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Tue 4th November 2014

Nordic Walk - Warkworth to Alnmouth

Nordic Walk - Warkworth to Alnmouth

I had been keeping an eye on the weather all week via the Met Office and was so pleased to see that it was forecast for a dry, sunny and warm (around 13°C) day.  The tide was on its way out as well which was a good sign.

We all met nice and early.  Introductions were made between members of the group who hadn’t met before, poles were distributed and we did the warm up, as usual.  As I introduced myself to the group I was met with lots of comments of “we know who you are”.  I explained it was in case they had forgotten my name!  I was reassured that they would never forget my name!

A few members of the group were concerned that they would not manage the 10 miles (as our Nordic walks are usually around the 5 mile mark) and I reminded them that it was actually two 5 mile walks as there was a lunch break in the middle – some of them still weren’t convinced but I reassured them they would be okay.

We set off down the bank, from the car park, towards Warkworth beach, at which point some people took off their fleeces as it was warm – t-shirt weather in November!

I told everyone to go at their own pace and that I would be checking technique. I also explained that if anyone needed any help they should give me a shout.  

It didn’t take long for the group to split into twos and threes to chat as they headed up the beach towards Alnmouth.  Kirsten became a very popular member of the group as she offered around sweets to everyone.  

We were walking along at a nice pace when we heard (what we thought was) a funny robotic sounding bird.  It seemed to be saying “nawdic, nawdic, nawdic”.  We realised a few minutes along that it was actually Kirsten who had discovered that this was a good way for her to keep her arms straight, whatever helps you Kirsten!

We came to a section of the walk where there were some rocks (Birling Carrs).  Unfortunately the tide hadn’t gone out enough so a detour came into play (it wouldn’t be a Julie walk without one). Paul and John headed straight up the grassy bank, to the caravan park, and the group followed once they reached the top.  The bank was quite steep but everyone managed no problem with the help of our poles.

Much to everyone’s delight we came back down to the beach quickly and were greeted by the sight of three flocks of geese flying in varying formations.  

We headed on towards the River which split Warkworth beach and Alnmouth.  I gave the group the option of swimming across or heading up to St Cuthbert’s Cross, which is said to be the location where St Cuthbert agreed to become Bishop of Lindisfarne when petitioned by the King.  Needless to say we headed up to St Cuthbert’s Cross. As we were walking towards the cycle path which would take us to Alnmouth, there was a muddy and slippery area, around some mud flats, over which everyone managed to keep their feet – EXCEPT for me, as you will see by the photographs. The knee of one of my trousers took the brunt of the slide.  No injury just concern from the group.  
We walked along the cycle path that had just had a new layer added, which isn’t good for cyclists but is excellent for Nordic walking, as the poles (minus paws) kept a very good grip. The pace was steady, although people were starting to tire slightly and techniques weren’t as good as usual.  
Once we came off the cycle path, and Alnmouth was nearly in touching distance, the pace picked up and we headed to the café.

At the café John checked his GPS and informed everyone we had walked 5.6 miles that morning, although Martin’s said 7 miles.

The Dandelion Café was our stop for a lunch of sandwiches and cakes. Chocolate, potato and orange cake for some and apple and stem ginger cake for others.  Mary was very good and didn’t have cake, a fact she was very keen to point out.

After lunch we headed back to Warkworth, missing out St Cuthbert’s Cross and heading straight over the dunes back onto the sand.  

Kirsten suggested a Nordic race and drew a line in the sand.  Unfortunately I got a fit of giggles so the race was curtailed quickly.  At this point some of the group decided they were going to “welly it” (aka go faster) and shot off into the distance.

We all got back to the cars where John and Martin checked their GPS’s and they read just over 10 miles and 12 miles respectively and everyone decided they would go by Martin’s as 12 miles sounded better.
We did our cool down with an extra lady (who had walked along the beach) joining us and I told everyone about up and coming walks/events and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

Thu 16th October 2014

Draconid Meteor Shower Event

Ingram  - 7th October 2014

Our second attempt to observe a meteor shower in the Ingram or Breamish Valley was much more successful than the first when an 8/8ths cloud deck obscured the whole sky.  Although the Draconid Meteor Shower is never as brilliant and distinct, nor the meteors so numerous as the Perseid’s in early August, some of our number did see a handful from their “observing positions” lying down in the bracken out of the wind on the upper slopes of Turf Knowe.  The brisk wind certainly wasn’t conducive to standing around and the rising, almost full moon, did tend to wash-out the sky contrast so that we definitely missed some of the fainter streaks.

The big advantage of the Draconid event is that usually it is necessary to wait until the early hours of the morning to see the best displays but this time the radiant, the area from which the meteors originate, was high in the sky, almost overhead from early in the evening.  Before we left the warmth of Ingram Village Hall, with a hot drink inside of us, we had a short introduction to the what, when, where, why and how of meteor watching using computer generated images.  Then it was time to leave the warmth of the blacked-out and dimmed hall for the walk to the observation site.  By now it was fully dark and everyone walked up towards the viewpoint in the increasing moonlight trying to ignore it and continue to allow our eyes to become even more dark adapted.  The moon shadows were very marked due to both the low angle of the rising moon and the fact that it was almost full.  We had a more or less clear sky with a very thin overcast of high cirrus in places that slowly increased over the observing period but the main circumpolar constellations were easy to see.  The head of Draco the Dragon, the radiant from which the meteor shower appeared was less distinct but easy to find using The Plough, the Pole Star, Cassiopeia, Hercules and the bright star Vega.  Whilst in the vicinity some of us took the opportunity to see the adjacent tri-radial cairn and the excavated burial cairn containing the two open cists with their capstones, it helped to keep us warm too.  

Our return downhill and back along to the Village Hall and cars was assisted by the strong light of the moon, we appreciated just how much when walking through the avenue of trees just before the fork in the road towards Ingram Bridge car park, we could easily have been in a tunnel.  No moonlight penetrated the trees but the sound of our boots on the road and the feel of the tarmac underfoot compensated for the loss of sight.  We were fortunate in having a lovely group of like-minded individuals at the event, some old friends and “frequent fliers” and it was especially good to see Paul and his wife reappear after an absence of a mere four years – I hope it wasn’t something we’d said?  

Thank you for attending and we hope that everyone both enjoyed the experience and learnt a little about aspects of the night sky.  Please keep your eyes open on the Shepherds Walks website for our January 2015 walk for what will hopefully be a novel kind of walking in the dark, this time in daytime and on the level which is also easy to get to regardless of the weather – intriguing or what!

Richard & Ian        


Tue 14th October 2014

Night Walk Mystery Tour Blog

Night Walk Mystery Tour Blog

A very select group (John, Kathy, Sharon and Ray) plus Ian and I gathered outside Shepherds Walks Headquarters prior to the walk.  The two individuals who cancelled missed a really pleasant “night out.”  As we were getting ready some patches of high-level cirrus cloud produced a pair of mock-suns (aka “sun dogs” or “parhelia”) either side of the soon to set Sun.  And we hadn’t even started the walk!

The plan was to walk up onto the moor north of Rothbury and watch the changes in the sky to both east and west as the sun sets whilst having our sandwiches.  In the meantime we set off via the riverside stopping on the way to see the site of a long gone public house which was also functioned as the local court, the former site of Rothbury Castle and its recycled stones, the old school and also met and had a quick chat with Mike Evens (also a Shepherds Walks Guide) before heading uphill to join the Carriageway.  The views over Rothbury were excellent and it was easy to pick out old and new e.g. the old toll road south out of the village and the new cottage hospital adjacent to the “new” golf course which occupies the site of the former racecourse which closed in 1965.  Even the rapidly evaporating contrails of the overflying jets told a story.  We watched the different colours in the sky to both east and west from our vantage point and with the eye of faith may even have seen the earth’s shadow rising in the east as the sky turned red, orange and yellow in the west following sunset.  

High tea was taken just before we descended Physic Lane and we had the discussion as to whether that should really be Lonnen in Northumbrian but no one was that dogmatic.  It was almost completely dark as we crossed the bridge into Thropton where we encountered a hedgehog walking round and round in circles before disappearing in the direction of the Black Burn.  Ian and I secretly hoped that our navigation was a little better than the hedgehog’s.  It was pitch black under the trees on the approach to the footbridge over the River Coquet on the southern edge of Thropton so torches were used for the sake of safety.  The sounds and smells became much more noticeable in the dark and it was easy to appreciate where the Coquet was flowing fast and shallow over gravel beds compared to the deeper and more slowly flowing sections.  The smell of the soil and vegetation was enhanced by the cool, moist air – things that we would probably have missed in daylight when sight is the dominant sense.

Stopping on the footbridge we could identify the common constellations in the northern sky, The Plough, Polaris the Pole Star, Cassiopeia as well as picking out the movement of several satellites as the moved sedately against the starfield background.  We compared what we could see with a free smartphone astronomy app which not only confirmed our skill but also provide us with individual star names, the time of local sunset and the times of civil, nautical  and astronomical twilight, isn’t technology wonderful?  The technique of using individual stars as skymarks to aim for when navigating at night was discussed as we crossed the flood-plain south towards Simonside.  The lights of the individual farms also provided good aiming points and we emerged on to the minor road linking Little Tosson and Whitton via someone’s back garden – we weren’t lost, the Right-of-Way passes directly through their property.  Nevertheless is must be odd, not to say a little un-nerving to see a line of torches bobbing through your garden whilst watching the TV.  

As we walked east along the road we were perfectly placed to anticipate and then watch the moon rise in the ENE over the moor north of Rothbury.  We spotted the increasing brightness of the moons light pillar on the skyline prior to it making its appearance and were impressed by how quickly the half-degree diameter of moon’s disk rose into the sky and how it quickly produced strong shadows and contrasting black, white and grey shades on the ground.  The brightness of the newly waning moon, it was full only four days previously, also had the effect of washing out much of the sky.  The constellations we’d viewed so easily an hour before were now much dimmer and allowing for the thin veil of high ice crystal cloud we definitely couldn’t see so many stars but the moonshine meant we didn’t need to use our torches either.

The final approach back into Rothbury was via Lady’s Bridge and the riverside path below Beggar’s Rigg car park to the Cow Haugh car park where most people were parked.  There were several potential routes we could have taken but the one we took turned out to be both interesting and rewarding.  It is a long time since we have had such favourable weather on a night walk at this time of year, the company was excellent and I only hope that everyone enjoyed their night out as much as we did.  Let’s do another night walk soon.  

Richard & Ian
Sunday, 12 October 2014