AFTER waddling through the fast-flowing river and turning to look back, I faced a scene that was filled with those lush green hills and rugged beauty that could have been my beloved County Mayo .
As the evening sky began to settle in a black cloak of countless pinpricks, the only sounds were the bleating of distant sheep and the bubbling of the River Glen, into which St Paulin was said to have baptized converts ago. is almost 1,500 years old.
Yet it was a haven geographically – if not mystically – far removed from the wild west of Ireland. It was Northumberland, in the northeast corner of England, a place that boasts a lively people, bucolic landscape and wild history that could easily fall like a piece of a puzzle in an alluring corner of Ireland.
What better place to rest in these troubled times than to take advantage of a new idea, Wild with Consent, which allows visitors to rent a stay on private land in some of the county’s most attractive locations?
In a rental motorhome, my partner and photographer Sue Mountjoy and I spent a few nights in places so quiet, remote and naturally unspoiled that we returned home completely renewed.
With scientists now able to measure the epidemiological benefits of being close to nature, we noticed that our stress levels flowed away like two people landing on a comfy couch after a toned walk on a freezing hill.
After a short stay at three very different sites, our minds were able to wash away the chaos of the roller coaster of months of pandemic misery. Containment, vaccines, masks, viral mutations. . . all were airbrushed on nights of sparkling waters, hooting owls and crackling campfires.
Indeed, the sparsely populated Northumberland has the most beautiful dark skies in Europe, which promise the chance to spot the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) as well as rows of pictorial stars, which are at their best in the atmosphere. colder in autumn and winter.
And the days, too, were a similar rest cure amid deserted beaches, bustling market towns, haunted castles and people who have more spiel than an Irish farmer after a “busy” day at the market.
Like puffins and mysterious islands, these Geordies – the name refers to local 19e miners of the century – are part of the magic of the region. Revered local author Jack Common put it best when summing up the subspecies: “Geordie goes beyond mere geography and is a quality of heart.”
Our first meeting was as we were driving into a parking lot to pick up our rental Ford Transit Custom Campervan, a 2015 conversion, which we had booked through Camptoo from an owner in Alnmouth.
While we were waiting, a local man, sipping coffee from his gourd, was also waiting for a friend. In less than two minutes, he’d been telling us his life story, extracting ours and sharing a cup of his warming brew with us, adding as he left, “Howway man, go home to Annick’s.” It is a propabelta.
And that’s what we’ve done. After a lively transfer from the van owner Robert, I parked our car and drove the van into cobblestone and Georgian Alnwick (pronounced Annick by the locals), which is worth a full day tour, with its castle, its gardens and even a museum where you can become a temporary Geordie and crawl through a seam of coal.
But short visits require shortcuts. And so we spent our next few days visiting our highlights, soaking up the local way of life, and savoring the enchantment of those precious starry nights.
And so on. We first whistled around Alnwick itself, and ended up visiting the legendary Barter Books, one of Europe’s largest second-hand bookstores, based in the beautiful disused Victorian train station.
With the summer school vacation over, a line of retired gray-haired book lovers waited patiently outside as I pored over many great bargains and rarities such as Byways and Queer Ways of Boxing. , a 1919 instruction book by Harry Furniss, priced at £ 146 and Dennis the Menace Annual 1956 by David Law, available for a 1950s house price of £ 96.
Over the next few days, we visited the small fishing village of Craster and purchased, for a dinner in a motorhome, the famous L. Robson and Sons herrings, reputed to be the best in Britain (although Loch Fyne could to disagree). A heartwarming whiff of oak smoke coming out of the century-old fireplace was an added bonus.
There was also a gentle walk to one of the county’s many ancient forts and mysteries, the ‘mini Stonhenge’ of the Duddo Five Stones, an Iron Age circle where we met an elderly man who had walked through 60 miles with his bus pass from his Newcastle-upon-Tyne home only to spend a few hours taking in the views of the Cheviots hills and total seclusion (until we get there, of course).
And this tranquility is one of the major assets of this country of rolling fields, dotted with stone houses, where calm oozes from the landscape itself, especially out of season, at the beginning of autumn.
Of course, there will always be swarms of tourists to places like the holy otherworldly island, where we have joined more of those crowds of old people like the statue of Irish Saint Aidan, blessed us with a stone hand.
At Seahouses, we encountered a tsunami of fish and chip crowds, and many elderly observers were admiring Bamburgh Castle by the beach. But just along the coast at cute little Beadnell, we found an empty pebble beach to collapse and enjoy a picnic on a lounge chair with waves lapping next to it.
And that’s Northumberland’s secret, its ability to provide a magnet for crowd lovers and a peaceful void for stress relievers.
Granted, the latter came with our nights in a “nowhere country” – campsites so far apart that we used the instructions from Wild with Consent and the What3Words app, which gave every 3 square meters in the world a unique 3 word address and is much more precise than good old Google maps.
Our first night was spent at the tiny Lanton, through a gate marked ‘PRIVATE’ and along a green track that followed the shore of the clear waters of the Glen River to a rocky beach on a wide bend.
Lazy dragonflies fluttered as the sun set over a place where battles galore once fought in nearby fields, including 15 bloody onese encounters of the century between the Scots and the English.
None of this now of course (independence issues aside), just our unique motorhome (only one is allowed each night) and a hearty meal, along the river, at one of the 14 sites of the project chosen for their beauty, their lack of light, pollution and noise, and their feeling of isolation.
Our next location was another spot by the water, in a tree-lined field along Willow Burn, south of scenic Coldstream and the River Tweed. Again the only noise was from the buzzards in the woods and an occasional owl hoot as we enjoyed a walk on the local road and another RV dinner.
Feeling more and more refreshed, we arrived on our last night in the woods at Greymare Farm, with a fire pit and views across fields and marshes to Holy Island, a haunting castle mirage in the distant mists.
Here we enjoyed a walk to St Cuthbert’s cave, where his bones were buried before being transferred to Durham Cathedral, and the primal delight of this open fire with a glass of Lindisfarne gin to finish off a another day of modern and ancient magic.
The idea for Wild with Consent came from a local camper, Grace Fell, who was inspired by wild camping trips to Scotland, where the right to roam allows for much freer access than in England and the Country. Wales, where overnight stays without the permission of a landowner amount to civil intrusion. and even a criminal offense, with some councils even imposing fines of £ 70 with morning patrols.
With campsites becoming more expensive, over-regulated, and often crowded, she sought an experience similar to wilderness camping without worrying about a knock on the door late at night from an angry farmer or guard.
With program stays costing from £ 25 to £ 100 a night, it’s not free like true wilderness camping, but it has freed us up hassle-free for a few nights of very private and natural bliss.
As a Geordie would say after a stay in such solitude: ‘Wey, aye, man, it’s a Bobby Dazzler of a neet’.
Venues: These can be booked through Wild with Consent, which operates 14 specially selected sports in scenic and tranquil areas of Northumberland. Priced at £ 25 to £ 100 per night, you can find more details at www.wildwithconsent.com.
Campervan: This was booked through Camptoo, which offers over 4000 vehicles across the UK and Europe, from £ 60 per day. These are privately owned, with the company providing all documentation, checklists and roadside assistance. For more information Click here.
County: For inspiration and a wealth of details on what the area has to offer, visit www.visitnorthumberland.com
Hotel Ideas: If you want to get out of your RV for a bit of luxury, try the dog-friendly Amble Inn at Amble here and, for a former inn in an ancient Roman town, near Hadrian’s Wall, try the Corbridge Angel.