Once upon a time?

“If I couldn’t use my hands, I’d be speechless,” Linda declared. There are times when her astute observations bring us up short with laughter and this was one of them.

We were deep in conversation over the idiosyncrasies of learning the English language and how some of our Mediterranean counterparts had it easy with a simpler phonetic system. That and the fact that there seems to be an unwritten communication behaviour alongside these; the Gallic shrug and Italian gesticulations were two examples of how body language are an essential ingredient in their dialogue. For someone who’s preferred climate is hot and sultry, I do wonder if Linda has some Roman genes amidst our Anglo Saxon cosmopolitan mix and I made a note to ensure she was always in hands-free mode; a silent Linda would be so weird.

The four of us had begun our walk with a return visit to the Bardon Mill Village Shop and Tea Room to baptise the day with coffee and mince pies. 

Oddly enough I was reminded of Beauty and the Beast that I had watched on TV the previous evening. This French tale, first written in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, seemingly still has currency, if this recent film is anything to go by, in a world that appears to just value the clear cut and factual found in the fields of science and technology. Myths, legends and fairy tales old and new maintain their parts in our children’s taught curriculum and I marvelled at the creativity and imagination that 21st century adults brought to this 2017 version. With colourful Rodgers and Hammerstein-esk sets and scores, Busby Berkeley dancing flamboyance, a touch of J K Rowling’s magic and a little tongue in cheek dialogue, the whole story became an enchanting reminder of how even the smallest acts of love and kindness can overcome so much.

South Tyne at Bardon Mill

Which brings me back to our day. Each interaction along the route brought a little sprinkle of stardust to our steps.

The Bardon café simply glimmers with the stuff, beautifully arranged as it is with essentials and gifts under fairy lights and overseen by a good-humoured owner who’s service with a smile stretched to free mince pies after one caused chaos when inadvertently dropped. An electric mountain biker stopped to share his inspiring New Year wishes and cycling plans on the nearby bridge and two dogwalkers provided golden local intel on directing us to an alternative path from the guide book that gave us some lovely views.

The tiny peaceful church in pretty Beltingham brought a stained glass colour to softly illuminate a holly and evergreen decorated sanctuary and the post was still being collected from a 19th century box.

Bridge over the Allen at Plankey Mill

We passed a castle fit for rescued princesses and left the South Tyne for a while to make the acquaintance of one of its tributaries, the River Allen. Pulled into a land of gorges and grottos, the water sparkled and chattered in the lunchtime sunshine as we wound our way through a curiously quiet Morralee Wood for a tarnside picnic.

Tarn reflections

Of course, every fairy tale has its challenge and we also found steep hills to clamber, clarty mud to slide through, a few shouty farm dogs and a bizarrely reduced train timetable. However, our Fairy Godmother warm lime green bus picked us up within minutes of our arrival in Haydon Bridge and dropped us back at the café and car door in Bardon.

David and Jane climb up from Tedcastle

The bus driver looked at David with interest as he got off, accompanied as he was by his harem of women.

“Three eh?” the driver commented.

David nodded, with a wry smile.

“One’s enough,” the driver replied with a grimace as the doors shooshed shut behind us.

Maybe we’ll get him some rose tinted glasses on our next visit.

Heading down to Lees Farm

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