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Sun 10th April 2011

Pennine Way - part 1

Pennine Way - part 1

As Sundance made his way south and west his usual luck with the weather seemed to be holding that is until he crossed the county border into Cumbria.  The clouds thickened and darkened, until by the time the group were ready to set off we encountered the first drops of the first rain shower of the day.  Obviously the soft shoe shuffle only works in Northumberland.

Before the walk could start we first had to walk south through Alston to cross the river and get on to the Pennine Way Path.  Here we started to walk north along a drive /track passing several houses before we came to the first of many stiles and discovered the unexpected time it took to get the whole group over. 

The first field gave Mike the chance to really start to witter showing where some moles had been caught and how a mole catcher would set his traps.  A little bit further on we went through a very ornate field gate before contouring around another house on to its drive. After walking along the main road for a short distance we crossed over to start the first climb of the day that took us out of the valley and on to more open country but, we still had lots of stiles to cross.

A gentle descent took us down to the real proper start of The Northumbrian Pennine Way as we crossed the bridge over the Gilderdale Burn and the county border. We were back into Northumberland and another rain shower. A short climb took us past and above the Roman Fort Whitley Castle here we took the opportunity to have lunch as it was dry. 

From here the route descended back down into the valley crossing the road once more and passing Kirkhaugh Station which is the terminus of The South Tynedale Railway, although we could see that the track continued further north. 

More fields and stiles took us to a foot bridge over the Thernhope burn here the path went under an old viaduct and eventually along the banks of the South Tyne.  The route then joined the main road into Slaggyford. 

Making a slight detour to walk through Slaggyford Rail station and along the old Railway line before was more joining the Pennine Way.  At Burnstones we walked under Viaduct to then cross the Thinhope burn on the road bridge to immediately to walk under the viaduct again on the road.  Here Mike set us a challenge. How many arches does the viaduct have? From the west we counted five arches for the burn and one arch for the road but from the east we were only able to see five arches in total! 

One of the arches was a Blind arch. 

Climbing up away from Burnstones the Pennine Way follows the line of  an old Roman road called the Maiden Way. After a stiff climb we contoured the hill until we descended into the Glendue burn.  By now it was raining again so a quick dash to the waiting bus allowed us to get out of the rain, it only took a couple of minutes to retrace our steps to be back in Alston.

Fri 1st April 2011

YouTube Film - Nordic Walk, Bamburgh

YouTube Film - Nordic Walk, Bamburgh

On Sunday 27th March we had a Nordic Walk along what is the most stunning sections of coastline in the country, from Bamburgh.

With Bamburgh Castle above us it made for a great walk and Nordic Walking on sand is second the none.

Below is a short YouTube film after our Nordic Walk on Bamburgh beach.


Mon 21st March 2011

Hadrians Wall, part 3 - Newburn to Portgate

Hadrians Wall, part 3 - Newburn to Portgate

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.