Kevin O’Hara is the Conservation Officer with Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT). NWT is part of the influential UK-wide partnership of 47 Wildlife Trusts. The NWT has worked for more than 40 years to protect wildlife and wild places in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.
Their work is helping to secure the future of many important habitats and species which might otherwise be lost. It’s aim is to educate, influence and empower people in taking action for nature. It managers 60 local nature sites and helps other organisations to manage their sites.
Kevin has a phenomenal amount of knowledge, experience and information when it comes to wildlife, and will be writing a new wildlife column on This is Northumberland called Call of the Wild. It will launch in a few days time. In the meantime, find out about Kevin’s favourite places in this wonderful part of the Britain.
How long have you lived/worked/visited in Northumberland or The Scottish Borders?: Since I was a small boy. I was very lucky my father was a university lecturer so we had plenty of time off. We had a caravan and visited as many parts of the UK as possible but we always visited Beadnell and the coast as much as possible to. I spent many a happy year living wild in the sand dunes as a child exploring and catching lizards.
What is it about the county that appeals to you?: I like the variety the area has from the coastal dunes and beaches to the high moors and valley woodlands. It offers space, peace and tranquillity and many hidden secrets you rarely find elsewhere in the UK.
What’s your favourite Northumberland/Borders beauty spot?:I have many. I suppose it all depends on what mood
I’m in and what I fancy doing. I love the freedom of places like the Cheviots; I particularly like the hidden gems of the College Valley or Harthope Woodlands in spring when the bluebells mingle with the dawn chorus.
On the coast with family I can run my toes through the white sands of Beadnell Bay and reminisce about my childhood or sit on the Lindisfarne Foreshore on a wild winter’s day with the sound of the wildfowl and the maddening skies. There are too many to list you have to spend some time finding your own.
Tell us about your favourite view/walk/cycle route/town/nightspot?: My all time favourite view in Northumberland is not one of the popular sites everyone is familiar with. Travelling south from Wooler on the A697 just after the brick works the road starts to rise before Wandystead, on your right looking west is Thrunton Woods and beyond is Coe Crag looking over Rough Castles. That is my favourite view because it reminds of what most of the region would have looked like before the heavy influence of man, all that is missing are some aurochs or wild boar and the call of the wolf.
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….: The Farne Isles to see the sea birds and seals, an absolute must if your into wildlife, otherwise stay on shore and have fish and chips with lashings of salt and vinegar in Seahouses.
Why is locally produced Northumbrian/Borders food the best?: I don’t think you should single out any Northumberland or Borders food as special any locally produced good are always far better than stuff that has travelled halfway around the globe to a supermarket near you. Support as much locally produced produce as you can but if you put me on the spot I’d say try the mussels from Lindisfarne.
Do you have a preferred place to eat out in the county and why?: No, I don’t have a specific place to eat out, I like to try different things and different foods. If I am in Newcastle or elsewhere I will always look for seafood, I just love it. However, putting me on the spot again I like nothing better than returning from my friend’s farm with a bag of plump pigeons shot over his fields of oil seed rape. De-breast them at home and cook them in a rich plum sauce Chinese style with some king prawns, outstanding!
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?: Maybe it’s our ancestry or our ties to the sea, we have always been welcoming visitors for hundreds of years even if some weren’t as welcome as others we are a product of our history at the ends of the realm where we take what we can when we can get it.
Coast or country, and specifically which part?: No favourites and even if I did you are never far from either in the county if you change your mind and fancy a change of scenery.
Your favourite market town and why?: Berwick-upon-Tweed, for its history and location on one of my favourite rivers, the river Tweed and gateway to Scotland.
Your favourite historical site?: I like the really ancient sites the area can offer, I have a penchant for pre-historic landscapes and creatures that once roamed our land, so I like the hill forts around the College Valley or the cup and ring marks that dot our landscape as they hark back to a time before man had to much influence on the land.
And the best road to take a leisurely and scenic drive along?: Up along the A697 through Wooler to Coldstream west through the borders to Jedburgh, continue through the Borders forest park to Saughtree, then south through Kielder Forest and the North Tyne Valley back the A69 and home. Gives you a look at the best of the rest Northumberland and the Borders have to offer.
What would be your perfect day out in Northumberland and The Scottish Borders?: Any of the above capped by a pint and some good craic next to the log fire in my local.
Category: Northumberland Best Kept Secrets