Suffering from cabin fever from being stuck indoors with the flu, I needed to get out of the house so this weekend I decided to pay the Lady of the North a visit…
With my new camera in tow, I set off for Northumberlandia, a surprisingly quick fifteen minutes up the a19 from my house in North Shields. Weighing a hefty 1.5 million tons, the Lady of the North is a stunning landform sculpture emerging from the earth, surrounded by a series of man-made lakes and valleys. Open to the public all year round, I definitely got lucky as the crisp winter sun broke through the clouds just as my car rumbled across the gravelled car park and followed the procession through the trees on their way to the great Lady.
Icy shards of grass crunched under my feet as I braved the 5 degree temperatures in my ascent to the top. Blown away by just how intricately sculpted she is, I set off climbing the meandering pathways and steep climbs towards the top. The idea is that the Lady of the North (or Northumberlandia) will change with the seasons, as the land moves and settles. Northumberlandia clearly appeals to people of all ages. Photographers, ramblers, families and dog walkers were all winding their way around this 46 acre community park and I couldn’t help but feel a little proud. Proud of Northumberland, proud of where I live and proud that people were coming from far and wide to celebrate our landscape.
From a distance, you can quite easily tell which body parts are which, but the more you explore, the harder it is to make out where you are. As cries of ‘I’m on her boobs!’ echoed across the hills and the winter sun shone hard on the cold ground, I felt my cabin fever lift. Fresh (albeit bloody freezing) air, beautiful scenery and a good walk to blow the cobwebs is just what you need to beat the January blues!
The inspiration for the landform is said to come from the Cheviot Hills, which are pulled into the foreground by the curves and shapes of the female form used for Northumberlandia. According to architect Charles Jencks, we naturally look for patterns and shapes in the landscape around us and I guess it’s true. As you walk around the paths you have to use this natural recognition of the human form to pick out the shape of the Lady, for much of the time it appears just as a series of graceful sweeping curves and interlocking shapes.
After all that walking, I found myself in need of a hot drink and slice of cake. Luckily I knew just the place! So set off five minutes down the road for the Milkhope Centre on the Blagdon Estate. A charming cluster of old converted buildings, the Milkhope Centre is home to the beautifully furnished Blacksmiths Coffee Shop (a favourite of Nanna and mine) and series of independent shops perfect for mooching like The Blagdon Gallery, Cane and Pine Design and foodies paradise the Blagdon Farm Shop.
So Sunday turned out to be a bloody good day out, for less than the price of petrol, coffee and cake – not bad at all!