365 Day Photograph Challenge: Day 63

Bothal Castle at Dusk


Bothal Castle lies in what feels like a hidden valley. In truth it is only a mile or so downstream from Morpeth on the River Wansbeck, but it feels like it is in retreat from the world. The surviving castle, gatehouse and curtain wall are medieval. It was restored in the 19th century and is the private residence of the Cavendish-Bentinck family.

I hope to do a Hidden Northumberland segment on Bothal village as a whole when I have more photographs. The (former workers’) cottages are very quaint and the parish church can trace its origins to Anglo-Saxon times (with some surviving material of this age). The village’s war memorial is located outside the church and is flanked by a weeping ash (representing the tears of the bereaved) and a gorgeous Japanese maple that turns flame red in the autumn (symbolising the blood of the dead).

In the mean time, here is the castle at dusk on 4th March 2017.

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Bothal Castle, Northumberland, 4th March 2017

Almost a year ago, I took a very similar photograph of this scene. However, I was shooting hand-held in poor light and the resulting photograph was not as satisfactory as I would have liked. Like the earlier post on St Mary’s Church, Morpeth, I went back and had a look at my earlier work to see how my skills have improved. I’m quite pleased with my progress as the colour and detail are better one year on.

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Bothal Castle, Northumberland, 29th April 2016

Comparison of Camera Settings:


  • 1/15 sec exposure
  • f/5.6 55 mm
  • ISO 800


  • 10 sec exposure
  • f/5.6 73 mm
  • ISO 200

365 Day Photograph Challenge: February (Part Deux)

All the photos (15th – 28th February)

  • 15th Feb – The 1875 bandstand in Exhibition Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 16th Feb – Armstrong Building stairwell, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 17th Feb – Northumbrian Piper, Alistair Anderson
  • 18th Feb – The historic shop front of John Smail & Sons, Morpeth
  • 19th Feb – Morpeth townscape from St James’ Church tower, Morpeth
  • 20th Feb – Armstrong memorial, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 21st Feb – Quirky camel tea pot, throwing up the tea…
  • 22nd Feb – Car behaving like a devil
  • 23rd Feb – Philosophical graffiti, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 24th Feb – The Lodge, Carlisle Park, Morpeth
  • 25th Feb – Barter Books, Alnwick
  • 26th Feb – Curly Kews, Morpeth
  • 27th Feb – Eclectic still life
  • 28th Feb – Blossom in Exhibition Park, Newcastle upon Tyne

16th February – Armstrong Building Architecture

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The Armstrong Building is the oldest building on Newcastle University campus. It was constructed in three phases between 1887 and 1906. Originally designed by R. J. Johnson in 1887, architects F. W. Rich and W. H. Knowles contributed to its design following Johnson’s death in 1892. It is a grand Victorian building in Gothic Revival Architecture.

In this photograph I am looking up the main stair well from the entrance hall. I put the phone on timer and let it do the rest! Felt like such a pillock, but took solace in the fact that as I walked in, two students were taking exactly the same photograph.

  • Device – Samsung Galaxy GX-1S
  • 1/100 sec exposure
  • f/2.2 4.8 mm
  • ISO 40

19th February – Morpeth Townscape

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A very rare view over Morpeth. I was very kindly given access to the tower of St James’ Church by the vicar. To access the roof, one must crawl underneath the church bell that is hung at the top of the tower stair turret. Thankfully the vicar had cleared out all the pigeon muck before we went up!

  • Device – Samsung GX-1S
  • 1/250 sec exposure
  • f/4 18 mm
  • ISO 200

25th February – Barter Books, Alnwick

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Barter Books is an incredible second hand book shop, situated in Alnwick. It is based in the former railway station building. The owners have made it really warm and welcoming and it is the perfect place to visit on a cold and/or wet winter’s day. The words suspended on the banners between the bookcases are from the Song of Solomon 2:10, Old Testament.

  • Device – Samsung GX-1S
  • 1/50 sec exposure
  • f/4 26 mm
  • ISO 800

26th February – Curly Kews, Morpeth

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The poetically named Curly Kews was opened in the 1960s to allow access to the newly built housing estate at the top of the bank. I didn’t think I would get out to do any photography as it rained most of the day. By early evening it had stopped and I took the camera and tripod out. Really pleased with this light trail. The only thing that could have made it better would be if I had captured the passing car as it crossed the bridge.

  • Device – Samsung GX-1S
  • 20 sec exposure
  • f/16 33 mm
  • ISO 200

365 Day Photograph Challenge: February (Part 1)

All the photos (1st – 14th February)!

  • 1st Feb – The Quadrangle, Newcastle University (the pretty part of campus).
  • 2nd Feb – The newly refurbished Central Station Metro Station, Newcastle.
  • 3rd Feb – Microbiology revision!
  • 4th Feb – Beautiful Warkworth on the Northumberland Coast.
  • 5th Feb – The Arches, Newcastle University Campus.
  • 6th Feb – Marking the Sapphire Jubilee of Elizabeth II with memorabilia (cheap tat) from the Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
  • 7th Feb – Morpeth Cenotaph by night.
  • 8th Feb – Date inscription on the 6th bell (of 8) hung in Morpeth Clock Tower.
  • 9th Feb – Daffodil (sadly shop bought).
  • 10th Feb – Cockle Park Pele Tower in the snow (see Hidden Northumberland post).
  • 11th Feb – Warming pub fire on a cold wet day.
  • 12th Feb – St Mary’s Church, Morpeth (see earlier 365 Photo Challenge post).
  • 13th Feb – Morpeth’s Ancient Chantry at night.
  • 14th Feb – Morpeth Market Place at night.

4th February – Warkworth Village

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Warkworth is a beautiful and ancient village set in an idyllic location in a meander of the River Coquet, not far from the river mouth. The river is very popular with water sports enthusiasts in the summer months and is also great for walking along for the less adventurous. Warkworth beach is just a short walk from the village. At the other end of the village, the medieval castle dominates the landscape. It really is a super little spot on the coast and I highly recommend it. The day I went up, it was a gorgeous winter day with few clouds in the sky.

  • Device – Samsung GX-1S
  • 1/1,600 sec exposure
  • f/11 50 mm
  • ISO 800

5th February – The Arches, Newcastle University Campus

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Arguably one of the most iconic features on Newcastle University campus. The Arches are part of the quadrangle area and were built in the early 20th century as part of Armstrong College. In the distance, the church of St Thomas the Martyr can be seen. This church is the base of the university’s chaplaincy. Designed by John Dobson, it opened in 1830.

I’m relatively happy with this photo. I used the linear polarising filter, although it was probably not necessary. Despite it being a Sunday, there were still many people walking around on campus and the LP filter automatically darkens the photograph. To compensate I had to increase the ISO and use a relatively short exposure for night photography. If I hadn’t used the filter, I could’ve used a lower ISO. The compromise is that the photograph is grainier than I would have liked.

  • Device – Samung GX-1S
  • 3 sec exposure
  • f/5.6 26 mm
  • ISO 800

13th February – The Chantry, Morpeth, at night

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The Chantry is the oldest building extant in Morpeth. It was constructed around A.D. 1300 as All Saints’ Chantry Chapel. Over the centuries it has had many uses including a school, a mineral water factory, a museum and craft centre. Originally it would have been cruciform (cross-shaped) when it was built. However, the transepts were demolished in the 18th century to make way for an extension that was built in 1738 in facsimile architecture on the south side of the building.

I was particularly pleased with this photograph as there were no cars parked in Chantry Place (a first!). Sadly, there were roadworks signs on Bridge Street (I suppose beggars can’t be choosers!).

  • Device – Samsung GX-1S
  • 1 sec exposure
  • f/5.6 18 mm
  • ISO 200

14th February – Morpeth Market Place at night


The focal point of Morpeth’s history, the Market Place. In this photograph you can see the front of the 1714 Town Hall (left), the 1634 Clock Tower, and the 1905 YMCA Building (far right).

There was a mist in the air the night I took this photo and I like the way the floodlights highlighted it. The Clock Tower is flood lit and looks very orange at night. It was very difficult to adjust the white balance for this. I guess the photograph still looks a little on the yellow-side…

  • Device – Samsung GX-1S
  • 15 sec exposure
  • f/13 23 mm
  • ISO 200

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.