When writer Jon Tait was younger he wanted to be Jack Kerouac. That was the dream. To write slick prose from the passenger seat of a fast-moving car with a huge skyline reflected in the windscreen. Or to spend a summer in splendid isolation fire watching – but they don’t do that at Kielder, so he had to roll the dice and accept his fate! He is working as a postman in Carlisle at the moment, so he says he is more like Charles Bukowski – check out his poetry books (Lucky to get Nowt, Blackheath Books 2010 or Midnight at the Snake Motel, Propaganda Press USA 2010) and see for yourself.
His most recent book is a family walks book called Northumberland: 40 Coast and Country Walks, and Jon describes the walks as perfect for mending a bruised soul. Jon and Pocket Mountains books publisher Robbie Porteous are generously giving our readers a chance to get a 20% discount off Northumberland: 40 Coast and Country Walks, as well as free postage and packing. Input the code THANKU1 at checkout to take advantage of this offer.
In this In the Know interview Jon reveals his favourite places in Northumberland, and gives away some of the county’s best kept secrets to visitors.
How long have you lived/worked/visited in Northumberland or The Scottish Borders?: I lived in Rothbury, went to high school at King Edward’s in Morpeth, and worked for local building firms in a variety of roles until I was 27, then headed across to Cumbria to do a degree in Journalism.
My wife, from Thropton, got a job at the Cumberland Infirmary and I was press officer at Gretna Football Club in the Scottish League, so we have settled in Carlisle now. However, all of our families are still across in Northumberland, so we are in the county a lot of the time. It’s still home.
What is it about the county that appeals to you?: Cut me and I bleed red and yellow. My family have been here for generations, back to the Border Reiver days where we rode out in the saddle from the Scots side of the border to plunder Coquetdale with our associates the Kerrs and Youngs. The Taits were quarrymen around Rothbury and famous for their ability to take a fish out of the water. Northumberland and the Scottish Borders is in my DNA.
What’s your favourite Northumberland/Borders beauty spot?: There is a little grassy place near to where the Coquet begins that is simply the most peaceful and unspoiled place in the county. And I’m not telling you exactly where!
Tell us about your favourite view/walk/cycle route/town/nightspot?: Heading up to Yeavering Bell is a great little walk. It’s the biggest hillfort in the county and the views across to sea, up into Scotland and down into the Cheviot hills are superb. And you might get to see the wild goats if you’re lucky. I used to love a night out in Morpeth, back in the day.
The list of places to visit is endless. But some are more special than others. A trip to Northumberland/the Borders wouldn’t be complete without . . .: With it being a UNESCO World heritage site, Hadrian’s Wall has to be a highlight for any visitors to the area. There are a couple of walks around the Wall in my book.
Why is locally produced Northumbrian/Borders food the best?: The meat at local butchers are second-to-none. Robson’s Craster kippers are famous worldwide. Why? Because of the care, time and effort that goes into making them and the passion that our farmers have for their produce.
Do you have a preferred place to eat out in the county and why?: The crab soup in the Jolly Fisherman at Craster takes some beating – as do their real dripping chips. I just love to sit and look out of the long window at the back and take in the spectacular sea views.
Northumbrians and people from The Scottish Borders are renowned for the warm welcome they offer holidaymakers and day trippers alike. What do you think is the secret ingredient for this friendliness?:
Northumbrians and Scottish Borderers treat people how they would expect to be treated themselves. It’s about respect and a proper upbringing in a close-knit community. Cross them at your peril, though!
Coast or country, and specifically which part?: It’s got to be coast for me. I yearn for the sea, that cold air whipping in off the grey tops as they crash on the shore with a comforting rhythm. I personally love Warkworth beach as I spent many happy childhood days there, but if you want to see some really spectacular coastline, walk from Bamburgh around to Budle Bay.
Your favourite market town and why?: Rothbury. When I come over the top of Garleigh Bank and see the stone buildings nestled down in the valley, a weight lifts from my shoulders.
Your favourite historical site?: Warkworth Castle. My great, great Grandfather Jimmy Scott was the last caretaker before English Heritage took it over. He kept sheep in the Keep and was also a rabbit catcher. He had to go down the village with a horse and cart to get water and enjoyed a few pints in the local pubs before heading back up, so his wife used to take his money off him. Family legend says that old Jimmy used to hide his coins in the walls of the castle so he could still get a beer. I was also christened in the village and married in the shadow of the castle at the Sun Inn, so it’s a special place for me personally.
And the best road to take a leisurely and scenic drive along?: Get away past Alwinton on the winding roads up through the upper Coquet Valley to Chew Green for a superb drive. The scenery is spectacular all the way.
What would be your perfect day out in Northumberland and The Scottish Borders?: I’d like to wake late in a caravan, have a full English fry-up, then take an invigorating wander to the top of Simonside with my family. After a nice pub lunch, I’d head up the Coastal Route to a fishing village to watch a football match in the afternoon, enjoying the crack afterwards, then round things off with fifteen pints in the Railway Hotel in Rothbury, having a laugh with my mates. I’m a man of simple pleasures.
Category: Northumberland Best Kept Secrets