Category Archives: About blogging

Favourite walks - beechwood path

Favourite Walks for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

We love to walk. Our favourite walks take us on modern multi-user routes, along coastal paths and old railways, but we also love to scramble along leafy, muddy woodland tracks in our own local woods. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, we are sharing walks, both indoors and out. All of the photos I have chosen, feature places we love to walk.

My header shot is of our beautiful local beechwoods. We know and love this path in all seasons and all weathers. Its surface can be dry and sandy or distinctly soggy, with deep puddles and rivulets cascading between the tree roots. Its popularity with cyclists in recent years has prompted the addition of limestone gravel to some parts of the path to keep it passable in wet conditions.

Favourite walks - the aerial walkway, Sunderland Winter Gardens
The aerial walkway, Sunderland Winter Gardens

I thought I add one indoor walk for this challenge. Sunderland Winter Gardens are like a little oasis in the heart of the city centre. This high level aerial walkway is a wonderful vantage point from which to view the impressive tropical plants in the Winter Gardens. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge last week, I showed you the fountains you can see both inside and out at Sunderland’s miniature-tropical-rainforest-in-a-giant-greenhouse.

Favourite walks - Whitburn Coastal Path
Walking along Whitburn Coastal Path to Souter Lighthouse

At least once every Summer, we head out to the North East coast and walk along South Shields Leas to Souter Lighthouse or walk the Whitburn Coastal Path. Both of these paths are maintained by the National Trust along this beautiful and fascinating – but also the most dangerous – stretch of England’s coast.

When we aren’t walking coastal paths, we love to walk along old railways. Here in North East England, we have many old railway tracks that have been turned into a connected set of footpaths.

Favourite Walks - Lintzgreen Station, Derwent Walk
Walking through Lintzgreen Station on the Derwent Walk

Here we’re walking through one of the old stations that stood along the Derwent Valley Railway which carried passengers and freight through our leafy green valley last century when coal mines and steel furnaces were the main employers. You can see the train platforms on either side of the track. My son had evidently found something interesting and had climbed up onto the platform from where passengers would have travelled northbound through to Newcastle. This footpath is now known as the Derwent Walk, a multi-user route that forms part of the C2C long-distance cycle route, and which links up to the Waskerley Way, below.

Favourite walks - Waskerley Way
Heading out across the heather moors on the Waskerley Way

The Waskerley Way railway path takes us out over the heather moors and is another favourite walk of ours in Summer when the purple heather blooms. I love walking this path but you have to go prepared – this is real moorland and the weather can change suddenly. A warm Summer’s day in our valley can mean a cool and brisk breeze on the moor and passing showers envelop you – you literally have your head in the cloud! Warm clothing and waterproofs are definitely a good plan.

Favourite walks - going to our camp
Walking to our camp in the woods

Not all of our favourite walks are on wide and well-defined footpaths. We also love leafy woodland tracks. A few years ago we built a camp entirely from natural materials and there I taught the boys to cook outdoors over a small wood fire. The camp was deep in the woods, so the walk to reach it required a bit of scrambling through brambles and steep-sided streams. Here we are taking the narrow track along the top of the stream gorge on our way to cook at the camp.

Favourite Walks - going home along the old railway
Going home along the old railway in our woods

Wherever we may roam, we always return home, and quite often the walk home is along the old railway in our local woods. Just like our favourite beechwood path that we saw at the beginning of this post, we have walked the old railway in every type of weather – sun, rain, fog, frost, ice and snow. We knew all its muddy puddles. We sometimes even sledged along it on the way home from school, years ago when the boys were young.

When the railway was very dry, you could still see the impressions in the ground where the old wooden railway sleepers had lain when it carried the mineral line that took the coal from our village to Newcastle. I’m slightly sad that this Spring the old railway has been resurfaced with gravel to make a modern multi-user route. However, with the increasing rainfall due to climate change, the puddles in some places were becoming so deep and wide, a boat was almost needed! So perhaps the new path surface was the only practical solution ๐Ÿ™‚

Do take a look at the walks others have shared for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Sunderland’s Fountains

A trip to Sunderland is not complete for our family without a visit to Sunderland Winter Gardens and Mowbray Park.

Fountain - Sunderland Winter Gardens
Fountain – Sunderland Winter Gardens

The “Winter Gardens” is really an absolutely enormous greenhouse, full of exotic plants such as banana plants and pitcher plants that you’d normally find in a tropical rainforest. It’s probably hardly surprising that in this mini rainforest, water features are important. One of our favourite water features is this stainless steel fountain. The water cascades down the surface of the tall steel tower, making wonderful wave patterns and catching the light as it flows.

Fountain - Mowbray Park, Sunderland
Fountain – Mowbray Park, Sunderland

Right outside of Sunderland Winter Gardens is Mowbray Park, a lovely old-fashioned municipal park, complete with a duck pond and this rather marvelous fountain. I love the way my son has captured the falling water in this shot.

Do take a look at the fountains others have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Keep off the artwork!

Keep off the artwork sign
“Keep off the artwork” – Gateshead Interchange

I see this sign every time I travel through the bus station at Gateshead Interchange. It always makes me smile ๐Ÿ™‚

We have many public artworks in our area – in the town centre, along the cycle path by the river, and even in our local woods – but this is the only one that seems to require a sign to discourage any adventurous types from climbing on it!

I thought I’d share my curious sign for Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Cars, Trucks and Motorcycles

Robin Reliant 3-wheeler car in black-white
Robin Reliant 3-wheeler car outside our local garage
Suzuki N600 motorbike in black-white
Suzuki N600 motorbike

My photos are more often of castles, trees or making things rather than Cars, Trucks and Motorcycles, but as Cee was kind enough to choose my “Steps and Stairs” post from last week’s challenge as one of her Featured Bloggers, I thought I’d dig in my archives and create a response to this week’s Cars, Trucks and Motorcycles theme by way of a ‘Thank You’ ๐Ÿ™‚

Do take a look at what others have found for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Living History Events for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Our family’s home education journey has taken us to many events over the years. One type of event that has always proved very popular with our boys is Living History. Here in North East England, the Romans, the Vikings, and the English Civil Wars have all played their significant parts in our local history.

We have enjoyed some wonderful learning opportunities at Living History days at museums and Roman forts around the North East. We’ve met people dressed in authentic costumes of the era and learned all about the lives of the people they represent. As a parent, I have found this kind of ‘hands on’ approach has really brought the history alive for our boys. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week on the topic of ‘Events’, I thought I’d share with you a few photos of some of these Living History events.

Children having fun at a Roman history day
Young trainee gladiators learning their moves at Arbeia Roman Fort, South Shields

That’s my young gladiator, second from the right ๐Ÿ˜‰

Tablet weaving at Viking living history event, Great North Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne
Tablet weaving demonstration at a Viking living history event, Great North Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne

Another thing we have found with the participants on Living History days, is their generosity with their time and knowledge. We talked to this lady for ages about her Viking tablet weaving. It was fascinating to see how the different patterns were made.

Musket-loading demonstration at English Civil War living history event
How to load your musket – English Civil War living history at Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend

Our boys took a close interest in how to load a musket at this English Civil War living history event held at the Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend in Summer 2010. Later in the same Summer we saw muskets and Civil War artillery in action at the re-enactment of the Battle of Hylton Castle.

Sunderland’s Hylton Castle was the scene of this important English Civil War battle in March 1664. The rivalry between the North East cities of Newcastle and Sunderland is legendary, especially in terms of football. Back in 1644, things were no different! Newcastle supported the Royalists and Sunderland were on the side of the Parliamentarians.

The Parliamentarians really needed to win the Battle of Hylton Castle to keep the port of Sunderland out of Royalist hands. The Parliamentarians did win which meant the port of Sunderland was also able to continue to supply their allies, the Scottish Covenanters, which in turn meant that the Scottish Covenanters were properly supplied for the pivotal Battle of Marston Moor on 2nd July 1644 – the largest battle ever to take place on English soil.

Battle of Hylton Castle - English Civil War battle re-enactment
Battle of Hylton Castle – English Civil War battle re-enactment

This large-scale re-enactment was organised by the Sealed Knot re-enactment group and a very dramatic battle it was too, with musketeers, pikemen and field artillery. The armies marched to the beat of their drums. The smell of gun smoke filled the air as the musketeers lined up and fired off their muskets and the field cannons were loaded. “Have a care!” they called out, before,”Boom!” the cannons were fired off too. The sturdy pikemen in their steel helmets clashed pikes in noisy groups on the battle field. The ‘injured’ were tended by the female camp followers.

As well as the battle re-enactment itself, there was also a large living history encampment with demonstrations of food, entertainments and various skills and crafts of the time. We spent the whole day at this event, exploring the living history encampment, watching the dramatic battle and soaking up the atmosphere among the crowds of people who had come along to experience the Battle of Hylton Castle.

Do take a look at the events others have shared for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

Steps and Stairs for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge

Stone stile, Whitburn
Stone stile at Whitburn

As a keen countryside footpath explorer, I have climbed over many stiles in my life. Most of them tend to be of the wooden rickety type. But I think this one we found a couple of Summers ago at Whitburn is magnificent … and definitely the most sturdily built one I have ever traversed! There was no need to perch precariously on the top of this fine sandstone edifice. I was able to stand atop and gaze out across the meadow to the North Sea beyond, completely without any risk of the stile giving way beneath me!

Steps to castle entrance, Newcastle Castle Keep
Steps to main entrance of Newcastle’s Castle Keep

Regular visitors to my blog may have seen my photo of the view looking down from the top of Newcastle’s Norman Castle Keep for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge last week. This time we are looking up the steep stone main steps to the ‘front door’ of the Castle Keep. Can you spot the silhouettes of our two boys in the dark doorway? ๐Ÿ˜€

Castle Stairs, Newcastle upon Tyne
The Castle Stairs to the Quayside

When are outdoor stone steps called ‘stairs’? When they lead down the steep slope from the old medieval town onto Newcastle’s Quayside. There are several sets of ‘stairs’ in this vicinity. My two photos show the Castle Stairs and the Long Stairs (known in Newcastle’s Geordie dialect as the ‘Lang Stairs’). The Castle Stairs and the Long Stairs between them lead from the Castle Keep right down to the Quayside.

Another set of stairs that lead from the Castle grounds is the more oddly-named ‘Dog Leap Stairs’. Apparently ‘Dog Leap’ is an historical reference to โ€˜a narrow slip of ground between housesโ€™. This set of stairs has two claims to fame. Firstly, according to local legend, when the well-to-do Bessie Surtees eloped with the coal merchant’s son, John Scott (later to become Lord Chancellor of England) in 1772, they escaped on horseback up the Dog Leap Stairs. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have a photo of these stairs, but if you can imagine, this is a long set of steep, stone steps – on horseback? That sounds as if it would be a hair-raising experience! The Dog Leap Stairs are also mentioned in the song ‘Down to the Waterline’ by the band, Dire Straits.

Castle Stairs, Newcastle Quayside
The foot of the Long Stairs at Newcastle Quayside

At the foot of the Long Stairs is one of the oldest buildings in Newcastle. This timber-framed building dates from the 15th century. In the 19th century it was owned by a family called ‘Cooper’ and was an actual cooperage (barrel-making!). It retained the name, “The Cooperage”, but I knew it as a quaint old public house in the closing decades of last century. The pub closed down in 2009 and it seems, sadly, the building is no longer in use.

Do take a look at what others have found for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week on the theme of Steps and Stairs.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Black & White Featured Blogger Badge

Newcastle Cityscapes for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Newcastle upon Tyne - view from Castle Keep roof
Newcastle upon Tyne – view from the Castle Keep roof

View from the roof of Newcastle’s Castle Keep

This was the chosen location for early settlements because of its defensive position high above the River Tyne – the Roman fort at Pons Aelius, an Anglo Saxon settlement and the original Norman motte and bailey castle built by Robert Curthose all occupied this site at different times. The medieval Castle Keep still stands guard on this ancient vantage point today.

I chose this image because I think of this spot as the starting point for the development of the whole of the City of Newcastle. Modern day visitors can climb to the roof of the Castle Keep and look out right across the city, just as medieval knights and soldiers in the English Civil Wars would have done in the past. The views have changed a lot, of course. However nowadays, visitors can enjoy the cityscape and spot local landmarks rather than worrying about the approaching Scottish armies ๐Ÿ™‚

Grey Street

Newcastle  upon Tyne - the very elegant Grey Street
Newcastle’s very elegant Grey Street

Nikolaus Pevsner, the eminent 20th century architectural historian, described Newcastle’s Grey Street as “one of the finest streets in England”. Grey Street is named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. That’s the same Earl Grey who gives his name to the famous fragrant tea. However, the Monument to Earl Grey that heads Grey Street recalls something even more important than tea! It celebrates Earl Grey’s Great Reform Act of 1832 that gave Britain’s electoral system a good shake up, gave more men the vote and saw an end to the ‘rotten boroughs’ … well, at least it was a move in the right direction ๐Ÿ˜‰

Newcastle’s 19th century grandeur, that is so beautifully displayed in Grey Street, was significantly influenced by two men whose names are synonymous with the elegant classical architecture that still graces the contemporary city, Richard Grainger and John Dobson. Unsurprisingly, both men have Newcastle streets named after them.

Grainger Street

Newcastle upon Tyne - Grainger Street
Grainger Street, Newcastle, with Grey’s Monument in the middle distance

This photo shows Grainger Street, which also leads up to Grey’s Monument. Richard Grainger was the son of a quayside porter, and set himself up as a builder and developer. With the help of his wife’s wealthy family, he built up a very successful business. In 1831, it was he who created the vision of an elegant and fashionable new street, Grey Street, right in the heart of the city centre. You can read more about Richard Grainger’s vision for Newcastle’s Grey Street on this blog post by Tyne & Wear Museums service.

John Dobson Street

Newcastle upon Tyne - John Dobson Street (Library and Laing Art Gallery)
Newcastle’s Central Library and Laing Art Gallery on John Dobson Street

Here’s a contrast of architecture on John Dobson Street (though neither of these buildings were designed by John Dobson!) – Newcastle’s 21st century Central Library building and the early 20th century Laing Art Gallery, built in the Baroque style. John Dobson was a 19th century Newcastle architect and a contemporary of Richard Grainger. Dobson had trained in London and returned to Newcastle with many fashionable ideas from the capital. Working together, John Dobson and Richard Grainger put their elegant stamp on new developments in Victorian Newcastle.

The Tyne Bridge

Newcastle Tyne Bridge and 3 other bridges over the River Tyne
Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge and 3 more of the bridges over the River Tyne

No trip to Newcastle would be complete without a view of our world-famous Tyne Bridge. To close my entry for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, I have chosen this photo taken looking west along Newcastle’s historic Quayside. You can see four of the seven bridges that span the river within a short distance of each other along the city centre stretch of the River Tyne. Reading from the river surface upwards, we have:

    1. The red and white Swing Bridge (built on the site of the original Roman Pons Aelius),
    2. The blue Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge (this carries the rapid transit system),
    3. The elegant Victorian ironwork of the High Level Bridge (built by William Armstrong)
    4. … and at the top ~ the famous arches and ironwork of the Tyne Bridge, the classic icon of Newcastle for we local people, wherever we are in the world ๐Ÿ˜€

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Newcastle cityscapes. The links in the text will take you to more information and photos about the people and places mentioned, either in previous blog posts of mine or via other resources I have found.

Do take a look at the cities others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge