Stephenson Heritage Railway – June 2019 – Part 2

Part 1 HERE

Sophie and I enjoyed the train ride so much we went on it twice 🙂 as the ticket covered you for as many goes as you liked.

Shabby chic

They are still renovating the carriages, so they do look a bit shabby, but it didn’t matter to us, it was easy to ignore that and imagine being in Brief Encounter 🙂

Of course we and all the other kids ignored that!

On the return journey we were just in normal class as someone got to our first class carriage before us (gits 😀 )

Good job we didn’t need to ‘go’

second class carriage
Tempting…..but didn’t 🙂

Scenes from the windows

Veritable Vegetation
Pizza thataway
Boy racer

Back at the station we said our thanks to the guard

and to the Station Master who was happy to pose for a photograph

and I couldn’t resist a sneaky shot of this little lad waiting his turn to go on the train

The wonder years

That’s it for today, but we haven’t finished with the railway, as we got to look around the work shop, and Sophie got to drive a train, so stay tooned for next time:)


Stephenson Heritage Railway ~ June 2019 – part 1

Old trains, nothing like them for evoking the past, all that choo-chooing and hissing steam.  Not that I ever went on one back when I was a kid and they were ubiquitous, but I have now!

Have you heard of George Stephenson? Stephensons Rocket perhaps? No?  Oh good, then let us commence the History lesson! 🙂

George was a child of Northumberland. Born in 1781 to illterate parents, he too had no education until at the age of 17, he followed his Dad into the mines as a brakesman, and used his salary to pay for night school classes in reading, writing and arithmetic. He married Frances Henderson and they had a son Robert, but sadly his second child, a daughter, only lived for 3 weeks and his wife died of tuberculosis, consumption as it was known, the year after. George went off to Scotland to find work, leaving little Robert with a local woman, but returned a few months later after his Dad was blinded in a mining accident. Tough times people, tough times.

He moved back into a cottage, his unmarried sister moved in to look after the boy, and George went back to work at  Killingworth Colliery. Here he had a stroke of luck as the pumping engine wasn’t working properly. George offered to fix and improve it, which he did and so successfully he got promoted to enginewright, responsible for maintaining and repairing all the mines engines, and this is how he became expert in steam-driven machinery.

Firstly a little side step.  Have you heard of The Davy Lamp? A miners safety lamp which burns in a gaseous atmosphere without causing an explosion- those happened often down the mines.  An eminent scientist from Cornwall Humphry Davy invented it and it was used more or less everywhere. Where it wasn’t used was in the North East as here they used a Stephensons Safety lamp.  He had invented one different to Davy’s and he presented it to the Royal Society (formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge,it is a learned society and the United Kingdom’s national Academy of Sciences. Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by King Charles II as “The Royal Society”. It is the oldest national scientific institution in the world.) a whole month prior to Davy presenting his. Davy won £2000 for his invention BIG money back then (todays equiv. £164,000) and George was accused of stealing the idea from Davy.


Really this came down to the fact that George was seen as a country bumpkin, had a broad Northumberland accent and no scientific training.  He was exonerated eventually and given £1000, and got equal kudos for inventing the lamp, though Davy wouldn’t accept the findings. Suck it up Southern boy! 🙂 .  In one case when both lamps were being used down a mine in Barnsley, a blast of released gas made all the Davy lamps tops red hot– thereby risking an explosion, whereas the Stephenson lamp just went out, so his was the better one to be stuck down a gassy mine with. Stephenson’s became known as the Geordie lamp and indirectly gave the name Geordies to the natives of Newcastle.

All this resulted in George having a life long distrust of London-based theoretical,scientific experts, can’t blame him really, and he also made sure to educate his son privately and come out with a standard English accent.

George went on to build locomotives, problem solving and making each better, improving cast iron rails and building several railways across the country, including the Liverpool & Manchester railway, where he also designed and had built a skew bridge, the first to cross a railway line.  The L& MR opened on 15th Sept 1830 starting with a procession of eight trains, driven by himself, his son and some engineers, setting out from Liverpool. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your political mien, the MP for Liverpool, William Huskisson, got knocked over by one of the trains, ‘Rocket’ and died of his injuries. Apart from that it was a great success!

George married 3 times but only had children with Frances, and he died aged 67, at noon on 12 August 1848 7 months after his 3rd marriage.  His son Robert  expanded on the work of his father and became a major railway engineer himself. Abroad, Robert was involved in the Alexandria–Cairo railway that later connected with the Suez Canal. 

Britain led the world in the development of railways which acted as a stimulus for the Industrial Revolution by facilitating the transport of raw materials and manufactured goods, with his work on the Stockton and Darlington Railway and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, George paved the way for the railway engineers who followed, such as his son Robert, his assistant Joseph Locke who carried out much work on his own account, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Stephenson was farsighted in realising that the individual lines being built would eventually be joined together, and would need to have the same gauge. The standard guage used throughout much of the world is due to him.  There’s loads more that he did, but I’d have to write a book, and there’s no need for that! By all accounts he was a very nice man.

The museum is in North Shields, and Sophie and I visited on a good weather day. There was a model train display going on in the museum, so we had a wander around there first.

Interesting to see all the scratch built models but we wanted to see the real thing!

A fleet of passenger coaches from the 1950s.

We got our tickets and the station master punched them.

Station Master

We bagged ourselves a First Class carriage

our carriage

and then hung out the windows watching the others getting on.

All Aboard!
Guards and driver checking our doors are safely shut

and off we go!

choo choo 🙂
Past the Tesco chimney.
Past the graffitti on the metro bridge column
End of the line!

Here we all got off while they changed the engine from front to back. Sadly (though not TOO sadly) we were not being pulled by the steam train as that was in dry-dock (or whatever the train equivalent is) but a funky little diesel did the job.

Funky diesel.

Stay tooned for next time when we’ll have a closer look inside the carriages, and do the journey back.

Raby Castle Revisited – May 2019

Back in August 2018 Sophie and I went off to visit Raby Castle and had a great time chasing deer around the place. When you buy a ticket to get in there, it lasts for a whole year, so we revisited in May when the spring flowers were popping up.  The castle itself is a grand castle, so much to see, so much history, and a deer park in the extensive grounds and I did a 7 part series on it last year.  The history of the castle, and the Neville and Vane families who held it, is quite fascinating, and for a potted version, you can read my original post HERE.

On this occasion though, we didn’t go into the castle, but spent the morning photographing flowers and a few other bits and bobs. So no more preamble, on with the show!

Pink and Blue
Iris to be and greenflies

I’m not great at remembering flower names

Big round things
Daisies, I think
The bonkers hedge
❤ ‘s
Peony bud
Floppy flower
An exotic flower in the conservatory.

So that’s all this time, though we’ll be back later in summer to do the butterflies.

Stay tooned for next time when we visit the Bowes Museum.

Watersmeet & The River Tyne

Any Geordie native will tell you he/she has the waters of the River Tyne running through their bloodstream, and I think it’s conceivable that after 15 years of drinking the tap water up her, that I have too. The Tyne has been romanticised in many a song, who can forget Jimmy Nail & Big River, or Lindisfarne’s Fog on the Tyne, or the beautiful Sailing to Philadelphia by Mark Knopfler and James Taylor. It’s even mentioned in a song by the country singer Gretchen Peters, in her song England Blues.

When I first moved up here 15 years ago, I lived just over the road from it and it was part of my daily existence.  I loved walking by it, camera in hand and fell in love with it as much as any regular Geordie.  I started travelling the North East for work, and one day, on my way back from Haydon Bridge where I had a clinic, I looked at the sat-nav and saw a blue line running by the side of the road line, South Tyne it was labelled.  I googled it when I got home and discovered there was a North Tyne and a South Tyne, and they converged at a point near a village called Warden.  I determined one day to see if I could find where they met, but time/work/life and all that never lent itself to the task.

So back in May, after Sophie and I had finished in Haydon Church, we decided to go and look for the convergence on our way home. We followed a little road off the A69 that looked like a dead-end on the Nav, and we were pleasantly surprised to find it’s a ‘proper’ area, with walks and wildlife information.

There’s an old railway bridge to go under to get to the river.

Going under towards the rivers
Back the other way.

There was wild garlic everywhere, (no bluebells though!)

No vampires here.

The South Tyne rises on Alston Moor in Cumbria, 1000ft above sea level, and flows down through Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge in a valley known as the Tyne Gap, whereas the North Tyne rises on the Scottish Border north of Keilder Water.  It flows through Keilder Forest and winds in and out of the border, then passes through the village of Bellingham where you can take a walk to see the beautiful Hareshaw Linn waterfall.

Hareshaw Linn

The combined Tyne flows from the convergence point at Warden Rock, which is an area where barbel (some sort of fish thing) were introduced in the 80’s and are now thriving in the Tyne. It then flows on to Corbridge then out of Northumberland and into Tyne & Wear where it divides Gateshead and Newcastle for 13 miles, in the course of which it is spanned by 10 bridges.  On it goes eastwards dividing Hebburn and Jarrow on the South  bank, Wallsend and Walker on the North, finally flowing between Tynemouth and South Shields and into the North Sea.

Due to the surrounding coalfields in the North East  the Tyne was a major route for the export of coal from the 13th century until the decline of the coal mining industry in the second half of the 20th century. There is still evidence of that history, especially with the dramatic wooden staithes (a structure for loading coal onto ships) at Dunston, built in 1890, having been preserved.

Dunston Staiths

The Port of Tyne still imports coal, and other goods, as well as operating a daily service between the Port of Tyne International Passenger Terminal at North Shields and Ijmuiden, near Amsterdam since 1995. The lower reaches of the Tyne were, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of the world’s most important centres of shipbuilding, and there are still shipyards in South Shields and Hebburn to the south of the river.

At 73 miles long, there’s plenty to see and photograph, some of which you can see on a previous post HERE.

A couple of interesting facts about the Tyne,

The River Tyne started to cut its course about 30 million years ago. The land mass of Britain was rising from the sea, in which chalk rocks had been laid down during the previous Cretaceous period, providing the eastward-tilting ‘proto-landscape’ upon which the River Tyne began to carve its valley, entirely removing the softer cover of chalk rocks.

Nothing definite is known of the origin of the designation Tyne, nor is the river known by that name until the Saxon period: Tynemouth is recorded in Anglo-Saxon as Tinanmuðe.

So here is the convergence, to the left, the South Tyne, and to the right, The North.

Waters Meet

and that’s the end of that day out! Stay tooned for our next outing, to Raby Castle, and The Bowes Museum!

Haydon Bridge Church

Haydon Bridge Church is hidden away in a copse of trees, up the side of a hill overlooking the little town of Haydon Bridge (pop. 2000) Yet again it is one of the places where those long suffering monks carting St.Cuthberts corpse around for a hundred years ended up to have a rest. (For more on ST.Cuthbert see HERE) .  There is a great deal of doubt as to when this little church was originally built; if the bones of St. Cuthbert did rest there, it must have been in existence before the saint found his last resting place in Durham Cathedral in 995.

If that’s the case, it was rebuilt in the Norman style round about AD 1190, with re-used Roman stones, possibly from nearby Hadrians wall. It was given to the monks of Hexam Abbey by the Lord of Langley, the landowner at that time.  The church was partly demolished, leaving only the chancel with the stones taken from it to build the new parish church in the village. It was then converted into a mortuary chapel before being restored in 1882.

We parked a little way down the other side of the hill where there’s a space my little car fits into, and there are lovely views all around.

Up the hill and there’s a gate to go through first

and then you walk through an amazing tunnel of Yew trees.

and then come into the grounds of the little church.

The door was open so we went in to have a look.

There are some lovely stained glass windows,

14th century window with stained glass in memory of Jane Routledge, who left a bequest of 20 pounds annually to spinsters or widows of Haydon chapelry.

The church organ is a Packard from Fort Wayne Indiana of all places, and looking at their website were quite a famous company- these organs are collectors items now.  I’m not sure how old this one is but the company made organs from 1872 – 1914, this one looks pretty old.

In the North wall is a blocked off doorway which probaby lead to a sacristy and there are carved figures on some of the block-stones.

There was a wonderful old grave slab set in the chancel floor, I think that’s the oldest I’ve come across on my travels

Here Lieth Hugh Brawne, The son of Captain Edmund Brawne Esquire, who deceased on the 25 of March Ano Domini 1636 ~ Charles 1st on the throne at this time.

Outside the graveyard is quite unkempt, but full of old gravestones.

Both Sophie and I missed getting a photo of the font, made from a roman alter, though no inscriptions on it. Never mind as it wasn’t that aesthetic.

After that we still had some afternoon left, so decided to go to the place where the North and South rivers of the Tyne meet, which was on our way home and somewhere I’d always wanted to see, not sure why but hey-ho I have these odd needs. 😀 😀

so stay tooned for that!



Allen Banks – part 2 – May 2019

Part 1 HERE

So we’ve had a little rest and Sophie decides we’ll cross back over the bridge and walk along the upper paths to see if there are any bluebells there.

To get to the upper pathways at the top of Staward Gorge, there are stairs in the side of the bank.

Stairs of Hell

These stairs are just the first section, and there were many more to climb, twisting and turning up the gorge. I have to confess that a) I’m not fit enough for this shit, and b) I whinged the whole way up. Sophie, of course, is used to me and my aversion to going uphill so just ‘there there’ ‘d me until we got to the top. 🙂

The views were worth the pain

and in the distance we could just see Ridley Hall, to which these woodlands once belonged

Ridley Hall

Originally a 16th century house, owned by the Ridley family,  it was acquired by the Lowes family in the late 17th century and was replaced in 1743 with a new Georgian Mansion. In 1830 it was purchased by John Davidson (High Sheriff in 1839), a cousin and beneficiary of the will of William Cornforth Lowes.  He made substantial improvements to it and married Susan (see part 1) who landscaped the estate. It’s now a conference and residential centre.

We came across a victorian summerhouse on the upper path

which had four viewing angles when inside it- this one was my favourite as you can see for miles right across the Gorge.

it had a cute roof too

This looked like a really old boy,

Justified and Ancient but no ice cream van. 🙂

And finally, we found some blubells!

Bluebells an wild garlic.

To be honest we were not that impressed, I think the bluebell woods in Durham last year spoiled us for anywhere else! 🙂

So we finished our walk and went off to the nearby hamlet of Bardon Mill

The pottery at Bardon Mill

and there we stopped for lunch.


After lunch I took Sophie to see a hidden Norman church, so stay tooned for that next time!

Allen Banks – May 2019

Allen Banks and Staward Gorge is the largest area of ancient semi-natural woodland in Northumberland, and back in May Sophie and I decided to do a walk there along the river Allen, looking for bluebells again! Now owned by the National Trust it was originally part of the estate of Ridley Hall.  In the 1800’s the Hall was bought by Mr John Davidson of Otterburn for his wife Susan Hussey Elizabeth Jessup, granddaughter of the 9th Earl of Strathmore.  Susan  laid out 65 flower beds in the formal gardens and organised the system of paths, rustic bridges and summerhouses, not to mention the work in the woods by the River Allen, managing and developing the estate for the next 35 years, and a cracking job she did.

Susan died without having had kids, so passed the estate on to her cousin John Bowes, the illegitimate son of the 10th Earl of Strathmore and in 1942 Francis Bowes Lyon gave the estate to the National Trust.

We started out from the carpark and walked along the lower path next to the River Aln.

The River Aln

It was so peaceful and the gurgling of the river was a lovely soundtrack to our meanderings.

The woodlands are well known for carpets of wild garlic

Allium ursinum, known as wild garlic, ramsons, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek or bear’s garlic, is a bulbous perennial flowering plant in the lily family Amaryllidaceae. It is a wild relative of onion, native to Europe and Asia, where it grows in moist woodland.

The garlic lined the pathways and covered the banks so our walk had the aroma of an Indian Takeaway!

There were places where we could get right down to the river and have a splash.

Someone had been before we got there, and someone got left behind on the rocks

Hope they came back for him.

It’s  known as an ancient woodland, and the tree roots we came across certainly gave evidence of that

gnarly old roots

We stopped to photgraph the flora and fauna along the way

We got to a bridge and crossed it see what was on the other side


There were people having a Bar-B-Q in a field, I think they were staying in this holiday cottage

So far we hadn’t seen any bluebells, but did find an orchid.

Early Purple Orchid.

I think we’ll stop for a break now, sit and listen to the river and the birds, and come back next time for the other half of our walk.

Stay tooned!


Embleton Church ~ April 2019

After Sophie and I had our walk on Embleton Beach we decided to have a look around Embleton Church.

Embleton Church Tower

Known as the Church of the Holy Trinity, the oldest part of it is the lowest level of the tower, and is the only identifiable bit from the 12th century, and it has two blocked Norman windows. At this point in time the church would have had a Nave without aisles and a chancel only. The aisles were added around 1200. The upper levels of the tower were added in the 14th century. At the top is an open battlement, which is unusual for northern churches.

As you enter through the South Porch which dates from the 15th century, there are some old tomb slabs set into the walls.

The shears to the left of the cross indicate a woman’s burial.

There is also a lovely green man carved boss carved into the ceiling of the porch.

The church has undergone many restorations, especially in the 1800’s. In 1803 the mediaeval chancel was replaced by a plain classical one with a flat ceiling. You can see in the picture below an outline of a blocked window which would have looked out over the chancel roof. The last time the chancel was replaced in 1887 the axis of the chancel was, and remains, inclined.  No-one seems to know why, but apparently it wasn’t uncommon.

Looking toward the chancel.
looking toward the Nave

At the back of the church is an ornate spiral staircase for the bellringers to climb up into the tower.

Stairway to heaven.

There are some lovely stained glass windows made by Charles Eamer Kempe, a famous glass designer and manufacturer in the 1800’s.

South Aisle- in memory of the Forsters, 1856. (not sure who they were but one was a doctor).

The Craster family (no not the incestuous bad guy wildling in G.O.T you know, where Gilly came from) are an ancient family in Northumberland, and you might have seen my previous post on the village of Craster which was owned by the family. The church has a Craster Porch at the north-east end of the north aisle with the Craster arms and memorial slabs.

Shafto Craster Craster. Best. Name. Ever 🙂

We had a look around the graveyard, it had a gorgeous blossom tree,

In 1870 a number of coins were discovered in the churchyard at Embleton. The coins are known as groats. The groat is the traditional name of a long-defunct English and Irish silver coin worth four pence, and also a Scottish coin which was originally worth fourpence, with later issues being valued at eightpence and one shilling. They were minted between the reigns of Edward II and Edward IV, the earliest coin dating to about 1351 and the latest about 1464. I can’t find which museum they are in, but Merton College Oxford have been the patrons of Embleton church since 1274, so it’s conceivable that they have them somewhere, but that’s pure conjecture on my part. Also wondering why M.C Oxford would be a patron of this church, but can’t find anything on it as yet.

So that’s it for Embleton!

full album can be viewed HERE

Next time we’re starting a day out on a riverside walk at Allen Banks, a hidden Norman church, and the convergence of the Rivers Tyne.

Stay Tooned!

refs :– Leaflet from Embleton Church,,_Embleton


Embleton Bay ~ April 2019

Sophie and I are both members of English Heritage and the National Trust (saves a heap of money as we visit so many of their places) and so we receive emails from both advising us of events and so forth. Consequently we were quite excited to get an email from NT exhorting us to visit Embleton Bay and see the bluebells that festoon the dunes there. Wow, we thought, bluebells next to the sea, how cool, lets go! So off we went on a sunny spring day to shoot the flowers.

To get to the bay you drive past the village and up to Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Club where there’s a free car park. You then walk past some sheep in a field and then across the golf course.

We are noticing Northumberland flags everywhere we go this year, this is a new thing!

A little trout stream, known as the Embleton Burn, begins in the inland moors, makes its way through an area of the old barony, woody denes, and channels, before reaching the centre of the bay.

Embleton Burn

We were not the only ones out with our cameras, and we stopped and had a nice chat on with this lady who had come over from the west coast to shoot Dunstanburgh Castle. But she wasn’t happy that there were no clouds so the sky was too boring.

Found some interesting seaweed that wouldn’t look out of place in a sc-fi/horror movie!

Codium Fragile (Deadmans Fingers)

A couple of lovey dovies

or maybe The Embleton Strangler!

The bay itself is really long and beautiful.

Looking North

Those little dark boulders at the bottom of the photo above are whinstone. Whinstone is a term used in the quarrying industry to describe any hard dark-coloured rock. Examples include the igneous rocks, basalt and dolerite, as well as the sedimentary rock, chert. There is also a whinstone reef which you can’t see as it’s under the sea 🙂

Looking south there is the rear side of Dunstanburgh Castle,

Dunstanburgh Castle and the boring sky 🙂

Apparently there is a large sandstone rock known as ‘The Vanishing Rock’. As the tides come and go and the sands shift to and fro, so this feature moves into and out of view, as befitting its name. Nothing unusual in that, you may think; but this particular rock has the name “Andra Barton” chiselled into its surface, in rough but distinct lettering. Sir Andrew Barton was High Admiral of Scotland around the turn of the 16th century, who, acting under the protection and in the name of the Scottish Crown, made something of a nuisance of himself to the Portuguese and the English upon the high seas. In short, he was considered a pirate by non-Scots, or a privateer, at best. He was defeated in battle with the English in 1511 – some reports have him slain in the fight, others that he was captured and beheaded. The loss of Barton did not go down well with the Scots – one of many grievances which led, eventually to the clash at Flodden in 1513. I have no idea why his name is on the rock.

However the rock was last seen in 1974 and it didn’t reappear this day!

Visible rocks

You may have registered that the last three photos are taken from a high point of view, and that’s because we were walking the length of the dunes looking for damned bluebells which had also vanished, if they ever existed.

We did see other things of interest though.

Peeping WW2 pillbox
A pillbox is a defensive concrete dug-in guard post with slits for guns to poke through (known as loopholes). About 28,000 pillboxes and other hardened field fortifications were constructed in England in 1940 as part of the British anti-invasion preparations of World War II. About 6,500 of these structures still survive.
Consolation flowers!

Some of the dunes were really steep, this chaps two mates had run down before him whooping and hollering, but he made a right meal of it!

Sophie and I went the long way round 🙂

Apart from the disappointing lack of bluebells it was nice to be beside the seaside 🙂 . We only did an hours walk but then went off to see Embleton Church which has some interesting features and we’ll visit that next time, so stay tooned peeps!