Northumberland from the air
I have been told on more than one occasion that I am a bit of a nightmare to buy xmas presents for, but last year the family pulled it out of the bag and got me a voucher for a flight with Northumbria Microlights. (Ok I may have dropped 7 or 12 hints!)
As I wanted to head over The Cheviots then I needed to wait for a super clear and sunny day and I spied a two week window in June where the weather looked Ibiza-like. Got in touch with the chaps there and as the 14th June looked a belta day, so I got myself booked in.
With the flight booked for 2pm and the day being a scorcher, we had clear skies and this beauty was rolled out to be our air chariot. My instructor for today was Kai, straight from the Top Gun pilot school, and after a debrief, then a chat about the route we got strapped in!
The plan of action was to head west to The Cheviots, have a bit of a mooch around and then journey over to the coast. Flight checks complete, a quick chat with air traffic control and we headed for the runway.
If you're after the rollercoaster ride of watching the video, then grab yourself some crackers and cheese and head to your favourite armchair. Or read on below for a guided photographic tour.
Within 5 seconds of cheek-flapping acceleration, we were airborne.
Then two minutes later we were 1,000 feet in the air (just over 300m for all you metric lovers) and from up here you can see a whole different perspective of the Northumberland landscape.
Kai slipped into multi-tasking mode and provided a fabulous commentary of the area as well as expertly flying the microlight. The track you see below is actually an equestrian course.
Then it was just a matter of sitting back and being chauffeured from up high while I snapped as many pictures as I could. (Which was a bit tricky wearing a helmet and gloves!)
We continue climbing and in no time at all we have reached Ingram Valley and you can't go too far here without happening across a hillfort or two.
Just look at that magnificent greenery of the Northumberland countryside.
This is the mega hillfort on Brough Law. There is a fabulous walk from Bulbys Wood car park straight up here where you can encounter a number of hillforts in a small area.
Now it's time to turn our attention to the bigger hills and our first encounter is Hedgehope Hill. If you get your reading specs out you can clearly see the Great Standrop and Little Standrop perched on the face.
We sweep around Hedgehope Hill to look directly down the Harthope Valley with the Cheviot summit on the right, Comb Fell on the left and the Harthope Burn through the middle. Even on a scorcher day like today, you know Comb Fell will still be boggy!
Then we strafe over so we're looking directly down the flat of the Cheviot Summit. I'll badger you with a wadge of photos now.
Looking south on the north face of the Cheviot there are a number of carvings on it. The smaller tracks are caused by the Bellyside Burn and the larger groove to the right is the Bizzle Crags and Bizzle Burn. Just further over is the Hen Hole.
A much better view of Bizzle Crags.
Then we catch sight of the Braydon Crag on West Hill.
We're starting to get a bit of buffeting up here from the wind and as we still have the coast to explore then we do a final sweep around to get some pictures of the crags near Langleeford.
These are the Langlee Crags and to the left is Housey Crags.
My plan for the Cheviots was to zig zag my way up taking in all the hills, but from up here it's amazing to see how compact the National Park is. Just circling above the Cheviot I could see all the hills from the border ridge, up to Yeavering Bell and Ingram Valley in the south.
Time to head towards the coast and on the way we fly over the lovely home and grounds of Lilburn Tower.
We then leave this beautiful area with a final snap of Chillingham Castle.
We sweep around and head over to the Old Law Beacons on Guile Point. These obelisks were a navigational aid for boats entering the estuary and were designed by John Dobson, famous for many buildings including Eldon Square and Central Station.
A little look south over Ross Sands.
Then Kai points out a shipwreck lurking in the shallows.
And then I get a glimpse of another navigational aid on the northern tip of Holy Island called the Emmanuel Head Daymark. I regaled my story to Kai over the headset of when I visited it last year and was caught in a storm of biblical proportions. Fortunately not a cloud in the sky today.
The Holy Island causeway. Always check the tide times as the North Sea can come in pretty quick.
As we were making our way south of the island we saw loads of little black dots on the Holy Island Sands which I was informed were a seal colony. Cool, huh?
Then we start to head south and catch a glimpse of Easington Quarry before making our way over Budle Bay.
And yes you have guessed it. I am going to bombard you with more photos from every angle.
Then some sensational rock formations near the shore called Greenhill Rocks, Monks House Rocks and Shoreston Rocks.
Then the amazing sight of Craster harbour which looks even better from above.
Continuing south down the coast our next find is the Howick Bathing House.
Then Kai's eagle-eyes spot some dolphins frolicking in the water!
Then it's back inland and over the A1 as we head back to the airfield for a smooth landing.
Just over 180km of flight in 1 hour 45 mins.
A huge thank you to Kai from Northumbria Microlights for an absolute amazing flight. Not only was he a fabulous pilot, he was super friendly and knowledgeable about the region pointing out loads of things as we soared along. If you're looking for a tremendous experience and fancy seeing Northumberland from a different angle, then head over to the Northumbria Microlights website. Tell them the Fabulous North sent you and they might give you a free packet of crisps!
I wave goodbye to Kai and his magnificent flying machine.
If you are waiting for your flight or are hanging about while a pal is up in the air there you can loiter in the Club House. A smashing room all decked out with aviation memorabilia.
And while the microlight was being prepared I took a few snaps from within the hangar.
Cheers to Northumbria Microlights for an unforgettable afternoon. Hope to see you again soon!