Ford Figure-of-Eight Blog
This is an exceptional route for close-in observations of some exceptional features, of which more later, and also for distant views of the Cheviots, the Eildon Hills and the odd glimpse of the North Sea. However, due to the generally overcast anticyclonic gloom, high humidity and the constantly varying cloud-base distant views were the exception. It was quite good for midges however if sheltered from the light breeze but generally speaking nobody appreciated that.
Ten of us set-off from the car park straight into Fordhill Wood for fun with long wet grass with added nettles and thistles, my legs tingled for the rest of the day. Out into fields of even longer and wetter grass and the first bit of avoiding the really clarty bits including jumping over streams and pointing out distant features that ordinarily would be visible - but weren’t! The electrified pheasant rearing pens on the way to Ford Moss and the predominance of Scots Pine plantations provided a bit of a distraction and we were soon at the interpretation board adjacent to the chimney (the old colliery chimney and engine house) prior to the walk across the heather covered sandstone Broomridge. Pausing on top of the ridge to view the Moss we saw our first roe deer of the day bounding down the slope towards the cover afforded by the mixed woodland on its southern edge. Elevenses had been promised at the Goatscrag rock shelter above Routin Linn Farm even if we were early (we were), unfortunately the midges also attended. The engravings of what are interpreted as four deer on the sandstone of the rock shelter gave rise to a conversation, OK a mini-discourse, on the Mesolithic (i.e. Middle Stone Age 10,000 to 4,000 years BC) hunter-gatherers nomadic lifestyle and what the local environment would have been like then. However archaeologists can’t be certain that the engravings date from that period. To be fair I distinctly remember warning everyone before the walk started not to ask too many questions because the answers might put them to sleep.
Elevenses over we set off across the top of the ridge to descend by farm track for the waterfall in the Broomridgedean Burn. We arrived to find a photo shoot in progress involving a tame buzzard so we didn’t stay long. The next stop was the Routin Linn rock panel the largest cup and ring marked outcrop in England which gave rise to lots of speculation and discussion about their origins and meaning. Incidentally the Ordnance Survey spell Routin Linn on their maps as seen but different publications often use Roughtin Linn instead, I didn’t want you to think I can’t spell. The adjacent ancient enclosure consisting of three rows and ditches was hidden beneath lush grass and wildflower growth and some rampant bright pink rhododendrons. Almost time for lunch now so a quick dash up the road towards Lowick got us onto pastoral land for lunch in the lee of a large mound with sufficient “ventilation” to discourage the midges but not before spotting some purple orchids (their colour not their name) along the verge and using the local knowledge of one of our number to direct a lost motorist to some kennels.
Following lunch we set out on an anticlockwise yomp through the fields towards the eastern entrance into Ford Moss Nature Reserve, a lowland peat bog of post-glacial origin. The access was “geet very clarty” (North East Mud and Mere Scale) necessitating a slight route deviation for several hundred metres before regaining the path near to the fenced-off remains of the collapsing former colliery manager’s house. The huge sandstone blocks of which the building was constructed looked out of scale with what remained of the shored-up crooked windows and doorway. Coal mining had taken place here from medieval times and finally ended just before the First World War in 1910. We had a look at one of the fenced-off bell pit shafts and the associated spoil heap which were now grassed-over and blended into the landscape. However, once everyone “got there eye in” the whole area was littered with these small scale industrial archaeological remains. Shortly afterwards we heard a deer barking ahead of us surprised a roe deer in a clearing just before emerging out of the conifer plantation adjacent to the Friendly Hound B&B.
The large southern loop of the figure-of-eight route now completed we travelled gently uphill towards Brownridge Moor for the final coffee, tea and photo opportunity of the walk. From the ridge top we could easily pick out the three humped silhouette of the Eildon Hills, known as Trimontium to the Romans, almost 42 kilometres away as the crow flies to the west-south-west. After this it was literally all downhill back to Ford village – then uphill again to the cars. There were lots of incidentals along the way like the cuckoo we heard somewhere in the trees on the edge of the Moss, the buzzards overhead, the rabbits everywhere etc plus my own very occasional observations (aka droning-on). Considering it didn’t actually rain everyone had a thoroughly wet time. I hope that the high squelch factor (wet vegetation, streams, bog etc) didn’t put anyone off too much. Oh and I’ve included a few panoramic photos of what we would have seen had the visibility been better. And don’t think that I didn’t notice the huge decrease in questions as we approached Ford, there were certainly no slow learners present. I hope you all enjoyed the day; I know my wife did and she thanks you all for it.
Helvellyn is the third highest peak in the Lake District (and also the third in England) and todays walk promised to be one to remember. At 950 metres above sea level it is certainly one of the mountains many people want to climb.
The big question on everybody’s mind as we arrived was the low cloud. Would we get a view from the summit or would the cloud burn off as forecasted. Only time would tell as we had a fair bit of climbing to get under our belt first.
Paul Freeman, one of the other shepherds Walks guides had arrived early and had already greeted the walkers as they had arrived, with many of them venturing over from the East side of the country.
We set off promptly at 9.30am and made very good progress as we ascended the steep back slope of our target, Helvellyn. Still covered in mist but ever hopeful of it burning off as per the forecast!
After a long climb of just over two hours in length we made it to the top and had a well-earned lunch break at the shelter on the top, which gave us some great shelter for our well-earned break.
The views were not great from the summit but they soon were after we’d set off again making our descent to Thirlspot via Whiteside. Suddenly everything opened up for us and the views were great, especially because of the mist still hugging the fells in places, it was truly gorgeous!
Down we went, back to the Thirlmere valley floor and just enough time for a drink at the Kings Head pub before our taxi arrived to take us back to the car park at Wythburn.
A ‘grand day out’ as Wallace& Grommit would say!
Housesteads to Allendale
Had Sundance done enough to influence the Rain Gods? He had soft shoe shuffled, he had even washed and reproofed his over trouser. Sunday dawned bright and warm, question was would it stay this way? By the time all the group had assembled at Allendale it was still bright with sunny periods BUT the wind just had an edge to it.
On arriving at Housesteads the first order of the day was a loo stop and after walking about ten meters or so it was group photo time. It was only now that the walk proper started, except we were walking northwards and uphill when we should be going south and down into the Tyne valley! On reaching Housesteads Roman Fort the track swung south and downhill. It was here that Mike took great delight in pointing out two radio mast in the far distance, Why? Although Mike had assured us it was downhill all the way, yet we still managed to have at least five uphill sections. On the positive side we have now managed to train Mike into stopping for 11 o’clock ish coffee break.
Crossing the A69 was time consuming and was no were as pleasant as crossing the R. South Tyne by the bridge leading to Ridley Hall. Crossing the Tyne also meant we were leaving the Cheviots behind and entering the North Pennines and whole new set of geology for Mike to get excited about.
A short walk brought us to the National Trust’s estate of Allen Bank. The woodland path followed the west bank of the R. Allen up to Planky Mill, where we stopped for lunch. After lunch we crossed the wooden bridge to the east bank and now followed that side of the river heading for the hardest climb of the day. After 2Km the path splits and we took the one up to Staward Peel (remains of) it was very steep and slippery. When we got to the peel the remains are somewhat disappointing to say the least. Continuing on the narrow ridge allowed glimpses through the trees back to where we started the day and forward to the end of the day. From here we were back in to the open with views all round. We crossed a couple of fields before crossing the A686 at High Staward.
After we reached the high point of the minor road we now realised why Mike had pointed the radio masts we were only a couple of hundred of meters away from them. We now began to descend back down into the valley for the final stint along the banks of the East Allen river towards Allen Dale Town the last mile seemed to take forever and then to top it off we had another steep uphill section back in to the town centre and the coffee shop (just managed it 15 minutes before it closed). Yes Sundance had pulled it off a dry Day.