Last week I had a close encounter with two red squirrels. Rounding a quiet corner in a wooded area, I startled them. One froze in the middle of the lane, the other perched on a mossy wall, immobile, right next to my car window. I glanced to my right and our eyes locked. It was too much for the little fellow. Terrified, he ran, his mate in close pursuit. I drove on with extreme care, thankful to have avoided disaster. All of us possessed the good fortune to have found our paths crossing in deepest coastal Northumberland.
The terror of impermanence drives so many of us. We don’t have time to pause, to dwell, simply to exist. My latest visit to this wonderful corner of Britain found me yearning to sit once more on those exact rocks on the headland at Dunstanburgh castle, to reassure myself that despite the tumultuous changes of the past two years, those waves still crash on those cliffs, that spray still thunders its way into my soul. All will be just so for others to wonder at, long after my short life, with all its worries and anxieties, is long forgotten. This is the place where I can breathe, can simply be.
And so it was that we arrived in Craster after driving through torrential rain, snow, buffeting winds, and blue sky. We had earned our right to enjoy the view. And there it was. The walk. Our walk: the pathway to the castle ruins. For many ramblers who pass this way, it is a half-hour stroll. For me, with my determination to absorb it all, to feel the majesty of the scene and yes, to take plenty of photographs, it can take hours. And it has repaid every return visit. Who’s counting when the wind is in your hair and the myriad blues and perpetual motion fill your senses?
And at the end, beyond the castle, the seabirds nesting, calling and gliding above the rocks I had dreamed of back in landlocked Birmingham. Oh, those birds, and their mournful cries that speak to me of freedom and the edge of the world.
More walks followed, to Embleton with rainbows hatched within breaking waves, beneath the majestic castle of Bamburgh, Alnmouth, Amble, Boulmer with its wonderful array of wading birds. And the Farne islands on the horizon, quietly overseeing each adventure.
On the final morning, surrounded by sheep and oystercatchers, I watched the sunrise in shades of subtle pink and orange that would seem outlandish if painted. The blue hour, the golden hour, the moments of tranquillity surrounded by sea. It drives me on, the need to return and, one day, remain.
Thank you for feeding my soul once more, Northumberland. Until next time.
The blue hour, the golden hour, the moments of tranquillity surrounded by sea. It drives me on, the need to return and, one day, remain.AP Yates