Northumberlandia is a site I have visited regularly since it was unveiled in 2012; due to its curious appearance and exciting wildlife, but mostly due to the ease at which it can be accessed by public transport.
Brambling - Jack Bucknall

Brambling. Image by: Jack Bucknall.

The ‘Lady of the North’ holds a wealth of wildlife, despite her youth. Wildlife which changes with the seasons, making each and every visit worthwhile. Things have, however, been particularly interesting of late; my visit last week throwing up a number of surprises. The fluted notes of singing Skylark and sharper whistles of Meadow Pipit immediately audible as I made my way through the Eastern entrance. The sounds emanating from the surrounding grassland which, upon closer inspection, also yielded a covey of Grey Partridge – a rare and declining species across much of Britain though one that, thankfully, fares rather well here.

Working my way around the lady herself - along the gravel footpaths twist and turn at varying altitudes across the impressive sculpture – things remained equally exciting. The tranquil ponds that lie around the base of the mound alive with waterfowl. With closer inspection of the usual Tufted Duck and Mallard revealing something most unexpected, and special: a Scaup. A duck more often encountered on the coast which, today, looked rather beautiful among the bodies of her commoner kin. A stark reminder that one cannot predict nature, and that in Northumberland, much like anywhere else, it pays to expect the unexpected.

Leaving the duck to her own devices, time ebbed past as I ascended the mound. My walk interspersed with sightings of Bullfinch, plump, rosy and rather lovely, and a small group of Roe Deer bounding with haste across the fields to the North. The panoramic views enjoyed from the nose of the lady herself allowing for splendid observation of both Kestrel and Buzzard; two raptors which have become a familiar fixture of the site during my many visits. The latter soon attracting the attention of the local magpies; with fifteen of the monochrome corvids cackling their displeasure from a nearby stand of Hawthorn.

Departing the open areas of the site; only one place remained unvisited – the quaint stand of woodland to South, adjacent to the carpark. The winding trails here, adorned either side by the impressive frames of a host of deciduous trees, proving utterly enthralling. Alive with woodland birds; with wrens, robins, tits and colourful finches, but also, like the pools, with a few unexpected treats. The best of which being a party of Brambling – an attractive wintet migrant from continental Europe – foraging beneath the well-stocked woodland feeders. Feeders which provide a focal point for each visit; bursting with life and well worth five minutes of your time if, like me, you enjoy the company of our feathered friends.

My visit to Northumberlandia ended as it began: in style. A short walk back the way I came prior to dusk well timed to coincide with the arrival of the next bus. Though as I bid the site farewell; one more surprise lay instore. One I did not particularly expect nor hope for: the sight of a Barn Owl hunting the fields by the Eastern entrance. A ghostly apparition enjoyed in the dwindling light that any visitor would be privileged to see.

I will visit the lady again soon, and so should you; with her wild allure set only to grow with time – as the site matures and yet more species find a home on this wonderful and underreported reserve.

For those looking to visit Northumberlandia by bus, both the X21 and X22 services which run between Newcastle, Ashington and Newbiggin stop directly outside of the site. With further information about these services, including arrival times, easily found online.

James Common