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Mon 20th June 2011

Nordic Walk - Holy Island

Nordic Walk - Holy Island

What a day of contrast!

I’m sure there were many folk in

Northumberland who thought that it was a shame that it would be raining on our Nordic walk on Holy Island.

How wrong they would be. It was the most perfect day, lovely and sunny with a light breeze.

We set off on broad grassy tracks before picking up pathways through the dunes that hosted an array of beautiful wild flowers including marsh orchids, birdsfoot trefoil, wild thyme, eye bright and the stunning blue spikes of the viper’s blugloss complete with the burnet moth with its distinctive black wings and red spots.

We had beaches to ourselves which echoed with the haunting call of the grey seals, known as the sirens of the sea, basking on rocks just off the shoreline.After passing Emmanual head, a beacon located on the north of the Island, we again picked up grassy tracks and Nordic walked towards the iconic silhouette of the romantic 16C Lindisfarne Castle.

Skirting off to the right we made a slight detour to avoid the crowds and passed the quaint little garden that had been created for the castle by Gertrude Jekyll between 1906 and 1912.

We then headed inland and stopped at the Pilgrim Coffee Shop where we indulged ourselves with the most fantastic fresh crab sandwiches and fresh coffee.

This truly was the most perfect end to the most perfect day. Even more so because it started to tip it down in bucket loads just as we reached our cars which was great timing.
Thank you for everyone who came along, you were an absolute pleasure to Nordic walk with and I’m really looking forward to seeing you all again next time.

Nordic walking is sociable and fun, so if you haven’t tried it before, why not give it a go. You never know you may surprise yourself and enjoy it!

Go on, you know you want to ......

Sun 12th June 2011

Pennine Way Part 2 Greenhead to Steel Rigg

Pennine Way Part 2 Greenhead to Steel Rigg

Sundance definitely blew it this time. After a lot of soft shoe shuffling the sun shone temperatures rose sky high BUT it happened two days too soon.

Sunday morning grey overcast sky an easterly breeze and cold. As we approached Steel Rigg it started to spit on to rain. At Steel Rigg extra clothing was immediately put on top, plus hat and gloves. As the rest of the group arrived Mike directed everyone to the car park at Once Brewed including the bus.

By 10.00 every one was on the bus although Mike’s counting skills only just managed a head count to make sure every one was on. A quick blast along the military road to Greenhead and we were off into a head wind.

The first bit of excitement was having just crossed over the railway line a train came along. Then we had a quick look at Thirwall Castle, from a distance, and then it was off up the first hill of the day, at the top a short level section took us to Wall Town Quarry and a rush for the loos.

By now it had started to rain with a bit more enthusiasm but this only lasted for a short while before it was back to spits and spots. A quick walk round the quarry brought us back on the Wall path and surprise, surprise another uphill section that lead on to a reinstated section of the wall proper and our first open views of the surrounding country side.

These were rather disappointing as the low cloud made the distant hills somewhat grey and vague, but we could just see the hills above Alston and some of the route of the previous two walks. From here on it was down and up and down again before once more going up to go down.

Then up before a long descent to a wood which afforded some shelter from the wind and so we had lunch in the rain with midges (Mike’s first of the year). The rain eased to just spits and spots as we finished lunch and a very gradual descent brought us to the next loo stop a Cawfields Quarry.

Leaving the quarry we once more went up to come down again to the road at Shield on the Wall. A steep ascent passed mile castle 41, a little bit of levelling off before the last up hill section and we had reached the trig point at 345m the highest point on the Roman Wall. From here we make out the distant hills of the Cheviots all be it briefly before once more lost in cloud. By now even the spits and spots had ceased and with our clothing drying out (except for Mike, his boots still leak and he had wet feet) we reached Steel Rigg car park.

It was now down the road to Once Brewed and in to the cars and away, although some became waylaid by a Coffee in the pub at Twice Brewed.

Max height gained was 1,112Ft and we climbed in total 1,352Ft. For the anoraks, below is the route profile.

Mon 30th May 2011

Hadrian's Wall, part 5 - Brocolitia to Steel Rigg

Hadrian's Wall, part 5 - Brocolitia to Steel Rigg

It started as a wet and windy day with the promise of an improving forecast.

The rain showers did recede but the wind didn’t abate as we made our way west into the teeth of the prevailing and unseasonably strong wind. 

The nominal eight mile walk was at least twelve miles plus in terms of the added effort of battling against it.  The shelter of the few patches of woodland along the route was much appreciated – and yes we were on the lookout for falling branches, there were plenty littering the ground.  

The Beaufort Scale

Beaufort Number    mph          kph           m/s1           Observed Effects on Land Lakes

0 Calm                    <1    1.6                   0.44             No wind, any smoke rises vertically.

1 Light Air               1-3    1.6 to  4.8        0.4 to 1.3      Smoke drift indicates wind direction, ripples on water

2 Light Breeze         4-7    6.4 to 11.3       1.8 to 3.1      Wind just felt on face, wavelets but none breaking

3 Gentle Breeze      8-12    12.9 to 19.3     3.6 to 5.4     Leaves constant motion, some wavelets breaking

4 Mod Breeze        13-16    20.9 to 25.7    5.8 to 7.2     Dust, loose leaves & paper raised

5 Fresh Breeze      17-24    27.4 to 38.6    7.6 to 10.7    Small trees in leaf begin to sway, many white horses

6 Strong Breeze     25-31    40.2 to 49.9    11.2 to 13.9    Larger tree branches in motion, some spray

7 Near Gale           32-38    51.5 to 61.2    14.3 to 17.0    Whole trees in motion, much spray

8 Gale                   39-46    62.8 to 74.0    17.4 to 20.6    Twigs and small branches broken off

9 Strong Gale         47-54    74.0 to 86.9    20.6 to 24.1    Slight structural damage (slates off roof etc)

10 Storm                55-83    88.5 to 133.6   24.6 to37.1    Trees uprooted, considerable structural damage

The table above shows the land criterion for the Beaufort Scale and highlighted is the evidence we observed.  The photograph of the foam streaks on Crag Lough (Force 8 Gale) is even more impressive when you realise that the lough was in the lee of the Whin Sill which was actively sheltering it from the full strength of the wind!  It was even draughtier where we were on top of the outcrop 100 feet (33 metres approx) above the water and totally exposed to the wind.  Nevertheless it was good fun even down to the incredulous looks on the people’s faces walking the “correct or sensible way” (i.e. west to east) with the wind behind them.  With wind assistance they were unsurprisingly “walking” about four times faster than us.

We snatched elevenses in the lee of a wall and a quick early lunch on the downwind side of Sewing Shields plantation, between Milecastle 34 and 25, while watching the cloud shadows racing east faster than the vehicles on the Military Road in the brief sunny intervals.  It was a Bank holiday after all and typical Bank Holiday weather.  The forecast was for a “breezy and showery weekend” which, with typical British understatement we got, I am still glowing with windburn to prove it, sunburn was never a realistic option.  

After Sewingshields Farm the terrain changed to the lumps and bumps of the Whin Sill and we followed the undulating contours from the trig point on Sewingshields Crag from where we could now see Cheviot and Hedgehope 33miles (53 kilometres) away to the north and the radar station on Great Dun Fell in the Pennines 24 miles (39 km) away to the south west.  The visibility had improved markedly compared to the head-in-the-clouds drizzly cloudbase we’d experienced at Steel Rigg waiting for the minibus.  All of the classic elements of the Roman Wall Country now came together and for the first time we could see the wall, vallum and ditch in their correct configuration and on the famous Whin Sill too.  On previous days each separate element had been seen but now for the first time all of the elements were united and classic views revealed.     

Broomlee Lough looked magnificent with its white horses and foam streaks and we were battered by the crosswind as we descended towards Kings Wicket and round to Housesteads.  The shelter below the north gate of the fort was appreciated as was the protection afforded by Rapishaw Gap a little further on where we were joined by the Pennine Way.  Skylarks were actually flying backwards (i.e.  a negative ground speed) whilst singing to their hearts content, amazing.   The descent from Hotbank Crags was a repeat of the Sewingshields Crag experience but this time with the iconic views of Crag Lough looking westwards instead.  Highshield Crags above the lough provided a genuine sense of exposure, as did the steep descent from Peel Crags – at least here the wind blew us into the hillside on the way down.  By the time we assembled at the Northumberland National Park Centre at Once Brewed it was a different world; we sat at the picnic tables finishing-off food and flasks and discussing the day before going our separate ways.   The collective sense of achievement for this rather different experience of Hadrian’s Wall was palpable.  Thank you to everyone for your company and see you again soon for the next walk in the series.   

Monday, 30 May 2011