Northumberland: Day Three

There was no frost today, but the sun was shining brightly and I knew the larches on the hills would be lit up like fiery beacons. We only had the morning, as we were leaving the bothy just after lunch, so first I headed out with Cain to pick up the camera traps. I was wrapped up in my fleece but was soon peeling layers off – the weather was surprisingly warm today with such bright sunshine and little wind.


Just before we returned to the bothy to check the footage, Cain took me to see the huge troops of orange fungi up the hill by the clearing. I’d just been saying how little fungi I’d seen, but I was soon proved wrong when I saw how many there were up here. Sprinkled all the way along the track were small orange bulbs of every shape and size. Some were illuminated in patches of sunlight, which made their colours shine even brighter.


As I was stooped on the ground photographing the fungi, I heard a bizarre sound that reminded me of an angry cat. I turned and saw the outer layer of trees swaying in the growing wind, releasing the most peculiar creaking noises. Cain explained how these trees would usually grow on the inside of the forest, but due to felling they were now on the outer layer and were struggling to cope with the battering elements. Some had already succumbed, and we passed gigantic trees lying flat on the forest floor, their roots larger than tractor wheels.


Out in the open, the wind was a lot stronger, so we ducked back down and sought the shelter of the forest. We gathered everyone in the bothy and had a look to see if the traps had been successful. Sadly, the two I had put out only had footage of my bobble hat as I attached and detached the trap from its post. However, Cain had put one in the garden and this had filmed several clips of a bank vole darting in and out of the rock pile. Later in the night, a wood mouse joined the scene, distinguishable by its longer tail and much larger Mickey Mouse ears. So, the traps weren’t a complete disaster, but certainly no pine marten footage.



  • Bank vole – on camera trap (Myodes glareolus)
  • Chaffinch(Fringilla coelebs)
  • Kestrel(Falco tinnunculus)
  • Robin(Erithacus rubecula)
  • Wood mouse – on camera trap (Apodemus sylvaticus)

Northumberland: Day Two


When I woke up the blinds were bright. I had a peek outside and was thrilled to see there was a frost clinging to the grass. I hurried into clothes and headed out into the garden. It had been a full year since my last frost and I was eager to capture some macro photos again. Leaves, twigs and thistles were all coated in a fine layer of silver crystals that, when hit by the sun, twinkled and shone like last night’s stars. Soon I had wet knees from crouching in the grass and the beginnings of a crick in my neck from getting as close as possible. My plan was to crop the photos in to create a repeating abstract texture. As usual, I took far more than I probably needed.


After relaxing for a while in the bothy I headed out again, down one hill and up the next. I passed the tyre swing, but the lack of decent light meant the shots weren’t quite what I imagined. I knew I had to photograph the bright yellow and orange larches that had taken my breath away on the drive in yesterday. Unfortunately the sun that I’d wanted to shine was well and truly concealed behind thick clouds; the light was so diluted I could gaze in its direction without difficulty. However, when I began to shoot, the rusty warm hues still popped. I began to experiment with positioning individual subjects like stray grasses in front of the camera, so the trees bled together and created a vibrant background.


The rest of the day was spent writing beside the fire and recording what I’d seen during the day. I had a sneaky look at my photos so far and was pleased with some of the outcomes. Hopefully there’d be more opportunities on our last day tomorrow.



  • Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
  • Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
  • Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
  • Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Northumberland: Day One

We arrived at the bothy just as the sun was at its warmest. We were in the Northumberland National Park, and as the car rumbled up the hill I craned my neck to see the valley opening up into a patchwork blanket of green, orange and brown. It was autumn at its finest; an explosion of colour with just the right amount of chill in the air. On the way up to the bothy I spied an abandoned tyre swing, which would be a great accompaniment to the stories about childhood memories, so I made a mental note to return tomorrow.

After the customary dumping of the bags, I headed out with Cain and Lequane to set up two camera traps. With a new area, you never knew what could be roaming the forests; red squirrels, even a pine marten perhaps. We followed the burn down the hill, which was a thick sponge of fallen leaves. A dry stone wall ran parallel to the water, and I could just imagine small mammals darting along it, so set up the first trap looking out over the wall.

The light was fading, so we made our way along the burn with torchlight. The wall had collided with a tangle of sticks in one patch, perhaps a resting place for voles or mice. I set the second trap up with a viewpoint over the wall.

We made our way back up the road to the bothy, and were very surprised to see bats zooming around over our heads. Cain told us how it was very late in the year for bats, and they were perhaps roosting in or around the bothy. Cain’s sharp ears picked up a redwing calling in the distance, and then we heard a tawny owl very close by, so decided to pursue it into the cluster of trees behind the house. It was tantalizingly close and we searched the trees in the gathering gloom for any sign of it. No doubt the owl could see us perfectly and was watching with a combination of confusion and amusement, as it stopped calling as soon as we reached the trees and we didn’t hear it after that.

After taking shifts to cook our separate dinners, we had a look outside and there was a series of gasps and excitable shrieks when we all saw the night sky. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many stars – the sky was pitch black, with not a single lamppost or car light to spoil it. We all hurried inside to layer up and grab cameras, then broke off in different directions to get started. Some wandered up the hill and turned towards the Milky Way, while others stayed in the car park and began a time lapse of Orion’s Belt.

I hadn’t done a great deal of night photography, but I began to experiment and soon I found myself quite addicted to it, especially with such a beautiful and flawless background. The camera picked up millions more white pinpricks in the sky, and I was very pleased to find that I’d caught a shooting star in one image.

After an hour or so, my fingers had begun to grow numb, and I found myself capturing the same photos multiple times just because they were so beautiful. For the sake of my memory card, I headed back to the bothy to warm up and have a snack before bed.



  • Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
  • Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
  • European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
  • Redwing – heard (Turdus iliacus)
  • Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
  • Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus)
  • Tawny Owl – heard (Strix aluco)

Chesters: Day Two

As I peeked out the window this morning, the sun was just beginning to shine. It looked like a promising day and I was glad, as we would be walking ten miles around the Breamish Valley.

First things first though: check the Longworth trap for any visitors. Heather retrieved the trap and carefully emptied it into a paper bag. Along with the hay and leftover oats and apple chunks was a bank vole, gazing up at us with its beady black eyes.

If we were carrying out a proper small mammal survey we would attempt to sex the vole and perhaps snip a small section of fur from its back. The purpose of this is for re-trapping, so we’d know if the same vole came back. However, we were just trapping to see what mammals were in the area, so these procedures weren’t necessary. We observed the vole for a little while longer before Heather released it back into the dry stone wall alongside the bothy, where it slipped out of sight in seconds. We also left the remaining food for the vole to feast on – it was only polite.


After eating a hearty bowl of porridge and making sure we had everything packed for the day ahead, we set off across the fields and down to the first plantation. Heather told us the habitat had been classed as “felled”, but there was nothing felled about it now. Trees loomed above us, and with foliage on all sides it felt like we’d wandered into an enclosure at Jurassic Park. My overactive imagination thought the grating screeches we heard were those of Velociraptors, but sadly were just squabbling jays.


I led the group down the hill, taking care over crooked roots and dislodged rocks. I was just negotiating a particularly steep section when Cain called us back. I knew he’d seen something so I rummaged for my telephoto lens while scrambling back up to where the others had binoculars trained at the very top of a large conifer. There was a loud chirruping, and among siskins and chaffinches was a larger finch with a forked tail and an unmistakable bill that had the upper mandible overlapping the lower: common crossbills. There were several up in the tree, and as I zoomed in I saw that a male was being pestered by a begging juvenile, its pale wings flapping ten to the dozen in an attempt to catch its parent’s attention. The male, and another a few branches away, were plucking cones from the tree and holding them aloft like they weren’t quite sure where to put them. It was fascinating to watch such a strangely designed bird negotiate its food.


We wandered on, breaking out of the trees and beginning the first ascent of the day. The trail wound through an ocean of bracken, and I soon found myself chest-deep. When I glanced behind me I could only see everyone’s heads and shoulders as they waded through. The resident skylarks joined us, as well as a distant buzzard that I’m sure the skylarks were keeping a close eye on.


The sun sunk in and out of the clouds as we made our way through the valley, stopping every once in a while to photograph a mysterious fungus or watch a bird through binoculars. By lunchtime, just as my stomach was rumbling for my sandwiches, we arrived at Branton Nature Reserve. The first sound that greeted us was the noisy gabble of greylag geese as they fought for space to sit down on the crowded island. There were dozens of birds here; groups of lapwing, snipe, goosander and moorhen. There was minimal mingling between the species, reminding me of a school canteen full of cliques. Suddenly there was a commotion and many birds took to the air. The source of the panic was a heron, gliding in with broad wings and a curled neck. As he landed with spindly legs dangling, the geese gabbled uncertainly and gave him plenty of space.

We slunk as inconspicuously as we could into the hide and tucked into lunch while keeping one eye on the lake’s activity. A cormorant surfaced a few feet from the window, and paused long enough for a few breaths before diving back down, emerging moments later in a completely different place and with a wriggling fish in its bill, which was swallowed up in the blink of an eye.


Soon it was time to start heading back. It was trying to rain, and as we were making our way back past the village of Ingram it succeeded, so I hastily packed away my camera and bins. Later, once Cain had got a fire going, we’d rested our aching feet and eaten dinner, we pottered into the garden with the bat detector, to see if any bats were passing through. Before we heard any clicks though, there was a flash of white wings and a barn owl swooped out into the open. Shortly after, a second owl appeared some distance from the first, which was even more exciting. We ventured a little further up the hill and the detector started clicking. That evening we heard both common and soprano pipistrelles, and although we were leaving the wilderness behind and heading back home tomorrow, just these two days have been enough to remind me once again how important it is to spend time in nature.


Species Seen: Adder (Vipera berus) Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus) Black-Headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundusBuzzard (Buteo buteo) Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) Common Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) Coot (Fulica atra) Eurasian Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculusEurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus) Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) Goosander (Mergus merganser) Greylag Goose (Anser anser) House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) Jay (Garrulus glandarius) Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) Lesser Black-Backed Gull (Larus fuscus) Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollisMagpie (Pica pica) Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) Red-Legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) Robin (Erithacus rubecula) Rook (Corvus frugilegus) Skylark (Alauda arvensis) Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) Teal (Anas crecca) Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) Wigeon (Anas penelope)

Chesters – Day Four

Sadly the day began with no visitors to the Longworth trap we’d set out, but on a positive note the Cheviots were shining under the sun again. I walked up towards the conifer plantation where we saw the red squirrels and drank in the views. Northumberland National Park was beautiful even on a grey day, but when the sun was bright and the clouds’ shadows were drifting across the hills, it was truly stunning. Despite the river gurgling many metres below, I could hear it as clear as if I was standing on the shingle bank. With no disturbance and very few voices on the air, sounds sliced straight through the landscape. It was one of the most tranquil places I’d ever been to.


After gathering our bags together ready to leave Chesters, we went on a final walk to a new plantation close to the bothy. As we scanned the horizon, we spotted three buzzards circling. Heather told us it was a courtship display, where the males soared high into the sky then dropped down in a dramatic feat of bravery to impress would-be partners. It was fascinating to watch – I only hope the watching females were as impressed as I was!

The plantation we visited was dominated by larch trees, and despite fragmentation of woodland in the Cheviots it was a very old habitat. We could tell this by the presence of tummocks; moss growing over the rocks. This kind of succession would take many years to take place, meaning the habitat had become established a long time ago.

Throughout the plantation, there were many holes in the grassy bank of many different shapes and sizes. Commonly, a fox hole will be oval-shaped, while the sett of a badger will have a sideways oval opening. Meanwhile, a rabbit warren will be made up of many holes of similar size. There were also a lot of droppings, including the dimpled pellets of roe deer, fox and what Heather suspected to be pine marten, which was a really exciting find with a pine marten never having been seen at Chesters. Both of the scats belonging to predators had been deposited right outside the opening of a rabbit warren; a sign to other predators that the poor rabbits within were claimed prey. It was a sinister sign, especially for emerging rabbits!

In fact, the plantation had a likeness to a graveyard. Mammal and bird bones littered the forest floor, from woodpigeon and pheasant to ram skulls. I found a pheasant’s pelvis, which was beautifully intricate and incredibly fragile. However, bones weren’t the only treasure. After nearly stubbing my toe on it, I found an open orb of white quartz within an ordinary rock. The crystals in the crevice were tiny, but reflected the sun in dazzling fragments.

Shortly after, we found an even more peculiar discovery. Hawk-eyed Heather spotted a patch of bright red up in the tree canopy. There, lying in a nest on the end of a bough was a dead red squirrel. Although it was a sad sight, it was also a fascinating one, certainly something I’d never seen before. We debated whether the nest belonged to the predator, or perhaps the squirrel had simply been stored there, or the nest was being used as a plucking post, as is often the case with birds of prey. We walked around the tree looking for feathers or pellets that would tell us the culprit, but there were no tell-tale signs. It was a real mystery that we unfortunately never got to uncover!


Soon we returned to the bothy, carefully carrying the treasures we’d found including the quartz and animal bones, as well as an array of feathers and owl pellets. We spent the rest of the day packing to leave and reflecting on the experiences we’d had over the weekend. As a final send-off, we had a rabbit visit the garden and put extensive time and effort into digging perhaps the beginning of a warren not two metres from the front door. I tested my luck and crept outside to watch him, and was amazed to find him so calm in my presence. Every few seconds he would stop and peer at me, dry earth sprinkled on his head like brownie crumbs, but each time he was convinced I was no threat and continued his work. It was the closest I’d ever been to a wild rabbit and a real privilege to be able to film it digging and moving twigs aside with its long lagomorph teeth. It was perhaps my favourite wildlife encounter of my time at Chesters, and happened right on the bothy doorstep.


Species seen/heard:

Buzzard Buteo buteo Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus Fieldfare Turdus pilaris Great tit Parus major Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Pheasant Phasianus colchicus Pied wagtail Motacilla alba Skylark Alauda arvensis

Chesters – Day Three

Today was the toughest day for my feet, but also the most rewarding. We set off east away from Chesters on a ten-mile hike to the gravel pits of Branton Nature Reserve, though the journey was just as fulfilling as the destination.


After the trials of crossing the Chesters Burn without getting wet, we ascended towards Ewe Hill, where lapwings zoomed with seemingly erratic coordination, and skylarks serenaded us from overhead, in a hovering flight they can maintain for the approximate equivalent of running five marathons back to back.

On the way down Turf Knowe, we spotted two hares dashing across a field, accompanied by the frustrated squawking of a distant rookery. We also stumbled across a common frog in a puddle, keeping its numerous frogspawn company.


Soon, we reached the village of Ingram, situated on the edge of Northumberland National Park. Here the birdlife transformed to an orchestra of finches, tits and some special guests, including two male yellowhammers, a bustling group of siskins and some striking chaffinches in their immaculate breeding plumage. As we left Ingram behind, we followed the River Breamish to the gravel pits to do a spot of bird watching in the hide overlooking the lake.

Since the 1920s, the Breamish Valley was used for sand and gravel extraction, including gravel from the riverbed, which was used to surface roads. After the area was restored to agricultural land, concrete company CEMEX asked for permission to extract and was denied, as it was thought the extraction would be taking place too near to the National Park. However, in 1993, CEMEX was granted permission to extract, on the one condition that the company also converted the area to a nature reserve that would “complement and enhance the rural landscape”, ultimately creating a landscape that would improve the area’s biodiversity and provide a stable aquatic environment for many species.

As we sat and watched the lake from the bird hide, we spotted a broad variety of waders, geese and passerines, or songbirds. Greylag geese, goldeneye, wigeon, tufted duck and many more were bobbing about on the still water. Interestingly, instead of the usual drab colouring used for camouflage when on the nest, female shelducks have the same striking green head and bright red bill as the male. The reason for this is the bird’s choice of nest, which is often in rabbit warrens instead of out in the open. This makes female camouflage unnecessary.

Another highlight of our time in the hide was hearing the first chiffchaffs of the year, which arrive from their wintering ground in sub-Saharan Africa in mid March, staying until around October.

Once the drizzling rain had subsided, we did a spot more tracking around the lake. There was an otter spraint by the stream, a sign of territory marking, the square pad of a badger print and several roe deer tracks. While sheep prints – which were abundant virtually everywhere – are rounded, deer prints meet at a point.

By then the best of the daylight had passed, so we made our way back to Chesters, pockets laden with treasures collected during the day. Along the way we tried our luck spotting some adders. As it was still drizzling and the sun had gone in, chances of a sight of basking adders was slim. However, we managed to find two that were catching the last rays before returning to cover. After such a long walk to find them, I’m glad a few stayed out just a little longer.


Species seen/heard:

Adder Vipera berus Bank vole Myodes glareolus Black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus Canada goose Branta canadensis Carrion crow Corvus corone Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Common chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Common frog Rana temporaria Common toad Bufo bufo Curlew Numenius arquata Eurasian siskin Spinus spinus European mole Talpa europaea European hare Lepus europaeus Fieldfare Turdus pilaris Goldcrest Regulus regulus Goldeneye Bucephala clangula Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Grey heron Ardea cinerea Greylag goose Anser anser Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Pheasant Phasianus colchicus Pied wagtail Motacilla alba Red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa Reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus Robin Erithacus rubecula Rook Corvus frugilegus Shelduck Tadorna tadorna Skylark Alauda arvensis Snipe Gallinago gallinago Song thrush Turdus philomelos Treecreeper Certhia familiaris Wigeon Anas penelope Woodpigeon Columba palumbus Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella

Chesters – Day Two

As it happened, I slept extremely well last night, so I missed out on the tawny owl calling from the Chesters bothy roof. The morning was bright, and as I peered out of the cocoon of my sleeping bag I felt the familiar pull of the wild. The combination of hushed soundscape and pine woodland packed with secrets was enough to lure me out of bed.


As I ate breakfast I had the pleasure of watching a bank vole feeding on the sunflower hearts Heather had left out. He was a challenge to photograph as he only stayed in view for a second, but it was impossible not to love his curious expression as he peered through the window.


After preparing the bothy for the expeditioneers’ arrival, Cain and I headed back through the Breamish Valley to meet them. Although no red squirrels this time, we came across two dead pheasants. They looked incredibly fresh with no obvious wounds. The only indication of possible death was the presence of downy feathers in the birds’ claws, suggesting the frisky males had fought to the death. It was a great opportunity to photograph a pheasant’s feathers up close – there are so many beautiful colours.


When we returned, Heather explained the itinerary for the next three days and introduced the expeditioneers to camera traps and Longworth traps, recording equipment used to live trap small mammals. Finally, we all found Chesters bothy on a map of the Cheviots.

Just before the sun began to set, we all headed out into a patch of woodland just beside Chesters, where we used the rest of the daylight foraging for signs of the forest’s inhabitants. There were abundant droppings, and although most belonged to sheep and pheasants, a prominent sprinkling on a mound of grass beside an extensive burrow indicated rabbits. Later, we saw different droppings that were more elongated, suggesting hares were also present. Among other treasures, we found rabbit bones, a red squirrel drey – a nest built of twigs, dry leaves or grass – the chest plate of a woodpigeon and feathers belonging to a buzzard and a long-eared owl.

After a thorough forage we suddenly realised the sun had gone, so we hurriedly set up two camera traps, one in the woods to hopefully capture roe deer and the other beside a clump of frogspawn to see if the parent showed up.

Once the traps were set we returned to the bothy. Heather went to fetch wood for the fire and returned with a sleeping moth. After searching through the moth ID book we discovered it was a herald moth. I’d never seen this species before, and took the opportunity to use my macro lens and accentuate its rich copper-coloured wings. After returning the moth to the woodshed to avoid disturbing it, we had an early night in preparation for our long walk tomorrow in search of elusive adders.


Species seen/heard:

Bank vole Myodes glareolus Blackbird Turdus merula Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Coal tit Periparus ater Goosander Mergus merganser Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea Great-spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major Herald moth Scoliopteryx libatrix Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Pheasant Phasianus colchicus Red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa Robin Erithacus rubecula Snipe Gallinago gallinago Song thrush Turdus philomelos Tawny owl Strix aluco Woodcock Scolopax rusticola Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Chesters – Day One


The drive to the Village Tearoom and Emporium was stunning. As the sun was beating down on my right arm I was a little nervous I hadn’t brought the sun cream, but luckily the light was just right to make Northumberland’s hills shine gold, without turning my skin pink.

After meeting Heather, we drove to a top-secret spot where adders were frequently sighted. Due to the adder’s rarity in the UK, it is important not to broadcast locations of their possible breeding sites, to avoid a rush of human activity and potentially disturbing the snakes. As the afternoon was still very hot, we found eight adders basking, both males and larger females. In fact, in one spot there were four males writhing together, perhaps in an attempt to attract a watching female. It was my second adder sighting, but getting the chance to see them so clearly was a real treat. While maintaining our distance, we watched them bask for nearly an hour. Though I could have stayed far longer, it was time to head to Chesters bothy before it grew dark.


Leaving the adders behind, we drove to the end of the road, where urbanisation ended and true wilderness began. Shouldering our bags for the weekend, we began the two-mile walk through the beautiful Breamish Valley, accompanied only by the bleating of sheep and the infamous scraping call of pheasants.


As the day drew to a close, the hills faded from shimmering orange to dusky pink with a patchwork of dark green conifers and purple heather. Then suddenly a flash of brown as a hare darted up the hill, white tail flashing. He was too far for my camera to get a clean shot, but it was a great sighting on my first day in the Cheviot Hills. Fascinatingly, hares can be pregnant with two young that are not twins simultaneously. The unborn leverets may have been conceived at different times, meaning they have different growth rates.

Before long we reached a patch of conifer forest that looked like something from a fairytale. As we threaded up the pinecone-dotted track I couldn’t help but think how well a pack of wolves could fit in here, miles from interfering humans.


Just as we emerged on the other side of the forest and paused for a breather to gaze upon some truly stunning views of the River Breamish, Heather explained how there were tales of red squirrels in the Cheviot Hills, but due to habitat fragmentation resulting in isolated patches of woodland, she didn’t think the area could support a breeding population. As if we’d been overheard, a high-pitched chattering sounded from above and two red squirrels appeared, hopping from bough to bough and scrabbling up the trunks. Not only were these the first red squirrels I’d seen in the wild, they were the first individuals that Heather had seen at Chesters, so it was a special moment indeed.

After such good luck, we almost had a skip in our step as we made the rest of the way up the hill to Chesters bothy. Almost immediately we were met by a flock of fieldfare as they swooped overhead, another new species for me.


After dumping our bags, we sat outside on the dry stone wall and listened to the evening’s birds before the generator drowned them out. Amongst the shrieking pheasants, there was the distant hoot of a tawny owl, and later when the sun finally sunk behind the hills, the bizarre wing beats of snipe reverberated across the landscape. If you’ve never heard a snipe drumming, any description I could give would never give it justice. It’s a sound I’ll never grow tired of hearing. It reminded me that I was in the middle of nowhere. I was cut off from technology and we needed a fire to get hot water – it’s the sort of living many people have never truly experienced. Sitting outside in complete silence could seem eerie, but to me there’s a haunting beauty to the only traffic being speeding fieldfare and the occasional skylark hovering overhead. It’s like stepping back in time to when technology was an unheard of impossibility.

Later, when Cain arrived, the three of us headed over the hills in search of long-eared owls, a bird Cain was eager to tick off during our stay at Chesters. The night was as beautiful as the day had been – the sky was clear and a huge ethereal glow encircled the moon. Sadly, the owls didn’t appear, but the night walk was the perfect end to my first day in the Cheviots. When we returned to the bothy I spent some time writing about the day to jog my memory when I returned home. I knew that without a doubt, my notebook would be essential this weekend.

Species seen/heard:

Adder Vipera berus Coal tit Periparus ater European hare Lepus europaeus Fieldfare Turdus pilaris Great tit Parus major Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Pheasant Phasianus colchicus Red squirrel Sciurus vulgaris Robin Erithacus rubecula Snipe Gallinago gallinago Song thrush Turdus philomelos Tawny owl Strix aluco