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Tue 22nd December 2015

Under & Over the Tyne Amended

Under & Over the Tyne Amended

Sunday 20th December 2015

It was planned, intended and initially advertised, that this walk was to take place in December 2014 having been scheduled in the November 2013 planning session!  It has proved impossible to do owing to the failure of two separate companies’ involved in the refurbishment of the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel.  The intended, and relatively short-term closure, has now become a very much longer-term closure as the contract is put out to tender for a third time!  As a consequence the route was altered several months ago to provide a walk in the same locality.  Plan B was “Both Sides of the Tyne” based on walking both of the Tyne Piers linked by the Shields Ferry and incorporating the North Shields Heritage Trail and an outline of the little known former Tyne Whaling Trade.  Suffice it to say that pre-arranged checks early on Sunday morning revealed that the Port of Tyne were not going to open either pier at all on Sunday 20th December due to high forecast wind speeds e.g. gusts of 45 mph on the piers between 11.00 and 13.00 hours.  Plan C, the final back-stop, was to walk south of the Tyne as far as Marsden Bay and Grotto which is what we eventually did.

The bonus was the blue sky for most of the day, if a little wet and definitely breezy.  However, even the “wet bits” provided us with quite frequent rainbows out over the sea - but nothing to rival the brilliantly coloured examples we’d seen only last month walking north towards Alnmouth.  We started rather damp and ended similarly but were lucky enough to stay dry for most of the time between.  Despite the unseasonably mild temperatures everyone appreciated the warmth of the heating on the Shields Ferry.  We began the walk wearing over-trousers and they did keep the wind off and add another layer of insulation so not all bad.  The real pleasure of the day was the company and companionship of everyone present.  The walk wasn’t in any way technical or demanding being easy underfoot and gave more opportunity than usual to just chat as we progressed.  Four of us had completed this very route at the end of January 2013 (apologies to Conrad, Marian and Ian).  What an odd coincidence.  This walk is to my last walk on Jon’s Shepherds Walks programme and it will be the only time that I have repeated a walk other than by prior arrangement with specialist groups or private parties, serendipity strikes again!  

Going south before lunch we managed to remain protected from the wind but once up on the grassland of The Leys were fully exposed to the wind.  Despite that it certainly wasn’t either as strong or gusty as forecast.  We looked back towards the Tyne Piers which remained closed (Plan B) but at no time did we see any waves breaking over them – better safe than sorry I suppose.  A civilised lunch was taken on picnic benches below the cliff outside of the Marsden Grotto pub where everyone was protected from the wind.  Some people, obviously including Ian, took the opportunity to supplement their lunch box.  Malcolm was quietly munching his salad when Ian casually mention that it might go well with his chips, subtle!  The homeward journey was uneventful and direct with lots of banter.

For my part I will really miss the opportunity to plan and carry out day walks in the plethora of wonderful Northumbrian landscapes and elsewhere.  What I will miss even more is the contact with, and friendship of, everyone who comes on the walks.  The “Regulars” know who they are and I hope that we remain in contact in the future.  My very special thanks and appreciation go to Ian for more than I can possibly say, a true friend.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the last few years, thank you all and very best wishes to everyone.

Happy Christmas and a Happy New 2016.

Richard, Ian and Malcolm     

Mon 14th December 2015

Simonside Nordic Walk 13th December 2015

Simonside Nordic Walk  13th December 2015

What a fantastic walk to complete a very successful and enjoyable year in Nordic walking.

We all met up in the Shepherds Walks shop in Rothbury, lots of chatter whilst we waited for everyone to arrive.  Martin and I sorted out mulled wine and mince pies between our rucksacks.

Christmas hats donned we headed outside where we took the opportunity for a group photograph before we did our warm up and I introduced, Martin, Laura and myself to the group.

Warmed up we headed towards the river and over the bridge, which was a bit icy and we headed up past Sharps Folly.  The group soon settled into their own pace.  Laura was bringing up the rear with Martin striding off in the front and me dotting in the middle.

The next hill we came to was Whitton Hillhead, this is a great hill to Nordic walk up although it is challenging.  At the top whilst everyone waited for the group to come together again.  Kirsten and Paul offered around boiled sweets.  The route levelled out a bit and we headed down to Lordenshaws Car Park. 

Next up was the route up to the Beacon and Dove Crag, which is where the decorated Christmas tree is located.  Martin had got to the top with quite a lot of the group.  The rest of the group were with me and as is usual with one of my Nordic walks we had a slight detour, we turned around and headed up to join the rest of the group.

Martin had got out his homemade mulled wine and mince pies, however I had the cups and hot chocolate, so they had to wait.  Martyn had brought Stollen and Richard chocolate muffins to share with the group.

Ruth was first to try the mulled wine and her comment was “yummy yummy in my tummy”.  The mince pies were not your typical small mince pies but they went down a treat.

Kirsten and Paul offered around Danish Aquavit (a Danish spirit) which definitely warmed us up.  We all said Skål, the Danish word for cheers, John offered Rusty Nail (whisky and Drambuie) and Martin had a whisky in his hip flask.

Whilst we were partaking of our refreshments we were passed by a lot of other walkers.  We shared our mince pies and chocolate muffins but not the mulled wine as that had all been drank.

Next was our group photograph in front of the decorated Christmas Tree and cue a sing song of We wish you a Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which was totally out of tune (mainly by me) and everyone around us gave us a round of applause.  Well we are the Nordic Nuts!

Now for the descent from Dove Crag and through the forest.  We had done very well bearing in mind the ground had been very muddy and on occasions icy that no-one had slipped over then Catherine slipped on the mud but landed on the snow, Ruth and I helped her up.  Apparently it was very a very graceful slip.  Sorry no photograph (well it was her first walk with me!) no injury sustained so off we headed along the Sandstone Way (the new cycle route).  We retraced part of our route before heading off back to the car park.  In fact some of the group had rushed ahead led by Laura and had left the car park before I got there.

Elbows (Geoff), Angela, Ruth, Martin and I headed off to Tomlinsons for the customary tea and cake stop, whilst Kirsten and Paul went to the pub.  Ruth's pedometer said that we had walked 9.5 miles although when martin and I recce'd it it was only 7 miles.  Oops.

Thank you everyone for making this such a lovely walk.  The weather was perfect even down to the crunchy snow.

Special thanks to Martin for the mulled wine, mince pies and for volunteering (err sort of) and Laura for being my volunteer.

Don’t forget to check out the 2016 programme.  The next Nordic walk is in the diary for 16th January 2016 at the Derwent Walk.

Have a great Christmas and New Year and I hope to see you soon.


Mon 30th November 2015

Warkworth to Alnmouth Return

Warkworth to Alnmouth Return

Sunday 29th November 2015

Considering the Met Office’s severe weather warnings for wind and rain in force I was pleasantly surprised that only three participants cancelled their bookings on the day.  As it turned-out we had a genuinely enjoyable day along the southern edge of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Granted, the omens weren’t good when Ian and I arrived at the car park.  The toilets were closed until Easter 2016 and it began to rain heavily.  Nevertheless twenty suitably attired individuals (full waterproofs, gloves, hoods up etc) moved-off towards the beach shortly after 09.30 no doubt wondering whose bright idea this was anyway.

Low tide was at 11.33 so we were able to walk north on a firm wide sandy beach which became even wider as we progressed.  In the clear slots we could see Coquet Island behind us and a mile off the coast.  The first lighthouse keeper after it was built in 1841 was Grace Darling’s older brother, William – she of the wreck of the Forfarshire fame on 7th September 1838.  This year being the 200th anniversary of her birth (1815 – 1842).  The Trinity House lighthouse was electrified in 1976 and automated in 1990.  The island is now an RSPB Reserve well known for its puffin colony which generates boat trips from nearby Amble especially in spring and summer although landings aren’t permitted.

We clambered over the rocky foreshore at Birling Carrs below the caravan site and discussed the formation of sand dunes and saw how last Wednesday’s Spring tide had reached the back of the beach and undercut the base of the dunes.  All of the dunes fronting the beach along our route were being actively eroded with steep avalanched faces devoid of the stabilising protection of marram grass.  In places rock outcrops at beach level effectively armoured a stretch of coastline, in others the dunes developed on top of weak ice age boulder clays, themselves are very prone to wave erosion.  There was also plenty of evidence of tree stumps, roots and other flotsam being deposited well up the beach, testament to the power of the waves.  Most of the time we were walking north we saw an almost permanent rainbow above Alnmouth.  At one point it included a fainter secondary bow also showing Alexander’s dark band between the two.  Lovely to see and providing evidence of simultaneous sunshine and precipitation.    

As we rounded the spit forming the southern outlet of the River Aln into Alnmouth Bay the wind started to pick-up and the gusts increase in force.  From the cross on the ridge on the south side of the river we got an unusual view of Alnmouth in the sunshine (most unexpected).  Lots of photographs later we descended the ridge to the edge of the salt marsh and site of the mouth of the Aln prior to the 1806 storm which also led to the loss of the parish church and the rapid decline of the formerly prosperous harbour.  We took a quick break in the roofless shelter of the former Church of Ease before the extended tramp around the salt marsh and along the St Oswald’s Way into Alnmouth for lunch.  By now it was now the gusts were increasingly powerful but with hoods up we didn’t really notice the rain!  Lunch was taken in various sheltered locations in the village following a mass visit to the conveniences.  I don’t know if anyone managed “a swift half.”

The first section of the return retraced our route along the long distance path as far as the salt marsh and the ruins of the former 19th century guano shed.  From there we followed the Northumberland Coast Path over and between the dune belt, the caravan site and around part of Warkworth Golf Club links to return to the beach for the last few hundred metres back to the car park.  The strong, blustery wind that gave rise to an impressive sea of whitecaps earlier had now abated and there were even periods of blue sky and good visibility in the lee of the cold front that passed overhead on our return journey.  Towards the end of the walk I began to feel distinctly overdressed until the sky became overcast once more and the rain began again - plus there was now a distinctly cooler edge on the wind which had moved round and was now thankfully blowing onto our backs.  

In conclusion we all enjoyed an exceptional day out both in terms of the conditions, the scenery and in the company of a like-minded individuals.  The people who unfortunately had to cancel missed a really good day out.  Ian, Malcolm and myself really enjoyed your company, we hope you all enjoyed the day too, thank you.