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Tue 30th June 2015

Cragside Challenge Walk 2015

Cragside Challenge Walk 2015

On Saturday we had superb weather for the 2015 Cragside Challenge Walk.

Just under 100 walkers completed the 13 mile walk from Cragside. They first followed the River Coquet to Rothbury before climbing up to and over Simonside before dropping down to Tosson.

They then walked along the valley bottom to Thropton before climbing up to the North of Rothbury before dropping back into Cragside.

A good day was had by all.

Wed 24th June 2015

Copper Snout and Clennel Street Nordic Walk

Copper Snout and Clennel Street Nordic Walk

Sunday 21st June 2015

The forecast wasn’t great for the day ahead but we all met up ready and raring to go.  Discussions took place over how many and which layers we were going to wear as can be seen from the group photograph most of us looked as if we were dressed for the middle of winter (not the middle of June) as woolly hats, waterproofs and gloves were donned.  There were lots of familiar faces and a few new ones in the group. 

Introductions, a warm up and a description of the beginning of the walk was done and we set off.Martin, Kirsten and Paul set off at a cracking pace, mainly to get off the road and we walked in a neat single file to the first gate and hill.  I spotted a squashed adder on the road.  On reaching the gate a few layers were shed and the first complaint at the sign of a hill, I reminded the group of the Nordic walking technique for walking up a hill and off we went pass peth path.  I explained the route we were going to take from here and also the Nordic walking technique to use when walking downhill.  Everyone was happy at this time.

Then came the path and hill to Copper Snout (once a branch of the drove road Clennell Street). On the way up some of the group took the opportunity to admire the view (aka getting their breath back) which is outstanding and all the while we were serenaded by the guns at Otterburn as the army was live firing.  When I was asked if we were nearly at the lunch stop I told people “its just at the top of this hill”, what they didn’t realise was that there were lots of false tops on this route and just as they thought they were getting near the top there was another hill behind it.  I was getting less popular by the minute.

Once people could see the lunch stop spot they walked a lot quicker, we all ate our lunch.  I handed around shortbread which Martin and Debbie’s mam had very kindly made us, and this went down a treat. 

I took this opportunity of telling everyone of upcoming walks and I also explained that I was looking at dates for the rest of the year for our Nordic walks and asked if anyone would be interested in a December/Christmas walk with mulled wine and mince pies and this was decided would be a good idea.

With the rain still light we all stood up ready to set off. The people at the front decided they would like to head down the hill but we turned them around and we went up another hill, which was not as steep as Copper Snout.

The next section was uneven and boggy and not easy to Nordic walk on but we carried on, the rain got very heavy and we were all soaked but spirits were high and everyone was still smiling (just).

Walking past Kidland Forest was a much nicer, flatter path and lovely to Nordic walk on. At the end of this path there were two routes, as a few people had reached this point before I had they had a decision to make, the left path, straight on or wait for us.  Most waited but Paul and Kirsten had steamed ahead on the left path – oops that wasn’t the way.  I shouted for them and they came back to join the group, Kirsten blaming Paul who had followed a green arrow on the ground.

The rain had now turned into hailstones.  We were laughing because we had now witnessed 4 different types of weather, of wind, sun, rain and hail.  You have to love the weather in Northumberland. 

As we got back to Alwinton as we were still soaking wet most people jumped into their cars to go home, saying they had enjoyed it and would see us soon.

A few of us headed to the Rose and Thistle for light refreshment and to dry off.Thank you everyone for coming along on this walk, I hope you enjoyed it.  Thank you also to Martin for being the volunteer on the day. 

John told me of all of the plants and birds he saw on this walk.  Some of these included crisswort, Yorkshire fog, purple moor grass, wild thyme and bilberry, juvenile robins, newly feldged pied wagtails, skylark, meadow pipit, curlew and oystercatcher.

See you soon
Julie x

Tue 23rd June 2015

Salters Way Drove Road Blog

Salters Way Drove Road Blog

Sunday 21st June 2015

Midsummer’s Day dawned full of expectation except that I was awoken at about 03.00 hours by heavy rain drumming on the roof, surely not an omen of things to come?

It was lovely to see The Regulars again and to welcome back both Alison, Peter, Val and Darren, none of whom we had seen recently – it is not an excuse to live abroad in County Durham, London or Greater Manchester although the latter does have the disadvantage of being on the wrong side of the Great Divide (aka The Pennines).

We set-off uphill a little earlier than advertised for the summit cairn of Hogdon Law (approx 540m) into the quite breezy westerly wind.  It was relatively cool and there was rain in the air.  The day’s weather was such that everyone instinctively decided to get togged-up with over-trousers and general wet weather gear even before leaving the cars.  The clue was being precipitated upon form a great height as we got ready.  Hats and waterproof gloves magically appeared on heads and hands over the next hour too.  By the time we topped-out for morning coffee at Hogdon Law we were wearing the same kit we had worn at the turn of the year.  It must be summer.

Then the fun actually began, it was called “Find you own way across the peat hags and mosses “ to the fence forming the eastern border of Kidland Forest.  The intention was to contour across from Hogdon Law to the vicinity of Black Butt just over a kilometre away.  Good game with added fun provided by the elements, heavy showers being foremost amongst them not to mention the saturated mossy conditions underfoot.  Then we had the privilege of being even more exposed to the wind and passing heavy showers as we trekked north towards Cushat Law via the Sting Head col clarty bit (note the classic British under statement).  The climb to the summit cairn on Cushat Law and lunch was punctuated by more showers, just for a change.   The phrase from a nonsense poem “After a drought of half-an-hour” springs to mind, except that we didn’t get a drought that lasted that long.  Lunch was taken backs-to-the-wind in whatever shelter we could find around the cairn which are never big enough to take a decent sized party.  Soggy sandwiches were enjoyed by all prior to the descent down Bush Knowe with Smalehope Burn to our south and using Shill Moor as our aiming point to gain the valley and gain the Salter’s Way.  Sometimes we could plainly see the detail of the surrounding landscape in bright sunshine, at others it simply disappeared in the poor visibility of the passing squalls.  For a few minutes over lunch we could clearly see Bamburgh Castle on the coast and south-east as far as Lynemouth, but it didn’t last long.  The downdraughts of cold air brought-on by the precipitation lowered the temperature quite noticeably and at one point it was bordering on sleet.  The three-hundred-and-sixty degree views continued to vary from excellent to invisible in the rain and low cloud.  All in all it was an interesting day both overhead and underfoot.  Phrases such as “If you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have come” spring to mind and there may even have been some muttering in the ranks but I’m not paranoid.  

Think of the day as being a stress-test for your outdoor clothing and not a summer walk, clearly a misnomer.  As for the seminar and tutorial on drove roads, the conditions really weren’t conducive to either and they were cancelled due to lack of interest.  I will provide some notes for everyone who attended and promise not to ask questions or set tests on the content.  On receipt you can always adopt the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and press DELETE or deny ever having received them (another common SOP).

The day turned-out quite differently to how I’d anticipated it but was no less fun for that.  It was really excellent if, like me, you find the weather interesting – but there is no accounting for taste.  I bet everyone remembers this walk, on the day of the summer solstice, even if not for the reasons intended when signing-up.  The prevailing weather reminds me of the anonymous ditty:

 “ Whether the weather be fine, whether the weather be not, whether the weather be cold, whether the weather be hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.”

And we did, I hope you enjoyed the experience.  It is fortunate that we British have a well developed sense of irony – I think?