|Five days on Lindisfarne (make an LJ post)
||[Jun. 29th, 2014|10:52 pm]
On Monday morning we delivered helenraven to Berwick station, to catch her train home, then took ourselves and our computers to the Leaping Salmon, a Wetherspoon's pub which we identified several years ago as a good source of wifi. When we had had all the internets we could eat, we visited Berwick Barracks - built in the early 18th century to Hawksmoor's design, and among the first in England to be purpose built - according to English Heritage, and I was disappointed that the information on site didn't focus more on the building, or what life was like for its first inhabitants. Instead, it's all about the exhibitions housed in various corners of this imposing pile: the town museum, an outpost of the Burrell collection, a history of the professional army and of the local regiment, the King's Own Scottish Borderers. I liked 'A Window on Berwick', an accumulation of objects with some historic or local aspect - a cash register, some medieval stonework, "Grace Darling's Weathervane" (that is, the weathervane from the top of the Longstone light - looking pretty spruce for something that's come from the top of a lighthouse) all arranged around a variety of mocked up scenes and figures. But my favourite thing of all came from the Burrell Collection:
though not from Burrell's own collection, it's too new for that: a large plate made by the Belford Pottery in the 1990s combining willow pattern styling with a view of Berwick.
We lunched at the Queen's Head, (I'm used to pubs being called the Queen's Head, but still boggled a bit at the offer of 'the Queen's Head banana split') and then went shopping. I can always find something I want at the Green Shop, and there's a whole boutique shopping area springing up around it - an antiques gallery, a kitchenware shop - and when we'd had enough of that, we relocated to Berrydin Books, handy for a last visit to the Co-op, and then home.
On Tuesday I had hoped to walk across to the other end of the island, but the morning was rainy enough that instead I joined durham_rambler on a visit to the castle. What can I say about Lindisfarne Castle that I haven't said before? Well, there were a surprising number of snails on the ramparts of the lower battery: so that's where they've gone! We had noticed that paths where in previous years it was impossible to walk without crunching snails underfoot were now surprising snail-free... An American woman was reading the guide book, and explaining to her friend: "Lytton Strachey - he was a jerk."
By the time we crossed to the garden, the sun was shining. They make a big fuss about the garden, and how they have reinstated the planting as designed by Gertrude Jeckyll, but they don't seem to harvest their vegetables - the chard was going to seed, and so was the fennel. And I coveted the artichokes.
In the evening we watched Alison Steadman's Shetland on television, mostly wondering how Visit Shetland had managed to set up such a blatant piece of advertising. But I'm always happy to watch the Shetland landscape scrolling past, and if there's an occasional puffin, well, so much the better. Quotation of the day: ":Spraint is very important to otters - it's kind of like their FaceBook page, in many senses." (Brydon Thomason, otter photographer).
My ambition for the week had been to make an excursion to Abbotsford, the castle Sir Walter Scott built for himself by the Tweed, recently reopened after a period of refurbishment. I wasn't confident that we'd get there, as it was over an hour's drive away: call it a stretch goal. As it turned out, the drive was a plus rather than a minus, following the Tweed valley up past Kelso, and Abbotsford was charming, really quite restrained as Scottish baronial goes, from the outside at least, and set in delightful gardens. The interior was heavy on the wood panelling and the suits of armour, but I suffered sever bookcase envy, not so much in the Library but in Scott's quite cosy study. And look, here's his desk:
D. suggested that while we were in the area we also visit Smailholm Tower: Scott's grandparents had farmed nearby, and he had visited them as a boy, and been impressed by the romance of the tower - which is understandable:
The interior was full of an exhibition about The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, tableaux of dolls illustrating some of the best known ballads. The less said about that the better, I think. But the best thing was the scramble up the grassy crag to the tower, thickly carpeted with tiny flowers, like a miniature heartsease.
On Thursday, J came to visit us, so we made the most of the sunshine, and visited the priory: English Heritage's 17th most visited monument, the attendant told us. I love the precision of that figure, and that it is at the same time quite modest and quite impressive. I wouldn't have put it so high, not because it isn't well worth visiting:
but because it's not huge, and not always easily accessible. Frustratingly, Wikipedia gives a 'most visited' list for the National Trust but not for English Heritage. We didn't quite have the place to ourselves, but almost. Certainly it was busier up on the Heugh, where we climbed up to the viewpoint in the old coastguard tower, and looked out for seals.
We spent Friday morning at Sunnyhills Farm shop, just south of Belford; coffee and wifi, and laying in essential provisions for the evening meal. Home via Belford itself, where an awful lot of the village seems to be for sale, but an interesting little museum of local history has been set up in the old Reading Room (which, despite its interesting curved frontage, was built in the 1930s, replacing an earlier building demolished when the A1 was widened).
So that what with one thing and another it was mid-afternoon and threatening to rain before I set off down Straight Lonnen. I didn't have time to go as far as I would have liked, and in particular I was disappointed not to find the stony beach with the ever-changing constructions - the 'Lindisfarne Hotel'. But the astonishing profusion of orchids made up for it. At first I thought I was too late in the season, that like the thrift they would be flowering earlier than in previous years. This could be true; certainly, I saw fewer of the purple orchids which I think of as the commonest, and those I saw were mostly over. But there were several patches of marsh helleborines, of which I've only ever seen one before:
At one point, failing to follow the coast because the old quarry workings drove all the paths at right angles to the direction I wanted, I clambered over a dune, trying not to disturb the throng of burnet moths feeding on the spikes of bugloss leaning into my path, and came down into a green bowl whose floor was covered with hundreds of helleborines. And that's without mentioning the little green orchids (which D. and I did manage to identify, but I've forgotten, and will have to do it again - but not tonight). Or the tiny white flowers growing in the wettest hollow, and I have absolutely no idea what they are.
So that was all very satisfactory.
And yesterday was Saturday, and we came home.