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Waiting for the Tide to Turn

While waiting for the tide to turn on a visit to St. Mary’s Island, Whitley Bay, I had a piece of luck when a seagull flew into the photo I was taking of the lighthouse. I only recently discovered that the island is accessible by a causeway at low tide and did not know that seals bask there until I spotted them among the camouflage of the rocks.

The second piece of luck waiting for us further along the Northumberland coastline was a pre-used static caravan, which has enabled us to turn the tide of our lives around. We were walking in the area discussing options as we had not been able to take up our summer contracts due to roof damage caused by the winter storms.

Taking a leap of faith and going ahead with the purchase has enabled us to set up a summer base in Northumberland and brought a third piece of luck in the shape of a seasonal contract with English Heritage. Being part-time, this leaves me plenty of time to dust off poems written during previous visits to the area and to capture others rising with the tide.

Lifelines was first written following a visit to the Grace Darling museum in Bamburgh in 2014. Much is written about this lighthousekeeper’s daughter and the part she played in saving lives from the wreck of the Forfarshire in 1838. My aim was to capture the parts of her storyline that struck me the most:

One mile I rowed that night,

one mile there, one mile back, just in time.

Nine souls I hauled that night,

the angel’s share of a mermaid’s prize.

The fate I caught that night,

brought fame, fortune and a shorter life.

The price I paid that night,

no bairns to keep the family line.

The name I made that night,

borne forever on the wind and tide.

Heritage Gem Reopening for Easter

I had the good fortune recently to visit Gayle Mill near Hawes, North Yorkshire prior to it reopening for Easter.

First opened as a cotton mill around 1784, the building has a fascinating history of transforming itself to keep up with changing times and demands.

In 1810 it began producing flax (instead of cotton), which was used in the manufacture of sails and sacking, and then in 1820 it adapted to producing wool.

Following a period of time as a domestic property, it changed again in 1860 to become a sawmill.

It has an interesting link with being a secret tank testing ground during the second World War and has in the past generated its own electricity.

Cultura Trust, who currently own the building, aim to restore it to operate in a self-sustainable way once again.

Repair work has been carried out so that this heritage gem can reopen to the public this Easter with tours from animateur Stuart Robinson, who has many interesting stories to tell about the mill’s life and times.

To find out more about the mill, opening times and events, visit

Plan B on a Wintery Wednesday

daffodils wither

tulips shiver in their beds

snowdrops droop their heads

spring snowflakes seep underground

encourage new shoots to rise

… and thanks to today’s weather, plan B came into play.

coat cupboard painted

touch dry one hour later

free to leave again

So, what did you find to do while you were sitting in the cupboard waiting for the paint on the pocket door to dry, I hear you ask???

I opened The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (Vintage:2022) and discovered a refreshing read by a new author who has inspired me to think what words I would like to have included in a new dictionary, so that they are not forgotten over time.

WordPress would be my choice today, with the definition: a pensieve `a la Dumbledore.

What would your word be?

P.S. There are 3 more space saving pocket doors in my house. Two wardrobes and one bijou bathroom to go …

Bringing Heritage Organisations Together

For the past three months I have been providing coaching and consultancy sessions for three heritage organisations in Bishop Auckland to kickstart the Volunteer Development Project for Historic England’s Heritage Action Zone. The aim of the project is to bring the organisations together to build their capacity and resilience so that both they and the annual Heritage Festival have a more sustainable future.

The three organisations share a similar purpose in that they each protect, preserve and promote part of the social history of the people, places and pastimes of Bishop Auckland and the surrounding area. Through reviewing the aims, activities and aspirations of each organisation we identified common goals that could be achieved together to create something better for the town and its residents.

Last week representatives from each organisation met to form the project steering group and I handed over to colleagues at Northern Heartlands who will work with them to deliver the next part of the project. The group aims to organise joint events and exhibitions in order to raise their profiles, recruit new members and volunteers, and attract further funding.

They also plan to expand and develop existing heritage trails to produce a new digital heritage trail available to download on appropriate platforms. To do this, they need the help of someone who has a range of digital skills and knowledge that they would be willing to volunteer in order to assist the group with developing both this and other websites as well as related social media pages.

If you are interested in being involved with this joint project or in helping out one of the individual organisations, please email Jayne or Jill at Northern Heartlands via: Further information and details of other projects they are involved with can be found on their website at:

The Way of the Spirit

The Way of the Spirit is my name for a personal seventh long-distance walking trail that I would like to add to the Six Northern Saints Trails created in 2020. Having dipped in and out of them over the past few months, I was inspired to create my own trail from sections of the Northumberland coastline this week.

Perhaps not the best week to take a winter walking holiday, and we certainly wore a ‘windswept and interesting’ look while storms Eunice, Franklin and Gladys blew through, but my year is not the same without an annual pilgrimage to the area and Holy Island/Lindisfarne .

One mistake I made was not taking my camera along as I thought I had already seen everything there was to see along this coastline over the years. Not so when weather conditions conspire to create rainbow paths through the water as far as the horizon.

Not having the means to take a photograph, I captured this natural phenomenon in the following haiku:

waves whipped by high winds

refract into rainbow paths

across the gray sea

The treasure I found at the shoreline edge of the rainbow was a collection of periwinkle shells in different colours, shapes and sizes. I’ve put them by for a rainy day when I plan to study and draw their patterns. In the meantime my holiday is over and its ‘back to the other drawing board.’

If you have time for a walk to restore mind, body and soul, the six trails based on ancient pilgrimage routes in North East England are called: The Way of Light, The Way of Life, The Way of Love, The Way of Learning, The Angel’s Way and The Way of the Sea. Route details can be found at

Bishop Auckland Revisited

Yesterday, I met with members of Bishop Auckland’s Civic Society. The Society promotes and preserves the fabric, history and heritage of the town and the surrounding area, and has been at the forefront of saving historically important features such as; the viaduct, the Town Hall (see photo) and the Zurburan paintings.

They organise public meetings, an annual town quiz and are collaborating with other heritage organisations in the town to find sustainable ways of keeping their legacies going and raise the profile of the town’s heritage. Their next public meeting is at 7:30p.m. on 28th March in Bishop Auckland Town Hall.

During the meeting, Dr. Anne Allen, project manager for the Bishop Auckland Heritage Action Zone will give a talk entitled: ‘Picture this then and now.’ The talk will outline the different projects taking place in the town, which aims to become a nationally significant heritage led visitor attraction.

Attractions currently open include: the Town Hall, the Spanish Gallery, and The People’s Museum. The Mining Art Gallery, Tower and Auckland Castle are scheduled to re-open as of 23rd March. Kynren will run from 6th August to 10th September, and the Heritage Festival will take place again in September.

If you are interested in the history and heritage of the area, particularly the built environment, and would like to give a talk, attend a public meeting or become a member of The Civic Society, you can find out more at

G.R.O.W. bags for self-coaching

These G.R.O.W. bags, containing sheets of questions from each of the stages of the Grow method developed by Sir John Whitmore, were created for participants at Wednesday’s Creative Retreat Day. They are a playful way to keep inspiration flowing through self-coaching when the well is running dry.

Filling up the well through ‘artist dates’ is one of many ideas promoted by Julia Cameron for keeping creative. Our latest ‘artist date’ was in Richmond, North Yorkshire. We met in The New Comrades, music venue and community hub, to work together on our individual writing projects (novels and poetry).

We wondered if Euterpe, muse of music, song and poetry, might have a positive influence on the rhythm and rhyme of our words, and were surprised to find new voices in our stories, a way of writing whispers in the wind and an increased flow of writing.

We achieved more working together in relative silence than when immersed in our own writing worlds at home, and agreed we would like to repeat the process on a more regular basis. If you live near Barnard Castle or Bishop Auckland and would like to meet up to write, email Jane at

Blue is the Colour

Blue is the colour, football is the game is the opening line of Chelsea’s football song but it could have been that of Bishop Auckland’s team, otherwise known as “The Bishops”. Their claim to both light blue and dark blue as their colours goes back to the days of Bishop Lightfoot, Bishop of Durham1879-1889.

He encouraged theology students at Auckland castle to play football in their free time. Those students came from Oxford and Cambridge, hence the adoption of light and dark blue when the football team was first formed in 1882 by Bishop Lightfoot’s private chaplain, Rev. George Rodney Eden.

The team, who rose to fame in the 1950s and 60s recently opened a shop/museum called “The Bishops” in the corner of Bishop Auckland market place where thousands of fans flocked to welcome home winning teams from the FA Amateur Cup at Wembley.

The shop displays the history and heritage of the team as well as memorabilia, photographs etc. relating to other amateur football teams in the Durham area. It is open 10a.m. to 4p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and runs with the help of members of Durham Amateur Football Trust (DAFT).

DAFT celebrate and keep alive the memories of the ‘glory days’ of amateur football and also organise Sporting Memories meetings at Bishop Auckland’s ground in Heritage Park on alternate Thursdays. The next meeting is Thursday 10th February 10:30a.m. to 12 noon.

Members of DAFT are keen to share their knowledge, and work with other organisations in the area to promote the history of the game. If you would like to get involved, feel free to pop into the shop or come along to one of the Memories meetings.

DAFT are currently on the look out for new members and people who are willing to volunteer their time to help with digitisation and cataloguing of memorabilia as well as development of their online profiles. If you have the digital skills they need, you can find out more about them at

Bringing Heritage Organisations Together

Bringing heritage organisations together is the aim of the volunteer development project that I am currently working on for my hometown of Bishop Auckland in County Durham. I was delighted to be chosen to kickstart this project by offering coaching sessions for each of the groups involved in order to help them identify both individual and joint projects for 2022 and beyond. The plan is to build capacity and resilience through sharing resources, skills, ideas, events and volunteers.

The town itself has been identified as a Heritage Action Zone and much work is being done to attract visitors interested in its artistic, football, mining, railway, social and spiritual history. The photograph shows the gothic style gateway to the Bishop’s Palace, the original home of the Bishop of Durham, who was the only Bishop with the authority to raise an army. As a result of this the county is also known as The Land of the Prince Bishops.

The Bishop of Durham no longer lives in Bishop Auckland and the palace has gradually taken on the name of Auckland Castle. The medieval parkland is still open to the general public to enjoy and the historic gardens are currently being reconstructed. A talk about the horticultural designs and historic gardens will be given this evening in Bishop Auckland Town Hall, another of the town’s gothic style buildings.

The talk has been arranged by Bishop Auckland Civic Society who promote and preserve the fabric, history and heritage of the town. In recent years they have campaigned to save the Town Hall, the Eleven Arches railway viaduct and the Zurburan paintings, which form part of the fabric of the Castle. The talk will be given by Andy Nesbitt, the curator of parks, gardens and landscapes at The Auckland Project.

Growing up in the town, the park was the place we went to gather conkers, play hide and seek in the Deer Park and marvel at the strange stone pyramid hidden deep in the grounds. I remember a primary school trip to see inside the normally private chapel while the Bishop still lived there. Catching a glimpse of him exiting the gateway in his shiny black car was an unexpected bonus.

As for the viaduct, the trains were long gone, but you could walk across the bridge and along the old railway line for miles and miles. The banks were lined with primroses and violets at springtime. The gun club used to meet in one of the blocked up tunnels and we used to spend hours on the row of swings at the top of Newton Cap bank near to the start of the viaduct.

I enjoyed retracing my footsteps when I visited the town this weekend to get to know more about the three main heritage organisations involved in the volunteer development project organised as part of Historic England’s Heritage Action Zone plans. If you are interested in finding out more about the area, visit or for contact details of the Bishop Auckland Civic Society.

Creative Retreat Day

I am delighted to share with you the news that I have been able to arrange an actual, as opposed to virtual, Creative Retreat Day on Wednesday 2nd February.

These days are aimed at creative people who would like to get together to work on individual projects in a shared space.

This year’s venue, the New Comrades in Richmond, North Yorkshire is a music, community hub and cafe bar in the historic Newbiggin part of town.

The day is open to artists, crafters, writers etc. and runs from 9:30a.m. to 2:30p.m. to leave the rest of the afternoon for visiting the area.

If you would like to rekindle your creative flame this year, contact me for further details via

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