Blue and Gold
As landscape photographers we are always being informed that the best time for the ideal lighting conditions is the "Golden Hour" that period around sunrise and sunset, when the light is soft and warm toned. That does leave quite a bit of the day where according to convention the light is too harsh. I had a recent trip up the Coquet Valley on such an occasion. The sunrise had been lovely, but here I was with the rest of the day ahead of me. I could go home and sit in front of the computer downloading, key wording and processing my photographs, but it was much too nice to do that. Instead I drove to Alwinton and then planned to drive up the Coquet Valley. I'd checked online and the Otterburn Ranges weren't firing today, so I'd be able to drive all the way through from Alwinton to Otterburn. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Otterburn Ranges, they are one of the largest live firing ranges in Europe and are in high demand by both our armed forces and those of our allies. When the red flags are flying the ranges are in use and the public aren't allowed in. During April however, the ranges close down for a few weeks for lambing. They also happen to be located in the Northumberland National Park, and in my opinion, in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. The sun was bright and there wasn't a cloud in the sky; not ideal landscape photography conditions, but I didn't care, I was simply enjoying being out in such a wonderful landscape. As I drove up the valley, I was making mental notes about views and what would be the best light for future forays. I sat by the river watching Sand Martins excavating their nests in the sandy banks of the river. Sand Pipers, Grey Wagtails, Pied Wagtails, Oyster Catchers flitted up and down the river perching on boulders, catching insects and generally making the most of the fine weather. In the distance the haunting call of the Curlew, sounding its return from it's winter feeding on the coast. It's no coincidence that the symbol of the Park is the Curlew, it's an integral part of this upland environment. I continued further up the valley and noticed the sunlight was being reflected off the yellow grasses onto the river, which was in shade. The contrast between the golden light reflected off the grasses and the deep blue shade on the river was wonderful and I set up my camera and took several photographs. Moving on I reached Makendon, the last farmhouse in the Coquet Valley. From here the road continues on for just over a mile and then officially ends at a car park. On this occasion I could continue on the "military" part of the road as the red flags weren't flying and I wasn't going to be shot at! Climbing up the hill out of the valley the view begins to open up. Looking back to the NW is the remains of Chew Green roman camp. If the Roman Legionnaires thought being posted to Housesteads on Hadrian's Wall was the end of the world, I dread to think what they thought when being informed that they were being transferred to Chew Green! I actually camped nearby many years ago on the last leg of the Pennine Way. Fortunately for me it was a warm summers evening and I had the luxury of a cosy tent and sleeping bag. Finally I reached the top of the hill and the highest point of my journey. The views were wonderful, with what seemed to be the entirety of Northumberland laid out before me. Cheviot and Hedgehope to the NE the Simonside Hills to the SE and Peel Fell and Deadwater Fell across to the SW. I sat for a while listening to the Curlews before heading down to Otterburn and the A68 home. I took a few photographs, but now have dozens of new ideas and locations to come back to and explore further.