Sunday, 27 November 2016

Northerly Patch

27th Nov.  I decided to put down my copy of Gavin Maxwell’s Ring of Bright Water (I’ve never read this book before, although I remember watching the film as a youngster.  Both the book and the film are very much of their time i.e. 1950s) and head north on patch before the light disappeared this afternoon.  Walking northwards you soon reach the end of the old pathway that runs very pleasantly through the estates.  Hedges and trees hide the sight of housing in some parts.  Once across the busy road you’re onto track-ways through farmland.  This northern part of the patch is on the whole farmland which happily still retains plenty of hedging and is crisscrossed by many tracks and pathways.  It’s an old mining area and it is difficult not to think of miners walking these tracks in days gone by.  Some of them now lie in Killingworth Church grounds.  Thankfully it is now one of the quieter areas of the patch and today I passed only one dog walker, one jogger and one lady leading her pony.  It is usual in this quiet area to at least acknowledge strangers passing by and I am always surprised that the odd person can pass you by without doing this.

It was milder today than of late and looking north over Northumberland, grey cloud seemed to suggest rain although only a small sprinkling appeared in the air whilst I was out walking, the sky eventually clearing to blueness and suggesting possibly a cool night ahead.  In this are you are on high ground and the rain water flows down towards the River Tyne.  The North Sea, only a few miles away can be seen easily on clear days as can the hills of Northumberland.  It’s an enjoyable area to walk in even when there are few birds about which was just as well today.  On my outward journey I saw little other than corvids, pigeons and fields full of Black Headed Gulls which were accompanied by a few Common Gulls.  Blackbirds, Robins, Starlings and the odd Mistle Thrush was the only other birds seen until I reached the northern border of the patch.

I could see from a distance that the northerly field was flooded and that this had attracted flocks of birds.  I made up to the last hedge to look to see if these flocks contained waders.  In fact the entire flock of 130+ birds were Lapwings.  Before I reached the hedge Fieldfares began to fly out and into the higher trees.  Eventually I counted about 35 Fieldfares.  I eventually began to retrace my steps and this was when I felt the light spray of rain on my face as I watched the changing wide expanse of sky.

I passed the old ruin of the Tower House again and caught sight of a the only raptor of the day, it was what appeared to be a cloth cut out placed in the field by the farmer and it did appear to be effective in keeping the gulls out of that field and in the fields to the south of it.

Burradon Tower
The following information appears on the Historic England website

Tower houses are a type of defensible house particularly characteristic of the borderlands of England and Scotland. Virtually every parish had at least one of these buildings. At many sites the tower comprised only one element of a larger house, with at least one wing being attached to it. These wings provided further domestic accommodation, frequently including a large hall. If it was incorporated within a larger domestic residence, the tower itself could retain its defensible qualities and could be shut off from the rest of the house in times of trouble. Tower houses were being constructed and used from at least the 13th century to the end of the 16th century. They provided prestigious defended houses permanently occupied by the wealthier or aristocratic members of society. As such they were important centres of medieval life. The need for such secure buildings relates to the unsettled and frequently war-like conditions which prevailed in the Borders throughout much of the medieval period. Around 200 examples of tower houses have been identified of which over half were elements of larger houses. All surviving tower houses retaining significant medieval remains will normally be identified as nationally important
A little further along the muddy potholed track I noticed a male Pheasant in the field to the right of me and this took my eye to a small covey of 5 Grey Partridges which were between me and the Pheasant.  They carried on feeding as I watched.

Then it was a brisk walk back home passing another 10+ Fieldfares and once again passing a number of areas of polystyrene packaging scattered around the area.  Now I wonder how they got here.  Could there be some thoughtless resident that has allowed this to happen.  Surely not!!!


  1. Ring of Bright Water, The Rocks Remain and Raven Seek Thy Brother - Some of my most favourite books; primarily because they portray wild Scotland, which is magical.

    1. Scotland takes some beating and I can imagine the scene on a frosty morning as today is. I'm making do with Holywell and Backworth and about to set out.