With snow on the fells and roads not so bad myself and Ewan decided to head east into Northumberland on Friday. The first prize was the fish and chips in Haltwhistle [The centre of Britain!] with a massive fish spreading from end to end in the box provided! The chips were good as well! I don't like eating them just sitting in the car so decided to drive up the Wall where Hadrian had made such a good job along the Whinsill with views across Crag Lough and Steel Rigg. This part of the road had snow and ice but with plenty of salt laid out on it so there were plenty of cars in the car park but none parked with the view I wanted so took centre stage!
Both Susie and Woody our Border Terriers, were here with us and I am sure of the fish and chips had not gone unnoticed so the idea was to get them out into the snow and enjoy a walk along the Wall may be even to 'Sycamore Gap'. A van pulled into the car park and two folk walked over to us with the man saying 'What a view'. This started us talking about the area which I was surprised that he knew little about. He was a presenter from Look North based in Newcastle and the lady was the 'Camera Man'! A recent filming of myself for Border TV in November saw the Camera man being dropped and the lady presenter did both using a tripod to set up the filming saving money on labour. Look North must be posh!
I was about to walk away with the dogs when Ewan said they wanted to interview me about the National Park which a large section of the Wall falls in. Having written 2 books on and around the Wall I was sure I could answer their questions. My first book was 'Hadrian's Birds' which was based on all the records of living birds from the area covering from Bowness on Solway to Wallsend in Newcastle. I was inspired to do this book by the overland migration from West to East and return called the 'Tyne Gap'. I also had traveled to Egypt and was fascinated by the ancient birds found on the walls of the tombs and in their alphabet which turned out to be a latter book I wrote called Pharaohs Birds. The second book came 20 years later and was titled 'Hadrian's Wildlife'. This covered a wider area around the Wall with many different habitats and a wider fauna. It was also the first time the full list of birds found in Roman times was published with many of them found along the Wall. This gave 136 species found in Roman digs around the country and along the Wall with especially Carlisle coming up with many examples.
The story line in this filming was based on the BBC series Countryfile with a competition which was asking members of the public to vote on the best National Park in Britain. The Northumberland National Park was presently running second to the Cairngorm NP with no mention of the Lake District NP which is amazing as it has 15 million visitors worth £1.146 Billion compared to only 1.5 million visitors to this National park and the Wall worth £190 million! The couple had already interviewed the chairman of this park who had mentioned the new visitor centre at Twice Brewed opposite Steel Rigg on the Military Road. This is going to cost an amazing £12 million and will not be ready until 2017! An amazing pile of portacabins were on site at the moment making a planning application look a bit silly! I have found that many centers are even shut from November to Easter making a winter visit less interesting for especially the foreign visitor and especially bad for the accommodation providers.
So the main question was ' Do you think this National Park should have more visitors or keep the park less advertised with fewer visitors'. With the sun shinning on all that snow and the panorama of the car park showing the Wall along the Whinsill, views across the Tyne Valley and onto higher parts of the Pennines who could deny folk from wanting to see such a special place! I also added about the special wildlife but like all filming the 'cutting' back at the studio always removes the bits you want to make a special point about. Just at the end of my part Susie started barking so as usual I said "shut up Susie", causing a snigger from the camera women who replied "are you talking to me?"...Another Susie! Well that's a way of finding a name of someone!
Ewan did his bit and then we went off on our walk only to find ice on the steep steps up onto the whinsill so making it a shorter walk. The other aim of the trip was to go birding at other sites around the area which there are many and using the snow to make especially birds of prey stand out. This was a brilliant idea as we saw a female Peregrine chasing Golden Plover and Lapwing at one site, 2 Hen Harriers at another site along with a day time hunting Barn owl suggesting a lack of food. We then visited a Starling roost in a reed bed where there was a female Barn owl sleeping in a bush waiting for her chance to take a Starling once they were asleep in the reeds. A great spell of birding with a little filming thrown in as well. Until the next time!