The Storks of Böbs

The Storks of Böbs
A Very Fine Pair

Northumberland a lost son comes home (but not for long)

A Geordies return home (just a fleeting visit)

It was the 1st of January and I had come back home to visit my sister after a nice tour of the UK and being in Northern Ireland for Christmas. This was spent in Kilkeel with Linda’s dad Bob, we had had some nice times, visited the Titanic Experience, which was fantastic. Revisited a pub that had gone downhill so fast that it is not worth visiting, it’s only saving grace was that we had smashing company, in the form of Linda’s old school friend Jillian, her husband Robert and Linda’s companion in crime from Dublin Queens University Robert ( we four meet whenever we are in Northern Ireland). We had done a very nice curry evening for Linda’s Nephew Mark and his partner Kat (smashing couple) and visited them in their new house, besides that we had, had a nice relaxing 10 days, just cooking, eating and watching sport on tele.

New Year’s Eve had been a very quiet one just the three of us, a glass of whiskey and watched Jules Holland see in the New Year with his Hootenanny. Linda had a plane to catch on New Year’s Morn as she had to work on the 2nd, so I decided well in advance that I would also leave NI and go home for a couple of days to visit my big Sis.
I had dropped Linda off at the George Best International Airport, having a few hours to spare and there not being a lot going on at 06:30 in the morning, I popped into the filling station/cafe just before the ferry terminal to have a breakfast and read the news paper. Still with a couple of hours before sailing, I dedided to go to the ferry terminal and wated until it opened, I was glad when it did because I needed the toilet. I was then able to rest in an comfortable chair and watch the Port of Belfast come to life (very slowly it was New Years Morn after all). I then went through the check in and as you see was the first and only car at that time in the morning.

The crossing was plain sailing if you pardon the pun, the first ship across to Cairnryan was virtually empty, it also had an open car deck and the mate had to be well wrapped against the chilly wind.

The weather was blustery as we left Belfast loch, passing various cargo ships entering either to pick up or discharge a cargo,

we passed many of the landmarks that I grew to know so well back in the days when we brought lub-oil and chemicals to the then troubled city, to the Port side was Bangor and Starboard Carrickfergus still sleeping off their hangovers from drinking too much of the black stuff and the gold stuff no doubt.


Though I didn't know it then I was to become connected to this city as Linda and I used it as a stepping stone from and to Scotland on our many trips and tours to Ireland.
The sky threw up some interesting shapes and colours as we rounded the the northern tip of the Mull of Galloway

and entered Loch Ryan before docking at the new ferry terminal at the small port of cairnryan.

Opening the bow doors

And off we jolly well go

I then had a quite uneventful trip through and across the border country first into Cumbria and then Northumberland and home.

So back to the second of January 2013, I set off nice and early, taking the spine road, to go up to Craster and get the World famous Robson’s of Craster kippers.
The gate way to kippers
Alas on reaching this wonderful small fishing village and going to the smoke house, a notice proclaimed to all and sundry that the shop was closed for Christmas and the New Year and would open on the third of January, aaaaggghhhh a 3000km trip to get my kippers for breakfast and the door was barred, I think in all reality they should have known that I would be visiting.
Shut, would you believe it?

Never mind I visited a smashing little art gallery run by the local artist Mick Oxley. I then popped into the Jolly Fisherman and had a mineral water and a smashing crab sandwich.
I went along the pier taking some shots of the Cuddy ducks (the local term for Eider Ducks and comes from St Cuthbert who was a monk on the Farne Islands just North of here), Turnstones, Oyster Catchers, Curlews and a few hardy anglers. 

Bobbing Eider Ducks

The shore line feeders, Oystercatchers, Herring Gulls and a solitary Curlew

Turnstones picking through the kelp left from the storm that hit the coast during the night.

Permission to enter harbour, line astern

The hardy lads doing a spot of rock fishing

As well as the ruins of Dunstanburgh castle standing sentinel on the cliffs.

On the way back to the car park in the old quarry I took some more photographs of the bird life in the harbour and around the holiday chalets.
The transome sterned cobles, the old working fishing boats of the North-East coast, said to have been developed from the Viking Longboats, that once plied their rape and pillage along most of this coast 

 The harbour filled with the sea kelp from last nights storm
The Old Quarry car park

The bird feeders doing a roaring trade in Tits

A bin  topped with a Chaffinch

I decided that I may as well take the wonderful scenic route along the coastal road, for visitors to the wild Northumberland coast this route is a must, passing through some of the most rugged, windswept but beautiful country side that England has to offer.

It is the land of my forefathers, my Great, great, great grandfather had been a hill shepherd in the Cheviots having been born into the small farming community of Chatton in 1807 (but more of this later).

I passed through many of the small farming villages that I had cycled through in my youth as we (my pals and I, no lasses in those days) made our way from the coal dust covered mining village of Shiremoor (my birthplace)to the clean air of Seahouses the premier holiday resort on the coast and starting point for the boat trips out to the Farne islands.

I passed through Boulmer, this is still, as it was then, a RAF station, now the air/sea rescue centre for the whole of the North East coast. Though the golf ball like coverings to the radar installations out on the moors, tell you that even today they keep a keen watch on the northern approaches, the bear may after all only be in hibernation and not dead.

The names of the hamlets and villages tripped off as if it was only yesterday that I passed them on my (borrowed) bike, Longhoughton, Lesbury, Alnmouth.

I could have turned a little way inland and visited the scene of the first Hogwarts, Alnwick Castle seat of the Duke of Northumberland (Those Percy’s) and the famous house of Hardy the rod and reel specialist, this piece of information may pass you by, but for the Salmon and Trout enthusiast amongst us, it says all, but this time I was not on an angling expedition, may be in the summer.  


The smashing Alnmouth beach looking towards the river mouth, full with sauntering, jauntering two and four legged revelers out for a breath of fresh air
The redundant tank blocks now sinking ever so slowly into the sands

But instead, I headed along the river Aln and stopped off at Alnmouth and had a walk along the beaches still guarded by the anti-tank defences for an invasion that never came. The small town of Alnmouth is famous for nothing (except the salmon and sea trout) and may it long stay that way, it has one of the most fantastic stretches of beach to be found in the area (there are many, many miles of unspoiled beaches in Northumberland). I was not alone as it seemed that almost the whole of the town and surrounding area had brought their four legged friends for a romp along the sands and through the dunes.

I then headed further down the coast (up is towards Scotland)  crossing the river Aln you eventually wind your way into the very pretty town of Warkworth, as you turn travel through the town you cannot fail to be impressed by the mighty ruin of Warkworth castle, this is perched  on winsil  escarpment dominating the town and guarding the sea approaches and the entrance to the river (not very successful I may add).

As you head out of town you travel along the river Coquet, this is also a very good salmon, sea trout and brown trout river, it also teems with bird life, I stopped by the wier and looking back along the river and done a bit of bird watching, it was a smashing day.

A black headed gull with a not so black head (winter attire)

Mute Swans, Cormorants, Black Headed Gulls and Herring Gulls at a brackish pool on the river Coquet just below Walkworth.
A single Cormorant, doing nothing in particular, though they are better fishers than I ever will be, alas.

I then travelled to Amble at the mouth of the coquet  and there took some photographs of the old harbour entry, with its ribbed skeletons  of old lime transporters and colliers, this port also used to have lime kilns and was one of the prime exporting ports for exporting lime for glass manufacture, it also was one of the small coaling/fishing ports that dotted the Northumberland coast, just off shore is the small Coquet Island, this is a haven for sea birds, I dallied a little longer than I wanted.
The remains of an Oyster Catchers breakfast

The now rotting coaling staiths and ribs of once proud colliers (the ships not the lads down below)
Looking back along the River Coquet from the Yatch Club towards the Town of Walkworth.

A beacon from the millenium
As I then headed slightly inland towards Ashington, the birth place of two of England’s most famous footballers Bobby and Jackie Charlton and even more famous in Northumberland footballing folklore, their Uncle Jackie, “Wor Jack” the football legend Jackie Milburn. But a trip down footballs memory lane wasn’t the reason why I was here; it was to visit Woodhorn Colliery, now the site of the Northumberland Mining Museum and the Northumberland Archives.

I am researching along with my oldest brother John our family history, but we have hit an impasse, we cannot find our great, great, great grandfathers parents, we know from the very first census that he was born in Chatton a small farming community and worked later as a hill shepherd on the Cheviot hills that form the border between Northumberland and Scotland. He did move to other locations, but this was normal in farming and shepherding as they stayed in tied cottages and could only move on Michaelmas each year, a manner of employment not far removed from serfdom.  But even with the help of a very kind lady researcher, I was unable to find any traces and trails that could lead me on the quest of the disappearing member of my lineage.

We got so engrossed in the quest that we both forgot the time and it was 16:00 and closing time before we knew it, so it was time to pop off to Gosforth, Birthplace of another great footballer Alan Shearer (who just happened to be in the same class as No1 son Jason) I popped in to say hello to Mrs Smith No1 and son No2, before heading back to my  Sisters, picking up fish and chips on the way at Westmoor chippies this has been there as long as I can remember, we would stop off with our trek cart when hiking back and forth to the Gosforth Park Scout site. The fish and chips still every bit as good as they were 50 years ago.

Next day it was off to Yorkshire and my oldest mate Roy and his lovely wife Barbara, this was just a fleeting visit, enough time to pop in, go out and have a curry with them and their family, had a smashing time and had a good laugh with Roy’s oldest sons lad, he is great, got great potential as a goalie, just turned 5, spot on. It was then up in the morning and then off down the M1 for the Wildfood board meet, at the George on Borough High Street. But that is another day.


Our Shipyard visit

During the following days we visited Belfast and went to the Titanic Exhibition. I had read a lot about it and it had very good press, this added to Ivan a family friend saying it was a must,this finally made our minds up.
The exhibition is encased in a building, which really does have the Wow factor; I would put it in a class not far behind the Sydney Opera House and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

It is built at the head of the slipway on which the Titanic and the Olympic where built in 1909-10. A massive Arrol gantry was built like a steel ribbed corset along and above the slipways; this made the building of the two mighty ships much easier and quicker than in previous builds.
We first went inside and got our tickets as we had an hour to spare we  then went outside and had a look at the mighty slipways (now-a-days many of the great tankers are not launched but built in a covered graving dock).
The bows of the ship would have been about at the front entrance door and some of the original slipway and tracks are still in place. The modern lighting pillars stand in the position once occupied by the lattice steel Arrol gantry supporting towers.

Towards the position of the stern is a replica of the poop, this would not have been built when the launch took place, but is there for reference, this looks out into the specially dredged Victoria channel.
The ground where the original slipways had been is now marked out to show the size of the ships and also the position of the few life boats and the four massive funnels. It was a bit chilly so Linda and her Dad popped in to have a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.


Inside the impressive building you get to the ticket booths (advisable to book in advance as when we went it was booked out for the next 4 days). The hallway is dominated by the mighty chandelier suspended in the centre of the building

The inside of the building has been constructed so that you are led through the whole of its life from the conception through the keel laying to the construction, to the fitting out, to the sailing and its sinking. But the story doesn’t finish there as there is a very well put together visual section that shows and explains the search and eventual discovery of the might liner lying in her final resting place.
The replica Arrol gantry that serves as a lift to start you off on your journey through the Harland and Wolf shipyard 
The drawing office, very similar in layout to the one I worked in while serving my apprenticeship, we wore white smock coats thank goodness

I served my Engineering apprenticeship in a shipyard on the Tyne, this was at a time when many of the building practises such as riveting, caulking, steam triple expansion engines were nearing the end of their days, but luckily I did work on ships that still had to be maintained and repaired using these time old processes, it took me back to my youth almost 50 years ago.

Wonderful, it was so vivid, so real; it was as if I had been whisked back through time. The “Shipyard Ride” is a wonderful adventure in itself, passing through the wonderland of a shipyard without any of the dangers, noise and smells.

If you have ever worked in a double bottom, like the one above you will know what noise is, the riveting and hammering goes on all the time from the start of the shift until the end, there is no respite and no end to the din.
There was also a large display showing the cabins, there fittings and the different classes, some the toffs of the turn of the century.

The Bridge with its paraphernalia and the last messages to be sent after striking the iceberg.

 It was for me one of the highlights of this holiday and will live long in my memory, I could have spent another couple of hours just wandering and looking at all of the fantastic exhibits and visual displays. From the hemp for the hawsers and ropes, to Gallaher's snuff, the ticket punches and the advertising of the period.

Well done Belfast, I will certainly visit again, it was well worth the 9 quid (over sixty does have its advantage and as Bob paid it cost me nowt).

Some of the large and small vessels built in the once proud shipyard, the gates that the hoards of workmen once poured through at the start of each day are now to be admired in part of the experience.

We headed for home and got some fish and chips at the Pit Stop in Kilkeel, I’d dropped Linda and her dad off, and so when I got home, the tea was ready and the bread and butter.

I then set about finished off some of my Blogg

and Bob watched the footy on TV

Well it's hard graft doing a couple of shifts in the Shipyard!!!