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Mon 29th February 2016

Howick and Craster

Howick and Craster

What weather and it is still February.

This walk was everything you could have hoped for, when you are planning guided walks for February on the coast you dream of blue skies and sunshine and when this is what you experience who could ask for anything else.

We all met at Sea Houses, near to Howick and it was great everybody arrived in good time.

After a quick introduction we headed off South to the coast. Before we arrived at the coastline we were treated to stunning views of Sugar Sands before we dropped down to the North Sea and we joined the North Sea Trail.

We then headed North up the coast and soon came across the Bath House. This truly unique and most charming Grade II listed cottage stands in possibly the most idyllic and desirable location on the Northumberland coast. Set in a superb and secluded position on the cliff edge with a sandy cove below, it commands panoramic coastal views from every window. The majestic ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle can be seen in the north, whilst to the south there are distant views of Coquet Island.

We then continue North up the coast path and soon reached Craster.

Craster is a small fishing village on the Northumbrian coast of England. It has a small harbour and offers a view northwards along the rocky shore to the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle.

For many years, the village has had a herring-curing business: Craster kippers are well known in England. The local herrings are smoked in a traditional manner by the Robson family.

The remains of a tower on the end of the harbour are all that can be seen now of the much taller building which was part of the overhead equipment which used to convey the local stone from where it was quarried to boats in the harbour. The disused quarry is now a car park. A small distance inland lies Craster Tower, the home of the Craster family who owned the quarry and had the harbour improved for its benefit.

Our lunch stop was Craster Tourist Information centre and Piper's Pitch, the food van that is rated as the No1 place to eat at Craster. It was very civilised to be sat on chairs for lunch!

After lunch we headed inland through some great farmland before reaching Howick Hall.

Howick was the home of the Grey family from 1319 and Charles 2nd Earl Grey is the most distinguished member.

As leader of the Whig party he was Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834, during which time the Great Reform Bill of 1832 was passed in the teeth of opposition from the Duke of Wellington; this started the process of parliamentary reform which eventually led to our modern democracy.  He married Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby in 1794; the marriage was happy and fruitfut and the couple had 15 children.

Howick is also the home of Earl Grey tea!  The tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, to suit the water from the well at Howick, using bergamot in particular to offset the taste of the lime in it.  Lady Grey used it in London when entertaining as a political hostess, and it proved so popular that she was asked if it could be sold to others, which is how Twinings came to market it and it is now sold worldwide.  Sadly the Greys, being un-business like, failed to register the trade mark and as a result they have never received a penny in royalties.

We then had a short walk back down the road back to the cars.

A lovely walk complimented by some great company!

Mon 15th February 2016

Northumberlandia Nordic Walk - 14 February 2016

Northumberlandia Nordic Walk - 14 February 2016

Weather conditions in Alnwick meant we had a couple of cancellations first thing but everyone else met bright and early at the car park at Northumberlandia.

We had a couple of new people to our group (Val and Sonia) and they soon fit right in.

I introduced my volunteers, Ruth (first time officially as a volunteer) and Sharon to the group and we headed off.The route was once around the perimeter of the Lady of the North, the group soon found their pace and the path meant we could spread out.  At one point I asked the group at the front to add an extra incline into the walk to let the rest catch up, everyone followed - ha ha.

We then headed up each of the different areas of the Lady of the North's body. At the top of the face, Steve offered everyone a huge box of biscuits, this ended up being the catchphrase of the walk.

John went on a mission and, we think, walked around the whole sculpture at least twice, everyone else was happy just going around once.  The weather was clear so we could see Simonside and Lindisfarne. John pointed out some Meadow Pipits to me.

Ruth checked her pedometer because as usual no one believed that the distance I had said was the distance we had walked.  I was right, of course.

Once we had completed the whole of the sculpture there was one last turn around the perimeter before cake.

Next stop The Parlour at Blagdon for tea and cakes.  Orders taken, now the wait for the food and drinks which came out very sporadically, if they came out at all.  The chatter was very loud around the table.

I went through the walks up to August.  A request was made for the Pilgrims Causeway to be added again.  I promise I will look at this.

Thank you to Ruth and Sharon for your help today.  It was invaluable as always.

Thank you to you all for coming along I hope you enjoyed the walk, even though tea and cake was a bit disjointed, and we hope to see you all again soon.


Sat 16th January 2016

Nordic Walk - Derwent Walk Country Park

Nordic Walk - Derwent Walk Country Park


When I woke up this morning there was snow on the ground in Sunderland.  I donned my thermal leggings under my walking trousers and set off with time to spare so I could check out the conditions and ground before the walk.

I headed from the Thornley Woodlands Centre down to the Railway path on the Derwent walk, the ground was crisp with frost but great to Nordic walk on.  I saw 4 deer in the trees and hoped they would still be around for the group to see.

I headed back to the car where I met up with everyone, quite a few regulars but also 4 people new to the group.  The chatter was fantastic to hear catching up after the Festive period.  I left them to it and took the new members to one side to teach them the technique.  I love teaching people about Nordic walking and hope that they get hooked (which most of them do).

Once we had finished, we had a quick warm up and time for the first photo of the day. 

We then headed along the path where I pointed out the various carvings in the trees, we kept our eyes open for the deer but unfortunately they had gone into hiding.

The railway path along the Derwent walk is perfect for Nordic walking and everyone got into their stride while I helped one of our new walkers with her technique.  It was an interesting time, Susan found an interesting variation to the technique, she started great and then her body went into a funny wobble, which made us laugh very loudly.  She also decided that she couldn’t move her head whilst she was concentrating.  We caught up to the group and I decided to leave Susan to walk without me watching her.

We turned and headed back along the same path towards the 9 Arches Viaduct with the Column of British Liberty (in Gibside) in the distance.  We hoped we would see the red kites but we were unlucky again as they were keeping away from prying eyes.

Next stop was Hollinside Manor, this was a point in the walk where everyone had a choice to go up the steps to visit the ruins of Hollinside Manor or if they preferred to stay on the railway path. 

Surprisingly everyone decided to go up to visit the Manor.  Geoff (aka Elbows) took the opportunity for elevenses. 

As we were nearing the Swalwell Visitors Centre, there were two paths, Ruth pointed out a signpost but I decided to take a detour (well it wouldn’t be a walk with me without one).

A quick comfort break when Russell took out his flask, there was a lot of conversation around the hot drink in it, I think I heard mention of green tea with lemon.

I offered the group two options for the walk back, the route that I had planned had been very claggy the week before but everyone was very happy to risk it.  Parts of the path had some treacherous ice on it but we managed to skirt around these areas on the slightly frozen grassy sides.  Everyone managed to stay on their feet.

There was an incline up to Red Kite Hill which really showed the new members Russell, Steve, Ken and Susan the benefit of Nordic walking poles.

The pace picked up substantially when the Thornley Woodlands Centre was in sight with the promise of cakes and tea and the café.

A quick stretch before we descended on the café. Unfortunately they had written the date we were attending down wrong so the lovely owner was on her own but she was so friendly and welcoming and we weren’t in a hurry.  More opportunity for us to chat.

Toasties, panninis, soup and cheese scones were ordered, unfortunately for Ruth she missed out.  Kim felt a bit guilty but not guilty enough to share! 

Whilst we were waiting for our food I handed around copies of the Shepherds Walks brochure and got everyone to read them whilst I took a photograph. 

We were given free top ups of tea and coffee and offered free biscuits.  A few of us ordered cake, namely me, Laura (chocolate fudge) and Anne (carrot and orange).

Russell and Steve left first as Newcastle were playing, everyone else left saying they would see us soon.  Susan said thank you for making me feel welcome and that she had thoroughly enjoyed her day.

I hope to see you all on a future Nordic walk.  Don’t forget the next walk is at the Happy Valley on 14th February.

Thank you again to Laura for being backmarker and an invaluable help.

See you all very soon.