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September 26th, 2011


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09:15 am - Northumberland
I have just been staying with my brother in Northumberland. He lives about a mile from Lindisfarne. The quality of light in that area of England is quite extraordinary, almost hallucinatory. I am not sure if it is simply that the air is very clean, and the country is quite empty, or whether there is some other atmospheric reason. It's extraordinary.

lexica510 points to some research - small sample alas - which suggests that being in nature confers great psychological benefits, and we tend to underestimate how good it will make us feel. It certainly does me a great deal of good.

While I was there we went to Lindisfarne of course, walked the beach near Bamburgh, and visited the Baltic art gallery in Gateshead. I saw the Millenium bridge tipping up to let boats through.

What I would particularly recommend for visitors to that region is to call in at Barter Books in Alnwick (home of Hogwarts). It is one of the largest second hand bookshops in the UK. It is beautiful, calm, fragrant (open fires) and has a wide, but not comprehensive, selection, in a converted station, and there's a good cafe. I ended up feeling I could not justify spending money on beautiful editions of books I already own. The most mouth-watering thing I saw was the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, in black leather with sparse silver filigree. That was about £450. It is a great place to spend a rainy morning. I just bought a couple of cheap paperbacks of things I wanted to read.

I would like to go back to Northumberland, maybe in the spring, and walk up the coastal path from Newcastle to Berwick, stopping at B&Bs, and I could call in to see my brother.

ETA - Fun Fact! The '"Keep Calm and Carry On' poster was discovered at Barter Books. It had been printed during WW2 for use in case of invasion, which obviously never transpired, and it was then lost and forgotten.

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Comments:


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From:hano
Date:September 26th, 2011 08:29 am (UTC)
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Barter Books is fantastic we were there a couple of years ago and pretty much had to be dragged away kicking and screaming. When I win the lottery I'm going back there. With a truck to transport my purchases. :)
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From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2011 08:38 am (UTC)
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I know just what you mean. Hopefully only one of us would win the lottery, or there would be an unseemly scuffle in the aisles. I have been meaning to post for a few weeks now about discovering how much I like the physicality of books. Using the Kindle has made me realise it.
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From:teadog1425
Date:September 26th, 2011 08:41 am (UTC)
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I love Bamburgh and Lindisfarne! I have only been once, as an extra pair of child-care hands for a friend of my mum's, whose husband had family in Bamburgh, but I loved it. The beach is amazing, and we had an awesome trip out to Lindisfarne in wild and windy weather that nearly blew us off the island! The things I remember most about it, are the almost scouring effect of the wind, which seemed to carry fine grains of sand to surprising bodily crevices, and the smell of the air, and the sense of space around and above... Also, the little hunched bushes and trees, growing all bent sideways from the wind. I also would love to go back!
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From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2011 08:45 am (UTC)
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It takes me a long time to get there (five hour train journey) but as you say, the sense of space is quite intense.
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From:teadog1425
Date:September 26th, 2011 08:50 am (UTC)
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Yes - I travelled up by train on my own with a 18month old and a 5 year old from London to Berwick on Tweed - interesting times! :)
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From:chickenfeet2003
Date:September 26th, 2011 10:01 am (UTC)
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And that statue of an emaciated St. Chad in the carpark. The boat trip out to the Farnes is worth doing too.
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From:matildabj
Date:September 26th, 2011 08:54 am (UTC)
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Will make a trip to Barter Books!

Wish I'd known you were around, I'd have met up with you in Newcastle!

The coastline along Berwick is outstanding. It's one of my favourite train journeys.
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From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2011 01:41 pm (UTC)
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I didn't think, and it would have been good to go round the exhibition at the Baltic with you.
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From:chickenfeet2003
Date:September 26th, 2011 09:59 am (UTC)
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Northumberland is one of my two favourite parts of England (the other being West Penwith). You are spot on about the light. A truly magical side trip if you are up that way is Liddesdale and Hermitage Castle. Go on a bleak day (not hard!). It is the grimmest place ever.
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From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2011 01:41 pm (UTC)
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Ah, thank you, I haven't heard of it, I will look out for it next time. now he lives there I hope to go more regularly.
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From:del_c
Date:September 26th, 2011 01:18 pm (UTC)
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Light is a mystery to me. Artists flocked to St Ives in Cornwall in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, supposedly for the light there.
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From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2011 01:38 pm (UTC)
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One of them was a distant relative of mine. Perhaps Northumberland was a bit bleak for an artists' colony, but the light's better I think.
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From:happytune
Date:September 27th, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
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We found the same in Orkney - you felt somehow rejuvenated after bathing in the light for a while.
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From:communicator
Date:September 27th, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)
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That Northern light. It reminded me of Jonathan Strange.
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From:katlinel
Date:September 26th, 2011 04:21 pm (UTC)
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Northumberland is beautiful, with its constantly changing sky and sea reflecting that. Before we moved up to points further north, we spent a week's holiday based in Beadnell so we got to see some of the area, including Bamburgh, Lindisfarne and Alnmouth. We went to a cafe in the latter place where I tried pear and stilton on toast for the first time.
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From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I had a cup of Lapsang in that cafe yesterday. I think it must have been that one.

My brother works in Edinburgh, and drives up every day. Long way to go.
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From:katlinel
Date:September 26th, 2011 05:55 pm (UTC)
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I recall there were steps down from the door to the floor of the cafe. The entrance was in the middle of the building with tables to either side. I can't recall the name. I may have had Lapsang Souchong too - I only drink it very occasionally so I don't keep any at home. It combines well with a toasted teacake I have found.

That's a long commute. Erk.
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From:white_hart
Date:September 26th, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC)
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That's a gorgeous area - we stayed near Bamburgh for a few days a couple of years ago. I think the light is a seaside thing, and I agree it's fabulous.
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From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)
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I love walking by the sea, I wish I lived nearer, it calms me down.
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From:pennski
Date:September 26th, 2011 07:40 pm (UTC)
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We were at Barter Books over Easter. It is wonderful.
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From:communicator
Date:September 26th, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
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Woah, what a coincidence. It's great isn't it? Every time I thought to look for something in particular - like even 'anything by TS Eliot' they didn't have it. But it absolutely didn't matter because it was such a lovely collection of books you don't find in modern rational bookshops.
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From:tehomet
Date:September 26th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
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Oh god, I have such a raging case of travelbug right now. I've always wanted to go to Lindisfarne and that bookshop sounds amazing.

being in nature confers great psychological benefits, and we tend to underestimate how good it will make us feel.

I'm not surprised by that survey, as I loathe going out of doors and yet I'm fairly certain that my daily walk in the woods has saved my sanity over this last year.
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From:communicator
Date:September 27th, 2011 08:14 am (UTC)
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I always think of you as an outdoors person, so it's funny you have that struggle, but I do myself. I like walking to work every day, nowadays through the woods and the park, because it incorporates nature into my everyday routing. Albeit a rather tame face of nature.
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From:tehomet
Date:September 27th, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
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I am an outdoors person, to tell you the truth. I just hate the initial getting up, putting down the mug of tea, and going out in the cold part. Once I'm actually outside, I'm as happy as a clam. It's like travelling: I hate the planning, hate saving up, hate buying the tickets, but once I'm out the door, there's nothing I like better.

The woods and the parks do have an effect on one's psyche, IMHO. Maybe the clean air has an physiological effect as well. I think I read something by Alain de Botton which said that it used to be a given that being out in nature was restorative, a la hippies people like Wordsworth and also John Muir, who said 'we need beauty as well as bread' or words to that effect.
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From:sugoll
Date:September 26th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
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Alnwick is a country all to itself. The White Swan there has a fairly impressive dining room, using the panelling from The Olympic.

And yes: Barter Books is great.

I really must try to get to Alnwick in the summer; the castle's always closed when I'm there.
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From:communicator
Date:September 27th, 2011 08:13 am (UTC)
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My brother thought the castle was overpriced for what you get, but I've never been there. I want to walk the Northumberland coast, and I wonder if I could stay a day or two at Alnwick.

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