Nordic Walk Challenge weekend
Tue 21st April 2015
Friday 17th April – Take Your Skills to the Next Level
We all met at the Shepherds Walks shop in Rothbury and walked down to the Riverside.
I refreshed everyone on the beginner’s steps (1-6) before moving onto the advanced steps (7-11).
The training involved explaining the next step with some partner work which included exercises to help with the technique and show everyone how their body should move. We did lots of practice of each step before walking along the riverside for a short walk putting the techniques into practice
Saturday 18th April – 14 mile Nordic walk challenge walk
Everyone met promptly at the Shepherds Walks shop in Rothbury, were checked in and provided with poles.
Jane introduced me and Martin to our group and explained was going to happen today. We had a quick group photograph outside and headed to the Spirit bus stop, where we realised we had left the map in the car and Martin rushed back to get it before setting off on the Spirit bus to Alwinton.
Jane and Jon’s group got off the bus at Thropton where they waved us off for the rest of our journey up to Alwinton. One of our group was laughing as she lives in Alwinton and had driven to Rothbury to make the journey back to Alwinton.
We had a quick toilet stop in Alwinton and warmed up before starting our 14 mile walk back to Rothbury. The group was soon stretched as people settled into their stride. We walked past Clennel Hall and saw our first field of sheep and lambs (this was soon to be a very common sight). A couple of the group at the back pointed out a dipper on the river. We turned and walked through a field with a couple of horses in it.
The first hill of our walk came very soon, through a small wood, I gave everyone a quick reminder on the technique for walking up the hill and everyone made it to the top without stopping and were extolling the virtues of Nordic walking poles. At the top of the hill Kirsten was handing out Soor Plums or Sugar Barley to the group.
Kirsten and Paul stopped regularly to take photographs, especially when we spotted the moles which had been hung on the wire fences. The conversation then moved onto why people did this. Martin, John and I all said it was because “mole-catchers did this as proof of the amount of kills, as they were rewarded on quantity”. Kirsten was very intrigued by this, even stopping to stroke one!
The walk continued along some great paths which had totally dried up since Martin and I had recce’d this. Everyone’s technique was still very good at this stage.
We were heading towards Cote Walls Farm, where there was a small ford which had a few stones in it which we could step on, most people got across without getting their feet very wet until Debbie crossed, the stones had got slippery and she ended up fully in the water with wet feet. I decided not to bother with the stones and just walked across much to Sharon’s dismay as she had her camera out. Just after this point there was a field of cows with their newborn calves and as we moved towards the gate at the next field which was full of sheep, one of the cows started kicking up stones as if to say “don’t come through here”. The farmer rode through the field with his border collie and two Labradors. One of the Labradors was following us and barking all the way up the field and even managed to squeeze through the fence before going back to the farmer.
We were nearly at our lunch stop at Burradon. We had a quick stop to pick up some water at Burradon (which Martin and Jon had left the night before) before walking the half a mile to the field.
Everyone found somewhere to sit in the sunny corner of the field and were soon tucking in.
Kirsten’s eyes soon spotted a bird’s beak which was lying on the grass and she grossed everyone out by picking it up. After about half an hour, everyone was getting ready to start off again. I moved around the group offering chocolate or jelly sweets.
Martin explained which route we were going to take from our lunch spot which included a downhill part followed by a lovely uphill part (another chance to put Nordic walk to the test). I reminded everyone of the Nordic walking technique for walking downhill and we all set off. While we were doing this part of the walk Debbie pointed out a hare which we were amazed to watch run around the field and not straight across.
The group at the back were laughing when we got to a road sign that pointed and said that Rothbury was 3 miles. Debbie said “its only 3 miles that way, can’t we go that way?”
We got to a stile and Martin after looking at the map/GPS was heading one way but I spotted the public bridleway yellow arrow which was through a gate and went around an oil seed rape field which had bird scarers located around it. As we hadn’t seen them before there were some worried members of the group who thought they may get shot at. John reassured everyone that they just made a loud bang.
As we passed Thropton, Mary was asked if she wanted to go home instead of finishing the walk (she lives in Thropton) but she carried on.
We came to one of my favourite parts of this walk which is Physic Lane (this is part of the Cragside Challenge) and is perfect for Nordic walking on as it is flat, green, long and on a slight incline.
Again the chocolate and jelly sweets came out to give everyone a little sugar boost for the final leg of the walk.
John and I went at full out Nordic walking pace using advanced techniques and left the rest of the group to walk at their own pace.
Kirsten had asked why Physic Lane was so called. The lady who lived in Alwinton said it was probably because someone gathered medicinal herbs there in the distant past. (I have since found out that “Legend has it that the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem had a hospital at the bottom of Physic Lane during the 13th and 14th centuries. They probably gathered wild flowers, herbs and rose hips which are a very good source of vitamin C, calcium, phosphorous and iron. The Knights may have gathered the rose hips here to make a tonic to fend off coughs, and treat sore throats and bleeding gums. The leaves of elder, which also grows here were used in an ointment to ease swellings and bruises.”)
At the top of Physic Lane a conversation ensued between the group, as some people didn’t feel as if they wanted to walk up ANOTHER hill and wanted to go the low track to Rothbury. The beauty of a Shepherds Walk is that we have the opportunity to split a group as we have staff to cover, so we split the group into two with Martin taking a small group up to the Carriageway on the correct route and I took the rest of the group on the low track.
Martin’s group were asking about some of the features in the landscape and he explained that it was a hill fort and that it was one of four in the valley around Rothbury and they could see another two from their vantage point on the carriageway drive.
During this walk we saw a massive variety of birds including a tree creeper, two buzzards, Guinea fowl and Muscovy ducks. We also saw some alevins (baby salmon) in the Coquet when we crossed one of the bridges.
Everyone finished the 14.6 mile Nordic Challenge Walk and a few of us decamped to the Newcastle Hotel to enjoy a well deserved drink and tell Jon (who joined us) what a fantastic walk we had had.
I would like to thank Martin for being the front marker and map reader, everyone for coming along and making it such a fantastic day and I hope to see you all very soon on one of our other Nordic walks.