Beautiful, beautiful Bellingham...
The cricket pitch outside our hotel room
We have just returned from a very pleasurable stay at the Riverdale Hotel, Bellingham, on the banks of the River Tyne.
The food there is fantastic and it is one of our favourite places to just chill out. Bellingham is also the setting for the first novel in The Detective Lavender Series: The Missing Heiress.
Naturally, we were not going to miss out on the opportunity to combine a bit of research with some hedonistic pleasure. ;)
Elsdon Pele Tower
In my novel, a young woman, Helen Carnaby, disappears in mysterious circumstances from her family home in October 1809. She lives with her half-brothers and sister in an ancient Pele Tower which I have called Linn Hagh (from the old words for 'waterfall' and 'hall.') Pele Towers were family homes. They were built for protection during the dark days of the Border Reivers, when this area of Northumberland, was a lawless, no man's land between two warring nations. Linn Hagh Pele Tower is a figment of my imagination, but in the novel I have based it on the famous Pele Tower at Elsdon (still a private residence.)
The case of The Missing Heiress is investigated by Detective Stephen Lavender and his assistant, Constable Woods.
Between my fictitious Linn Hagh and Bellingham, are the very real Hareshaw Woods. This steep-sided ravine is virtually inpenetrable, apart from the single path which meanders alongside the river. Above the path, the hillside rises steeply up to the rocky crags above. Many trees are contorted into grotesque shapes as they try to defy gravity, balance and reach the sunlight all at the same time. Some of the tree trunks are split like the sides of Chinese paper lanterns. Most of them are covered in moss, many sport a fabulous display of giant fungi. Fallen trees can look like huge serpents or prehistoric monsters.
The path crosses the river at several points as it heads towards the waterfall - Hareshaw Linn. This was our favourite bridge. Here, Chris and I saw a dipper bobbing in an out of the water from the slimy, black rocks below. Earlier we had seen a small flock of goldfinches weaving around collecting seeds from a cloud of thistledown.
Finally, we reached the magnificent Hareshaw Linn. At over 100ft high the waterfall is a spectacular sight and extremely noisy, as hundreds of gallons of water crash down onto the black, Jurassic rocks below. Combined with the overhanging sides of the gorge above, it is also quite unnerving. Huge boulders jut up from the black pool like tombstones. We made this journey on a brilliantly sunny day. Just imagine how forbidding it must be in in the depths of an icy winter - or in those dark, brooding days of late autumn, when The Missing Heiress is set.
Reluctantly we turned around, and headed back for the hotel. The entire walk was about seven miles from start to finish and I loved every step of it. Although, I have to confess that I had a good half an hour nap when we got back, while Chris watched the cricket match from the patio outside our room.