Holidays come and go far too quickly, don’t they? Why do they always feel shorter than a working week despite being longer? Anyway, part 1 of my photography through Northumberland a couple of days ago covered Alnwick Gardens, Holy Island, and a visit to Newcastle United’s home ground. In this second part, we’ll visit a few more interesting places. I can definitely say the weather in the second half of the week was just as mixed as the first half, starting with a very grey and miserable Wednesday at Alnwick Castle.
Day 4: Alnwick Castle
Firstly, cast your mind back to the first Harry Potter film, specifically this scene.
That was filmed in the grounds of Alnwick Castle so this was a little bit of a Harry Pottery pilgrimage for me and my girlfriend. As you can see, the day of our visit was grey and miserable. It was also raining when we arrived and decided that the best course of action was to visit the state rooms first. FIlming and photography is not allowed inside, sadly. But it brightened up around lunchtime. This image is of one of the large open courtyards taken just before we went inside.
Still a little grey in this image, taken on a walk around the courtyards just as the day was starting to brighten up.
Alnwick is also one of the best places to see a garden landscape designed by one of England’s most celebrated garden landscape artists. He revolutionised garden design, creating a more natural looking landscape with winding rivers, clumps of trees, undulating ground and sloping grasslands leading away from the waterways. This is a stark contrast to the formal enclosed gardens, geometrically shaped flower beds and enclosed areas full of exotic plants. He was Lancelot “Capability” Brown.
Day 5: Howick Hall, The Home of Earl Grey Tea
We discovered this place quite by accident when wondering what to do for the only day we hadn’t anything planned. My girlfriend pointed out that a friend of hers liked Earl Grey Tea and it would be nice to visit to buy her some as a gift for watering our plants. Stately homes are nice and as the weather looked promising to visit this one with a seemingly large garden, we were in agreement. Howick Hall is an undiscovered gem of the northeast. It’s just a few miles north of Alnwick and not far from where we were staying just outside Felton.
The first thing you notice is the grand house and the very place where the Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl of Grey, invented the tea named in his honour. Sadly, he never patented it and therefore made no money from this quintessentially English brew. He was a bit of a maverick and very open-minded by today’s standards, serving as a Whig Prime Minister amongst his other honours. He was PM during the period where slavery came to an end, a great victory for a man who spent most of his life campaigning for its abolition and only resigned as foreign secretary when the crown refused to repeal stringent laws against Catholics, and resigned as PM over disagreement over issues in Ireland. A man of principle who invented a popular tea! This was his home.
Sadly, much of the house is closed to the public. Only the lobby serves as an information centre and small exhibition on his the family and especially the 2nd Earl of Grey. A beautiful buidling, but the gardens are quite something too. Another gratuitous close up here, this time of a bee gathering pollen from a flower in one of the formal gardens behind the house.
Finally, back of the house and one of the flowerbeds full of plants I’ve decided to call “pom pom flowers”. Although, if anybody knows what they are actually called, please feel free to post!
Day 6: Northumberland Country Zoo
The last day of our break (boo!) but the weather was glorious and we couldn’t let the warmest, driest and sunniest day of our holiday go to waste. We decided to take the short drive to the local zoo. By local, I mean really local. The headline act on the front of the leaflet was their collection of lemurs. Most zoos in the UK have those, so we didn’t hold out much hope of some excitement. But I put my hand up and say I was completely wrong. Small, yes. Limited, yes. But what the zoo lacks in animals and entertainment it more than makes up for in relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff.
At one point while I was waiting for my girlfriend to come back from the loo, two young zookeepers came out with an Eagle Owl. I took a few shots as they flew the bird of prey from one side of the grass to the other. Noticing I had a snazzy camera, the young woman closest to me came and stood in front of me. No, she wasn’t being rude, she was trying to give me the chance to take a good shot of the eagle as she came in to land on her arm. I think we can agree I got some good shots, right? This is a collage, but I have full-sized shots of each of these in my collection 🙂
No, I didn’t forget about the lemurs. They have a small wooded area with about 11 ring tails. Because they don’t mix well, a small group of red-fronted lemurs are in a large caged area at the back of the compound. But the wood is nice and open (but enclosed to stop them escaping).
Northumberland Country Zoo is home to lots of small animals but some large too, particularly deer, some pigs, Exmoor ponies, goats, sheep and llama. They have a hot house for tropical species and a bug house for frogs, spiders and amphibians. One of the main attractions is undoubtedly the meerkat home though. I took this lovely shot of one.
And that is it! I may share some other images in future but if you want to see some more from the collection and a photo every da from me, please follw my Facebook photography page here.