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Northumberlandia (England)

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Address: 1 Blagdon Ln / Cramlington / Northumberland NE23 8AU / United Kingdom

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      08.07.2013 17:30
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      Northumberland's new Lady

      Northumberlandia is Europe's largest land form, and is a giant lady, in Northumberland. To be honest Dooyoo's photo doesn't really do her justice :) She is part of a park on land owned in partnership by the Land Trust and is still under development (not to the lady but to extras). She was officially opened on September 3 2012 by the Princess Royal, but wasn't available to visit full time by the general public until October. She took 1.5 million tonnes of rock, clay and soil to build and is 7 and a half times the size of a football pitch, she has 3 lakes. She was designed by Charles Jencks, working in partnership with the Blagdon estate, Banks Group, Land Trust and Northumberland Wildlife Trust, and is built on old opencast mining land, that is no longer used. She is designed to change with the seasons and mature over time.

      I watched Northumberlandia being built for many months, as you can see her from the main road leading of the A1 near where I live, and as such I wanted to visit her. I enjoy visiting places, and like the outdoors, at least when it's dry :)

      An Afternoon with The Lady
      I went with my Dad as we go out together on a Friday, and when weather permits we like to see different places. This was my second visit the first time I'd been at work early and only got as far as the right hand, before thinking she looked quite challenging. So as I felt she deserved a Dooyoo review I told my Dad that this was where I wanted to go last Friday.

      We went by car, and it is easy to find, especially now they've put signs up :) It is just of the A1, and if you input where you are on their website it will give you directions, or the post code is NE23 8AU.

      We went by car and parked in their car park, that while not huge is probably big enough. It is a gravelly car park, and has a portacabin with a warden in who sells postcards and looks after the place, and a donation box. Parking is free as is Northumberlandia, but they suggest a £2 donation for parking. There are currently no other onsite facilities, although the website says there is a coffee cart, and ice cream van, and you can use the facilities at the garden centre 1 mile away if you need to. I've never seen the coffee cart or ice cream van, and don't know where the garden centre is, but there is a services as you come of the A1 :) The website says that in August a visitors centre, with toilets and a cafe will be opened. I didn't see any sign of it being built, but then some places go up quickly :) I've just visited again in January 2014 and the visitor center is in situ, but still being worked on :)

      You enter Northumberlandia via a small wood, there is only one path through it and it is small, but I found it incredibly peaceful. The wood opens up onto the park with Northumberlandia in front of you. There is a map of the site as you go in. This is worth looking at to get an idea of where the various paths go, as she is a mass of different looping paths which go to different parts of her. The map also has a guide to how steep the paths are. This is particularly useful if you are pushing a wheel chair or even a push chair or are less fit, as while all the paths are compacted rock, although with some loose shale / gravel, I have to be honest and say that unless you are a strongman candidate I don't see anyone pushing a wheel chair up to the top of the forehead, and even a push chair would be very hard going as the last section is very steep.

      As you enter in front of you are the viewing mounds, one of the 3 lakes and a path leading round to the left and right. We took the one to the right towards her hand. As I have said there are several paths including one that goes around the bottom of her, and is flat and very wheel chair friendly. Both of us being reasonably fit we followed the path past the hand and up the right side of the body towards the head. As you go up the body the paths get steeper, but there are several paths to choose from depending on where you want to get and what you are comfortable with. Around the paths the ground is covered in wild grass, buttercups, clovers and daisies. Northumberlandia is part managed by Northumberland Wildlife Trust, and you are not allowed on the grass or in the lakes, as they are there to promote wildlife to the park. I saw several butterflies and bees. At the bottom of the head there are 3 paths and as there are no signs you have to work out, or remember which one goes up to the forehead. We luckily chose right (although it was the left path) and took the steep path up.

      Getting Ahead
      The path follows around the contours of the head, and at the top is a small wall, a plaque with a model hand, telling you how far it is to the sun, and a great view. From here to the west you can see the neighboring Opencast mine, as well as the many trucks going in and out. To the North and East you can see the South east towns of Northumberland and the sea (7 miles away :) ) You can also look down the body to see what the rest of her looks like, and see the small wood and fields towards Newcastle to the south (although you can't see Newcastle). It is windy up here, but we went on a sunny day so it was nice with a clear view. After taking several photos we then decided to follow the paths down to the boobs.

      Making a Tit of yourself
      We followed the path down between the boobs, and decided to follow the path up to the left boob, as that had the least people on it. At the top is a nice view back to the face, and you can see the nose, eyes, and mouth, as well as another nice view of the surrounding area. In the middle (titter) is a plaque telling you how far it is to Holy Island in North east Northumberland, I can't remember how far it said. We next followed the body down to the knee. It took us about 30 minutes to see the head and boob.

      Having a knees up
      The further you head down the body the less steep the paths get, as a lady naturally had less curves here, and Northumberlandia doesn't have a pot belly :) The knees also have seats built in, which by now were quite handy :) In case you were wondering how I knew :) here is a plaque telling you it is 7 miles to the North sea. This was a malteser (think blonde but when you are a brunette :) ) moment for me as I looked at the sign on the bench and said, the seas not in that direction, until my dad pointed out the arrow was pointing behind me :) The knees also have a nice view, but less impressive as you aren't as high up.

      We then followed the path down to the ankles, although these were less impressive, and from this angle Northumberlandia appears as just hills and lumps, as you can't make out the shape. From here we followed the path round to the pedestrian entrance, which is definitely less impressive then the car park entrance, and is a long walk from the road where a bus would have dropped you of. I would find it hard if I'm honest to maintain enthusiasm for the walk, as you can't really make out the body from here. We followed the path back round to the car park, and worth a mention is a small path that goes of the main path and over a hill and then rejoins the main path as it offers, a great view of Northumberlandia. We passed the other 2 lakes and then lastly went up the two viewing mounds back at the beginning. These provide a good view of Northumberlandia, but are again quite hilly, although I think I would struggle up them with a wheel chair or push chair, as the path isn't very long and it would be worth the view.

      The whole trip took us about an hour and a half, one of the things I like about her is that by the nature of the paths you can spend as much or as little time as you wanted up there and still see a lot. There are seats scattered through out, but the ones on the knee are the only ones I saw on the body itself, although I didn't take every path so could have missed some.

      What do I think?
      Many things as you can probably tell by my reviews :) , but about the lady I think she's great. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful, considering it's proximity to a main road, and the mine. I love the idea of attracting wildlife especially bees, and on a nice day it's a great place to visit. On both the times I've been there's been a mix of people there from teenagers to older people with grandchildren, and they all looked like they were having a good time. I will definitely go again, although with the summer holidays looming will probably wait until it's quieter in September.

      Anything else
      Dog's are allowed on a lead there are no bins that I saw, bikes must be left at the entrance. Worth noting following my recent visit January 2014, is that the paths in winter are extremely muddy, and the top of the lady's head is freezing in the wind.

      Website is http://www.northumberlandia.com/page_details.html?PID=28&sec=ab

      Directions by car of the A1068, which is just of the A1 turn off for Cramlington.

      By bus this is serviced by the X13, X20, X21 and X22.

      It is 2 and a half miles from Cramlington train station.

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