One of the many unexpected joys of Northumberland is the plethora of wild flowers to be found there. The dunes along the coast provide a fantastic habitat for a number of wild flowers, some of which we are more used to seeing in a garden. I became addicted to photographing poppies. They are so beautiful, even when they are dying and catching them just fluttering in the breeze was a challenge I set myself. I was surprised at the sheer size of some of them and the colours seemed to vary from a subtle pink to bright red and orange. Wild orchids also seem to like this habitat and one day, whilst Shelagh and I were struggling back along the hilly dunes to Embleton, I suddenly noticed small purple flowers down a steep bank. We both clambered down realising we had found a wild marsh orchid. The problem was, it was surrounded by prickly nettles. Undeterred we decided to lie down so we could get up close. We could both feel the prickly nettles through our trousers and I did wonder at one point, what photography had done to me, to make me want to lie in a bed of nettles. Getting down was easy, getting up was more of a problem, as there was nowhere to put our hands to support us without getting badly pricked. Using our elbows seemed to be the only solution and in the most ungainly way, we managed to stand up having taken a number of photographs of this small and delicate flower.
On our first day in Lindisfarne I spotted an unusual pale yellow plant with a purple centre which I had never seen before. I thought I may have found something really exciting and I spent at least twenty minutes trying to get a sharp picture as the wind blew it from side to side. Later that day, when I showed Ann and asked her if she could identify it, I was a bit disappointed to discover that it’s common name is ‘stinking nightshade’ often known as henbane. It was once used as an anaesthetic and as a magic potion. It’s use dates back to AD 1265. It was also believed to be the potion poured into Hamlet’s father’s ear. It’s amazing what you learn when you take photographs!
Of all the flowers I saw during the week, the one that stands out for me, is a single wild gladiolus. It stood alone and tall amongst the silvery orange grasses on the dunes, a perfect background for its stunning purple/pink colour.
Of course a visit to Northumberland would not be complete without a visit to Alnwick Gardens (pronounced ‘Annick’). These formal gardens are stunning as is the central water feature. I wandered around on my own photographing the flowers that caught my eye. Towards the end of my visit I found the wild allium garden where purple heads nodded at me through the grasses. Unfortunately I became so obsessed with taking pictures that I completely forgot to make a note of the name of each flower. If you know any please feel free to add them.
Northumberland is a photographer’s paradise. It was never crowded, the people are friendly and willing to help, and the scenery is stunning. Visiting with other photographers was a complete joy for me and sitting around a large table every night discussing and showing our pictures provided a rare opportunity to be ‘in the frame’ with like minded people. I would do it all again in a flash!