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Tue 8th April 2014

St. Oswalds Way part 10 - Little Bavington to Heavens Field

St. Oswalds Way part 10  - Little Bavington to Heavens Field

Sundace had been doing the old soft shoe shuffle once more but with a bit more determination as yes you have guessed correctly he has another set of boots that let the water in, but had he over done it?  He had managed a dry walk on the Saturday were the rain gods going to let him get away with it again?

By 9.30am not only was every one ready even the buses where there as well.  A short bus trip and we had arrived at Little Bavington.  The route from here follows a minor road for nearly 5km.  Mike had already been nagged about stopping for an eleven-is and suggested we stop at the first place where we were going to be sheltered from the wind.  4.8Km latter the spot had been found a small war memorial at a cross roads in the middle of now where. 

After coffee we set off up - hill and after a couple of hundred meters we splashed our way through a field gate the first on many.  We continued up - hill to the top of Todridge Fell and there enjoyed the views except for Mike who had been attacked by a midgy.  We now walked down hill to Click’em in Farm and we were back on tarmac heading to Great Wittington looking for a lunch stop.  Just before the village a handy wall with several tree stumps provided us with the ideal semi sheltered spot!

Just as we about to set off the first rain shower hit us, unfortunately we were walking into the wind which had again become stronger.  Once more we left a hard surface and continued cross country to a derelict windmill.  A path diversion took us a cross a footbridge that spanned the River Pont which was about 2m wide. After a brisk walk up hill and a gentle decent we arrived at the B6318 and Hadrian’s Wall Path which follows the line of the Roman Wall. 

We turned West walked a short distance along the road before we climbed the first of about 32 styles in 9km.  As we walked westward we could see showers heading our way,  fortunately none of them lasted no more than 10 min’s  The 1st highlight of the day was arriving at St. Oswald’s Café with 15min to go before it closed and sitting down to fresh coffee and cakes. After a short break we continued west for a short distance and reached the 2nd highlight of the day the little church at  Heavens field and the end of for us of St. Oswald’s Way.  Unfortunately we had a further 3km to go to reach the cars.  So with determined stride we set off arriving back to at the cars some seven and half hours after leaving them. 

Yes Sundance had done it his feet were still dry even if the day was not totally dry.
In Mikes quest to get back to Alston we are going to follow the wall for another days walk before heading south to Allendale and then joining Isaac’s Tea Trail.  This is a circular walk From Allendale the route takes you to Nethead, Alston, Ninebanks and back to Allendale.

Tue 25th March 2014

Nordic Walk - Pilgrim's Route to Holy Island

Nordic Walk - Pilgrim's Route to Holy Island

Nordic Walk – Pilgrims Causeway to Holy Island

The first Nordic Walk of the year and what a way to start! 22 men and women met to follow the footsteps of the pilgrims who came before us. This promised to be a truly special walk and there was a buzz in the air as we all gathered. Clear blue skies, windy but not too cold – perfect.

We met on Holy Island itself, and were concerned as it was blowing a hooley! (“It's blowing a hooley” comes from the steamship captains who were unable to sail up the Hooley River (in India), because it was really windy, too windy to sail up river). After handing out poles to those who needed them and brief introductions we had a short transfer by bus, to the other end of the causeway.

We had quite a few people who had never Nordic walked before and some who needed a refresher in the technique. So after a quick warm up and adjustment of poles we set off. Those new to the technique stayed at the back with me, others were able to stride ahead with Julie and Jon. As always with Nordic Walking, the emphasis is on walking at your own pace and doing a linear walk across the sands enables this perfectly.

The first section of the Pilgrims Way follows the tarmac road. If we hadn’t done this I think we may have turned into Nordic swimmers as there were a couple of deep water channels, even though the tide was going out. Once passed these channels we veered off and onto the sand.

The Pilgrim’s Way to Holy Island follows a series of poles across the sand. Pilgrims have walked this 3½ mile route for more than 1300 years, though not so many with Nordic Walking poles! The expanse of mud flats are quite breath-taking, though they can be treacherous and there is also the danger of the tide, which cuts the Island off from the mainland twice a day.  Proof of the tide can be seen by the many barnacles clinging to the Pilgrim’s route marking poles!

The group were able to spread out as we followed the poles across the sands, each person going at their own speed, allowing those new to the technique plenty of time and space to get into a rhythm.

We stopped briefly at one of the refuge huts on stilts, there for the safety of those who do not heed the warning of a rising tide. There was a real buzz within the group, as people chatted, made new friends and caught up with old. The new Nordic Walkers in the group were amazed at how easy their walk was. I asked them to lift their poles at one point but to continue walking. They all slowed down and groaned as the walk suddenly became hard work for their legs again. Keen to practise the technique again, we set off.

The middle section over the sands was quite slippy and boggy in places, so Jon advised us of exactly where to walk.  Once across   this short section we were back onto the sands and the pace quickened.  

Another brief stop at the next refuge hut on stilts to re-group, before veering off to the left due to a deep water channel. Those of us in wellies plodded our way through, whilst Jon and Julie offered different rates for piggy backs to those in shoes. No takers meant a few people with wet feet, but no grumbles as the end was in sight.

Walking at the back of the group you can see when people begin to tire and their technique changes. But once the end is in sight the pace quickens and so we returned to our cars.
A few cool down stretches, a chat about our next Nordic Walk and an invite to all to go for a well earned cuppa, and we had completed our pilgrimage.

I have to say that this was a very special walk indeed. I have had many e mails this week with some lovely comments. Here are just a small selection:

“Many thanks for last weekend’s Nordic walk – a great stroll in brilliant weather”

“It was great to get the poles out today, many thanks”

I think this is one to be repeated later in the year and perhaps bare footed this time. Watch this space!

Sun 23rd March 2014

Training Walk - Budle Bay to Beadnell

Training Walk - Budle Bay to Beadnell

22nd March 2014

Training walk 1 for the Shepherd’s Walk Coastal challenge.

There is only really one word to summarise this walk – magnificent.

I had been reviewing the weather reports the evening before the walk and was delighted to learn that the winds of the last few days were dropping, that no rain was mentioned and that the sun might be shining. And shine it did.
Another feature of the weather report that I saw was that it said visibility would be very good. As it turned out this weather report was accurate and as a consequence we all had a great day.

There can be no finer sights than the Northumbria coast and we were rewarded with its full glory.

As we walked away from Budle Bay the land rises and we had a full view of the flats with birds flocked on the mud and the sun twinkling off the water - stunning.
As we turned south across the links the magnificence of Bambrough Castle comes into view- that’s a sight no one can ever tire of.
As we walked from Seahouses around the headland we were rewarded with the clearest view of the Farne Islands that I have ever seen. The weather forecasters got it right when they said the visibility would be good.

We saw plenty of bird life including skylarks twittering as they rose into the blue sky, curlews in the newly ploughed fields, eider ducks in the harbours. They too seemed to be enjoying the sunshine.

So it didn’t matter that this walk was a training walk it was simply a beautiful walk. We completed the route of 11.5 miles at a good pace and made it back to Beadnell in a total of 4 hours and 45 minutes. Of this we stopped for 50 minutes to eat and enjoy the view. This means that we were walking at 2.9 miles an hour but including the stops we were covering 2.4 miles each hour.

Knowing this helps to prepare for the full challenge walk in two ways. Firstly you can decide whether or not this is a comfortable pace because it is important that during the challenge walk you walk at the pace that suits you. Secondly you can work out how long it will take to cover the 26 miles and knowing this aids preparation and helps with pacing. A tip – walk at your own pace but reduce the overall time by reducing the stopping time.

After such a great day on training walk 1 I’m thoroughly looking forward to training walk 2.

Thank you to all the walkers and to Martin who helped by being the last man for the day.
A great walk in the best weather with great views and company – magnificent.

Chris.