Archive for August, 2011

Walk To Low Newton – Stinking Newton (17 July 2011)

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
Bodyboards In A Line

Bodyboards In A Line

Today was a glorious northern beach day, with sun, thunder & lightning but no wind.  Having bought wet suits at the Farne Islands Gift Shop in Seahouses (it used to be called Mackays when I was a kid), I ran into the North Sea on Beadnell Bay, as did my son and daughter.  We swam and played jump the waves and body boarding.  It really is still as cold as it always was, but neoprene does stop the wind-chill when you get out and keeps you warm when in the sea, however unsexy you look.  Beadnell Bay is a great place to play in the sea, swim, jump the waves, body board or even surf, then there are the rock pools at Snook Point to potter around in looking for hermit crabs and crabs.

After supper, my mum and I walked in the evening sun across the dunes from Links Farm in Newton-by-the-Sea to Low Newton.  On the way there, we took a pretty direct route along the path which was functional and boring, although we looked at Football Hole Cove where a chap was going through his yoga positions on a mat as the sun went down – alone on the beach.  We left him to it.  No one seems to know why it is called Football Hole Cove, but I like to think that Bobby and Jackie Charlton, with their Milburn relatives, came here on trips when they were young and kicked a football around on the beach watched on by the matriach, Cissie Charlton (née Milburn).  Probably, it is more to do with the shape of the bay that curves as if a football was kicked high and landed plonk on the beach.

View Across Newton Haven To Dunstanburgh Castle

View Across Newton Haven To Dunstanburgh Castle

As you get two thirds of the way, you have one of those views that you must see before you die: as you crest Newton Point you get your first glimpse over Embleton Bay south towards Dunstanburgh Castle.  Dunstanburgh Castle has that gothic feel of ruined stone jutting out into the cold, grey sea, but from a distance it looked warm in the sun’s last rays, a becoming viewpoint.  Down the hill, you see St Mary’s Haven with fishing and sailing boats shining in reflected rays. 

View To Low Newton

View To Low Newton

Low Newton is a tiny hamlet centred around a rectangle of white painted small houses.  Low Newton has one of best seaside pubs, The Ship Inn, famed for its locally caught crab, lobster and fish and run by the delightful Hertfordshire landlady, Christine Forsyth, who we met walking three flat coated black retrievers over the dunes while on the walk.  My mum had walked there earlier in the day and it stank of gaseous sewerage which is actually the sun working on the seaweed that gives off nauseous odours, giving Low Newton its nickname of Stinking Newton.

On the way back, we walked over the dunes by the coast, which was much better if a bit longer.  There was no one else out walking, so we had the coast to ourselves and the birds.

Hyper Energetic Sanderlings At Football Hole Cove

Hyper Energetic Sanderlings At Football Hole Cove

At Football Hole Cove, the oyster catchers (about 9 of them) were busily chattering amongst themselves as they walked through the rock pools and wrack hunting for food with their Geordie black and white clear against the dark greens of the seaweed, and then a curlew towering above them just visible in its mottled brown camouflage and huge curved beak.  Sanderlings frantically skittered along the shoreline, charging frenetically into the wake of the outflowing waves, full of nervous energy; they danced a funny dance with furiously jiggering black legs.  An eider duck family was playing in the waves by the shore with a medium sized baby.  Everywhere there were Arctic and Common terns flying back and forth with small slivery and glittery fish to nests on Beadnell Bay or perhaps over to the Farne Islands; every so often you could see shags, kittiwakes or gulls flying over the black & blue sea.  Along the dunes, swallows and larks can be seen flying hither and thither with that beautiful lilting tsirrup tsirrup.

Sunset Over Beadnell Bay

Sunset Over Beadnell Bay

The sun was setting across Football Hole Cove.  Then we went over the dunes rather than around Snook Point and down onto Beadnell Bay where we were all on our own.  This is perhaps my favourite beach in the world – a long curve round to Beadnell at the north.  Empty except for a few intrepid souls.  I could stand on the shoreline and watch the waves in perpetual flow in and out, such energy and that roar of pure physical power.  Sometimes there is a sea fisherman at the edge of the waves or out on Snook Point, pitting their wits against nature and sometimes winning.  In the distance, you may see sailing boats or windsurfers’ sails around Beadnell Bay and in the distance the odd fishing boat or on the horizon a commercial vessel.

Further south you have the beauty of Embleton Bay and Dunstanburgh Castle or north to Bamburgh Castle, and down south there may be a better climate, but as a beach Beadnell Bay cannot be beaten.

Walk Around Some Of Glenkiln Sculptures (16 July 2011)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Sometimes you come across something truly beautiful.  Something simple, yet seemingly perfect.  So it was the other day when, on the way from a week near Kirkcudbright in Dumfries & Galloway we turned off the A75 near Dumfries to Shawhead and then to Glenkiln.  My parents had given us the heads up about the Glenkiln Sculptures.

Nestled amongst the gentle lowland hills in the Borderlands, Sir William Keswick, a local laird, has placed statues by Epstein, Moore and Rodin.  While open to the public, the Glenkiln sculptures are kept beneath the radar screen as unscrupulous vandals have attacked them in the past for their nihilist follies.  Anyway, you drive up single track lanes until you reach the head of the Glenkiln Reservoir and park in a tiny car park beside an sculpture by Auguste RodinSt John the Baptist”, who stands in classical poise on top of a small mound surveying the glen and the black faced sheep.  It is a strong, masculine and Romano-Grecian style of artistry of a taught muscled St John who holds out his arm with a crooked finger beckoning to us the people, the flock (or perhaps the sheep are the flock and we are the sheep).  The sculpture is a statement of what Rodin could do before he found his own more fluid and sensuous style.  But remember this is not Florence with Donatello’s “David” or Paris with Rodin’s “The Thinker”, because here we are in the Anglo-Scottish Borderlands.

Auguste Rodin Sculpture Of St John the Baptist

Rodin's St John the Baptist

From there, we walked up Shiel Head past a pink painted farmhouse, Margreig, to the brow of the hill to what from a distance looks like a Celtic cross blessing the hill since time immemorial, The Glenkiln Cross.  But as you get closer the cross becomes angular shapes, that become more curved and fluid.  Then as we reached the summit, it seemed to morph into an abstract male form, a dismembered torso, that suggested Michelangelo’s David across the glen.  Although modern and abstract, this sculpture has the feel of a muscular male, but with less strength than languid, gym-trained muscularatory.  Taught muscles that hint at gym strength with real-life weakness that comes from a beautifying physique, rather than the brute physical strength of warriors like the Campbells or Douglases from when these Borderlands were fought over by real men and women.  Or perhaps it lends itself more to abstract Mayan and Mexican art with its flowing forms and motifs.  Then as we went down the hill it became a cross again.

Henry Moore's Cross At Glenkiln Reservoir

Henry Moore's Glenkiln Cross

We then went back to the other end of Glenkiln Reservoir to the Henry MooreKing And Queen”.  I parked in a lay-by and walked up a slight incline to this most exquisite of sculptures.  This pair sits quietly contemplating the view towards Skeoch across the water.  It is a truly intimate piece with this delightful pair lovingly sitting, close to each other, happy and peaceful in their own moment of quietness.  This King and Queen are an old couple, comfortable in each others’ company, solid together but becoming weaker with age.  The lines and forms are brilliantly simple with a minimal of detail that conjures up the idea of people, one male and the other female.

Moore's The King And Queen

Moore's The King And Queen

It is two people enjoying a moment together, absorbing the view and thinking back over their lives.  They seem to be considering the view, where humans have reshaped the glen, damning the Old Water to build this small reservoir.  The manmade water has its own beauty like a loch, but the old environment was destroyed to create this new artificial one.   What does humanity do in its own name to satisfy its desire for progress?  Is it good or bad? Why must we destroy something that nature made to create something new that man made?  We have dug up ores and wrought metals to make this gorgeous statue and built a picturesque lake, yet at what damage.  The King asks the Queen “Did we do good?” and she answers “Only time will tell, my dear, but we tried our best.  Isn’t it a beautiful view?”

View Of Glenkiln Reservoir With Moore's King And Queen

View Of Glenkiln Reservoir With Moore's King And Queen

And I walked back down the hill and, while we had not seen all the statues, we all drove to Northumberland as time was pressing and the children had lost interest.

Two places for tea – The Old School House and Galloway Activity Centre

Monday, August 1st, 2011

I seemed to spend the first week of our holidays driving a triangle from Loch Ken to Cream O’ Galloway at Rainton and then to Kirkcudbright, ferrying our kids from activity to activity.  We did manage to break for tea a few times. 

Firstly, there is the delightful Old School House on the A75 itself that serves a good Brodies tea (I had Darjeeling) and a great selection of home made cakes, including brownies, fridge cakes, cheesecakes and a fruit frangipani that I indulged in.  Well worth a stop, should you have the time.  I will do a longer review next year when we revisit Dumfries & Galloway for our jollies.

Secondly, much more functional and certainly less indulgent, you could turn off the A713 to the Galloway Activity Centre and is a couple of miles from Parton.  It is a sailing centre*, but the food here is home baked and reasonably priced, so great if you are happy to have your tea in a mug and to take out your teabag yourself.  The shortbread, chocolate brownies and chocolate cake with pears are all heavenly and you can watch the boats or windsurfers floating on Loch Ken from the safety of the decking outside or the newly enlarged viewing area indoors.  And pricing is ideal: hot chocolate £1.20; tea or coffee £1.00; scone £1.25; shortbread 60p or £1.00 depending on size; tray bakes £1.35; brownie £1.00; and tarts £1.25.

*  You can also do windsurfing, power boating, kayaking, mountain biking, archery, laser quest, climbing wall, abseiling, zip wire etc, or further down the loch there is a water ski centre.