Northumberland November 2012

Saturday 24th

With a cold and frosty start we set off on our journey to Elsdon – we planned to stop at Saltholme RSPB for a wander around but when we arrived the weather was the same as the journey there – foggy! So foggy you could see nothing out on the reserve at all. So we settled for a coffee instead (much warmer than being out in the cold fog!) Then on our way again and a quick stop at Asda in the Metro Centre (enormous place) we said farewell to the hustle and bustle of the city and drove the last 40 miles to our holiday cottage near Elsdon. The A696 is a lovely road and apart from the occasional small village there was only countryside and big skies from Ponteland to Otterburn. As we approached our turning we were greeted with a beautiful landscape of frosty fields with a low mist hanging over the valley of the River Rede. As darkness fell we settled in to our new surroundings and after reviewing the weather (rain!) changed our plans for the first part of the week.

Sunday 25th

After a quick call to our wildlife guide who was planning on taking us out on Monday we decided to postpone till Thursday as the forecast for Monday was bad. He did give us a location for our target species for the week (Red Squirrel) which was in Harwood village. As it was raining we visited Otterburn Mill for a while and when the rain eased we made our way via Elsdon to Harwood. Sadly the rain descended again and while we sat in the car and watched the rain through ever steaming up windows we saw a Red Squirrel run across the forest track in front of us! We were happy to have made a sighting on our first day. The rain appeared to have set in for the day so we decided to visit Rothbury – nice old town but as it was Sunday it was very quiet. The River Cocquet was impressive though as it powered through the village swollen by the recent heavy rains. As we sat at a set of traffic lights we spotted a tree creeper. Back home via some more wonderful scenery and roads that looked more like small streams.

Monday 26th

Weather bad again so made tracks to Jedburgh (as we were only 12 miles from the Scottish border and wildlife photography was nigh on impossible we though a trip to Scotland was a good idea) where we found a wonderful new visitor centre with a very helpful and friendly lady. Sad to say the rest of the town was a disappointment – a far cry from its glory days. However Mary Queen of Scots house was very interesting and highly recommended if in the area. Another lunch in a steamed up car and back to the cottage to escape the rain!

Tuesday 27th

Kielder was planned for today and it did not disappoint. A visit to the hide resulted in 5 squirrels some in reasonable range of our cameras. We had the new Canon SX50 with us so we put its 50x view through its paces – highly impressive little camera. Later we visited the Kielder Birds of Prey centre where we were able to get close up head shots of several birds of prey including White Tailed Eagle, Peregrine and my own favourite the Goshawk. Then we were able to get really close to the birds as Ray gave us the opportunity to feed them – weather too bad for flight. Ray is a real pro, really knows his stuff and looks after the birds wonderfully well and we learned a lot from him. So at last some photography (although it was dull and damp!)

Wednesday 28th

Waterfall day today! Very excited as I was planning to use my Lee Big Stopper to take some long exposures. However the walk to Hareshaw Linn had been closed for health and safety reasons as one of the bridges had become unstable. So after great disappointment we decided to do a walk near Falstone village (near Kielder). Don’t go there on a Wednesday (it is closed!) The tea rooms where we planned to park were closed – the pub was closed (all day) and the village was full of signs which said no parking. Not the friendliest of villages and we will not be in a hurry to return! However once we had parked near the Post Office (you guessed – it was also closed) we had a very nice walk up through some woods and back down to the village – wonderful views and although no wildlife the walk was invigorating and interesting. Once the walk was over we went the short distance back to Kielder (Leaplish) and revisited the squirrel hide. Plenty of squirrels again and this time we also saw a tree creeper and a brambling hiding with the chaffinches. We drove home observing a fantastic sunset but sadly arrived back just as it was ending. The sky was on fire!

Thursday 29th

This was the day we were off with Martin Kitching from Northern Experience Northern Experience Wildlife Tours – postponed from Monday when we had heavy rain. The day dawned bright and frosty and we were soon loaded up and on our way. First visit was to Stannington churchyard where there is a well-known squirrel feeding station – more squirrels observed here along with a tree creeper. Then to look at some gulls and then to Woodhorn – an old colliery which has been turned into a celebration of its history. There is also a wonderful bird feeding station which doubles as a squirrel feeding station also. Someone has taken plenty of time to carefully lay branches for them to run along (and sometimes stop to eat nuts on!) Fantastic place for squirrels. We spent probably too long there and ended up having lunch (we are sure Martin wanted us to have lunch somewhere else)! Finally we finished the day at Cresswell Pool which is a Northumberland Nature Reserve and we all agreed that it was probably the best hide we have ever been in. There were snipe, curlew, lapwing and all the usual water birds plus short eared owl, kestrel and sparrow hawk. Wonderful and a big thank you to Martin for showing us these places.

Friday 30th

Last day already! As we had such a lovely day on Thursday we decided to go back to Woodhorn for more squirrels (where Martin joined us) and then to Cresswell where we saw the same birds again but this time also spotted a bittern which made several appearances. Then as dusk was falling on another beautiful sunset we watched a barn owl hunting over the dunes. Then back to The Redesdale Arms where we had a the most wonderful meal. A fitting end to our time in Northumberland and I am sure we will be back – if only for the waterfalls!!