Guided Walk date - Sunday 20th March 2011
This was the third instalment of our regular monthly progression westwards towards Bowness-on-Solway starting from Tynemouth. The first two days were essentially urban transects and no less interesting for that but today saw us into more rural settings.
Beginning with a gentle walk alongside the River Tyne Jim was quick to remind us that the Scots won the Battle of Newburn in 1640, the friendly banter had already started and we were only a few hundred metres into the walk! Our party of regulars was joined by John who had forsaken his usual cycle to start training for a walking holiday in the High Atlas in the summer. We were all jealous and Andrea was able to fill-in some of the details having experienced a similar holiday in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco previously. Following the Wylam Waggonway, on which George Stephenson first worked as a cowherd before becoming famous, we left the riverside adjacent to Close house Golf Course to climb the valley side to arrive in Heddon –on-the-Wall. The views of the Tyne valley were exceptional and unexpected. The Spanish style haciendas along the road drew some wry observations about the vernacular architecture of Tyneside! In Heddon we saw the first stretch of Hadrian’s Wall since leaving Segedunum. Time for photographs (thanks Ian) and explanations about the broad wall construction and inset kiln feature before setting-off into real countryside alongside the B6318, our constant companion for the rest of the day.
We were nicely sheltered from the south-westerly wind in the Tyne valley but walking into wind was distinctly chilly and something we were to be aware of for the rest of the day. Next stop was Rudchester fort (Vindobala) which is preserved in its unexcavated state. This feature is easily missed being camouflaged in part by overlying “lumps and bumps” of ridge and furrow – or rigg and furrow depending on which books you read. On the section up towards Harlow Hill there was plenty of opportunity to explain that the Military Road referred not to the Roman road but to the one constructed by General Wade following the 1745 Rebellion of Bonny Prince Charlie. It was largely constructed on top of the Roman Wall using the wall fabric in its construction – conservation and heritage were not considerations in those days. We were beginning to “get our eye-in” by now an were picking out the remains of the Roman ditch to the north of the Wall and the vallum to the south as we changed sides of the road via numerous steps, styles and gates. Lunch was taken in the lee of a hedge beside a stream where the Chilvers team found a beautifully built vaulted chamber inset into a bridge on the March Burn.
At the Whittledene Reservoirs we caught-up with a group of walkers who had left Newburn before us which made us feel good. We used the picnic seats and benches kindly provided by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust for another break, the sun came out and in the shelter of the walls and bird hide we son warmed-up. Jim was amused by a note in the bird hide notebook “Seven ducks, too far off to identify” not the usual sort of entry from birders. Christine used the diagram of a cross-section of the Wall in the hide to sort out the relative positions of the ditch and vallum and see where the Roman Way fitted into the picture – a picture is worth a thousand words etc. On past the Robin Hood Inn and the Vallum Farm Shop, the only retail opportunity of the day which contrasted well with Royal Quays on Day 1 and Newcastle Quayside Market on Day 2, more wry comments!
Along this section we were increasingly aware of the skylarks singing and the spring flowers appearing wherever the sun could provide encouragement – there was a noticeable difference in the stage of flowering between north and south sides of hedges for instance, the trees and shrubs were in bud too.
By the time we reached the copse at Down Hill tow kilometres from where we parked our cars it was clear that we would achieve our planned five o’clock finish. It is always a good sign when everyone hangs around for a chat at the end of a walk; we’d had a good day. Considering that this section of the walk is reportedly the one that is most often missed out we certainly found plenty to interest us and the banter was good too. Thanks to everyone for making it such an enjoyable day, I hope to see you all again for part four of the series on April 17th.
Hadrians Wall, part 3 - Newburn to Portgate
Guided Walk date - Sunday 20th March 2011
Thrunton Woods and Long Crag
Guided Walk date - 7/3/11
Sundance and his soft shoe shuffle have done it yet again. Yes it was dry, yes it was sunny and yes even the few boggy bits were easy to dodge. So yes Mike ended the day with dry feet.
We all met at the car park at Thrunton Woods and very quickly wrapped up against the cool breeze. We left the cars by 10.00 and set off down the road towards the Coeburn. The gentle walk down allowed cool muscles to warm up before the need for anything strenuous. At the Coeburn we entered the forest and walked through an area that was being partially harvested. Unfortunately for us this gave Mike the opportunity to start whittering about modern harvesting methods, using a machine called a harvester, compared to cutting down trees manually, and to Mike’s great delight we passed a big tank of urea, which he had been telling us about, that they paint on to stop shoots re-growing from the tree stumps.
The track continued to climb gently following the Coeburn which at this point is lined with knarled old oaks, silver birch and downy birch (yet another chance to whitter). Crossing the Coeburn by a wooden bridge we now started to seriously ascend the front face of Coe Crags. Mike made frequent stops to talk about rocks (again) trees and to take photographs (in reality this was the pretext he needed to get his breath back from the steep climb).
On reaching the top of the steep climb a much gentler climb lead us to the summit of Coe Crag (308m). From the summit the views were fantastic looking across the Vale of Whittingham to the hills just above Wooler, then on to Hedgehope, and The Cheviot before swinging round to Hogdon Law and Weather Cairn then Harbottle Crags and westwards to the end of the Simonside Ridge, swinging round further we could just make out the chimneys at Alcan. We followed the top of the scarp face to Long Crag (319m). Just after starting the descent back down to the Coeburn we found a sheltered spot to have a latish lunch.
Lunch was very idyllic with warm spring sunshine, virtually no wind and not a sound to be heard, with a beautiful view across the vale towards the hills it felt as if we had the whole world to ourselves. After lunch we continued down to the Coeburn and then started the long gentle climb up the lee slope to the top of Callaly Crags.
As we approached Callaly Crags we entered an old open woodland of Scots Pines and with the soft spring sunlight filtering through the trees it had an idyllic peaceful atmosphere. A steep decent through Hobbs Nick brought us to McCartney’s Cave and then down to small valley below Castle Hill. A short steep climb brought us to the summit of Castle Hill and having walked over a couple of ditch and ramparts, we found another pleasant place to sit and have rest and drink. A short descent lead us back on to a Forestry Comm. track which we followed eastwards before joining the tarmac road that would lead us back to the car park and the end of another enjoyable day out in the hills.
Hadrian's Wall, part 2
Segedunum to Newburn. Guided Walk date - Sunday 20th February 2011
What a difference walking from east to west makes. We saw all sorts of things that walking the opposite way some of us had never seen e.g. the Newcastle skyline from St Anthony’s Point including the Civic Centre, the seven bridges from St Lawrence’s near the Ouseburn redevelopment, even approaching the Baltic and the Sage from an unfamiliar angle made it a wholly different experience. From now on I shall be encouraging participants to turn round and view where we have come from more often.
The grey overcast didn’t change all day but we didn’t get wet and at least the chill south-east wind was behind us all day, not bad for a late February day especially as a few of our number were prevented from getting out and about yesterday with the slushy wet snowfall in the uplands.
There were quite a lot of cyclists out on the initial section between Segedunum and the Walker Riverside Park but after that it was relatively quiet going as from here the cycle route diverges from the Hadrian’s Wall Path. We lunched overlooking St Peter’s Basin with an explanation of the significance of a boat moored there called “The Three Amigos” which relates to a previous walking group on this route - you had to be there to appreciate it.
Onwards to The Baltic, our only crossing of the river of the day for a quick drink and comfort stop before negotiating the quayside market and the seven bridges each with their own particular stories to tell. The rafts of debris on the incoming tide populated by seabirds kept us amused as far as Dunston’s coal staithes, a section had been destroyed by fire since my last walk on this route. Looking south beyond the staithes we could easily pick out the tall block of flats (The Rocket) that was adjacent to the site of the Gateshead Garden Festival which none of us could remember the date of (it was 1990 according to the internet). Was it “only” 20 years ago?
The Metro Centre was passed at a safe distance i.e. on the other side of the river as we passed the British Airways call centre on the redeveloped Newcastle Business Park. There were some rye comments about how few people were working there and no wonder we couldn’t get through by phone to make reservations. We walked out onto the Scotswood Road which, in the days of Lord Armstrong’s Elswick Works boasted no fewer than 44 public houses. Crossing the road we entered Paradise near the start of the Vicker’s tank factory, well that is what the map said anyway. Unfortunately the visibility was too poor to look back and see the Angel of the North, it is the only place it can be seen from along this route. We walked along a former rail track with lots of redevelopment being carried out beyond new fences to our north before looping around and over the A1 via a footbridge linking Denton Dene to Bell’s Close prior to the final run into Newburn via the southern edge of Lemington. We had mentioned the catastrophic floods along the lower Tyne in 1771 earlier because it resulted in the collapse of so many bridges downstream of Hexham but seeing the flood level marker outside the pub by Newburn Bridge certainly made an impression. The last leg was literally alongside the river to the memorial of the Battle of Newburn 1640 where the first fording point on the River Tyne made it a natural choice for raiding parties from Scotland, they won that one.
That completes the second day of the series of one-day westbound walks along the Hadrian’s Wall Path. From now onwards it is mainly rural, except for passing through Carlisle, but that is for the future, the aim is to reach Bowness – on – Solway, the official end of the walk, in the autumn.