Above the College Valley
The exploration of the southern end of the College Valley was a new experience and enjoyable experience for most, access isn’t easy beyond the public car park at Hethpool and the really interesting stuff is another five and a half kilometres further down the valley on the Pennine Way which actually follows the Border Ridge.
We started from the Mounthooly Youth Hostel having made use of the facilities (thank you Pauline) in a very strong wind but it was dry and threatening to become sunny later. A quick “good morning” to the shepherd by the sheep pens adjacent to the shelterbelt just beyond Mounthooly and we were off following the steam that flowed out of the Hen Hole as far as the first of the cascades that allowed us to peer around the corner into this huge glacial bowel. We even found a place out of the wind – well, more or less. From here it was a free-ranging uphill trudge to the Border Ridge crossing the contours to make the ascent easier. We emerged onto it a few hundred metres east of the Refuge Hut into the full blast of the wind form the southwest. The Refuge Hut made an excellent place for elevenses (dead on time for once) with the “outsiders” sitting in the lee of the wind on the bench looking north down the length of the valley towards Hethpool and the “insiders” discussing the merits of the shelter in inclement weather whilst listening to the wind buffeting the structure.
As we walked the ridge from the shelter towards Red Cribs when someone spotted an Adder on the path and, despite being in a strong and chilly wind it moved-off quite quickly, too fast for anyone to get a camera out in time to record it. Nevertheless it was a first for some and all the more satisfying for that. Looking down the path that follows Red Cribs up onto the ridge it was obvious taht we had followed a much more pleasant and gentle way onto the Pennine Way. Behind us we could now see into the Hen Hole properly and to its right we could follow the line of the long distance path up towards Auchope Cairn. To the south we looked into Scotland which felt a bit odd until you look at the map and spot the kink in the route of the border. Looking even further south onto the hazy skyline we were looking back into England and could make out the profile of Russell’s Cairn on Windy Gyle close to where we were last month when we went to Davidson’s Linn.
Turning north at Red Cribs we started the undulating ridge walk towards The Schil. It was good to have the strong wind behind us for the uphill sections, every little helps. In the few dips when we were protected from the wind it was idyllic. Unfortunately it really was blowing a hooly (the derivation of Mounthooly?) when we reached The Schil (601m)and with little shelter we decided to have lunch lower down a little later. We descended to the col between The Schil and Black Hag where the Pennine Way goes over the Border Fence in to Scotland by way of a substantial stile. We turned east instead to descend back into the College Valley but made a mental note about a possible walk, to or from, the beginning or end, of the Pennine Way at Kirk Yetholm at some future date. The prospect of a drink at the pub there drawing 100% support, nothing changes.
We tracked along the Fleehope Burn, crossed it to the south and stopped for lunch adjacent to the conifer plantation sitting on dry heather in the sunshine out of the wind, luxury. Conditions underfoot had changed frequently and often since passing Red Cribs and we had experienced mud, bog, stone pitched paving, dry springy peat, flooded sections, clearly defined and hidden, secret sections (i.e. invisible) of the path all in short order.
After a pleasant lunch the rest of the walk was really pleasant and straightforward, the wind had dropped considerably and the day was beginning to heat-up. Just before we left Mounthooly we heard a cuckoo somewhere in the shelterbelt we’d passed earlier in the morning at the very beginning of the walk. Hopefully a good time was had by all. The College Valley was looking its best; it could easily have been high summer when the sun came out. The intense yellows of the numerous gorse and broom bushes shone out from the myriad of shades of green which is so characteristic of trees in springtime. I hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as I did and that we meet-up again soon.
Nordic Walk - Ingram
It wasn’t a good start when we got up as it was raining, misty and cool. A group of hopeful Nordic walkers travelled to Ingram hoping the weather would be better. It wasn’t. However, never let it said that Nordic walkers only walk in the good weather. Jon did tell us that the weather would pick up mid-morning.
Everyone met up, donned their waterproofs, received Murray Mints from Cathy (one of our regular Nordic walkers) to pop in their pockets for the morning.
Apart from Julie who was leading the walk, we had Jon (the boss), 4 regular Nordic walkers, 2 who we hadn’t seen for a while and 1 new lady who was on her first Shepherds Walk. Everyone was introduced to each other, reminded to go at their own pace and after a warm up we set off.
The group soon started to go at their own pace. There were some fast walkers who went ahead with Jon and the not so fast walkers who were walking at the back with me, with others in between. Lots of chatter could be heard from the group as everyone was catching up and getting to know each other.
As Jon promised the rain did stop quite quickly into the walk and the sun even got out at lunchtime just in time to dry us out.
This was a walk with a few hills/inclines and this started quite a conversation between the walkers as to what was the difference. There was a relatively steep hill in the middle at which point people were left to go at their own pace, to stop if needed (it showed the power of the poles that nobody did). A reminder of the technique for walking up and down hill was given.
At the end of the walk, we had a cool down and leaflets were given out regarding the Nordic Walking Festival (17 May) and also a reminder that the next walk was at Druridge Bay (14 June).
Next stop everyone went to the Muddy Boots Café (where the old Tourist Information Centre was) where we all stopped for food and drinks. Highly recommended.
I look forward to see you all very soon.
Wall to Housesteads (To link St Oswalds Way to Isaacs Tea Trail)
The group assembled at the car park at Housteads to be not only by Mike but also a light drizzle which stopped as the bus arrived and we all piled on.
Had Sundance and his old soft shoe shuffle done enough to give us a dry day? The omens were not looking good with very dark clouds massing to the west.
However on getting out of the bus at Wall the cloud had lightened making Mike feel a little bit better. From Wall you walk next to the road heading upstream to cross the River North Tyne at Chollerford before walking back downstream past Chesters still next to the road.
After a short uphill section we left the road behind at Wallwick and after a short detour round some houses you actually started to walk along the Wall. A gradually ascent eventually brought us to Mile Castle 29 and a coffee break in the lee of a wood and views up the North Tyne Valley and way in the distance the Cheviots.
We continued uphill until we reached a height of 250m and the Trig point near Mile Castle 30. From here we had extensive views in all directions as long as they were not hidden by rain squalls. We only now had to walk a roman mile to reach our lunch stop overlooking the Roman fort of Brocolitia with its temple to Mithraeum. As we ate lunch with the wind on our backs the storm clouds where building up to the North West of us ie up wind.
No sooner had we finished lunch and started to walk it started to rain. So we all put our water proofs on. After a few hundred paces the rain and hail started in earnest for the next four Mile Castles and here heads down we plodded along pretending we were enjoying ourselves. On reaching Sewingsheilds Crags the rain stopped and hoods came down.
We continued along the wall for a further 1 mile (English) before reaching Housestead Roman Fort. From here a short walk down hill brought us back to the car park and our waiting cars.