Davidsons Linn from Wedder Leap
I usually write the walk blog the day after a walk before sending it off to Jon. This one is no different except that a chance observation in today’s Sunday Times (ST) caught my eye prompting a few thoughts. Two sentences highlighted in an article in the ST News Review read as follows “I’ve had trips to the Kremlin and the Smithsonian ruined by guides who didn’t realise I’m only there to say I’ve been. Not to learn anything.” It struck a chord, for several reasons, about the subconscious assumptions made about the purposes and motivations that both participants and guide make concerning a walk.
I assume that people want to know about the things they are seeing and prepare accordingly. For me the guiding bit is really only about relieving participants of the need to navigate in its broadest sense (detailed route selection, safety, places to stop, timing and pacing etc). The broader role is to explain and interpret what we see along the way for those who want to know. Realistically, and totally understandably, not everyone does, for example they use stops to get their breath back, commune with nature, play with their electronic gadgets (GPS, SLR camera, phone etc) use their binoculars, have an extra “snack” (Ian), have a chat etc. In a parallel life in mountain rescue it is axiomatic that you don’t make any assumptions but check and verify everything you can before embarking on a particular course of action and in an ideal world we do. Then of course there is reality and the restrictions of the limited information field that is available at the time. All of this suggests that, with normally distributed groups of walkers, it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time. Oh the guilt and depression.
However, it is unrealistic to assume that we all have the same interests and motivations, we don’t. Some of our number really did want to visit Davidson’s Linn and wouldn’t have gone alone for a host of reasons. Others took the opportunity to visit a beautiful and quiet corner of Northumberland in the company of like-minded people for an experience “in the round” whilst at least two of our number took the opportunity to hone their navigational skills en-route. The photographers came into their own at the waterfall itself where we had lunch in an idyllic warm and sunny spot. The incidentals, like seeing the bird of prey being mobbed near Murder Cleugh, talking to Ian Tait above his hayfields whilst climbing Barrow Law, or almost causing an international incident (well, at least a regional one) on the Border Fence by “discussing” the relative merits of Newcastle and Sunderland football teams with partisan mountain bikers, resulted in an experience which is hopefully more than the sum of its parts. Even the two dogs got a decent walk and provided some interest, not to say, hilarity throughout the walk. The weather was excellent too, high pressure, blue sky with the odd fair weather cumulus. The air temperature wasn’t great but the sun was strong, the wind was a “bit draughty” in places too, hence the importance of knowing where to stop. I really had to resist jumping-in for a quick seminar about clouds when someone made a throw-away remark about “fluffy cumulus” but 1 out of 10 for knowing the word cumulus. They were Cumulus Humilis actually but there is also Cu Mediocris, Cu Congestus, Cu Fractus and even a Radiatus variety too. Additionally there are all of the what, when, why, who, and how questions arising from atmospheric instability represented by cumuliform clouds but that will have to wait for another day – whatever do you mean obsessive compulsive disorder? The sky represents half of what we see, especially in the “Land of the Far Horizons” and particularly where we were but is frequently ignored except when we get things we don’t want from it like the various forms of precipitation, 8/8ths cloud, strong winds etc. Similarly the landscape, everyone can pick out some of the individual landscape elements and characteristics but linking them together into a working physical and human system needs a bit more knowledge and insight.
So where does that leave us? Simply that we are all motivated to walk by a myriad of different enthusiasms and that this very diversity is a major strength in itself. Oh, and I’ve found a cunning way to increase the pace of slower walkers too. I offer to “clarify” (quite a short tutorial usually as long as you don’t ask any questions) the different agri-environment environmental stewardship schemes available to farmers. Usually I only get as far as the broad outline of the scheme, not even onto the difference between the Organic and Upland Entry Level Schemes before the pace picks-up and they are off!
Alternatively it might just have been that they could see that we were only a few hundred yards from Ian Tait’s Tearoom at Barrowburn. There was a queue but I didn’t have the heart to continue the tutorial (monologue!), everyone looked so happy and comfortable and anyway nobody had left me a seat. Now you all know why Ian always walks at the rear of the group and is the happiest person on the walk! Sorry about the seven hours of continuous sunshine, don’t get too used to it. Ian and I hope that everyone enjoyed the day and that we will see you again soon.
Sunday, 20 April 2014
Arthurs Pike and Bonscale Pike
The walk was due to start at 9.30am from Pooley Bridge Market Cross but everyone was in good time and in good spirits even though there was a slight amount of rain in the air. The Lakes were about to be ‘invaded’ from the North East contingent, all eleven of us (bar one) had travelled across from locations such as Hexham, Bellingham, Cramlington and Newcastle. Oh yes, Rothbury too!
The mini bus duly arrived and off we set for the inaugural Shepherds Walks in the Lake District. Down we went to Howtown, a charming hamlet filled with history due to its bobbin making past in the Industrial Revolution. Now a stopping off place for the Ullswater steamers.
After getting walking sticks adjusted, gear checked, off we went up the steep ascent to our first Wainwright target of the day, Bonscale Pike (1718 feet). This is no mean feat for our feet, quite an incline but everyone managed it admirably. We paused for a well deserved coffee break three quarters of the way up and took in the amazing views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The Helvellyn range was particularly stunning with snow glistening. The rain had stopped too and the strong wind was on our backs, seeming to push us along.
The elation was tangible as we ‘bagged’ our first Wainwright of the day. Jon captured it on his iphone and it was duly Tweeted. Lots of smiling, happy, pleased faces amongst us all. What a great way to spend a Sunday morning!
Then onwards to our next peak, Arthurs Pike (1747 feet), almost a ridge walk now. Time for more team photos as we achieved our aim of two Wainwrights in a day. We started to descend and found a perfect place for a well earned lunch by a stream. Suitably refreshed we then headed off to see an ancient stone Circle named locally as ‘the Cockpit’ and then on to see a Bronze Age burial site which looked quite small for a Chieftan but Jon explained such Chiefs were buried in a foetal position, they weren’t really pygmy’s!
Final hill of the day was Heughscar Hill (one of Wainwrights so called ‘Outlying Fells’) and then down back into Pooley Bridge.
A great day was had by all and pretty memorable as being Shepherds Walks first expedition to the marvellous Lake District.
Well done everyone!
Training Walk 2 - Coastal Challenge route
There were three features of the walk from Beadnell to Alnmouth that stood out on Saturday.
The first was and is the magnificence of the geology of the Northumberland coast. Taking a line, as this walk does, enables the contrast of sandy bays and rocky cliffs to be seen and to aid in understood how this geology shapes the use of the coastal areas by humans. Where there are breaks in the rocks humans have gathered and sought a living. An example of this is Craster. A natural break in the rocky shore made into a harbour saw the establishment of the village that was and remains largely based on the fishing industry.
Indeed some of today’s walkers took the opportunity to buy their famous Craster kippers.
The sandy bays and more gentle contours lend themselves to more recreational pasttimes and in particular to the game of golf. Plenty of sand for the bunkers! But the natural feature that attracted most attenion is the rock formations. The first real glimpse of this is just north of Dunstanborough around the Greymare Rock area where a fold in the strata is obvious. The natural looks man made but isn’t because it is seen repeatedly if you take the time to look back as you leave Craster and after passing Cullernose Point. More photopgraphs were taken here than anywhere else during the day.
The second feature is defined by the geology: and this is Dunstanborough Castle. It is easy to see why it was built were it was as a defensive fortification. It commands all that is around it. Built upon a cliff that is so sheer and inaccessible that it is the home to a kittywake colony and with clear views across the land it was the obvious site to rule and defend a kingdom from.
The third feature of the walk was the wind. We pushed and prodded our way into the wind all day. We had a few drops of rain but for the most part the sun shone strongly and the air was clear so we had good views but the wind never gave up. We had a good walk but the energy we used was worth more than the 15 miles or so that we covered. Well done to everyone who walked so well. This was a good training walk and excellent preparation for the challenge in May. It was a relief to get into Alnmouth and turn away from the wind for the last half mile back to the car park.
We covered 15.5 miles in 6 hours and 15 minutes. The stop time was about 50 minutes which means that the overall average distance covered was 2.5 miles an hour. However the actual pace of walking was nearer 3 miles and hour.
I look forward to catching up with those of you who are doing the challenge walk and thanks to all of the walkers for their company.