Friday, 6 July 2012

It's a walk of two halves, Brian.....  July 6th

  I am thinking of making a film, " Carol King meets St Swithin. " It will be forty days long, filmed entirely in grainy black and white, nothing but falling rain, accompanied by occasional flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder Carol's song played continuously on a loop. Andy Warhohl and Yoko Ono would be impressed.
 In spite of the rain there are three of us out today, Harry, Ben and me, prepared to brave the rain. Too wet and foggy  for the hills we decided to have a walk round Hulne Park, the Duke of Northumberland's park just outside Alnwick.
To get to Alnwick from Newcastle take the A1 north, turn off at the road sign for Alnwick, drive through the town, taking great care as you go through the Hotspur Gate. Take the right at the first fork in the town, turn left at the castle and turn left shortly afterwards along the road that leads to the park.
 A notice on the gate says the park is open from 11am and t was only 10.30 but the man standing at the gate felt we were harmless and sent us on our way after pointing out that some of the roads were closed due to flooding and therefore some parts of the park were inaccessible.
 We walked along the main park road for a while, beautifully lined with trees, dripping water though they were.
                  Hulne Park's tree lined road, determined but moist.
After about a mile we turned left and made the short ascent to Brizlee Hill and its magnificent tower.
 Brizlee Tower. Built by one of the Dukes in 1781 as a memorial to his wife. Designed by Richard Adam. There are magnificent views from the top but it is no longer possible to climb it, Health and Safety probably. It doesn't lean either, blame me. And it was a miserable grey day so maybe the views would be limited anyway.

Not far from the tower we came across a rectangular walled garden with a pair of very ornate wrought iron gates, decorated with an owl, skull and cross bones, a partridge, trees and other things. Inside the garden was laid out plainly with paths crossing from side to side in the form of a cross. At the end of each path there was a cross on the wall and in the centre where the paths crossed was an altar with a "golden" tree.
On the left hand gate post was engraved Esperante in Dieu (Have faith in God ?) and the Percy crescent. On the right hand gatepost the crescent and presumably the year of construction, 2007. I am told this will be the burial plot for the Percy family.
                                     Walled garden and gates in Hulne Park.

                                       The interior of the garden.
Leaving the garden we walked on to the farm at East Brizlee where a shepherd was, with the aid of a collie, persuading his sheep to move to drier pastures. Sadly at this point we had to return to the entrance as roads were closed. A shame, we normally visit Hulne Priory which doubled as Maid Marion's home in the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. nor could we walk along the river Aln back to the park entrance.
The park, like so many other great English gardens was designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown.* He was born in the Northumbrian village of Kirkharle, learned his trade as a garden boy on the Kirkharle Hall estate as a garden boy and went on to design about 170 of the great English parklands, including Blenheim Palace** and parts of Kew Gardens.
Back at he car the GPS claimed a walk of 4 miles, not enough for a group of gadgies so we drove to High Newton by the Sea.
From Hulne Park return through the town, watching out for that gate, and almost immediately through it turn left past the Alnwick Castle Gardens, cross the A1 on the road to Denwick and then meander along the B1340 through Christon Bank to High Newton, a pretty village with a good pub, The Joiners Arms, which has been mentioned before. We  left the car in the village and walked the half mile to Low Newton by the Sea. A Herbie spot was declared and we sat on a bench looking over the sea with Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance.
Low Newton is a fishing village, the cottages were built  in the 18th century on three sides of a square. In one corner is a  pub, The Ship, recently named as the place to eat in the Times. The paper had produced a list of thirty castles to visit in the United Kingdom and Dunstanburgh was named as the best ruin! Good choice.

 Cottages at Newton by the Sea. The Ship is the two storey building. It serves good food and good beer.
 From Low Newton we walked across Embleton Bay, past the golf course to the great gatehouse of Dunstanburgh Castle.
This magnificent ruin has been mentioned before. Begun in 1314 by Thomas Earl of Lancaster as a statement of his power it is built, for the jacket fans, on a dolorite promontory and the site was possibly originally an Iron Age fort and Romano British setllement. Poor Thomas was executed in 1322 and the castle was kept in royal hands. A nearby cove is named for Queen Margaret of Scotland who was held prisoner here.
Given the choice of walking to Craster and catching a bus back to Newton or walking back we took the latter option.
Back at the car GPS claimed approximately 6 miles for this part of the walk giving a total of 10 miles for the two halves.  Good old Higear said 9.9 miles. And it only rained once!

* Brown acquired the nickname "Capability" because he often maintained that a house and its lands had "great capability".
** Home of the Duke of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.