An ancient Kingdom stirs a Welsh soul

HAVING been home a few days after a walking trip to Northumbria, it’s time to commit all those impressions and memories accumulated during the time spent in one of England’s most ancient kingdoms to paper.

I arrived at our initial disembarkation point, Newcastle by train in the early evening. The latter part of that journey highlighted what I could expect in Northumbria during the trip: expansive, rolling fields of barley, wheat and rye stretching out as far as the eyes could see, with the golden landscape bathed in a glorious early evening sun.

It seemed to augur well for the days ahead- days full of possibility, exploration,new experiences and new people. And hopefully, fresh insight and understanding about life, myself and friendship as well. Is there anything in the world to beat the anticipation of arriving at a new destination?

My travel partner, my good friend Big D from Aberystwyth awaiting my arrival, was in a slightly tetchy mood having had to stand for the best part of a hellish train journey up from Birmingham.

A few pointed text messages, especially after hearing of my window seat on a half-empty train up to Northumberland, and my slightly later arrival than scheduled, showed that the Wordster from the West( well, west of Aberystwyth actually) was not well pleased.

Thankfully, the mood of our wordster lifted once I arrived at Newcastle train station. Or to be more precise, his mood lifted once we had an opportunity to explore some of the walking delights of central Newcastle, and its various quirky bridges traversing the Tyne.

Both of us took an instant shine to this city of some 300,000 souls, which was quite a good thing really considering that we were due to return to Newcastle to finish up our trip at the famous St James Park on the following Saturday.

Even a prodigious bout of snoring on my part, greeted by a chorus of boos when I returned to our room after fetching an early morning coffee one morning, failed to take the shine off things.

With its warm and engaging people, its open air feel and its position as almost a forgotten outpost at the edge of England’s northern land mass, there’s no doubt that there’s something very special about Newcastle and its people. As Big D put it- it has an “authenticity” to it which you seldom see in places these days.

Being a people-person, and always willing to share his unique Cardiff-Manchester-Liverpool patois wherever he goes, it proved no surprise really that Newcastle and the gregarious Geordies proved to be the stand-out point for Big D.

As for myself, being the introverted and laconic sort that I am, the highlight of the trip for me however was the Northumbrian landscape. You don’t have to talk to landscape see. You just allow your eyes to do all the conversing for you.

And what a conversation I had all week with that magnificent coastline, the contours of the Cheviot Hills and the afore-mentioned fields of gold wherever one turned. With the delights of the small village of Wooler and bustling market town of Alnwick( where we stayed a couple of nights) adding to this visual feast along the way.

Even the comparative disappointment of the commercialised Lindisfarne( dubbed Unholy Island by Big D)- such a landmark destination in the history of the ancient kingdom of Northumbria- failed to dent my enthusiasm for the delights of the Northumbrian landscape.

It reminded one of the name given to Montana in the USA, “Big Sky Country” such was the wide expanse of the skies and the panoramic views afforded however one travelled, by train, foot and bus over the 5 days spent up north.

And my favourite trip of all? Well, that early evening 12 mile bus journey from Berwick Upon Tweed( right on the border with England) to the small country village of Wooler, where a youth hostel hosted for us for two nights.

The climb up from Berwick, and meandering journey along the small country lanes down to Wooler was an entrancing experience…. undulating fields full of various crops, the oh-so green trees shimmering in the early evening sun, the blue skies unfolding in front of us, almost eternal in their expansiveness and promise. And that heady experience of drinking all of this scenery in the process of movement through the landscape.

The universe itself is full of movement and motion. Little wonder that movement and motion is such as an elixir of life for us as humans. We are still nomads at the end of the day after all.

The two nomadic Welshmen returned to Wales invigorated by our trip to the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, feeling a new sense of kinship with the land and its people.

Maybe that’s not too strange a sensation to share with readers of this blog.

After all three or four Brythonic( Welsh-speaking) kingdoms existed in this part of the world many centuries ago. Elmet, Bryneich, Gododdin and Rheged are just footnotes in history today, but perhaps their influence lingers on….

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