Two Chimneys and A Chapel, Allendale
We met in the market place at Allendale as the sun started to shine and the cold morning air began to warm.
Actually it was raining and seemed to have returned to winter again but never mind as the group seemed up for a decent walk whatever the weather was doing.
Off we stroud at a fair lick. We did ease the pace just enough to stop at points of interest on our climb up to the high point on Dryburn moor including the entrance to the Blacket level mine and the site of the Allen smelt mill. It was here that despite the really interesting industrial history we discussed the Allendale brewery beer (on the way into the site), the availability of tea and nice cakes (at the teashop on site) and on the way out the Allendale brewery again.
Having reached the top of the moor we appreciated what the view should look like on a nice day and that the best place to view the skill of the chimney builders was to get inside it out of the wind and rain.
Crossing into the West Allen valley we speculated on the accuracy of the weather forecast via the phone. The phone said the sun should come out at 12.00 and it did (well almost).
Feeling the benefit of a lessening of the wind and rain we continued on to a lunch stop at the Keenley Methodist Chapel (the oldest, working Chapel in the world etc etc).
Now on the home run along the banks of the Allen we negotiated a wee 'bad step' in the path. Someone helpfully suggested that if Paul the guide fell in the river he should make sure his Shepherds Walks uniform doesn't get wet!
Arriving back at the smelt mill we naturally fell into the tea shop before the last short leg back into Allendale village.
Whernside - Yorkshire Dales
Not just the first ‘away day’ of the year, but the first ever.
We have a great loyal group of Shepherds Walkers who we take out throughout the year week on week and to date all our ‘day walks’ have been in the North East.
I have also walked extensively in many other places and the Yorkshire Dales is one of my favourite places, especially the famous Three Peaks. I have walked these many times with friends and family over the past 20 years, so what better location to start our ‘away days’.
We planned to do one of the three peaks every other weekend and looking at bookings to date we had made the right decision.
As I arrived into Ribblehead at 10.00 am the weather was not the greatest. Sharp showers blew across and looking up to Whernside itself, it looked like it was going to be a blowy affair.
After meeting up with the rest of the group I quickly realised it was going to be a good day. We had some great characters and everybody gelled very quickly which was just what we needed for our climb up the highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales.
We skirted along the side of the Ribblehead viaduct and walked along the edge of the Settle to Carlisle Railway before crossing over the top of it to start the ascent. The path is great underfoot and the group managed brilliantly with a great atmosphere running throughout.
As many of us had started off very early that morning we stopped for lunch just after 12.00, with this also being just before we joined the long ridge walk to the summit. It was thought that a sheltered spot, in the now glorious sunshine, was just what the doctor ordered. It was a great sun trap as we sat behind the broken down stone wall.
After lunch the real climbing started but the whole group worked well as a team. They all had total respect and cared for every single member of the group and therefore the climb was broken up with some great conversations and debates. It was not long before reached the summit.
The summit shot, at the top of Whenside (all 2515 feet of her) was a must and we spent a good 15 to 20 minutes savouring the moment and enjoying the views on what has turned out to be the ideal day on the weather front.
As we started our decent the path did get steeper and it was just a case of taking our time and looking back on the great achievement the group had made.
After dropping back down to the valley floor we passed through some beautiful farmland appreciating the newly born lambs and discussing the qualities of the different breeds as we came across them.
A few moments was taken as we passed under the Ribblehead viaduct to really take in the true engineering and sheer scale of this stunning construction.
Back at the cars we said our farewells and I believe a real day to remember for many of group had really been had.
I think I should get out of the office more often; this is what Shepherds Walks is all about. Looking forward to leading the walk up the next one - Pen-y-ghent in two weeks time already.
Two day Outdoor First Aid course
Last weekend saw a new departure when we ran the first open Outdoor First Aid course for Shepherds Walks.
The course is designed for those who have a voluntary or paid role in leading groups in the outdoors or for those who travel to more remote places where help may be some time in arriving (even in Northumberland!). A mixed group of guides, Mountain Rescue, outdoor event first aiders and teacher/leaders assembled early on Saturday at the Quarry Centre in Whitley Bay. Given the experience of the group there was no pressure on Paul - not much!
The two days consists of mostly practical first aid work gradually building the skills and confidence needed to deal with mishaps in the outdoors.
Paul also introduced a unique scoring system so that the 'casualties' can score their first aiders. You will be pleased to know that 'deaths' and 'dangerous' practice were quickly reduced to a minimum!
Most first aid courses focus on the lone first aider's but another good feature of this training is that people start on their own but by the end of day two they will have worked in pairs, three's and groups. Then on Sunday afternoon the groups went outside to practice their skills. Paul was pleased that on cue it began to rain.......This part is usually the most enjoyable and memorable aspect and everyone had a jolly time getting to grips with the reality of dealing with people outdoors - too many pockets on clothing where 'suprises' can be hidden, cold ground seeings through clothing and recording cards that fall to bits in the wet. As one participant memorably put it "you come outside and everything you learnt indoors goes" (actually he said something involving more choice language than can be repeated here).
Everyone went away having learnt something new or had a good 'refresher,' including Paul, which is as it should be.
In June there will be a one day first aid course for those who walk with friends or act as an occassional volunteer with groups. A more broader and less intense experience will be on offer but yes, you will be going outside whatever the weather!