We coasted into the Hedgeley Estate around 5:30pm. Affixed to the door of Hedgeley Hall was a note from our host, Katie, letting us know that she had run to the next village to visit her mother. The note also included instructions to make ourselves at home and so we did! Tara made tea while I went through our photos from Alnwick Castle. Afterwards we wandered through a few wings of the massive house looking at oil paintings, drawings of the property from the 1600s, and all manner of antiques.
A short while later, two of our host's grown children, Hannah and Tom, arrived from a game of tennis; Hannah had won and was cheerily sparing no chance to rub it in. We talked with them a bit about our trip before their mother Katie arrived. She showed us our room and informed us that the wing of the house it was in was ours for the evening. Just down the hall from our room was another with a four poster bed which we later learned the Queen Mother had slept in when she was visiting the countryside only a few years prior. A bit further along was a spacious bathroom with a massive and inviting bathtub. There were other rooms as well but so many that the details escape me.
As we were getting settled, Tom came up offering to take us to yet another room in the house which was 'quite nice' for beers and a chat. We talked about travelling and Tom gave us several ideas for things we ought to see and do during our time here in England. After a bit, Katie rounded us up for a dinner of roasted pheasants that had been shot by Tom and his brother somewhere on the property. Tara wanted to eat the local food in the areas we visited—mission accomplished!
Katie's husband John arrived just in time for dinner and we all sat down to enjoy it. Everything was prepared in Tara's dream oven, an Aga. She and Katie bonded immediately talking about their mutual love of cooking and the wonders of Aga ovens. Every time we tried to help with anything Katie informed us that she wanted us to do absolutely nothing, "absoluting nothing but relax and enjoy yourselves! I want you to feel totally at home and feel completely rejuvinated so you'll be ready to pedal off tomorrow!" We were (and still are) overwhelmingly grateful for her care and generosity!
Dinner was delicious and filling; roasted pheasant, cauliflowers with cheese, cabbage and carrots, roasted potatoes and our first experience with bread sauce (it was good!). Desert was similarly wonderful: chocolate cake with raspberries and vanilla ice cream.
As things wound down we all shared travel stories over glasses of wine and talked a bit about politics and the difficulities of keeping small communities alive and thriving. John helped us with our route heading out of Northumbria and promised to show us around the property in the morning.
We retired to our wing, took a bath in the massive tub, and fell instantly asleep in our amazingly comfortable/ancient beds (the room we stayed in had a pair of twin beds).
In the morning we awoke to another delicious meal courtesy of our host, Katie: tea and crumpets (the crumpets were a first for both of us) with cereal and toast, croissants, butter, and whole honeycomb. When we were through we said our goodbyes with Katie; she would be gone by the time we returned from our morning out with John.
If you're reading this, Katie (or Tom or John or Hannah), thank you again and again and again. Your hospitality was astounding, especially given that Tara and I are connected to your family in only the most remote of ways. We truly felt at home and are incredibly thankful for everything you shared with us! We feel so lucky to have met you and are happy to call you friends!
With the goodbyes behind us and strict orders from Katie to "be safe!" we jumped into John's Landrover. With three dogs in tow we headed out into the property as John gave us a bit of local history and talked at length about the importance of sustainable farming.
The Hedgeley Estate is roughly 4,000 acres and it is clear that John takes the care and maintenance of each and every bit of it very seriously. As we drove along the fields full of grazing sheep, he explained to us that with the exception of ATV usage the duties of a shepherd have not changed in hundreds of years. We also learned a bit about their breeding process and how it was mostly perfected centuries ago. Apparently mucking about with the systems of old have done nothing but prove this to be true time and time again.
We arrived just in time for lambing season and we were able to see firsthand the process by which a new generation of sheep finds its way into the hills of England. Tara finally got her wish of seeing some lambs up close and personal as we both held one while John explained a bit about how the lambing process works.
Just before we left the property we got to see a demonstration of a sheep-dog (border collie) rounding up a herd. It was seriously nothing short of amazing how quickly a disorganized group of sheep grazing on a large and rather steep hill were gathered into an organized herd of sheep by a single well-trained dog and his shepherd. It happened so quickly I didn't have time for photos!
Here are a few more photos of the lambs:
After all of this we headed back to Hedgeley Hall to prepare for our depature. We thanked John about twenty times (and would still like to thank him twenty more) and got to work. As were packing everything Tom reminded us to have a walk through the gardens and the property behind the house. Like everything else on the Hedgeley Estate, it was beautiful. We wandered around taking in the natural beauty while talking about what we'd like to do on our land when we purchase it someday.
With our visit concluded we headed out around 2:30 in the direction of Rothbury, a town about 15 miles south of the estate. We traversed some of the largest and longest hills we've seen on the trip yet to get there and I set a new speed record on the way down one of them: 40.3 miles per hour! Wahoo!
As we arrived in Rothbury and the Northumberland National Forest we could hardly believe how quickly the landscape changed and how beautiful it was (in a completely different way than every other beautiful landscape we've seen thus far). The village of Rothbury was so picturesque I was convinced it was a hologram (no photos though, we were exhausted.)
We found a campsite after much ado (for 2 pounds a night!!) just outside of Rothbury in a town called Snitter. Campsites seem to be a rare commodity in England so far. We both think it is incredibly annoying given the massive amount of mostly empty fields with which setting down a small tent in would be no bother at all. The only other people at our campsite (field) were a couple in their camper. Immediately following our arrival, the man stuck his head out the back of the camper announcing "I've just put the kettle on, do you fancy a cup of tea?" We were so grateful for their kindness as it was wonderful to have a hot drink to wrap our frigid fingers around as night descended.
Tomorrow we will head back to Rothbury for breakfast and carry on to the village of Wallington about 15 (hilly) miles south.