Saturday, 20 February 2010

A Walk to Moot Law

It is a gorgeous, cold, sunny day here in Northumberland - just the weather to go for a good walk, though the boundless views that are to be found here were somewhat spoilt by mistiness.
I set off going south from the village up a hill to the site of an old WW2 Observation Post. The post is marking the place where the underground room has been filled in. Just beside it is the sheet of corrugated cement that was part of the roof

I turned left towards the very top of one of the largest quarries in Northumberland, which was mothballed towards the end of last year. Since then this bit of it has filled with water, which makes it quite beautiful. When it finally closes, much of the area will be reinstated as grazing land, but there will be an area at the very tip as a large pond or small lake nature reserve. As the Quarry extended outwards, they had reinstated as they went, so much of it is grazing already.

Looking to the SW, the fault line marks the end of the limestone that they are quarrying. On the other side of the dip, the Whinstone starts. It runs from Holy Island and right across to the Pennines, with the Roman Wall following its Northern edge for quite a long way. Kirkheaton stands on it and as it is an extremely hard rock, it is very difficult digging graves in the Church Yard!! It does mean that they are never going to want to bring the quarry any nearer to the village, though.

Having taken pictures of the frozen quarry, I walked south again, on an ancient road which was once the route to Hexham. Mr Bowman, at the very end of the 1800's, took his horse and cart that way on market days and took stuff either way for a fee. That little business is now Proudlock's Transport, with great big lorries parked at the bottom of the village and carrying livestock all over the north of England and southern Scotland. From little acorns..... Three of his grandsons still work in the business. The road has not been a proper track for a very long time.

The road has been cut by the quarry and is not seen again until you reach the B road that passes the gate to the quarry at its southern extremity. The very last of it here is at Kirkheaton Gate, where it crossed the Parish boundary. There is still an old gatepost to be seen. I remember when the gate was still there and the track went on. It is sad when historical things like that go.

Here the right of way goes on the outside of the Parish Boundary towards the West. I followed it to the end of the quarry and then cut across up the hill to Moot Law. Here are both the holding tank for our water supply and a medieval platform for a beacon.
The water supply is fed by an aqueduct from 3 different reservoirs, one on the Scottish Border, near to Carter Bar. It goes down to the Whittle Dean Treatment works, between the A69 and the Military Road. I don't know who else it supplies, but part of it is pumped up to the tank on Mootlaw and it then finds its own way down to Kirkheaton, on to Ingoe and Ryal and Matfen. Ironically, the aqueduct passes through Matfen. Ours is the first house on the supply line since they renewed the pipes in about 2000. We were last on the line before that. We now have a really decent pressure and clean water!!!

I walked across to the Beacon site from the tank, just a hundred yards or so. There is a large square platform with a well marked edge. Just in from the edge is a trig point at 258 metres (838 ft), the highest point anywhere in the vicinity. (The village is at 220m/715ft) This is why there is a 365 degree view . It is only spoilt by a strip of wood immediately to the east. Starting from the sea (which I could not see because of poor visibility) and coming round to the north, you see the Simonside Hills and The Cheviot, both covered in snow. On round to the west are the Pennines and then down to the Lake District hills, across the Pennines again and to the Durham hills and round past Newcastle and its surroundings back to the coast which is here hidden by the trees. It was no good trying to photo the view, partly because of the visibility and also because the hills are so far away that they would not make a good picture without specialist equipment.

In the centre of the platform is an irregular mound which is presumably the structure that was used for the beacon.

After that, I turned for home, still a good walk away, down, along, up, along and down to the the gate that I had come through at the start.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Bereavement Visiting Training

I have just completed Bereavement Visiting Training and have a certificate to prove it.

We were a happy group of people. I suppose that the fact that we gelled so well was because we all had the desire to help people who were having trouble getting to grips with a loss. We had all had our own losses of various degrees of awfulness. The really surprising thing was how quickly we came to trust each other. On the first day we had a practical exercise, when we had to tell a story that had happened to us - another was a 'listener' and the third an observer. Even on that occasion, some very deep tales were told. The listening bit is the most important part of being a bereavement visitor. This pattern of excercise was often repeated. The speaker either told something of importance to themselves or played the part of someone who had a problem eg had got stuck and was not progressing through the mourning process. The listener was the one who was learning. It was a bit hair-raising sometimes. It gave you a hint as to what you might meet for real and could you cope? The observer and the speaker gave positive criticism after. I learnt that I could listen fine but there were weaknesses in the process after that. I know that I will be able to do better for real after those excercises.

We spent much time over the training period brainstorming various things such as 'what is a good/bad death', why are some people having trouble grieveing, various complictions in grief, what make good listening, handling silence. A knowledge of grief and the process of mourning and the many things that can get in the way are all helpful when trying to be helpful. The most important thing that we had to learn was that we were not there to advise or make it better. We are there to listen (always needed by someone in mourning) and to enable the mourner to make progress.

I now wait, with some trepidation, for my first call to visit.

Monday, 8 February 2010

February Garden, post bad snow.

Not much to show this month. The Witch Hazel is coming out at last though
I passed Viburnum bodnantense by - its flowers are looking very sad and if it was thinking of coming back, the weather forcast for this week will change its mind!

Instead, I took a picture of these golden leaves as an example of what can be done to cheer you with foliage. Around the garden there are many different greens, golds, silver and many shades of brown. They form a background in summer but are the core of a winter garden.

Hiding away were these promises of Spring to come.

and next door this Lonicera nitida is looking very sad as I had to cut it hard back. It had been allowed to encroach on the path anyway and then the weight of the snow brought it right over, so now it does not look pretty! It will come again though and I may yet reduce its height as well.

While on the sadder things, here is a picture of one of the many brown patches on the lawn. It is probably a fungus which develops if snow lies on grass for too long. It can be seen on other lawns as well as ours and the greens of golf courses are badly affected. A young man who lives in the village and is a trainee at a local course is going to get advice from his boss for us. I think that fertiliser when the grass starts to grow and a fungicide next October may be the treatment. When I hear, I shall put the advice on the Gardening Club Forum of Purple Coo.

And now two happier pictures to cheer you as you leave

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Visit to Bolam Lake

This morning, G and I decided that we wanted to walk somewhere different, so we went off to Bolam Lake. This used to be part of the grounds of Bolam Hall but now belongs to Northumberland County Council and is available for all to enjoy. Usually there are plenty of people walking, picnicing or even canoeing on the lake, but it was really lovely today because we nearly had the place to ourselves and there were no noisy children, so we could hear the birds uninterrupted!

Bolam Hall was built about 1800, on the site of the village of Bolam, which disappeared after the Great Plague. The lake was made by the then owners and many interesting trees were planted, some of which are still to be seen.
Having parked in a road-side car park, we walked round the end of the lake and along most of the other side, towards the Visitor Centre. We passed this view of the lake.

Unfortunately, the swans, various varieties of duck and the seagulls were feeding too far away, off the end of the island. Even when I went right in on the photo, they could not be seen, but there were a great crowd of them, all making use of an area that was ice-free. A little further along we came to this leaning tree.

I loved the line and filigree nature of it, only spoilt by the detritis that was set in the ice underneath it.

When we got to the Visitor Centre we looked at the plan of the site and decided to follow a tack round through the trees and rond the edge of the site, which passes an iron age fort. I am glad that we did because on the way we passed this monster.

All through the woods, and particularly near the lake, where there are a number of rhododendrons, there was much damage caused by the weight of the snow. A lot of work had already been done, especially where paths had been blocked, but there is much more to do. I expect that this monster had reached this state before the snow, probably by degrees over the last few years, with a gale taking it to its current stage. I wonder how many years it has seen.

Sadly, we failed to find the iron age fort but we completed our walk back at our car park and returned home feeling much refreshed for the hour in the fresh air.