Mon 10th March 2014
Saturday 8th March 2014
This walk should really be entitled “Wind in the Breamish” some might even say “Windbag in the Breamish” but I couldn’t possibly comment. To say the least it was more than usually draughty which to a large extent dictated our route. The plan was to use the leeside of the hills wherever possible as shelter and to try and keep the wind on our backs when on the more exposed tops. Even finding somewhere with calmer air for elevenses was a challenge but it certainly made everyone appreciate the value of a good hedge, windbreak of trees or even the much derided conifer plantation. We opted for the latter but it was still rather breezy, apologies for the elevenses being a whole five minutes early by the way but the 09.00 hours start and the windchill meant we were all ready for it. Ian had already had breakfast at home, second sittings in the car park on arrival and a few surreptitious “grazing” episodes en-route and was beginning to feel distinctly peckish. My other carer for the day, John, was beginning to look at his watch often so it was vital to keep the staff happy – nothing to do with being client-centred you understand.
I forgot to mention to the twenty assembled pleasure seekers at the briefing about not asking questions and they certainly paid the price, sorry again. A completely naive and very pleasant first timer from deepest Yorkshire just happened to ask about ridge (or rigg) and furrow whilst we were sheltering for lunch. There were howls of “Don’t ask him any questions” and groans of frustration and disappointment from those I formally regarded as friends. I provided what I thought was a comprehensive yet succinct answer. Eyes glazed over and some even slept through the lunchtime break(down) despite the windspeed and hot air even in this windchill, if you understand what I mean? Some of those who were not paying attention but instead enjoying themselves, chatting, having lunch etc consequently missed the hare running towards us down the quad bike track. It must have spotted me because it veered-off and disappeared.
We had seen a lot of evidence of human occupation since the Bronze Age over the course of the morning in the form of hillforts and settlement sites plus the dreaded ridge and furrow and terrace-like lynchets. We had also seen the panorama towards the coast as we crested the col between East and West Hill taking-in Ros Castle, the TV Mast at Catton Sandyford, the 28 masts of the wind farms in the Belford Moor area south along the sandstone ridge towards the radome at Brizlee Wood until it began to swing westwards towards Rothbury and the Simonside Ridge. Unfortunately the visibility was poor and continued to deteriorate throughout the morning and early afternoon. This wasn’t ideal for a walk based on distant panoramic views but such is life. We (i.e. I) opted not to scale the heights of Old Fawdon Hill (315m) because some of our number were experiencing difficulty in staying vertical in the “undulating lowlands” or tiny insignificant hills as I prefer to call them.
By the time we ascended Cochrane Pike, our highest point at 335m the visibility towards Cheviot and Hedgehope was very poor indeed. The skyline to the west was equally impaired making Shill Moor, Cushat Law, Sting Head, Hogdon Law and Wether Cairn difficult to pick out. Oddly enough the wooded brow of Hairhaugh Hill which was twice as far away at about 16 kilometres distance was much more prominent. The tailwind of a constant 30 mph with gusts well in excess of that assisted our ascent but when I mentioned “gusts” Christine, who shall be nameless, said she would use the term as often as possible in conversation. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get me.
After lunch we visited Middle Dean hillfort, the tri-radial cairn and the exposed cists at Turf Knowe before going over the top to visit Brough Law hillfort and see some of the in-situ stonework. The earlier morning start meant that we now had time to visit the Muddy Boots Cafe located in the former National Park Tourist Information Centre opposite Ingram church. I was “led” off the hill by an enthusiastic band of walkers which really means that they stampeded downhill towards the cafe a mere two kilometres away. They had never moved so fast all day and they were walking into wind. A good cup of tea, or coffee and lots of cake was had by some, well most actually before heading for home. Despite the incessant wind and resultant windburn we didn’t get wet and the ground was nowhere near as muddy as last month’s walk. It must have been OK because one particular connoisseur of Northumbrian landscape emailed me later to say “That was a route I'd like to walk again in different weather conditions - it would be nice to be able to stand up with confidence!!” I do however notice that the person concerned didn’t say that my presence would be appreciated, on the other hand he, she or it (see, your identity is safe with me) didn’t say that it wouldn’t.
Oh well, on the basis of a bit of cognitive dissonance, denial even, everything must be OK mustn’t it? Ian, John and I look forward to seeing everyone again soon, just ignore me, everyone else does.
Monday, 10 March 2014