Summer Holidays 2018 – Return to Newton Dale

This year we took our Holidays a bit later from our usual time , as it happened it was a blessing in disguise as if we’d took it at our normal time we probably would have had to cancel it as early in the summer Melanie broke her right humerus in 3 places ! We had to change our plans as she still wasn’t fit enough to do the planned walking so it ended up a lot more relaxing than usual !

We were returning to an area we got to know quite well last summer , Newton Dale or to be more precise Levisham Station , literally a stones throw (50yds ) from The North Yorkshire Moors Railway Station . Arriving on Early Friday Afternoon after a Lunch stop at the Fox and Rabbit in Lockton , our place of residence would be ‘The Rowntree Cottage’ at Grove House .

(Click on Photo’s to see Full size)

I have to say it is one of the best Cottages we’ve stayed in , Beautifully decorated , well equiped , spotless and in a wonderful location . There was a lovely welcoming pack includinf a very tasty Homemade Yorkshire Tea Cake . You will notice that a lot of the photos are of the Locomotives of the NYMR , this is partly due to the lack of wlking and the close proximity to the Station and the view out of the back of the cottage from the patio / shared garden at the back !


The View from the back of the Cottage

After watching the last of the early evening trains we settled down for a quiet evening , a few drinks and lisening to the local Tawny Owls calling each other…..

The next day (Saturday) we went for our first (of many) trips on the railway , up to Grosmont for a wander and Lunch in the Station Tavern .

Standard Class 4 arriving at Levisham and the Q6 under test at Grosmont shed

Repton exiting Grosmont Tunnel and passing the Engine Shed

Class 26 and Class 37 at Grosmont

It was back to the Cottage for a few beers and Wines…..

The Sunday was spent visiting Pickering , having a cracking Sunday Lunch in the Black Swan and then picking up supplies in the town , a few more trains were watched at Levisham…..

Class 26 approaching Levisham

The Monday was spent on the Railway again with a trip to Whitby and back , there is no better way to spend a day than travelling just about the full length of the line , watching the world go by with a couple of beers along the way…….

Tuesday we were a bit more adventurous on our travels , we headed off to Yorkshires only Single Malt Distillery in Hunmanby , The Spirit of Yorkshire  .We got there just in time to do the Lunchtime Tour , It’s a bit of a strange distillery as the Brewing is done up at the Sister Brewery , The Wold Top , then is transported down to the Distillery for fermenting and distilling ! While we were on the tour we bumped into an old friend Joe Clark who is the Whisky Director at the Distillery . During the tour we tried the New Make (Extremely Fruity and Dangerously Drinkable) , At the end we got to try ‘The Work in Progress’  3 bottlings of blended spirit they’ve released , Blended by Joes fair hands , they will actually have whisky come next May when it reaches 3yo , They were all very good , 001 was my Favourite , 002 was Melanies (neither are available now ) but 003 still is . After having a bite to eat in their cafe , Joe treat us to a tasting of a cask or 3 , Most of the casks are stored up at the Brewery but they keep a few in the Distillery , the Bourbon barrel we tried was nice with a chocolatey overtone and the 2yo Oloroso and Fino casks were stunning !
They are doing a great job , they have an excellent New Make and are using outstanding wood
.One to watch in the future !

The Gannet is the Symbol of the Distillery due to the proximity of the RSPB Reserve at Bempton Cliffs and see we were close to it and members of the RSPB it would have been rude not to visit it !

Afterwards we went for a drive through Bridlington (don’t think i’ve been there before….) , it was nice day in the Yorkshire Wolds , bumping into an old friend and trying a nice whisky to be !

 Wednesday was spent in Scarborough with Lunch in Ask looking over The Harbour , then it was across the road to The Harbour Bar for pudding , A Knickerbocker Glory !

Thursday was back on the train , this time to Goathland……..

Class 37 arriving in Levisham

Lunch was in ‘The Aidensfield Arms’ then it was a walk down the Rail Trail to Beck Hole and a visit to a pub we’ve been wanting to visit for a while , The Birch Hall Inn .

It’s a small but old pub , a bit like sitting in someones front room and the ‘bar’ is a serving hatch , it’s very popular and i can see why . It was also time for our tradition ‘Selfie on a Train’ , this one in a Classy 1930’s LNER Teak Coach .

Eric Treacy in Grosmont and visiting Spam Can ’92 Squadron’ on Shed

Friday was a quiet day , apart from watching the trains , drinking on the sunny patio and getting a rather nice Lemon Drizzle cake off the cottage owners !

Eric Treacy again……

On the 2nd Saturday we had a drive up to Beck Hole to visit The Model Centre and a visit to Moorgates to watch the trains go by…..

Not the famous one…..

On the Sunday we had a ‘Moorlanders Pullman’ Booked from Grosmont , so that was two return trips on the Railway (one can never do too many trips on the NYMR…..) So it was Levisham – Grosmont , Then Grosmont – Pickering Return on the Pullman and then Grosmont – Levisham ! Once again the Pullman Meal was superb , Melanie went for the Chicken Tikka Starter and i had the Salmon and Prawn Parcels , We both had the Topside of Beef mains and Melanie went for the Fruit Crumble for Pudding and i had the Lemon Meringue Pie . Always a beautiful way to spend a sunny Sunday Afternoon……

The Second Week was the quieter of the Two……

On the Monday Melanie took me out to Scarborough for my Birthday Meal , to ask again , then we had a lovely early evening drive back over the moors via Whitby .

Tuesday we just chilled out in the Cottage photographing trains , before heading off to The Buck Inn in Thornton le Dale for something to eat .

On the Wednesday we took one last train ride to Whitby , then headed up to our ‘Local’ (1 1/2 miles away) in Levisham Village , The Horseshoe Inn , for an Evening Meal . We tried to eat here last year but could never get in , we now know why , the food and service is fantastic !

For the penultimate day of the Holiday we drove up to Grosmont for one last visit and ended up having a sarnie in The Old School Coffee Shop , well worth a visit , lovely sarnies ! Also threw up some more photo opportunities …….

Later on we headed over to the Fox and Rabbit in Lockton for a bite to eat after packing up the suitcases ready for the early departure on Friday Morning .

Even though we didn’t quite have the Holiday we were originally planning we had a brilliant time in a beautiful place , the weather was pretty good over the two weeks apart from a couple of wet and windy days (we seem to get off lightly compared to the rest of the country) , The owners of the Cottage , Kay and David , are wonderful , they can’t do enough to make you feel so welcome . As i said earlier , it is one of the best Cottages we’ve stayed in , Beautifully decorated , well equiped , spotless and in a wonderful location . So good we are returning next summer , just a little bit earlier……


Spirit of Islay Port Charlotte 15yo

This is the 3rd and final Port Charlotte Cask I’ve been involved with , this one was purchased by members of the Long Gone ‘Spirit of Islay’ Yahoo Club / Group . This cask was a Refill Sherry Hogshead filled and purchased in 2002 , Cask No.1161 is cost £1050 , originally 20 shares were issued at £105 but one shareholder holding 2 shares has since vanished….

Originally warehoused at Bruichladdich , the cask was moved to Whiskybrokers site in Creetown to make it easier for bottling just over a year ago , Bruichladdich would only send the bottles to one delivery address . At one point in it’s life I thought it was going to have to be reracked as it’s maturation wasn’t progressing but it seemed to spring into life .

The cask was bottled on the 1st of May 2018 at 60.2% abv , we got 254 75cl bottles out of it , each share receives 14 bottles .(it was bottled in 75cl’s because a third of it was been sent to the USA ) .

(click on Images to see full size)

The Costs for this Bottling……

The Original Purchase of shares.   ……………………………………………….£105

Extra warehousing at Bruichladdich) ……………………..……………………..£5.72

Transportation of Cask from Islay……………………………………………… £17.68

1 Years Warehousing at Creetown….……………………………………………£17.19

Final Warehousing in Creetown ………………………………………………  …£0.58

Bottling costs ………………………………………………………………….  £92.32

Duty and VAT…………………………………………………………………. £443.28

VAT on original purchase of Cask………………………..……………………..£23.48

Total………………………………………………………………………….. £705.25

So the cost per bottle is (total divided by 28)……………..………………… £25.19

So how does it Taste ?

Colour – Amber

Nose – Smoke loads of it , a very subtle sherriness , cream toffee , the nose isn’t over-powering given it’s strength .

Palate – Wow ! a lovely peatiness perfectly balanced with the sherry , Again no clue to it’s strength , the old cola cubes are there (good sign of a classy sherry to me ) , a slight touch of christmas cake , Peppermint / Menthol appears after a little while . 

Finish – Long , Chewy , good hit of sherry and peat .

Comment – I’m really really happy with this , Martin said the cask was well and truly gone when they’d emptied it , well the spirit seems to have gotten the best out of it and it has ended up perfectly balanced . Nice Sherriness mixing with the peat . I think i may be getting sworn at again by Serge…… 


The Trio of Port Charlottes

5 Down , 2 to go…..


Animal Magic

Once again i’ve been seriously neglecting this blog ! Since my last posting we’ve been doing a lot of walking up The Northumbrian Coast , joined the RSPB , joined the Natural History Society of Northumbria (NHSN) but given up our membership of the National Trust . 

The main reason for joining the NHSN was to gain access to the Gosforth Park Nature Reserve as it’s not open to the general public apart from when they hold an open day .

During the recent bad weather we’ve had quite a few different visitors to out Back Garden Feeders , including some Reed Buntings and a Yellowhammer……

(Click on the Photos to see full size) 

One bird we weren’t expecting was a Female Sparrowhawk ! Obviously attracted by the possibility of a feed itself……

We’ve also been attracting quite a few Goldfinches…..

Last Weekend , on Easter Sunday , we went to the Gosforth Park Nature Reserve for the first time , this is one bit of Gosforth Park i’d never seen before , i grew up playing in the Park itself and i have to say it is an amazing little nature reserve . It consists of a shallow lake, extensive reed beds and mixed woodland backing on to the back of the Race Course , there are a few Hides to relax in and watch the wildlife . On the lake there was a good mixture of Waterfowl……

Greylag Geese

Little Grebe

Tufted Duck

On our wanders we came across a trio of Roe Deer , one of which appeared to be expecting……

At the Hide near the entrance they had a rather large feeding station which had the usual suspects…..

My Favourite of the Day !

We’re already looking forward to our return , Hopefully we’ll be able to get photos of the Kingfisher and Long-tailed Tit the next time !

We’ve also being paying visits to the Northumberland Wildlife Trusts Hides at The Big Waters Nature Reserve ……

More Photos are available on my Flickr Page HERE

A Grand Day Out

Suffering from North Yorkshire Moors withdrawl symptoms , we decided to head down to the Railway for a day out , the weather looked (and was ) a bit mixed but we never let a bit rain dampen our day…… We got down to Pickering in plenty of time for the 12pm train to Whitby . We took the road via Castleton and Hutton to travel to Pickering rather than the A171 / A169 , wilder and definitely more beautiful ! After a Sausage Butty in the Station Cafe we awaited arrival of our train , just as it did the heavens opened up……

(Click on photos to see Full Size)

Our train today was the Black 5 45212 , Actually made on Tyneside at the old Armstrong Whitworth Factory at the end of 1935 . 

As always a Steam train arriving is always a majestic sight , even in a heavy downpour…..

The train was actually quite busy esapecially for the week after the school holidays had ended , So off we went up the moors to Whitby , the weather actually cleared for the rest of the day once we reached Goathland where we passed the other ‘Black 5’ on the line working the Afternnon Pullman….

We also got to take the obligatory ‘Train Selfie’

On returning to Pickering we headed off to Levisham to pass a bit of time before going off for something to eat and managed to catch the same Locomotive on it’s las run back up to Grosmont .

After a lovely meal at the Fox and Rabbit in Lockton we headed back home……


Bakethin Reservoir and Reserve

We decided to head a little further out for this weeks walk , into wildest Northumberland , to the north end of Kielder Water . It’s a cracking drive up there , going through several different scapes , woodland and moorland before arriving at The Water and Forest .

You have to drive the entire length of Kielder to get to Bakethin (if arriving from the South like us ) , it is just a short distance South from Kielder Village itself . We decided to split the walk into two either side of a late lunch….

The Morning Walk…..

(Click on any Photos to see fullsize)

This walk was basically a 3 mile circular on the Northshore of the Reservoir , using the North Lakeside Way to head south and the forestry track to head back north , One word of warning though on the Lakeside Way , it is also used by Cyclists and they don’t appear to fit bells to bikes anymore….. and they seem to think they have the right of way……

As an added bonus for us Railway enthusiasts the Lakeside way partly follows the route of the old Border Counties Railway – The North British Railways route which ran from Riccarton Junction through to Hexham – more of this later….

You get some spectacular views across Bakethin Reservoir and Kielder Water on this walk…..

Looking south toward Bakethin Weir

We noticed a couple of horses grazing the grassland on the north shore , they are Exmoor ponies that have been brought in on a project to keep the shrubs and trees down so that the natural grasses and wild plants can flourish…..

One thing we did notice on this walk (as on other recent walks ) there were a hell of a lot of Butterflys about ! Can’t figure out why people keep saying they are struggling…..

A Red Admiral and a Painted Lady Butterfly

It was a very nice walk on a lovely warm late summers day , it gave us a good appetite for lunch , so we jumped in the car and headed up to Kielder Village to go to the local pub . The Anglers Arms isn’t the prettiest but we have to say that it does some damn good grub , the staff are superb and it serves a decent pint of Ale . Melanie went for the Balti Curry which came with Rice , Naan bread and a couple of Pickles and i went for possibly one of the best Ploughmans Lunch i’ve ever had ,

The Afternoon Walk…..

Returning to the Car Park we proceeded on the Afternoon walk , this one was on the South Shore , Straight after leaving the Car park you hit a tree lined embankment which was part of the aforementioned Border Counties Railway route , this leads to a stunning Skew Arch Viaduct which carried the railway across the Kielder Burn .

You get a great view across the reservoir from the top…..

We headed back down the Embankment but you can walk across the viaduct to meet up with the North Lakeside Way , we then followed the path down the side of the embankment to go under the Viaduct .

The Viaduct looks great from underneath showing the Skew Arches up a treat…….

There is also a plaque explaning a wee bit of it’s history….. 

There was also a friendly little Robin buzzing about under the Viaduct……

We returned for a little while on the same path coming across a small pond inhabited by a lone Gadwall Duck…..

We then headed down a trail to the recently opened hide by the side of the Reservoir (designed and built by Students from Newcastle University apparently , very nice it is too !) , There were a few Little Grebes fishing in the pond and a few Cormorants resting on branches….

There were a few more resting in adjacent trees and occasionally flying about….

The one local resident we didn’t see was the Famous Ospreys but they have started to fly off to warmer , foreign Climes . So maybe next year……

We had a thoroughly enjoyable day and will return later in the year to see the over-wintering visitors !

Natural Northumberland

After the wonderful Holiday we had in North Yorkshire , it was back to doing walks closer to home . As you know from earlier posts we like to combine a nice walk with some Wildlife spotting , as the National Trust places we frequent have been getting increasingly busy we decided to try somewhere different . The Northumberland Wildlife Trust had recently reopened the Hauxley Reserve with a new Visitor Centre so we decided to take a drive up and have a look around .

There’s an old saying that you never really appreciate what’s on your doorstep and i have to say up until a few years ago we could say that about Northumberland ! We have (IMHO) the best coastline in the country , Stunning doesn’t describe it , so it was of no surprise that Hauxley is in a beautiful Setting .


Situated just south of Amble , this nature Reserve was part of the Radcliffe Open Cast Mine . 

After a bite to eat in the VC (very reasonably priced i have to say ) we set off for a walk around the reserve and visits to the numerous hides to enjoy the wildlife .

(There are a load more photos available at my Flickr site HERE )

(Click on the photos to see fullsize)

One of the numerous Butterflies we seen , a Red Admiral , but we also encountered Speckled Woods , Commas and Peacocks .

A Redshank .

A Grey Heron in Flight.

Other birds  spotted included Greylag Geese , Canada Geese , Little Grebes and various Gulls and ducks . Walking back to the VC we had a Stoat and a Vole run across our path , on the way out we had a chat to a couple of the Wardens and were informed there were Red squirrels around , including a famous ‘Swimming‘ one ! We had a great day at Hauxley and were so impressed by the facilities that when we got home we joined the Northumaberland Wildlife Trust on line !

Hauxley Album on Flickr

After seeing how many reserves they have (62) we decided the next day to visit another one , so we headed off to another place i’d never been to , Cresswell .

Cresswell Pond

This a a large Brackish Lagoon (Salt and Fresh Water mixed together) formed by Subsidence of former mine workings ( a Fairly common thing in South East Northumberland ! ) , Just North of the Beautiful Cresswell Village , this has one has one Hide next to the local farm .

There were plenty of Lapwings here .

We also seen our first Little Egrets.

On the way in we’d seen a Barn Owl flying about and spotted legal warning notices about it , little did we know what a display we were going to get on the way out !

Another great afternoon , on the way back we called in at another place i’d never been to (see what i mean by  not appreciating….) for a coffee , Newbiggin by the Sea . The front is really beautiful now it has been renovated .

Cresswell Pond Album on Flickr

Owl Album on Flickr

So after receiving our members pack and studying the Reserve map , this weekend we decided to try another Reserve on the Saturday……

East Chevington

A fairly new reserve (2003) that was a site of another former Open Cast Mine , still developing .  Right next to the coast , the Reserve has a lot of surrounding Farmland with a few of our favourite Coos on it…….

There are a few hides around the 2 ponds  to look at the various birds .

Greylag goose Greylags .

Cormorants and Lapwings….

After a walk around the Reserve we made our way back to the car via the beach .

East Chevington Beach at Duridge Country Park .

East Chevington Album on Flickr

Not content with a glorious afternoon walk on the coast , we decided to have an Evening walk over to our ‘Local’ Reserve , the Big Waters .

The Big Waters

The Big Waters is the largest subsidence pond in the region, formed by the collapse of deep mine workings , it also has a Medieval ridge and furrow grassland next to it . The Reserve also has two Members Only Hides to the west of it (you have to purchase the key for it but it can also be used at Holywell Pond ) . These have to be the most plushest Hides i’ve ever been in , no wonder they are locked up ! We’ve been over to The Big Waters numerous times but these hides give you a fantastic view of the bird life .

It was a wonderful way to spen a beautiful Summers Evening !

Big Waters Album on Flickr

Hauxley Revisited

On the Bank Holiday Sunday we decided to revisit Hauxley , on arrival we set off down to the beach…..

Again another superb beach with fantastic view over to Coquet Island and deserted ! There were plenty of wading birds down on the shoreline……

Ringed Plovers , Ruff and Redshank .

Another Red Admiral

A Ruff and A Redshank

A Curlew

A Little Grebe and a Greylag Goose While at the last hide we spotted a struggle between a Cormorant and it’s lunch , David Attenborough would have had a field day with this ! After several attempts it finally got it down .

The full struggle is available in the Slippery Customer Flickr Album (50 Photos)

A Cormorant in Flight

Over time we shall be visiting More NWT Reserves …….

Northumberland Wildlife Trust Website

My Fickr Album Page

Newtondale 2017 – Part 3

So where did we get up to ?

Oh yes…..

August 9th

Another Steam Train Booking ! This time it was a ‘Coffee Morning’ return Journey from Pickering departing at 11am . So off we headed to Pickering , had to take the car this time as there isn’t an early enough train from Levisham to make it possible to have a carless day . We arrived in plenty of time to see our train arrive , it was the wonderful teak set hauled by Black Five 44806…..

(Click on Photos to see full Size)

We were seated in the 1st Class Restaurant Car ‘Ryedale’ ( away from the Riff-Raff…..) , very luxurious it was too….

As soon as we left the Tea / Coffee and Cakes were served…..

There was a nice selection of very moist cakes…. including Lemon Cake , Carrot Cake , Chocolate Brownie , ‘Butterfly’ Cake and the old Standard Fruit Scone with Jam and Cream !

At Grosmont we got a chance to stretch our legs while the Train was moved to the back for the return trip .

How the Riff-Raff saw us….

It also gave me a chance to have a nose at the deserted coaches especially the GNR Invalid Saloon……

The Tourist Third Open we were in for the ‘Curry Train’

On the return journey we enjoyed a Glass of Sherry to take in the marvellous views of the moors .

We bid farewell to ‘Ryedale’

Once again it was a glorious way to spend a late morning / early afternoon , especially in such opulent surroundings . On the way back to the Cottage we popped in to The Fox and Rabbit to book a table for that evening . While back at the cottage i managed to catch the ‘Repton’ doing some more running in , Double Heading with the Standard 4MT…….

So we then went off to the Fox and Rabbit for our second and final visit of the stay , Melanie went for the Prawn Cocktail for starters and the Lasagne for main and i went for the Crab and Salmon Terrine with the Sirloin Steak for main . a very nice meal it was !

August 10th

Our last full day , so we decided to….. go for a ride on the railway to Whitby ! It was a lovely day so we walked down to Levisham Station to catch the 12.20pm through to Whitby . It gave me a chance to have a nice relaxing day with a bottle of North Yorkshire Moors Bitter or 3 while watching the scenery go by….. 

Our Chariot arrives….

A Standard 4MT


Melanie Stretches her legs…..

Is there a better way to spend the last day of your holidays ?

When we arrived back at Levisham we got to see ‘Repton’ on her first day of regular Service …..

So we headed off back to the Cottage to do the worst thing of the Holiday…… Pack up !

August 11th

So it was with a heavy heart we bid farewell to The Hideaway , our home for the past fortnight , It was the most relaxing Holiday we’d had for a long time , we agreed since we last stayed at Bunnahabhain Cottages ( A common factor being their remoteness…..) . It was also the best equiped cottage we’d been in , the owners actually lived in it for 18 months while their main house was being renovated , so everything was right (they’d also been in the hotel trade) . The setting was fantasic – remote and next to the Railway…. Excellent ! – The only thing i was disappointed in was the less than expected wildlife . The local and previously well seen badger hasn’t been spotted for a while now , it’s either moved location or has been scared off by the recent activity in the forest ( they are apparently going to start felling in the surrounding woodlands). We will be back !!!!!

A quick look around the Cottage……

The Conservatory – The place i seem to spend most of my time relaxing in the Cottage , great for Bird , Squirrel and Train Spotting !

The view out to the Conservatory

The reverse view to the Kitchen and Mezzanine Bedroom

Up to the Bedroom

The Bedroom

The View from the Bedroom

Something else we noticed on this holiday , at no time during it we never switched the telly on !