Where you end up in lockdown has a big impact on your outlook. The past nine weeks must have been so difficult for those without their own outdoor space and I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for people with underlying health issues who have not been able to leave the house. I have been incredibly lucky to have been isolating at my parents’ house in rural Northumberland, with wide open spaces on the doorstep and what I believe to be one of the best views in the country easily accessible during my daily exercise.
A view of two castles
From the field next to my parents’ home you get a view stretching out across the fields to the sea beyond, with the castles of Bamburgh and Lindisfarne perfectly perched on the horizon. That vista alone is enough to sustain my lust for nature throughout lockdown, but the country lanes offer numerous possibilities to experience these world-class views from varying angles during my daily exercise. The long-distance St Cuthbert’s Way walking route winds its way past the front door and up the hill towards a path across the sand that pilgrims have followed for centuries.
A tipple to match the view
With the holy island of Lindisfarne so tantalisingly close, it would be rude not to indulge in the gin distilled right there across the causeway. As well as the traditional juniper, the gin has notes of orange, rose and nutmeg. The gin company’s logo is emblazoned with a silhouette of the iconic castle seen between parted waves and the causeway leading up to it. The designers have even featured one of the rescue huts on stilts that are dotted along the crossing for those who make an ill-advised attempt to reach the island at high tide.
The distillers hope to evoke the exclusive feeling of being on the island once the causeway has closed with the tagline, The Spirit of High Tide. Going across to the island during lockdown feels a lot like that, as there’s hardly anyone around. I’ve never seen the area surrounding the castle so devoid of people or the village empty, with the pubs, cafes and tourist shops all closed to customers.
Holy Island Gin is currently offering a lockdown bundle, featuring a 350ml bottle of its gin, some premium tonic, reusable ice cubes and dehydrated orange wheels for the perfect evening in. Due to its remote location on Lindisfarne, the distillery dispatches orders once a week on a Friday.
Foraging for wild garlic
Without the possibility of just popping to the shops for extra supplies, eating food foraged from the grass verge close to the house seems particularly appropriate. The arrival of wild garlic near the banks of the burn was a welcome site and led to an afternoon of piling the leaves high in baskets to take back to the kitchen to blend up into the most irresistibly vivid green paste. I guessed the quantities, but a handful of toasted pine nuts, some grated Parmesan, olive oil and some freshly squeezed lemon juice created the perfect sauce for pasta.
Fresh farm eggs
Just a short walk from my parents’ house, there are a number of stylish B&Bs, usually offering idyllic stays in the Northumberland countryside and of course, delicious home-cooked breakfasts. As a result of the lockdown, there are currently no guests to eat all the delicious eggs the hens are laying, so we are regularly gifted the freshest eggs you can possibly imagine.
They come in assorted sizes and colours – there’s something wonderful about opening an egg box and seeing white shells dotted amongst the brown ones – and the yolks are the sunniest yellow you could ever hope for. It feels good not to have to rely on supermarket deliveries for such essentials. Instead, it’s a walk or cycle through the countryside.
Hares with the run of the place
It’s not uncommon to see hares and deer in the fields surrounding my parents’ house, their little white bottoms bobbing up and down as they streak off when they’re disturbed. But during lockdown, the hares have been coming much closer to the property, with one often making itself comfortable down by the rhubarb bed in my mum’s garden. It may be because of the increased tranquility, with fewer vehicles around and people staying at home, but it’s lovely to see these creatures getting the run of the place.
A secret swimming spot
Obviously, swimming is usually a big part of my life, but I didn’t expect to get a dip during lockdown. I decided to take the advice of the RNLI and not swim in the sea at the height of the pandemic, as it would not be fair to put potential rescuers at risk should I get into trouble in the water. So, finding a hidden fresh-water swim spot just five minutes from the house brought unexpected joy.
It came in the form of a small pool in Fenham Burn, just big enough to do four strokes in before turning around. Though small, it’s enough to get my cold water fix and with the spring sunshine coming through the trees and king cup marigolds lining the banks, you couldn’t ask for much more in terms of a lockdown swimming hole.
Clear night skies
And, at the end of the day when the sun has set on what has become a very different world to what we we were used to, the stars still shine. With no big settlements nearby and the vast expanse of the sea ahead, the view of the night sky in rural Northumberland is clear and bright. The constellations are easy to identify against the deep velvety sky and it’s simply beautiful.
Holy Island Gin gifted a bottle to the author