The Zone

Stood on top of a sand dune, the sun setting over green fields on one side, and the North Sea on the other, there couldn’t have been a more fitting moment to embody the entire trip.


We were in complete awe of the 360 horizon. Clear skies producing spectacular colours with the sunset. Wind turbines spinning methodically in the distance.


Two nights prior we would have given anything for such clear skies. We had taken a trip into the heart of the Kielder Forest, devoid of any light pollution, to star gaze at the observatory there.

Unfortunately there was much more snow than stars. But despite the lack of clear skies and the odd complaint about cold feet, the trip was a thoroughly enjoyable one. An insightful lecture in the observatory led by Fred, the resident professor of cosmology, provided an opportunity for the visitors to throw out all those questions that one ponders from time to time…

What is a black hole?
What is the space-time continuum?

I’d say it took an average of about 5-10 seconds of his explanation before I was completely lost and proceeded to nod coherently.

However it did seem that Fred was rather picky over which questions he replied to. If the question from an audience member wasn’t phrased so well, he didn’t offer too much in the way of reply.

One of my compatriots sadly encountered this scenario TWICE, much to the amusement of the rest of us.

We left the Observatory to take a long drive to the Northumberland Coast. We set off in convoy, with only our headlights to guide us through the winter darkness of the Kielder Forest.

We arrived at our cottage to settle in for 5 nights. The prospect of delicious food, good music, and great company meant spirits were high, even at 1.00am.

The next day set the culinary tone for the rest of the stay.
Steve took charge of mains.


Several hours later we were presented with slow cooked lamb shanks in the richest red wine sauce. Words or pictures don’t quite do it justice. Quite simply the best lamb shanks around. And in all honesty, we did intend to document the meal for the blog, but we were licking the pattern off our plates before we even remembered to gather the final photos.

The wine probably didn’t help either.

The meal was rounded off with a tiramisu I had prepared two days earlier.


Cue food coma.

We embarked on a game of risk but by half 9 we had all fallen asleep.

Throughout our stay we feasted on duck risotto, miso soup, homemade sticky toffee pudding, and sausage casserole.

Oh, and lots and LOTS of cereal.

With the log burner stoked, the evening’s activities were accompanied by a nice mixture of songs, old and new.

I have the feeling this is going to become an annual trip..



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