The country’s journal entry for today is about the delicate snowdrops cascading down the tall castle walls, as observed by Susie White.
High in the sky, a buzzard soars above the swaying treetops, riding the wind for lift. It’s another blustery day in a winter full of strong winds. I’m grateful to have found refuge in this forest, away from the exposed fields. The trail I took from Corbridge follows the Cor Burn, a meandering stream that collects water from the northern part of the Tyne valley.
This path must have been here for centuries. Sunk between root-encrusted banks, it’s a hollow way, dappled brown with fallen oak leaves. A simple bridge crosses the burn where sound is patterned by shallow waterfalls over flat slabs of rock. Thrashed branches lie everywhere and there are a few fallen trees; one lies across the way, its burden of ivy hanging limp.
As we ascend, it becomes evident why this location was chosen for defense, particularly from the south and east. The recognizable shape of masonry can be seen through the trees on the horizon, belonging to Aydon Castle. The Cor Burn river flows around the steep cliff upon which the castle was constructed. Despite being looted and set ablaze during conflicts between borders and changing ownership multiple times, it served as a farmhouse from the 17th century until the 1960s. Nevertheless, it remains a mostly untouched 13th-century fortified manor with stunning architecture, and it exudes a cozy feeling within the embrace of its tall walls.
Spring shows earlier here than in my upland home of Allendale. Wild garlic is spearing up through the leaf litter, its pungent scent released when clipped by my boots. Lesser celandine’s heart-shaped leaves gleam along the banks, arched over by unruly sprays of bramble. Rippling hart’s-tongue ferns cascade down a seep; in this moist soil there’s golden saxifrage, the new buds showing among fleshy foliage.
I have arrived to see the snowdrops and they are now cascading down the steep slope, filling the entire forest between the castle and stream. These are my preferred snowdrops – not the extravagant double varieties, but rather simple and graceful droplets swaying among thin grey-green leaves. They cover the ground beneath trimmed hazel, ash, sycamore, and beech trees, emerging through moss, branches, and fallen male ferns. The snowdrops, in shades of white and lichen green, dance in the breeze, their fluid motions standing out against the strong walls of the castle.