#AToZJamaicaChallenge: N is for Newcastle

If I didn’t live in Kingston, I would have to live somewhere in the Newcastle area. It attracts me on so many levels: the delicious air, the views of the city and the sea, the mountains and the moving clouds, the drifting mist and sunlight. Oh – and there are birds.

Formerly a coffee plantation, the military camp at Newcastle was established as a hill station for British troops in 1841 by Sir William Maynard Gomm (Britain’s longest ever serving soldier). The death toll from yellow fever down in the plains was growing too high (about two or three soldiers per week); many died soon after arrival. Newcastle was more salubrious. In the old days, soldiers marched in their red coats all the way up (and down) from Kingston to Newcastle, a distance of 16 miles. Phew!

Since Independence in 1962, Newcastle has been a Jamaica Defence Force training camp. Houses large and small are dotted around. I remember, years ago, staying at an old-fashioned house (with a fireplace and chimney – it gets chilly at night, especially in winter). The caretaker (probably in his sixties) looked down on the city below – as he no doubt did every day – and told us he had never ventured there in his life, and did not intend to; he did not see the need to do so. I understand.

Nearby Hardwar Gap (between Newcastle and the Gap Café, a lovely spot) is one of our favorite walks. In the latter half of the year, the air is filled with birdsong. Heavenly!

(All my photos)

Ferns and flowers adorn the slopes along the road.
Ferns and flowers adorn the slopes along the road.
If you're lucky, you may see the Crested Quail-Dove, or Mountain Witch, along the mountain road from Newcastle to the Gap Cafe. This photo was taken by Sam Woods, a member of BirdsCaribbean, during last year's International Conference in Kingston.
If you’re lucky, you may see the elusive Crested Quail-Dove, or Mountain Witch, an endemic bird, along the mountain road from Newcastle to the Gap Cafe (Hardwar Gap). This photo was taken by Sam Woods.

 

Hydrangeas in the Gap Cafe's garden.
Hydrangeas in the Gap Cafe’s garden.
Hillside and houses seen from the camp.
Hillside and houses seen from the camp.

 

The camp has a small tuck shop, where the soldiers play dominoes. There is a tall mirror on the side, so you can check that your uniform is straight.
The camp has a small tuck shop, where the soldiers take a break to play dominoes. There is a tall mirror on the side, so you can check that your uniform is straight.
The trainer gives orders, as the JDF recruits disperse to do clean-up duties. He had a loud voice, and shouted at them from the top of the hill. The camp is so spotless , there seemed to be little cleaning up to do.
The trainer gives orders, as the JDF recruits disperse to do clean-up duties. He had a loud voice, and shouted at them from the top of the hill. The camp is so spotless , there seemed to be little cleaning up to do.

 

Young soldiers in training.
Young soldiers in training. During World War II some Canadian regiments also trained in Newcastle.
Views for daydreaming… Here is the city of Kingston, the harbor, and beyond.
Views for daydreaming… Here is the city of Kingston, the harbor, and beyond.
There are two small and immaculately kept cemeteries with the graves of the British soldiers, who died of yellow fever (far fewer than down in the plains).
There are two small and immaculately kept cemeteries with the graves of the British soldiers, who died of yellow fever (far fewer than down in the plains).
The military camp has roses. There are many flowers in the area that one cannot grow down in the hot city.
The military camp has roses. There are many flowers in the area that one cannot grow down in the hot city.

 


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