We travelled to Northumberland on Monday and have spent the past few days relaxing and unwinding. We have been a couple of times before and this area is one of my favourite places to be. It’s full of big skies and open fields and the sea is literally a stone’s throw away from where we’re camping.
We’re on a site that is part of a working farm in the village of Elford. I say “village” but really it is a crossroads with a farm, a manor house and a small row of cottages tucked in behind one of the farm’s barns. We’re about a mile and half from Seahouses, and about 4 miles from Bamburgh, and we visited both of those places yesterday while out on an 8 mile bike ride from the site.
This is a view of Bamburgh Castle that we stumbled upon from one of the country lanes:
You can see the wheat fields in the foreground and the sea beyond the castle. Just to the right of this are the Farne Islands, which look like a good Spring tide would flood them out of existence but are actually home to thousands of seabirds, seals and puffins and also house 3 separate lighthouses. I think a boat trip over there might be in order later in the week.
Apart from the bike ride yesterday morning, we had a lovely relaxing lazy day yesterday. We were blessed with sunshine all day long and it was lovely to sit outside the caravans to just chat, crochet, do puzzles and drink tea together yesterday afternoon. Today has been a slightly different story, beginning with thunderous and torrential rain pretty much all night long. It has been raining most of the day today and even though there are some blue patches in the sky, the angry grey clouds are chasing them away almost as soon as the torrents slow to a drip, as they are doing now and again.
We had a little drive out to Coldstream today on account of the weather as it is the home of the Coldstream Guards and promised a museum to go and visit. It’s about 20 miles or so away from here and the journey was a lovely toddle through the most beautiful countryside we can boast in England. I got a small shock when we crossed over the River Tweed, and passed over the border to Scotland (I didn’t realise Coldstream wasn’t in England – oops!), but the countryside on the Scottish side of the border was just a beautiful as it was on the English side.
The Coldstream museum is a very small affair, but it fairly comprehensively gave the history of the Guards and explained how they came into existence and the role they have played in British military history. There was also a room of exhibits that gave a bit of the social history of Coldstream too, which was interesting to read about. A highlight for me was when a couple of currently-serving guardsmen came in to have a look around. Obviously on “downtime” they were having a bit of a laugh and larking about, which was nice to see. They were just young lads really and it was a strange feeling to realise that they were probably older than some of the soldiers that were killed in the First World War, which we have been commemorating recently. One of the lads tried on one of the display tunics which was an example of a uniform from about 100 years ago. He was amazed that it was basically the same as the one they wear on duty nowadays, except this one was missing its buttons. “Quick, to the stores before we get put on a charge for that!” he said to his mates. We had a little chat with them and they were very friendly and informative about their uniforms and their guard duties down at Windsor and Buckingham Palace. An unexpected bonus which brought the past and the present to life for us in the tiny museum.
Outside, the driver showed off his “prowess” at driving the minibus away…only, he forgot he’d put the handbrake on and was very embarrassed in front of us (and no doubt came in for some extreme ribbing from his pals). I don’t doubt he can drive a military truck or a tank, but a minibus was a bit beyond him today.
After the museum we had a little walk through the town, having a spot of lunch at a tea-shop called “Mad Hatter’s Tea Shop”, which was lovely, and into a remembrance garden next to the Tweed.
This is a curve in the Tweed, which looks superb for fly fishing, if you’re into that sort of thing. Looking at the peace and tranquillity of it I wouldn’t mind giving it a go myself!
On the way back to site we stopped off at the Flodden Battlefield. I don’t fully understand how the two armies came to be fighting on that day, but basically the English took on the Scots and even though the two sides were hugely mismatched in terms of weaponry, artillery and manpower the Scots suffered a huge defeat and the English “won”. I say it in quote marks like that because in just a couple of hours in the afternoon of 9th September 1513, nearly 50,000 men were slaughtered on the battlefield. Many more would have died from wounds later on, and several lords and noblemen subsequently lost their heads as a result of their poor decision making or outright cowardice during the battle. Good old Henry VIII. Not even there yet still demanded the execution of those that “failed” in the battle that day.
Here is a view of Branxton Hill on which the battle took place. I was standing where the middle of the English front line was judged to have stood. The Scots army would have been in that field directly opposite and as they were on the higher ground they should have been victorious that day, but they weren’t because of the boggy ground in the middle (where the small humpy ridge is before the hedge line halfway up the picture).
I find it amazing that so much bloodshed could have happened in such a short space of time and in such a small area as this. Flodden is thought to have been the last major medieval battle and just being on the site today gave me shivers thinking about the lives that were lost.
Back at the campsite now and I’m off to try and find a spot where I can connect to the wi-fi for long enough to post this, then it’s back to the van for sausage casserole for tea. Might have a bit of a leg-stretcher on the bikes later, or we might have a drive up the coast to find the tide times for the crossing to Lindisfarne tomorrow or Friday. Bliss.