I’m currently back in the UK, in the north of England to be more precise, visiting family and friends. I brought a camera along, of course, given that Newcastle is close to so many world-class landscapes (Northumberland National Park and Coastline, the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors National Park, the North Pennines – the list goes on and on; oh, and Scotland too :) ).
As you may have read, the UK has been blasted by unseasonably cold weather over the past few days, with eastern winds (“from Russia with love”) blowing snow across much of the country. Newcastle was spared the worst of the weather, although snowflakes have fallen every day since I arrived. However, I went for a drive out last Sunday along what is known locally as the military road, which tracks alongside south of the Hadrian’s Wall through some of Northumberland’s finest scenery. There was plenty of snow on the higher ground, so I decided to return for sunset the following day with the camera.
If you asked the average person in the street, they would probably say that Hadrian’s Wall runs east-west. Approximately speaking, that would be correct. However, using TPE, we can see that in fact, by late March, it is possible to get late afternoon light directly on the north side of the wall in the vicinity of Steel Rigg to Crag Lough:
At this location Hadrian’s Wall runs atop a line of spectacular crags that are oriented slightly to the southwest, allowing the late sun to reach the northern aspect from mid-March onwards.
Believe me, you don’t want to sit out on top of the wall only the light not to appear. It can be brutally cold. I tried it:
This was on Monday March 25th. While there were a few breaks in the cloud, I didn’t get lucky with the light. At least I knew in principle, the shot was possible (having checked in TPE).
Yesterday looked more promising so I set out from Newcastle mid-afternoon to drive back out to Steel Rigg car park. By the time I walked over to the wall just west of Milecastle 39, the clouds were coming back in from the northeast and things weren’t looking too hopeful. However, luck prevailed, and the handful of us who had ventured out enjoyed around three minutes of gap light around 20 minutes before sunset:
Here’s the moment when the sun was just emerging, showing a wider view that includes the Milecastle itself (and a couple of visitors from Italy):
One point to note: if you look at the ice on the water, you’ll see it is all piled up at the west end of the lake, reflecting the prevailing winds of the past week. Normally, the wind blows from the west, so these are somewhat unusual conditions.