There are some things that I really need in my life, and those are not often available if you live in the city. I’m talking about space and silence. Just like the fact that it takes only one cigarette to change the air you are breathing (and not breathing is not really an option), only one sound is needed to break the silence. The city is usually quite loud, even if it’s quiet. You hear sirens, airplanes, cars, people shouting, dogs barking, and I can continue this list, but I won’t. Also, the city is crowded. You always encounter other people. That can be nice if you’re a social butterfly, or if you are in need of some human contact, but it can be frustrating if all you are longing for is a place away from people, from society, from the human-dominated world.
That’s why Mr. Meilindis and I opted for a holiday far away from the buzz of the city. Somewhere where people are not offended by nature’s intrusion on their comfort. We decided to visit the North Pennines in England for two weeks. We stayed in a converted barn, up in the hills, and the nearest neighbour was perhaps 75 meters away. The North Pennines are officially an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and they are part of the UNESCO Global Geoparks.
Close to the Scotland border (and the ancient Hadrian’s Wall), the North Pennines are a vast area of high hills, open heather moors and peatlands, and stunning views. There are roads, but they are narrow and sparse. People live there, but not many, and far apart. It is also right next to the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the Tyne Valley. Paradise, in my eyes.
We decided to travel there slowly, by not flying, but taking the boat from IJmuiden to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. We boarded a ferry, slept in our cabin, and sailed there overnight. In Newcastle we hired a car, because there is no public transportation to speak of near the barn where we stayed.
We had to get used to driving on the left side of the road, but after a while that became easy and even natural. We kept an eye open for the red squirrels that supposedly lived near the road, but we didn’t manage to see one. We did see many pheasants, though. These birds are not very smart – they will sit next to the road, and if a car approaches, they will get spooked and run away, often onto the road, creating a dangerous situation instead of avoiding one. We managed to swerve and avoid the kamikaze pheasants, but we saw a lot of roadkill.
We drove up into the Northern Pennines, and we arrived at the barn around lunch time. It is a typical stone building, two stories high. Almost every house in the area is made of this kind of stone. I find it gorgeous, with its many colours and shapes. But the most amazing thing about this barn is not the way it looks, it’s where it stands. Location, location, location. It is built about 1500 feet above sea level, on the side of a hill. The view, oh, the view!
There was a great view from every room in the house, even the loo! And the light was so beautiful.
The ruins on the right are the remnants of the accompanying building of the barn. We have seen quite a few more of these old, desolated buildings. They harmonise with the landscape as nature slowly reclaims the spot.
If you travel down to the village, you find some more houses, churches, a pub, and a community centre. Nenthead used to be a mining village, and the heritage is still visible. We did not enter them, but we did see the Killhope mines from the outside. The name is telling.
In the first week we didn’t do very much. We enjoyed the quietness and the beautiful views. It was so quiet there that it was exceptional to see a car pass on the road. There are no passenger plane routes that cross this area. We did see an army plane in the first week, and a helicopter in the second, but that’s it. No airplane stripes polluting the air. No sound to distract you from hearing nature. It was bliss.
We did take a beautiful walk across the hills from Cumbria to Northumberland. The road was kind of hard to walk on, with its uneven and loose stones, but the views were breathtaking, and the silence was deafening.
When we reached the highest part of the climb, the fields were all moor, not hay land anymore. We saw some pheasants and a rabbit, but we mostly admired just how far away you could see.
The clouds were so close. The colours were crazy. Some parts of the landscapes were in the sunlight, others were in the shadow. It was moving all the time, like a slow kaleidoscope.
The weather was surprisingly nice during our stay. Mostly a combination of sunny and cloudy, and dry. We were really lucky!
In the evenings I was usually running in and out of the barn, admiring the sunsets. They were quite spectacular!
Here I could finally breathe. I could hear my own thoughts. I felt refreshed whenever I was outside. I need this. I didn’t want to return to the city. Well, perhaps just for a short holiday. This experience made me think again about what I want in life. What the possibilities are.
I cannot express how much I love this place. I felt so connected to it, like it is a part of me. I want to try and cherish that feeling, nurture this connection and what it means to me. To see where it will take me. To see if I can keep it alive inside me, to calm me down when I’m feeling stressed. And I want to go there again.
I will tell you a bit more about the second week in another post.