Herrington Country Park ~ March 2018 ~ Part 2


Part 1 Here

We left the lake behind and went off to walk around the park. It had been raining quite a lot in previous days so the ground was a bit soggy, but the paths not too bad.  There are seating bits all around the park which are decorated with scenes supposedly celebrating the heritage of the area. The first, I presume, is to do with Sunderlands ship-building industry. They made some great paper boats. 😉

Sailing ship seat

This next one I’m not too sure about, sunbathing I think is not part of Sunderlands cultural heritage, nor indeed is any sunshine much at all, but I guess it’s good to dream..

Sunbathing seat
Flipflops and lovely lichen

The other seat we came across also doesn’t really have anything to do with cultural heritage, though it’s closer in weather conditions,

Snowman seat

Plenty of dog-walkers about of course, and this little Chappy at the back here jumped up at Sophies legs, the bottom of her new red trousers nicely splotted with muddy paw prints, she isn’t keen on dogs on the whole. 🙂

the three mudkateers

The old colliery had miners cottages for the workers, some of which are still lived in today

Miners Homes

The park is just opposite the Penshaw Monument, and as I took a few photo’s of it I’ll fill you in on the history…

it is a folly built in 1844 on Penshaw Hill between the districts of Washington and Houghton-le-Spring, and is dedicated to John George Lambton (1792–1840), 1st Earl of Durham and the first Governor of the Province of Canada and affectionately known as Radical Jack. It was built as a memorial to the Earl’s work on the Durham report which was commissioned by Lord Melbourne in 1838 to seek direction on how best the British Empire should manage its colonies around the globe. The report recommended nearly complete self governance for advanced colonies and became one of the most important documents in the whole of the British Empire, formulating a new relationship between London and the colonies.

Penshaw Monument

Turning around from that view, we could see what looked like a standing stone circle, being held up by some kind of robots,

The standing stones

so we made our way up to it.

Standing stones and metal Mickys.

The robots seemed to be viewing places, if you stand and look through the rectangular spaces at the top of them you get a kind of photographic view.

Penshaw Monument through metal Micky’s eyes.

I think I’d have preferred the metal things not to be there, they looked ugly and out of place to me. And really you don’t need to have the views pointed out for you, the stones are on the top of a hill so views all around were good.

Penshaw Monument and the amphitheatre

In summer they have concerts and things going on in the amphitheatre. If they get a summer I suppose.

All the photo’s click through to bigger versions so you can get the full view if you are so inclined.

Stay tooned for the next instalment, when we visit the next weird sculpture thing.





Fraggle Report~ Herrington Country Park~ March 2018~ part 1


Last weekend, Sophie and I got together and this time went off to Herrington Country Park. It sounded promising on the website- an adventure play area, skate boarding, Nordic walking, model boat sailing in the lake and a variety of sculptures that celebrate the heritage of the area.  Wasn’t sure if Nordic Walking involved Viking re-enactment groups having a stroll, but according to Wiki it’s walking with poles, a bit like ski-ing without snow. Anyhow it all sounded very interesting so off we went.

The History Bit

Back in the days when England had industries the North East was a mine of ..well..mines really. And shipbuilding, but heaps of mines. The park was made on the grave of the Herrington Colliery, which closed in 1985, and had a waste heap of 11,000,000 cu. M. of shale, which must have looked like a mountain to the surrounding villagers.

Herrington slag heap-from Sunderland message board, photographer unknown.

For the transformation of the park, only the coal was removed, the minerals left behind went into making the park, sandstone for the sculptures, red ash for the walkways and clays to line the lakes.  Over a hundred different species of birds have been sighted since it’s inception, and many events are held there.

The weather wasn’t too bad, at least it was dry, but the promised-by-the-weather-forecasters sunny day never happened. No matter, there was a big lake and loads of birds on it.  We couldn’t believe how close the swans allowed us to get to them, no hissing or chasing us off, and I assume that is because of all the people who go there and feed them.

Good Morning. Feed me now!




Tufty Duck


Black headed gull (1st winter plumage)
I see no ships!

As well as birds, a couple of chaps were sailing remote controlled boats

24 (maybe a Jack Bauer fan!)


Swanning off

After a while at the lakeside we went for a walk around the park, and we’ll set off in the next episode to have a look at the sculptures, so stay tooned.








Northumberlandia~ February 2018

After Sophie and I had finished in Druridge Bay, We travelled back towards home via Northumberlandia, The Lady of the North.

The History Bit

Northumberlandia is a  human landform sculpture of a reclining lady.  Made of 1.5 million tonnes of rock, clay and soil, she is 100 feet high and a quarter of a mile long. Her creation was part of the planning application made by the Banks Group and Blagdon Estate when they requested to create what is now the largest surface mine in England, Shotton Surface Mine. It’s made out of the left-overs from the mine nearby.  Designed by American landscape architect Charles Jencks,   the sculpture was built on the Blagdon Estate, owned by Matt Ridley, a journalist, businessman and author of “The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature” which I’ve not read, or ever heard of. I’m not sure if it’s a panacea to locals whilst the ground beyond is torn up for the opencast mining of coal, but it cost £2.5 million, paid for by the Blagdon Estate and the Banks Group, who carried out the construction work. and it will last a lot longer than the mine.  Locals didn’t want the mine but Northumberlandia should bring in tourists so that’ll make up for it apparently. 🙄  The mine will eventually dry up in a few years time and they’ll landscape it over.

So here are some pictures of it, I wish I had a drone for this!

She’ll have backache keepiing that position up.


Panorama from the head end.


Going up to the head_ no nasal hairs spotted


Hole in the ground- the opencast mine


Ready to roll


View from the top looking towards her feet


bottom right corner-nose tip/ middle rounds-tits/ top left- hip/ top right knee


her right hand, palm up


left hand palm down


hand sculpture pointing to the eye of the universe (which I didn’t know had been discovered!)

On the way back to the car I took a few photo’s of her over the lakes next to her right hand side, populated by blue billed tufty ducks, which has to be the best named duck species ever.




Blue billed tufty ducks

It’s a place that will change over time, so there’ll be a re-visit now and then. There’s a large carpark which is free to park in, with a couple of recharging posts for the rechargeable car brigade. There’s also a visitor centre and cafe though we didn’t go in this time. Although walking/ running /being pushed in a wheelchair or perambulator is acceptable, bike riding is prohibited.

Full album HERE

stay tooned for our next trip to Herrington Country Park.


Druridge Bay~Feb 2018~ Part 2

Part 1 HERE 

There is a thing happening, the latest craze over from the USA, mostly I see it on Facebook, where people paint little rocks, and hide them in woodlands, on beaches, in towns, anywhere really.  We came across 3 of them whilst walking around the lake,

When you find one you are supposed to photograph it, post it to the Facebook page it belongs to (written on the back of the rock) and then re-hide it somewhere different or keep it, doesn’t seem to matter.

Not knowing all this at the time I just took pictures and didn’t re-hide them, life’s too short!  As always I liked the lichen I found on the trees, found a ball of it here..

liking the lichen

A Chinese (!) bridge takes you over to the far side of the lake

where I found a poignant memorial to someone’s mam

To Mam, I love you to the moon and back

There’s also a stepping stone crossing further up the edge of the lake which we ignored to go over the Chinese bridge, but had to have a go on it when we were on the far side. They were wobbly.

Intrepid Sophie

Then we found the swans, some of them still teenagers, and terns, gulls, ducks and geese

Teenage dirtbags
tern around bright eyes

Mummy swan saw us from afar photographing her kids and came to see what we were up to

She was a beauty

and when she decided we were no threat, she turned round and went back to hubby

and that’s about it from Druridge Bay,

Full album HERE

Druridge Bay has free parking and a cafe and visitor centre with things for kids to do. We had toasted cheese and ham sandwiches for our lunch, but they were a bit meh. As Phil would say, they filled a hole.

Next post we will be visiting The Lady of the North, or Northumberlandia as she is known so stay tooned folks!

Fraggle Report~ Druridge Bay ~ February 2018~ Part 1

After our encounter with the Giant Spoon and the Alien Sophie and I got back in the car and headed off to Druridge Bay and the country park there.

The History Bit

Druridge Bay is a 7 miles long bay on the coast of Northumberland. During World War II, defences were constructed around Druridge Bay as part of the anti-invasion preparations. The defences included scaffolding barriers and anti-tank blocks overlooked by pillboxes; and behind these were minefields and an anti-tank ditch. Between the hamlets of Druridge and Cresswell, anti-glider ditches were dug and there is still a brick-built decoy control there somewhere. But there was a bitter wind coming in off the sea and we didn’t spend a long time photographing on the beach. Job for summer.
In the 80’s there were plans to site a Pressurised Water Reactor nuclear power station there. There was a long campaign to prevent that happening, and with new government rulings on Nuclear Power happening, the plans were shelved in 1989.  In 2015 the Banks group Mining company applied to do open cast mining in 900 acres immediately to the west of the beach, for the extraction of 3 million tonnes of coal. Six weeks after the application was submitted the UK government announced that all coal-fired energy generation would cease by 2025. Over 1800 letters of objection were received but Northumberland County Council approved plans for the open-cast mine in July 2016. In September 2016, the plans were put on hold subject to a government inquiry.  Instead the Banks Group are open cast mining near Cramlington, but that will be covered in the next post.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust purchased the sand extraction site from RMC Group in 2006. The shore is known for populations of birds including the golden plover and the purple sandpiper. Druridge Bay is best known to birdwatchers for hosting, in 1998, the Druridge Bay curlew, a controversial bird which was eventually accepted as the first record of a slender-billed curlew in Britain, although this identification is still disputed by some. I don’t suppose the birds care, being as controversial as they like, and we didn’t see any anyway :). Druridge Bay is also used by naturists. The North East Skinny Dip, first held in 2012, is an annual event to raise funds for MIND, the mental health charity. It is held around the time of the Autumn Equinox in late September each year. We didn’t see any of those either. Thankfully.

Druridge Bay
Walking over the nature reserve to get to the bay.

Those were my last shots there, as the main event for us was the 1.5 mile walk around Ladyburn Lake at the country park on the other side of the nature reserve. The park is centred on the lake with surrounding meadows and woods which has been restored from an old opencast coal mine and is maturing into a very pleasant landscape for walks and picnics. It’s reasonably quiet here in February, a few dog walkers of course, and a couple wrapped up well and having said picnic, as you do when it’s 3 degrees outside with a wind chill factor of -6!

Picnic Pair

The lake and surround is home to quite a few birds,

shouty robin
Oystercatchers (maybe a bit of a dim bird,not realising oysters and shellfish tend to be found in water!)

We could see swans and other birds on the far side of the lake but meandered slowly around, enjoying the sunshine and having a natter.

Sunny Rushes

Although it was cold and the wind was snappy, we had some sunshine, everything seems better in the sun don’t you think?

solar power

We normally think of catkins as being yellow, but the Alder trees have lovely purpley ones

Alder Catkins
wooden walkway over the lake’s exit, or entrance!

That will do for Part 1, but stay tooned for Part 2 when we find some strange rocks, and beautiful swans.


Newcastle Guild Hall, and Quayside ~ December 2017~ part 2

Part 1 HERE

More History Stuff.

The Guildhall was used by the Freemen of Newcastle. The origins of the Freemen are obscure, but the modern view is the possibility that the origins are  partly Anglo-Saxon but also partly British and partly Roman. There were, broadly speaking three classes of people – nobles, free men and slaves. The free men were a middle class, comprised of those who were permitted and obliged to carry arms. .Free men were the inhabitants of Burghs, communities which had gradually come together for purposes of mutual defence. They were without overlords and cultivated the arable & common land and also established the customary rules that regulated their own dealings and their local justice. They paid their taxes and dues direct to the King. These rules were administered by the community in their Moot or Assembly.  King John, by Charter, granted Newcastle to the Freemen at an annual payment of £100 which appeared until quite recently in the City’s annual accounts. This Charter and its successors were repeatedly confirmed by successive Sovereigns who granted many further privileges to the Freemen.

About the end of the 12th century the leading Freemen combined together in a Guild known as the Guild Merchant, which was granted a Charter in 1216, for the purpose of controlling the trade of the town. This Guild soon obtained control of the town’s affairs. Other merchant guilds of Drapers (wool merchants), Mercers and Boothmen (corn merchants) were formed during the 13th century but these were later absorbed into the Merchant Adventurers who claimed to be the original Merchant Guild.

The different guilds coats of arms are all displayed around the Guildhall.

The Mayors Parlour is where the Freemen held their council meetings, and apart from having wonky walls and floor, is quite spectacular.

These old paintings of C17 Newcastle have unfortunately have been ‘restored’ by a madman, who basically painted over them 🙄 god knows what this next one on the right is all about.

After we’d finished at the Guildhall, Sophie and I had a wander down the Quayside, and took a few more pictures, and were treated to a great sunset.

More information on the Freemen at this website .

and the full album with loads more pictures can be found HERE

Camel Parade South Shields~ Dec 2017 ~ Part 2

Part 1 HERE

After the drummers finished it was time to walk down and find a good spot to set up the tripods for the firework display over the sea. On the way I took a couple of shots of the illuminated people and strange looking Father Christmases

I have no idea what he represented. 🙂
I would be scared if they came down the chimney!
Normal (ish) people getting chips and gravy 🙄

So on to the fireworks, which I only get to practice once a year at this event, so this is my 2nd ever attempt. Marginally better than my 1st attempt last year, but that’s not saying much!

Full album HERE

and a little video so you can hear the snap, crackle & pop 🙂

Yep, that was it!

Stay tooned dear readers, though I’m not sure for what as yet, no sign of Sophie so far this year, so that’s the last of the reports for now.

In the meantime I shall plod along alone on Fraggles Other Place  so pop along and say hi if you miss me, which of course you will! 🤪

Camel Parade~South Shields~ Dec 2017~ part 1

2017 saw the 4th year that the Camel Parade has been an event in South Shields, Sophie and I went for the first time last year a few photo’s of which I posted HERE, so this year we made a return trip knowing what to expect.  It involves 3 camels with their handlers and riders dressed up as wise men, parading the length of Ocean Road, which is quite a long old road, followed by stilt walkers and a drum group called Sparks! It’s been controversial as the animal rights group PETA, who I have a lot of time for usually, have decreed it bad, and say that camels shouldn’t be used for public entertainment. I kind of agree with the sentiment, but really, all they do is walk the camels down the road, and then put them back in their vehicle and bugger off.  They don’t get prodded or poked or stand around being gawped at. PETA Campaigns Strategist Luke Steele said: “Using live animals in these sorts of events sends a damaging message to young people that animals are little more than living props”, according to our local newspaper, with one of the comments underneath being “it’s disgraceful that anyone should find this acceptable.  It’s not about the climate, it’s about the crowds, noise and the basic lack of respect enough to use animals for our entertainment. Animals are sentient beings, they are here for their own purpose, not for human monsters to use and abuse as they wish.  It’s archaic and needs to be stopped!”  I have to say the human monsters, particularly the baby monsters loved the whole shebang, and this monster doesn’t get to photograph many camels in our neck of the woods so was happy to see them.  I expect eventually the council will give in and the camels will come no more.

A lot of monsters turned up for the parade, and luckily it didn’t rain.

The trees along Ocean Road were all lit up

and the kiddies all waiting for the show to begin

the camels came first

so fluffy!

they were followed by stilt walkers I think representing the 3 shepherds

and this guy who was I think, the star of Bethlehem

then “The Creative Seed” wagon came, but I’m not sure what that was all about!

and these were followed by my favourite part, the Sparks! drum group

at the bottom of the road a stage was set up which Sparks! ascended and then played a cracking set of drum tunes. Well not tunes really but whatever it is that drums do without other instruments being about.

they somehow illuminate themselves and the drums and the whole thing is quite exciting to watch

stay tooned for the 2nd part when we see the firework display!

(pictures clickable for embiggening)


Rising Sun Country Park ~ Nov 2017 ~ Part 3

Part 1,  Part 2,  

We’ll finish up walking the last leg of our trek around the park today, there were not many leaves left on the trees

so it was nice to come across some pops of yellow


but mostly it was grey and brown


I’m not sure what this next thing is, maybe stocks for naughty giants?

even when the leaves have gone, and there are no bright little flowers to photograph, there are always some interesting shapes and textures to find,

and reflections in puddles

and that’s the end of our visit to the Rising Sun Country Park, though I think we may do a return at some point, when spring finally arrives.

Stay tooned for next time when we’re off to see the Camel Parade!