Last week, we spent a few welcome days here:
Where I hear you ask? The most underrated county in England. Yes, I know I am an adopted Yorkshire lass and love it to bits. Even so, the tourist-filled beauty spots can be wearing if you are trying to find glorious stretches of empty sandy beaches and deserted heather moorland. Did you know it is the most sparsely populated area in England with only 62 people per square kilometre?
Northumberland is my true idea of peace, tranquillity and heaven on earth. As you may or may not know we have a motor-home and enjoy the independence it brings us. We prefer to explore the UK these days (as all the questions asked regarding health insurance makes it difficult for us to travel abroad at short notice).We rarely stay away from home for weeks at an end, preferring to look at the weather-forecast and make on the spot plans. This year there have been few opportunities. We may go away again next month. Where? Possibly north of the border. Watch this space.
So what a joy it was to find ourselves in Old Hartley, north of Whitley Bay last week overlooking the sea and seemingly only a stone's throw from St Mary's Island to where you can easily (well, it still takes mer a while) walk to at low tide. Other times, you'll need a snorkel and wetsuit.
Manwhile back in Northumberland and Old Hartley and the small caravan site with its spectacular views of the sea. Turn your head to the north you will see the industrial port Blyth and to the south is the sea-side holiday resort of Whitley Bay. Both will be familiar for fans of the TV series Vera based on Ann Cleeve's brilliant crime novels. Gaze out to the horizon and watch the steady progress of container ships, yachts and ferries to Amsterdam and beyond. No wonder the Geordie accent has more than slight echoes of Scandinavia.
Just next to where we were pitched was this glorious orange Californian poppy. Nestling against a dry-stone wall, it grew proud and undaunted by the coastal breeze that buffeted it. Gloriously golden it even dimmed the shy pale yellow blooms that grow in my part of Yorkshire.
One day we visited Seaton Delavel Hall, a mile or two to the north. Devastated by a massive fire in 1822, it is a magnificent ruin but that makes it more exciting to visit. Its history is amazing. You wouldn't believe what went on within its walls in the 18th century. You can read all about it here.
Photo opportunities abounded. And when Jon went off to climb the many spiral staircases, the rails of which remain twisted by that major fire...
...I spent some time alone in conversation with a very old and battered large oak table. Oh the tales it told me: of a drowned sea-captain, his daughter and that formidable lady in the portrait! And so So I left Seaton Delaval Hall clutching the kernel of a short story which I hope will grow into something larger soon.