empire by 1838. To date, he is the only UK Prime Minister to have hailed from Northumberland.

The west wing of the house is still inhabited by descendants of Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, but are of a different branch of the family that does not inherit the title, ‘Earl Grey’. The extensive gardens and arboretum are open to the public. Spring is a good time to visit the gardens as a number of spring plants are in flower, such as daffodils, rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias.

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A fire in 1926 devastated the interior of the main hall and it largely had to be rebuilt. The restoration was completed by 1928 and is recorded in the artwork above the main entrance.

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Inscription on the side of the tomb of Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, in Howick Parish Church

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Magnolia (left) and Camellia in full bloom

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The gardens are home to many different varieties of Rhododendrons that flower in spring. The photograph at the bottom is of Rhododendron Sinogrande which was flowering for only the second time since it was planted in 1990. (That’s a long time to be taking stock!)

Hidden Northumberland: Morpeth by Night

Pretty little Morpeth.

I’ve been out practising night photography a lot this year. I have now compiled quite an archive of my home town at night. Here are the fruits of my labour! I hope you enjoy them.

The River

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The Bakehouse Stepping Stones

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Telford Bridge (1831) with River Wansbeck in flood

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Chantry Footbridge, a Victorian (1869) wrought iron bridge resting upon medieval abutments and central pier.

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The riverside walk through Carlisle Park

The Market Place

The ancient market place lies at the heart of the town centre and remains the focal point of social life in Morpeth.

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The 17th century Clock Tower and (1885) Hollon Fountain, guarding the entrance to Oldgate

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Clockwise from top left: YMCA Building (1905), Market Place from NE Corner, Town Hall (1714), Hollon Fountain (1885)

Light Trails

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Bridge Street

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The Court House (1822)

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Curly Kews

Miscellaneous

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Carlisle Park Lodge, Sanderson Arcade and the 13th Century Chantry

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Ephesus Turkish Restaurant

24 March

St George’s Church Rose Window (1860)

Hidden Northumberland: Wallington Crocuses

A carpet of crocuses

Since the start of March, Wallington’s Walled Garden has featured a lot on social media groups that I follow. (One has to have sources of inspiration.) At the weekend, the family and I went up to Wallington to have a look at the crocuses that have been so widely talked about. The rumour is that the former head gardener planted the crocuses before his departure last year. Whether there is any truth in this I don’t know. However, the crocus lawn has never been there in all the years I have been visiting Wallington (including last year). It is simple but stunning!

Wallington Hall and its grounds are a National Trust property. There is too much of Wallington to cover in one post. I aim to do a series of posts about it in the future.

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Just a little disappointing that it was a grey day and the crocuses were closed up! (Beggars can’t be choosers!)

Hidden Northumberland: Alnwick

More than just the Castle and Harry Potter.

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The Bailiffgate Entrance to Alnwick Castle (a rarely used image in publicity photos)

Most people who have heard of Alnwick immediately associate it with its Castle, Garden and Harry Potter. The broomstick flying lesson was filmed in the grounds of the castle for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001). The castle is owned by the Duke of Northumberland. Some of the castle is open to the public, but most of the keep is the Duke’s private residence. Opened in 2001, the Alnwick Garden is a labour of love by Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland. Together, the Castle and Garden are undoubtedly the highlight of a visit to this rural market town. Alnwick is perhaps not an obvious candidate for Hidden Northumberland. However, there are some other hidden gems to visit in Alnwick that are worth a look.

Bailiffgate Museum

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The Bailiffgate Museum Exterior

Set in a former Roman Catholic church, the Bailiffgate Museum is a local history museum that is run by local volunteers. Exhibits tell the history of Alnwick from ancient history to the present time. There are many local artefacts on display that give it a personal touch. Importantly, it is very child-friendly with many activities to keep the little ones entertained.

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Market Place and Town Hall

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The Market Place is overlooked by Alnwick’s Georgian Town Hall

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In the summer many cafés have outdoor seating in the market place and one can imagine one it sitting in a continental square – weather permitting!

Barter Books

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Barter Books, one of the best, local second-hand bookshops

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Situated in the former Alnwick railway station, Barter Books is a tremendous establishment. Their stock of second-hand books covers all genres and all reference books. It is a great place to spend a couple of hours on a cold, wintry day. The station buffet is lovely and serves food throughout the day. Perfect if you want to cosy up to the fire with a hot drink and a good book! I find the setting is just right for a spot of Agatha Christie.

Northumbrian Concert 2017

A grand night out!

Every year, the weekend after Easter, an annual celebration is held in the sleepy market town of Morpeth to appreciate Northumbrian culture, dialect, music and tradition. The Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the social calendar. In the depths of winter, a concert is held in Morpeth Town Hall to help raise funds for the Gathering weekend. It is an opportunity for people to escape the cold, chase away those winter blues and generally lift spirits. It is always a fantastic evening of entertainment. This year I was very grateful to be given the opportunity to photograph the occasion. It was a challenge I really enjoyed. Here are some of the highlights from the evening.

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Colin Bradford and his as yet untitled band (this may have been their debut performance together)

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Anita James and Ernie Gordon (harmonica, guitar, and vocals – not all at the same time!)

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M.C. Alex Swailes M.B.E. introduces Bob Bolam (ukulele and vocals)

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Border Directors – Our own Morpeth lot! (John Bibby, bass; Kim Bibby-Wilson; accordion and mandolin; Matt Seattle, border smallpipes and fiddle; Derek Poxton, guitar)

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The Mayor of Morpeth, Cllr Andrew Tebbutt, enjoying the concert

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Robin Dunn and Fiddler’s Elbow

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Ann Wilkinson (guitar and vocals), Alistair Anderson (concertina and Northumberland smallpipes)

What are the Northumbrian Smallpipes do I hear you ask? Well, they are similar to the Scottish Highland Bagpipes. However, they are substantially smaller and are bellows-blown rather than mouth-blown (far more hygienic!). They also produce a much softer and sweeter tone than their Scottish cousins.

Here is the great man in action.