29th April 2008 : A friend of mine was visiting Northumberland with her family, who are keen walkers and climbers, so it seemed there was a perfect opportunity to combine business with pleasure.
We planned to travel up the College Valley by car so that Alex and her father could climb up the Hen Hole. However, when we arrived at the estate agents in Wooler (where permits to drive on the tiny road up the valley are issued), we found that due to lambing no permits were being issued that day. It was also very unpredictable weather, so the climbers were not too disappointed.
We drove as far as we could without a permit and then walked up the track, it wasn't long before the heavens opened and we were very glad of our waterproof trousers!
We forked off the track at a little church hall and monument to pilots who crashed in the Cheviots during WWII, Alex's Dad translated the RAF motto Per ardua ad astra (through strength (hard work) to the stars). I found it very powerful, but we were all a bit confussed why the names of the pilots weren't listed only the type of planes they were flying. I know that a lot of the wrecks are still there but it seemed a little insensitive to combine a memorial with a crash spotters guide (there was a kind of map on the top of the stone indicating the sites of the wrecks)
Later on in the evening I went to Town Yetholm (just over the border in Scotland) to meet some folk who are taking part in a NNPA project called The Cheviot Hills Heritage Project. There were about ten people at the meeting and I was really impressed by how passionate everyone was about the place that they lived in. People were from all walks of life and all places, not just born and bred, I met someone from North London and another gentleman from Edinburgh. Accents were a mix of English and the lovely soft Border Scotts. I gleaned a great deal of information from this meeting, particularly about walking routes!
Elanor Johnson the project co ordinator suggested we might like to exhibit the work from the project in a venue in the town or a neighbouring town / village; this sounds to me like a really good idea as there aren't many opportunities for these communities to come into contact with contemporary art and artists and Elanor assured me we would get a very honest response from them. I like this interaction I know from showing work in the small village I live in that it can be a very enlightening experience for all parties.
Driving back home in the dark I felt the looming presence of the Cheviot Massif as I skirted round it on some pretty wet and pot-holed roads.