Sunshine and sycamore trees

I noticed the sycamore tree in our garden was looking very fresh and spring like with the new green leaves.
I was asked some time ago if I could provide four images of Sycamore Gap, one for each season and I had one for two for each month let alone each season.
I have probably more than enough photographs of the iconic tree but it never harms to update and anyway I wanted to see if I could pin point a spot to take photographs of the Wheatear that are nesting somewhere around Sycamore Gap.
When I arrived the sky was clear and blue, not always a boon for photographs then clouds started to cross the sky behind the tree making things a lot more interesting.

Sycamore Gap with a fresh green spring foliage
There were masses of visitors and with each wave that arrived at Sycamore Gap there'd be a corresponding wave of Wheatears but my eyes aren't that good and while I could see them sitting on rocks I couldn't pinpoint any one favourite perch.

Castle Gap busy with visitors

Eventually I gave up for today and wandered back, I did see the Wheatears, Jackdaws, Rooks, Skylarks, Curlew, Rock Pippets and Jack Snipe so the area is great for spotting birds.

Busy day on Peel Crags, some visitors were ill equiped for the rugged terrain, it's really not the place to be walking in mules.

Hadrian's Wall at Steel Rigg

This is one of the sections of Turved Wall, rebuilt by workers under the direction of John Clayton, the man who bought up great stretches of Hadrian's Wall to preserve it and it's thanks to him that there's so much left for us to enjoy today. Becasue the Wall was rebuilyt it's not terribly stable, Walking on it is not only disrespectful of an ancient monument it can also be dangerous.
No doubt this coming weekend will be busy on the Hadrian's Wall Path and if you are one of those visitors I urge you to go to the Northumberland National Parks, award winning Visitor centre at Once Brewed and pick up a copy of the 2011 Visitor Guide it's excellent with all sorts of information and walks, like the new Tipault Burn Walk to enjoy.

Lastly, one shot of the Bluebells in the Poltross Wood in Gilsland, my yearly records for the past 8 years we've lived here show the Gilsland Bluebells peaking on the 12th of May, as you can see this year they're early.

As always the photographs used in this Blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and may not be used without written permission.


Over the valley

Worked in the garden today then after tea we went to check the bluebells at Poltross Wood in Gilsland.
As I had suspected they're out already this year, not quit at their peak but out enough to perfume the wood.
I shall have to go back on a less bright day to get some photographs to share, I've found the blues don't take kindly to harsh light.
So as the night wore on and it looked like TT was going to be engrossed in a football match on TV I headed off with my camera and tripod to Walltown.
Behind the Roman Army Museum is a public footpath that passes an interesting tree and I was hoping it would be in the right spot for a picture with the sun going down.

Some nice light across the valley I thought so as well as the tree I took a photograph to show the valley with Longbyre.
The Hadrian's Wall Path goes down to Thirlwall Castle and then crosses the valley to Gilsland a much gentler path for tired legs.

I shall be up for a sunrise tomorrow morning, I'm hoping for a misty or frosty start, keep your fingers crossed for me :)


Kings Hill on Hadrian's Wall

This Easter holiday has been lovely, perfect weather  and I've spent much of it gardening.
I try to get a walk in before the sun sets and, accompanied by TT , I went off to climb up to King's Hill.
It's a fair old hike up a steep hill from Moss Kennels and then another climb if you want to continue up to Sewingshields Crag but I like the views there.

From King's Hill it's another climb up to Sewingshields Crag, the stile takes you onto the Pennine Way

Kings Hill is named for King Arthur, (yes of course he was a Northumbrian :) and to the left of Sewingshields Crag in the picture you have Kings Crag and Queens Crag, it's an area steeped in history and there are all sorts of interesting things listed on this site Keys to the Past most historical remains are marked on the OS maps.

As the sun was setting it became hazy but you can follow the line of Hadrian's Wall as it winds its way along the edge of the various Crags

TT not only carries the tripod when he comes out with me, he sometimes agrees to pose, adding scale to the picture, here he's standing on the lower slopes of King's Hill with Clew Hill and Kennel Crags to the west.

Sun is setting over Broomlee Lough and dusk falls over Hadrian's Wall, the sheep and lambs just wouldn't move into my picture no matter how much I tried to cajole them.

N.B. Tonight we walked through the Irthing Gorge and I was suprised to see that bluebells are starting to bloom already, that's 3 weeks earlier than normal so I'll be checking our other local woods and should have some pictures of Britain's favourite flower to share with you in the next few days hopefully.

As always, the photographs used in this Blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission.



I'd checked the position of the sunsetting at Birdoswald and I thought it would come down behind the fort.
It was just a bit further over than I had anticipated but I had a nice walk out and enjoyed watching Micheal and Sally's lambs .

Sheep and lambs feeding, Sally had just been up on the quad bike with the extra food they get at this time of the year so they're all gathered together. 

I'd expected the sun to be nearer the trees surrounding Fort at Birdoswald, have to wait until September now, for that shot.

Sheep and lambs at Birdoswald, even though it was sunset there were still visitors wandering around, enjoying a fine evening. One of the lambs still has it's plastic mac on, this keeps them warm as well as dry.

Hoping to be up for sunrise tomorrow, it's been very foggy the last two morning so I'm hoping for better things tomorrow.


Early to rise

Alarm was set for 5am and it seemed I'd only just got to sleep when it was waking me up again.
Not much cloud in the sky and frost on the ground, thinking it was about time I got back into the swing of early mornings, I got up and off I went. The thermometer in the car was reading 0 degrees and it was a bit nippy on the ears and fingers, fortunately I had hat and gloves in the carand I was glad of them.
I was suprised there was no mist, I thought conditions would have been ideal, but then what do I know?
Working on the premise that it was the weekend and, after all the people who were out on the Hadrian's Wall Path yesterday, some of the more popular spots might have other photographers, I went to Caw Gap.
I have absolutely no objection to other photographers out in the morning it's just I always seem to need to stand in front of them or at least within their picture frame.
Caw Gap was empty, just me and the birds, there is something so evocative about the call of the Curlew.

Hadrian's Wall at Caw Gap, it might look as if I'm standing on the Wall but I'm in a gap.

Hadrian's Wall is an ancient monument and I try to treat it with respect climbing on it is frowned on and knowing my luck I slip and break something.

My favourite viewpoint is just a bit further west of this spot so off I went, I like good value for my outings and high up on this point of Cawfield Crags you get views in all directions, so if something interesting is happening away from the sunrise you're well placed to capture it.

View towards Winshields Crag, the highest point on Hadrian's Wall.

The sun appears along with some contrails to add interest to the sky.

There was a 10 mile hike over these Crags today for the British Heart Foundation, apparently they filled all the available places in double quick time, I hope people were well prepared for the tricky bits. At least the frost should have gone before they started.

As is my habit I called into Cawfields Quarry, I wanted to see where the sun was in relation to the peak there, and to see if any birds were on the lake. The contrail sky make a nice reflection in the water and then it was back home for a warming bowl of porridge.

Cawfields Quarry Lake

as usual all photographs are the copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission


No Contest

It's been a strange day, weatherwise.
I was out this morning but any light quickly disappeared and even the grey clouds weren't very interesting so  when the light began to improve as it got nearer to sundown I thought maybe a trip out would be an idea.
Of course it would mean me missing 'Britain's got Talent' and 'So you think you can dance' but really it was no contest, I went off to Crag Lough.
The clouds were amazing, bold and beautiful and I was hoping the wind would drop enough so the sky would be reflected in the Lough.It's a rare day when there isn't wind on this part of Hadrian's Wall and this wasn't a rare day so I took a couple of photo's and then headed up onto Highshields Crag.

Crag Lough

You climb up to the top of Highshields Crag through woods and as I went through the sun was dappling through the trees and a wren was singing it's heart out, magical.

At the top were some of the Hotbank Black faced ewe's with their lambs, I had intended to go along as far as Sycamore Gap but there was nowhere for the animals to go but ahead of me and I didn't want the lambs going over the edge of the crag. They were quite small and very bouncy.
I took a few photographs of the sheep and as the sun was setting headed back down to the water side.

Blackfaced Ewe's and their lambs on Highshields Crag.

The big red sky I didn't happen tonight but here's a shot of the sun just before it sets over the Hadrian's Wall Path

Hadrian's Wall Path on Highshields Crag

Clear skies tonight so tomorrow might be a good morning to be out and about early, off to set my alarm for a 5am start.

All photographs used on this blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission.


Waiting for the misty mornings

Kicking off today's blog by going straight to a picture taken at Steel Rigg. I long for a good misty morning sunrise just like this one which was taken last September. I chose this because the sun should be rising in about the same place now as it heads towards the summer  positions.

This photograph was taken about 5 minutes from the car park at Steel Rigg, as this season starts I'm hoping to get some photographs, with just this type of conditions, from Castle Gap up on the Hadrian's Wall Path with views over Hotbank Farm.
It's amazing how the mist rises as the sun comes up, you can see the difference between the first shot and this one, the next photograph has even more mist, then as suddenly as it arrives it goes.
I've seen it looking just like waves crashing over the Crags, so dramatic, sometimes you just stand and watch in awe, forgetting to press the shutter.

A moment frozen in time by the camera.
I'm hoping Sunday morning will be worth getting up for, I need an early morning fix, I'm fed up with this cough.

I was lucky enough to win a Wacom Intuos4 tablet in the large (A4 size) and airbrush pen to go with it.
Unfortunately my computer skills means it's completely wasted on me. It in an unopened box if anyone is interested in it can you get in touch please?


On the water

I know my wildlife shots aren't as popular with you as the Hadrian's Wall shots but
life got in the way of photography today so I'm indulging myself with a couple of shots taken recently at Walltown Quarry Lake.

I thought the Dabchicks had flown off but when I checked on Sunday there were at least two of them back on the lake.

They're like tiny little powderpuffs, dwarfed by the Mallards.

I haven't seen a female yet but maybe they are there and there'll be chicks to watch.

The frogs and toads seem to have left the pond and although I haven't seen much toad spawn there's masses of frog spawn.

Weather forecast isn't that grand, hopefully we'll see some brightness over the coming week.

Male Dabchick ( Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis) just 25cm from tip to tail.

Frog doing what frogs do best - just chillin'

All photographs used in this Blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without my written permission


Early morning haze

The alarm rang at 5.20am and I rose to find a clear sky above fog, so I went back to bed, as you do.
But I did get up early and decided to have a trip out to Steel Rigg just to see if I'd missed much.
I was suprised to find a couple of cars already in the car park then I realised, it was the weekend so, people who have to go out to work would be making the most of this fine weekend weather.
It was a strange morning, the sun was a big golden ball but the land was sort of hazy.
Not exactly mist but certainly not clear and the sky just looked grey and uninteresting.
As I was there I took some photographs, but you can get an idea of just how bad it was when I say my total shutter count barely made it into double figures, and it's not unusual for me to have 600 photographs to wade through. I do tend to take the machine gunner approach thinking if I fire enough I'm bound to get at least one hit.
As I was heading back to my car two young men with camera gear came down Peel Crags, they'd been quite pleased with the sunrise ( just as well considering they'd got up at 4.20am to make the journey to Hadrian's Wall) and were heading off to Crammel Linn waterfall.

Steel Rigg and Hadrian's Wall in the early morning haze.

Hadrian's Wall with the crags beyond.

Saw two partridges, which was a plus and several of the Hotbank Farm Black Faced ewe's who'd jumped the field wall to get to the roadside grass, so it's not just us who always thinks the grass will be greener on the other side :)
The day went downhill rapidly from then on, so today I've spent the day gardening with plenty of coffee breaks so I feel rested and basked in sunshine.


Mucklebank Crag

I love all the names along the Hadrian's Wall Path, Mucklebank Crag is part of the Thirlwall Nicks.
Once known as the Nine Nicks of Thirlwall for the 9 peaks, the name changed when quarrying at Walltown blasted out a couple of the high spots.
Went out looking for a sunset, and being up on the Crag just above the Turret is one of my favourite spots to just sit and watch the world go by.
Last night I watched William and his sheepdog round up the sheep and move them down off the crags for the night and the gentle put, put of a quad bike is an oft heard sound, early mornings and late at night.
The climb up Mucklebank is easy, well probably easier is the correct term, it used to be an awful slipping, sliding and skidding on your backside job, then Michael one of the wardens for Northumberland National Park aided and abetted by various helpers build a stone step path from top to bottom, much appreciated by yours truely.
So, onto today's photographs.

View from the first peak of Mucklebank Crag looking east, no Wall is visible here but you can follow the line of the foundations that have been earth covered for protection.

The view west from the slope of Mucklebank Crag with the remains of a Turret in the foreground, the Hadrian's Wall Path follows the line of Walltown Crags west, then down to Thirlwall Castle.

Sun setting over Thirlwall Common, and Gilsland beyond,  from Mucklebank Crag

I'm still struggling with this cold/bug, I suppose I did tempt fate when I declared airily that "I never catch cold, of course you must still come for coffee".

All photographs used on this blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission.


Fly Past

I was dithering today wondering if the helicopters on exercise over Spadeadam deserved my photographic attentions, I did once long ago see an exercise where the helicopters were firing flares and having flares fired back at them.
Harmless but very dramatic, however there didn't seem to be enough coming and going around in circles for that sort of exercise so I opted for a fly past of a different ilk.
Off to Mawbury on the Solway Coast again, numbers of waders are falling fast as the birds move off into their summer breeding grounds so this was probably my last chance of photographing them in numbers.
I walked down the dunes towards Allonby and then tried heading back north and sneaking up on the birds.
Ha! It was like an elephant trying to sneak up on a mouse, I don't have knees that bend anymore so no SAS type moves on elbows and knees.
I did however sit on the shingle and shuffle as elegantly as possible closer to the flock.
The Curlews were on point duty and they take no prisoners, taking to the air with much noise to alert all the other birds that I was there.
My plan had been to sit in one place and then let the tide bring the birds closer but while the tide came closer the birds did not, they simply moved further north.
Still I can think of far worse ways to spend a warm bright Thursday afternoon.
I found my Jack Pyke camoflague hat that I must have lost on Sunday when I was last there, amazing it hadn't blown away in the wind and I hadn't missed it.
Yes, it will be washed in case passing dogs left their mark.
Three double circuits of the beach was enough for me, carrying my heavy tripod and lens, the further you go the heavier it gets.
So Here are the results of todays outing:

Oystercatchers and a Knot enjoying a promenade in the surf.

Unfortunately litter is a problem on beaches but I left it in the picture to show how tiny these birds are

Fly past of Curlew, while they wouldn't let me get close while they were on the ground they did fly quite close for an action shot.

Fly past of Knot and Godwits

Due to have a very minor op tomorrow, but it will probably involve stitches so I won't be carrying the heavy gear for a day or so, hoping to get out for some sunrise shots over the weekend so watch this space.


Hadrian's Wall at Cawfields

It was lunch time before the skies cleared today and TT decided he'd accompany me on my sorté.I was hoping to get some more photographs of the Dabchick at Walltown Quarry so I headed there thinking TT would have a walk and come back for me, but I hadn't anticipated the wind being quite so fierce.
The lake was bare of birds as the wind scudded across the surface the birds, and there only seemed to be Mallard around today, were being quite sensible and sheltering behind a wall.
No sign of the Dabchicks or the Tufted Ducks that were there last week.
I sat there thinking, you never know what might appear when a great gust of wind knocked me, and the tripod flying, with the camera end giving me a bang on the head on the way to the ground.

Time for 'Plan B'.
Off to Cawfields thinking that as we were out anyway we might as well have a walk, I just took the camera with me.
The wind at our backs pushed us up Cawfield Crags, and however windy it was a Walltown, it was windier on the tops of the Crags reminding me to say to anyone planning on walking the Hadrian's Wall Path, do it from west to east so you have the prevailing winds behind you.
The footpath men have been to Cawfields with their little green sticks but in my first picture today you can see an area they've repaired, this would have been a groove that's been filled and reseeded.

Cawfield Crags with remedial repairs to the Hadrian's Wall Path

It said on tonight's weather forcast that there had been gusts up to 50mph and I could believe that, it was very warm but you had to keep your outer coat zipped up or you were lashed to bits, and in danger of hang gliding over the Crags.
After the ups and downs of Cawfield Crags you eventually reach  the road at Caw Gap

From Caw Gap you can continue up onto the slopes of Winshields Crag, you can see the  line that was Hadrian's Wall in the picture, we chose to head back to the car park at Cawfields, taking the lower track that runs parallel to the Wall, making a three mile circular walk.

The lower path looking east to the right of the picture you can just see the Vallum

The views from the lower path up to the Wall are quite impressive, if you think the Wall was 6 metres high when it was built.

The view up to Hadrian's Wall from the lower path, at Thorney Doors on Cawfields Crag

There are lots of visitors about, considering it's so early in the season and mid week, more of the wrinkly set, like me and TT, making the most of our retirement time.

Milecastle 42 at Cawfields with views west over the Fort at Aesica and Mucklebank Crag.

We laugh about the silly things that 'Public Works' and an intransigent attitude do in this day and age but obviously it was no different in Roman times, if the Milecastles had to be a Roman Mile apart then that was it written in stone, quite literally.
You can see from this picture how much easier it would have been to move the Milecastle just a bit to west where the land is flatter.
On several of the Forts and Milecastles along the Crags there's a gateway to the north that opens onto a sheer drop, not at all practical but can't you hear an ancient clerk of works insisting 'it's on the plans so that's how we build it'?

I include this view to the south over the Mare nd Foal standing stone just because I like the clouds

We eventually got back to the car park, spent some time watching a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly enjoying the dandelion flowers, and looking for toad spawn before heading bag home with burning faces from the sun and wind but feeling better for the fresh air.
Toilets at Cawfield Quarry, refreshments at The Milecastle In and Herding Hill Farm Shop.

As usual, all photographs used on this blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without my written permission.
More photographs at www.joanthirlaway.co.uk


Peel Crags and that tree

It seems to be taking me ages to shake this cold bug I've picked up and when the weather is bad I sit at home feeling sorry for myself.

A chink of blue in the grey cloud and I'm picking up my gear and heading off along the Wall, the cloud was changing so quickly that it was hard to decide where to go but eventually I settled for Steel Rigg.

The climb up to Peel Crags is one I hate, no make that HATE! the steps are all sizes and if you have big feet like me and you're carrying a lot of gear, like me, then balance is a precarious thing.
I arrived at the top and all the blue sky had disappeared, typical.
Still I did feel better for the fresh air so I kept on going and taking pictures along the way.
Waste of time as I well know, if there's no "light" there's no picture, it doesn't have to be sunlight just that sort of brightness that makes a world of difference.

Of course I was telling myself that I could Blog that Hadrian's Wall is beautiful no matter what the weather, and it really is, but a bit of light makes it just that little bit better.

A little bit of light over Steel Rigg

To add to my woes the footpath men have been out reseeding the worn bits of the Hadrian's Wall Path and then sticking little green posts in with a white label telling people what they're doing, very photogenic!
The HW Path does take a battering, especially during the wet winter months, all our feet carving great gouges out of the grass, as we tramp along enjoying the view.
The two guys, who look after the outside part of the path, do a sterling job of keeping it fit for use.

The line of green sticks climbs up the path above Castle Gap

Sunlight appears just catching the top of Highshields Crag ( taken a few steps away from the last photo but looking east)

Amazing number of people out walking along the path on Saturday considering the way the Tourism people were worrying about how their funding and lack of advertising would affect visitor numbers this year. I think it will be a good year for business along the Wall, I even heard a few foreign accents (including Scottish )

The Sycamore Tree in Sycamore Gap as you see it coming down from Castle Gap

Just as I arrived at Sycamore Gap the light disappeared so I set up my tripod and waited for it to come back, and waited , and waited. People passed me by apologising for 'spoiling' my shot and I explained I was "waiting for the light" and I thought that could be the story of my life.
Eventually just as I had dismantled my set up the light came again and, fortunately, it waited for me to take the shot before going off again.
The man in the picture climbing to the top of Highshields Crag was telling his companion loads of interesting facts about the Wall, they came back past me just after I heard him saying that the Wall in Sycamore Gap was a great place to see exactly how thick Hadrian's Wall would actually have been.
When he got to me he asked me if I knew what sort of tree it was and I wish I'd got a picture of his face as I said 'Sycamore Tree' and he realised how daft the question was, happens to us all sometimes.

All photographs are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission