Posted by: digibirder | July 5, 2007

On the road again

I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks now, and getting extremely annoyed with Blogger causing untold problems with the simple upload and posting of photos, hence my move to WordPress, which seems to be far more friendly in that respect. So, this is a bit of a retrospective post, due to the delay, and I just hope I can remember everything! I’ve slept a few times between then and now.

So, due to the weather not being all that good lately, as mentioned in my earlier posts, we’ve been staying close to home for the past few weeks. One particular Sunday wasn’t too bad, so we decided to have a little trip somewhere, but didn’t want to go too far as we knew it would soon be raining again. I remembered Quacky-birder and CherryPie had mentioned some time ago that Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, run by English Heritage, was quite nice, so as we hadn’t been there before, and it was not too long a drive, that’s where we decided to go. First stop was the tearoom for a spot of lunch, then a wander round the gardens, which were a bit bedraggled, I have to say, due to the rain. Part way round we felt spots of rain, so we headed for the house and had a wander round before setting off back home. Unfortunately, no photos were taken due to the rain.

Keith doesn’t normally get excited about wandering around stately homes and castles, etc, so it came as a bit of a shock when, on our way out, it was decided that we should, perhaps, join English Heritage. We are already National Trust members, and we don’t really manage to visit many of their properties, so I was a little surprised, but we joined up there and then. It will give us something to do if rain stops play and we can’t go birding, and be very useful when we’re on our trailer-tent-travels. Also, I think I must have enthused so much about my trip to Audley End and Eltham Palace when CherryPie and I went to stay with Pete, he decided he would like to see it, and joining would obviously make it a lot cheaper. We’ll be going there in a few weeks, and combining it with a trip into London.

Speaking of trips, we have been trying to get to Northumberland for some time, but John, who was arranging this trip for the three of us, which was to include a boat trip out to the Farne Islands, pulled his back and has been out of action for a few weeks. So, a couple of weeks ago we thought it would be third time lucky, but John had seen a severe weather warning for that area, so he backed out at the last minute, as he didn’t want to travel all that way only to find that the sailings were cancelled and that there would be little other birding possible in the bad weather that was forecast. He didn’t want to have a wasted trip and make his back worse. We said we would carry on regardless, and also decided that we would still take the trailer tent. We did check the forecast on the morning of our departure, to see if there was somewhere else to go with a better outlook. We had booked Friday and Monday off work, so we were determined to have a break somewhere, but it looked as if everywhere was going to get at least some rain over the weekend, so we stuck with Northumberland. If the weather did get really bad, we would cancel the trip out to the Farne Islands and come home.

So, off we went, straight up the A1 all the way, with only a bit of a hold-up around Newcastle. Part way there I realised that we had neither the National Trust book nor the newly-acquired English Heritage details (temporary card or guide book), so if we wanted to go to an EH place, we were stuck, unless they had our details on the computer and were willing to let us in without the card. We arrived early afternoon and the weather was fine and sunny. We had the tent up in no time at all. It really is a fantastic piece of kit. We love it.

So, after getting the tent up and things in place, still bright and sunny, we went off to explore and to see where we had to be for the boat trip on Saturday, if it was still going to be running. We drove to Seahouses and went down to the harbour to the booking office. By this time it had closed, but we noticed the other, shorter trips, just in case the weather was too bad for an all-day trip. After this we explored some back roads on the way back to the campsite and found a nice little pub where we had some fish and chips. Then back to camp to relax a bit before climbing into the comfortable bed and crashing out.

Next morning still looked OK with regard to the weather, but rain was forecast later. We arrived down at Seahouses harbour and asked about the sailing. They weren’t landing on Staple Island due to the heavy swell, and they hadn’t been able to for a few days, so they were taking the full-day bookings out to the island, just sailing around it, coming back to harbour and then back out for the landing on Inner Farne as normal. We thought this was a waste of time paying for the full day if landing wasn’t possible on one of the islands, so we downgraded to the afternoon trip just to Inner Farne, which was half the price of the full day. We had also been given a 10% discount voucher by the campsite, so this worked out cheaper than planned. Once this had been sorted, and as we didn’t have to be back until 12.30, we drove off for another little explore.

We have been to the area before, but it was a long time ago, so we tried to cram as much as possible into the weekend. First stop was Bamburgh and a walk round the castle area. There wasn’t time to go round the castle, but it is on the agenda for next time. There was time, however, for some light refreshment in the village tea room! Lovely scones. Then it was back to Seahouses for the afternoon boat trip.

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle from the village green

Looking towards Bamburgh Castle from Seahouses pier

The boat trip set off at about 1pm, momentarily disturbing some Eider Ducks in the harbour (quite a few of these around. We were first taken around the various islands that make up the Farnes, including Staple Island, before being taken back to Inner Farne for the one-hour wander round. Here are some photos taken from the boat.

Seals resting on one of the islands

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles

A bit closer in

Really close in

As Inner Farne is National Trust property, a fee is charged for landing (on top of the boat trip fee), except for NT members (and luckily we had remembered our cards, if not the guide book). One hour really is not enough. I was disappointed about the change to the full day trip, as that would have given two hours on both Staple and Inner Farne. Anyway, there were plenty of opportunities for some close-ups of the nesting birds and it was starting to rain shortly before we were due back at the boat.


Arctic Tern right by the path

Arctic Tern chick by the path


Arctic Tern in attack mode

Just lining up

And dive!


Arctic Tern keeping an eye on its chick


Hiding from the rain

Below are a couple of Keith’s efforts on Inner Farne. He uses an Olympus C765UZ with a 12x zoom.

Then it was back to land. I won’t say dry land, as it was starting to rain pretty fast by the time we arrived back in harbour. By the time we walked back to the car and retrieved the sandwiches from the boot, it was lashing down. We sat in the car and ate our sandwiches while deciding what to do with the rest of the day. There wasn’t a chance of any more birding due to the rain, so we had a little drive around, in the hope that it would stop raining, but no such luck, so we headed back to the campsite. Later that evening the rain cleared and we drove to a pub in the village for dinner.

Sunday morning dawned fine, despite more rain during the night. We decided to do a bit of exploring, so first destination of the day was Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Berwick old bridge


Looking through old bridge to new bridge and railway viaduct

It wasn’t glorious sunshine, but it was quite dull, and we hadn’t been there long before some more showers came. We found a tea room and had a coffee and a scone, then headed back south to Alnwick, where we visited Barter Books and had a wander round the town. We decided to forego visiting Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Garden and instead headed for Cragside, a National Trust property. First stop here was the restaurant for some lunch, then a wander around the house. This was the home of a Victorian inventor, Lord Armstrong, and was the first house in the world to be lit by electricity. It is crammed with gadgets, including a dishwasher in the kitchens. This only rinsed the crockery, apparently, before being washed proper in the sinks, but for the time this was probably highly revolutionary (more info HERE).

Looking from the house to the river

 View back to the house from part way down the rock garden

View from riverside

View up the cascade (note the Japanese Knotweed along the left riverbank!)

Then we had a wander round the extensive gardens. There is a car-trail and miles of footpaths. We chose to walk down the rock garden to the river and we were hoping to make it to the Formal Garden area, but we heard a clap of thunder and decided to head back to the car. We barely made it before the heavens opened! We drove round to the garden and wandered round in the rain – I imagine it would be glorious in sunshine. Another trip. So, we decided to head back to camp, and it soon became obvious that we hadn’t seen the worst of the rain where we had been, as we headed back to camp through flooded roads! Reminded me of back home a couple of weeks previously!! We got through safely, though, and made it back to the site, where the tent was, thankfully, still standing.

Next morning, we were thankful that it was sunny, as it gave the canvas a chance to dry out before being folded back into the trailer. Unfortunately, we were almost packed up when it began to spit with rain. We quickly folded up the trailer, but the rain became heavier, and there were many things lying on the grass that had to be dried out when we arrived home. The canvas only needed minimal airing to completely dry out. All in all, though, we had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.



  1. Cragside is fabbo. if you go back to the area check out Belsay castle the gardens are superb. In season shoudl get Spot Fly opportunities

    lovely pics Diane. he says jealously. you should get that camera out more often

    I am laughing my head off at Keith!!! when you get the membership book check out the list of non EH properties you get discounts at.

  2. Great pictures from the Farnes! We were hoping to go there this June but the weather scuppered our plans. Maybe next year.

    By the way, a lot of people seem to be moving from Blogger to WordPress.

  3. Fabulous pictures! I just adore those puffins.

    And I love the look of your new blog!

  4. Thanks, Roger. June 30th was when we went, and the weather did live up to its forecast!

    Attila, thanks. Puffins are quite delightful little birds, if a bit clumsy-looking on land.

  5. It’s grim up north. Stop giving our secrets away;)
    If you return to Northumberland, and want some local knowledge, please feel free to email me, if i can’t tell you i will look for the info.
    If you want wildlife,birds info (n,land) check out the BOULMER BIRDER. he is a nice bloke with fountains of knowledge and ready to share + it’s a good blog.

  6. Thanks, Stephen. We’ll certainly visit again some time. I had a quick look at your friend’s blog – it’s very good.

  7. Those are some beautiful photos you have! In case I missed it, but kind of equipment do you use?

  8. Thanks, Trent. And thanks for testing the comments. I use a Canon 10D with Sigma lenses – 18-50mm zoom, 135-400mm zoom and a 105mm macro.

  9. Oh I know this area well as we often travel out to Northumberland for a day out on our motorbike. We are on the North York Moors, just outside Whitby!
    Great blog!

  10. Thanks Denise. I see you have some nice photos on your blog. I have linked to you.

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