Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North East coast day 5 - Fountains Abbey


North Yorkshire Cistercian ruins of Fountains Abbey in the evening gloom

My last day in the North East and I decided to visit Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire on my way back down south. Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for over 400 years, until 1539, when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The abbey sits in an enclosed valley within Studley Royal Park, which also features an 18th century landscaped garden, including the Water Garden, created in 1718, which is one of the best surviving examples of a Georgian water garden in England. It is studded with a number of follies including a neo-Gothic castle and a palladian style banqueting house.

Unsurprisingly in 1986, the entire parkland including the abbey was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was recognised for fulfilling the criteria of being a masterpiece of human creative genius, and an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stages in human history. Fountains Abbey is owned by the National Trust and maintained by English Heritage.

North East coast day 4 - Pennine Waterfalls


Waterfall and woodland in the North Pennines near Bowlees

While I was up north I took the opportunity to visit the Pennines, as I had never visited them before. I had a plan to do a bit of waterfall photography, because I can’t resist a good waterfall, and the Pennines have them in abundance, seeing as they form the main watershed in northern England, dividing east and west.

Often described as the ‘backbone of England’, the Pennine Hills form a more-or-less continuous range stretching northwards from the Peak District, into the South Pennines incorporating parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, through the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines past the Cumbrian Fells up to the Tyne Gap, which separates the range from the Cheviot Hills.

I was concentrating on the North Pennines, which is classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is afforded much the same protection as a National Park. Lying just north of the Yorkshire Dales, it rivals the National Park in size and includes some of the Pennines' highest peaks and some of its most isolated and sparsely populated areas.

Monday, February 6, 2017

North East coast day 3 - Whitley Bay & St Mary's Lighthouse


St Mary's Lighthouse at Whitley Bay on the North East Coast

I took a trip up the coast to Whitley Bay, as I had it in mind to pay a visit to St Mary’s Lighthouse. Built in 1898 on the site of an 11th century monastic chapel, whose monks kept a lantern in the tower to warn passing ships of the dangerous rocks they were passing, this venerable old lady was in use for 86 years before being decommissioned in 1984, and was the last Trinity House (the official General Lighthouse Authority for England) lighthouse lit by oil. 

The grade II listed lighthouse is situated on the tiny island of St Mary’s, which is also home to a small museum and visitor centre along with the one and only inhabited private property on the isle. During the 19th century there was an inn, known as the 'Square and Compass', on there, but in 1895, after complaints about rowdy customers trespassing on nearby land, the landlord had the publican and his family summarily chucked off the island.

The lighthouse is open to visitors, but not in winter, so there weren’t too many people about, partly also I would imagine, due to the blisteringly ferocious wind that was howling in from the North Sea. And which seemed to be on a relentless quest to snatch anything from about my person that wasn’t fastened down, meaning that any time I needed to retrieve something from my camera bag, it triggered a lengthy exercise in gusty frustration.

Friday, February 3, 2017

North East Coast Day 2 - Blast Beach Sunrise & Roker Sunset


Sunrise at Seaham over Blast Beach near Sunderland

I was up early in the hope that there would be a decent sunrise, and as I drove out of Sunderland towards Seaham, it looked like I might be in luck. I parked up along the seafront at Nose’s Point, and quickly realised I should have arrived a bit earlier, as the dawn colours were already making themselves known above me.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

North East coast day 1 - Rainbows & a lighthouse


Marsden coastline and The Leas view of a storm cloud and rainbow

Over the New Year I took a trip up to Sunderland to spend some time with family, and also spend some time exploring the area. I've only just gotten around to sorting through my images, so I'll be adding a few posts in the coming days of my time on the spectacular North East coast.

My first stop was Souter Lighthouse, located in the village of Marsden in South Shields. I parked up along The Leas, a two and a half mile stretch of magnesian limestone cliffs that date from around 250 million years ago. The cliffs have been named by the Geological Society of London as number 34 in the top 100 geological sites in the UK and Ireland. The Leas is famous for being the finish line for the Great North Run.

When I arrived the weather wasn't looking particularly clement, just grey and damp, but I could see it was threatening to brighten up at some point, so I set off in the hope it wouldn't disappoint. It wasn't long before the sun appeared through the haze and bulky clouds began to calve off and drift away.