Exams are over – how will you be celebrating?

The exam period, which seemed to stretch on forever, officially ends today.

Klute will once again be crammed full, walls glistening with sweat, and the energetic tones of The Village People bursting from the speakers.

How will you spend the next few weeks before Durham breaks up for the summer? For some inspiration, we pulled out a few of our favourites from The Bubble’s archive.

Scroll to the bottom for the details of our summer writing competition.

Out of the Bubble, Summer in Northumberland – Tobias Thornes

The estuary at Alnmouth

We do not need to travel far to witness this beauty, for spring and summer in Northumberland see the natural landscape of our country at its best, if we know where to look. A short train ride north of Newcastle and you are brought right up to the heart of the picturesque and largely unspoiled coast of that county, to Alnmouth. The beautiful station buildings that reportedly once stood here were demolished and replaced in the 1980s, victims of a less enlightened time. But, leaving the busy bustle of the main-line trains behind you, there may be points on a visit here when, lost between sea and sky, you feel you have slipped into another age. On a quiet, sun-spelled day in the late spring or early summer, this small town sits as a tranquil respite from the worried world behind you. Here, where the sea stretches out to its unbroken horizon, you cannot help but feel drawn out of time and out of your hurry, in the face of such a vast, unfathomable scape of endlessness that cares little for the concerns of the hastily changing land. For all our ingenuity, we are powerless to tame this fierce beast.

Beside the mouth of the emptying river, there lies a sandy atoll, a work of nature crowned of late by man, who at some unknown time saw fit to raise there a wooden cross. It is a symbol of faith, in the face of the uncontrollable ocean, proclaiming abroad to any coming seafarer the trust in God once at the focus of lives spent in this most ancient heartland of English Christianity. For it is not far, after all, to Lindesfarne, or indeed to that great shrine of St Cuthbert that sits atop our own Cathedral city. But, turning our backs on this curious monument, we must move on, for further north a coast of varied sights awaits.

The somewhat overgrown coastal path takes a mixed and rugged route as its winds its way onwards towards Boulmer. At times, it takes you over sandy plains of beach, at others across rockier bays that leave any question of hurrying quite out of your mind as the shingle and loose stones slip beneath your feet. At high tide, the way is quite impassable, and other, less inviting passages must be taken further inland. But where the route is most spectacular is where it takes the wanderer high up onto the cliffs, where here and there a well-discerning holiday-maker has built themselves a shack in which to spend the blissful summer days. (full article here).

Summer bird watching – Elizabeth O’Connor

Ah, June, undoubtedly my favourite month of the year; a month where the sun rises on the darkness of exams past; a month of hedonistic freedom, of drinking all night and sleeping all day; a month of Midsummer balls, picnics and summer-holiday planning. But June is also a wonderful time of year for another (and less socially acceptable) reason: wildlife.

Now, I realise that naturalism is not exactly the most excitement-inducing of interests; I myself, being the 19 year-old female version of Bill Oddie that I am, have been mocked on numerous occasions for what my housemates affectionately call my “bird obsession”. Of course, like anyone with an embarrassing hobby, I completely blame my upbringing: my father, a maths teacher by trade, was a true naturalist at heart, and his influence, combined with a heavy dose of Ted Hughes and the Romantics from my English-teacher mother, meant that my childhood self-forsook Barbie dolls and real friends for a life of fishing, bird-watching and spider-hunting. Whilst the spiders and I haven’t really seen eye-to-eye since one rudely ran up my sleeve when I was ten, I am proud to say that my love of nature has continued throughout my life. For me, being able to understand and interact with a world beyond the confines of human construction is a great gift; even if that world is simply the homely beauty of Durham’s very own family of wildlife.

Many species return to Britain in and around June after migrating to warmer climates over our harsh winter months. Swallows, our very own harbingers of summer, have recently arrived in Durham from South Africa; Elvet Bridge appears to be one of their favourite haunts this year. So, next time you are heading to Paddy’s for an emergency post-Klute pizza in the early hours, look out for a blue bird with a red cap and a long, forked tail-feather. They are certainly a sign that warmer weather can be expected, so seeing one is a very good excuse for buying your umpteenth post-exam bottle of Pimms! For anyone reading this who is especially interested in nature (…anyone…?), their flights along the river, in particular, are fascinating; look out for them snapping up huge dragonflies mid-flight and picking up water on their wings. Garden Warblers, famed for their beautiful song, also emigrate here for the summer months. These small, grey birds go from looking fairly drab to little cartoon characters as they end up artfully splattered in the bright purple and red juices of the berries they eat. (full article here).

Want to have a go yourself? Enter our summer writing competition

Theme: ‘My favourite thing to do in Durham after exams’

Rules: Word limit is 400 words; entries to features@thebubble.org.uk by Sunday 15 June at midnight; articles must relate to Durham or the wider North East region.

Prize: Publication on our website, and a delicious sparkling afternoon tea for two (worth £44). Winner and runners up will be displayed on the website.

Please share on Twitter or like our Facebook page to be entered into a draw to win two hot drinks from Esquires.

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