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Archive for the tag “Chain Bridge Honey Farm”

County agricultural shows: Never mind the bullocks – feel the rhythm.

You know you’re the wrong side of 50 when you start asking existential questions. Not about life, the universe and everything – leave that to the teenagers. No, about what you were just about to do. That moment when you stand in front of the fridge and wonder why you opened it. Or when your purposeful stride into a room stalls to a bewildered halt. Eventually, you remember that you were getting milk for your coffee and glasses to read the paper. But now something far more pressing is on your mind. Why are you holding a telephone and what is the name of that flower with the blue and yellow bits?

Like many of us I worry that this is the first step towards dementia. Although it’s not an unfounded fear, most of us probably worry a bit too soon – the Alzheimer’s Society estimates that one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80 will develop dementia. The fact is, dementia or not, these blank-mind scenarios will repeat themselves in myriad different ways from here on, and I need to find a way to accept and assimilate them into the rhythm of life.

Recently I had a senior moment that was more about finding a thought than losing one. Stood by a row of toilet cubicles at the Glendale Show I thought ‘Why am I here?’ (not by the loos; at the show). What, I asked myself, is the point of the Glendale Show? I know this is tantamount to sacrilege. I spent most of my childhood May Bank Holidays being blown across the Suffolk Showground past sheep, goats, Victoria sponges, flower islands, and motorbikes sailing through blazing hoops.

The county agricultural show: not simply a place to coo over highland coos! (Photo courtesy of Mike Fraser)

The county agricultural show: a place to coo over highland coos…and a whole lot more.
(Photo courtesy of Mike Fraser).

But what actually is the point of the county or agricultural show? At Glendale I bumped into a wide range of people and discreetly expressed my panic about why these things exist and why we go to them. One friend asserted that it was ‘all about networking’ and ‘glad-handing the right people’. A couple I know from Berwick decided ‘it’s just what you do’ and then asked if I knew what time the falconry display was on. Another friend said her family had had a ringside car slot since time began, but she was beginning to wonder whether it was time for a change. Although her teenage daughter would kill her for even having such a thought. The lass still enters every competition category – it’s tradition.

I stocked up with fruit and veg at Julian’s Veg stall, and paused for a chat with Willy Robson from the Chain Bridge Honey Farm. Business was buzzing. The Aussie sheep shearer had the crowd chortling and local county councillor Jim Smith played the harmonica with his band. Ringside, some picnicking friends offered me a glass of something chilled. I had a brief encounter with sporty types off to do the Fell Race; got up close and personal with Barnacre Alpacas; and considered buying some new wellies. And then it struck me. The actual reason I was there.

The 13-year-old! I rushed to our appointed meeting place and couldn’t find it. Round and round I went. I remembered how years ago at the Suffolk Show a Tannoy announcement described a blond boy aged about six who had lost his family. We all looked round and realised it was my brother. Not wishing to humiliate the 13-year-old by taking myself to the PA announcer, I asked someone to point me in the right direction. ‘I knew you were lost,’ said my daughter. ‘Can we go home now? I’ve been on so many rides I feel sick.’

And, as we wended our way through the grass tussocks to the car, I glanced back wistfully at the rhythm of country life and really hoped I could remember where I’d parked.

Published in the Berwick Advertiser 1st October 2015

Out of Berwick – delightful spots to visit (and escape the Berwick Fury)

It’s the time of year when The Husband and I like to grab a glass of evening wine and meander down the garden, chewing the metaphorical cud as we go. And, there’s been quite a lot of cud to chew lately what with one thing and another.

Sundowner moments are rather precious: time to catch up and wind down, take in our marvellous surroundings and simply to be. However, there are a number of relatively taboo subjects in our household right now. What with The Husband being on the town council. Many of the things we enjoyed mulling over – festivals, being a Portas town, local shops, buildings and gardens, Berwick itself – are, these days, topics laced liberally with anxiety and a desire to skip over the wall to other shores.

Sometimes it's good to get away - now matter how beautiful Berwick is

Sometimes it’s good to get away – no matter how beautiful Berwick is

So, in the interests of health and sanity, I am heading away from politics, from loud and publicly vented spleen, and from those who have the stomach to take the body blows. Although why any sane-minded person would want to be a town councillor, I cannot fathom. Ooops. That sounds a bit like, ‘I told you so!’ and, when The Husband became a councillor, I promised those words would never pass my lips. So, here are some family friendly places a few paces or wheel turns away from our feisty town.

Chain Bridge Honey Farm. Four miles out of Berwick – learn about bees and bee produce. I read on Facebook recently that a cream made from farm honey had triumphed over dermatitis where numerous prescriptions had failed. Tumble down the hill to the historic Union Chain Bridge – in 1820 the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world. Today you’re more likely to hear the call of a goosander (or perhaps glimpse an otter) than the thunderous sound of Captain Brown’s carriage crashing across his bridge, proving to the 700 bystanders that the structure would support their weight and save them the slog to Berwick one way and Coldstream the other.

Half a mile along the river is the 18th-century neo-Palladian mansion, Paxton House. The adventure playground (with zip wire) tucked into the woods above the river ticks the kid box. The house contains tales of doomed love and plantations and a fine collection of Chippendale. Plus there’s a café – and people who dress up. And it’s river-trip season (check timetables) – why not take a boat from Berwick Quayside and sloosh along to Paxton – spying out fishing shiels and wildlife along the way?

Boat trips along the Tweed from Berwick Quayside...

Boat trips along the Tweed from Berwick Quayside…

...a great way to see things from a different angle

…a great way to see things from a different angle

Plenty of walks lead you out of Berwick. One of my favourites circles the cliff edge by Berwick Caravan Holiday Park towards Eyemouth.  Although peering in windows is fun, the real views come later. About 30 minutes out of Berwick you’ll find the Needle’s Eye, a spectacular natural rock arch. This time of year cliffs are packed with nesting seabirds (kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills). You might spy puffin but the Farnes, a short sea ride out of Seahouses, is way more reliable for puffin spotters. Extend your walk from Needle’s Eye to Eyemouth and St Abbs for more coastal treats.

The Needle's Eye in the background - a short step north along the coast from Berwick

The Needle’s Eye in the background – a short step north along the coast from Berwick

In Eyemouth is the splendid Gunsgreen House. The hands-on displays and stories of smuggling skulduggery are compelling. Stroll over the estuary for fish and chips on the Bantry, some nosh at Oblo or a Giacopazzi’s ice cream. Yum.

There are many more delightful places just over Berwick’s threshold – hop on a bus to Holy Island, continue to Bamburgh for the castle and tales of sea heroine Grace Darling, mosey to Ford and Etal for steam trains, castle and a functioning corn mill.

Sometimes you need a nudge to get out and admire the exquisite things just beyond your doorstep. As the Berwick fury shows no sign of abating, I may be gone some time.

Plenty of spooky smuggling secrets to uncover at gorgeous Gunsgreen House, Eyemouth

(A version of this post was first published in The Berwick Advertiser on 1 May 2014)

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