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Fri 5th September 2014

Lindisfarne Pilgrims Way

Lindisfarne Pilgrims Way

Lindisfarne Pilgrims Way or A walk across the sands, clarts and water.

The group meet at the car park on the mainland just at the start of the tarmac causeway to the Island of Lindisfarne.  The first problem was that they! Have blocked off half the car park and now it can only take about 10 cars.  As we were waiting for the last person the local service bus pulled up and our last member turned up and having dumped her bags in Mikes van we were off.

The first part of the Way is some 10 to 15 meters from the road and runs parallel to the road for a while before heading directly to the main part of the Island.  While waiting for the group to assemble we had watched a couple of people trying to walk by the poles but they very quickly gave up as it is very clarty mud flats.

We walked along the road until we reach a bridge that crosses the stream South Low, here mike pointed out another good reason for following the road the stream being in the region of 3 or 4 feet deep.  Having crossed the bridge we left the road and started to follow the poles that mark the route across the sands.

The sand quickly gave way to a very thin layer of mud which was very slippy, it was like walking on an icy pavement.  The going under foot now regularly changed for mud to sand to large areas of sand under shallow water. 

By now the sense of isolation is quite strong even though way in the distance cars could be seen using the road to get to the island.  A strong westerly wind was thankfully blowing on to our backs and helping us on our way.  Some were in the middle we came across the first of two shelters for those caught out by rising tides.  I use the word shelter loosely as it is four poles sticking upright with a stout open wooden box like structure on the top with a rough vertical ladder to help you get to the box.

As we continued walking we could hear then see seals on a sand bar much closer to the sea and well away from any people. The next issue to impede our progress was an area of mud flats with lots of deep holes filled with black water.  The final hazard was just a few hundred meters from reaching dry land this was a fast flowing stream, fortunately it was not too deep and failed to fill one of the group who had wellies on much to Mikeís disappointment.

At last we had made it we had reached Holy Island, to be met by lots of cars and then crowds of people.  After such an inspiring and sense of space it was surreal to be hemmed in by some many people.  Eventually we arrived back at the cars after a bus ride of less than five minutes.

Mon 25th August 2014

Humbelton Hill and Yeavering Bell

Humbelton Hill and Yeavering Bell

Weatherwise this walk has to be the best of the whole year to date.  We had excellent visibility, lots of cumulus clouds and blue sky and contrasting views throughout.  The temperature was cool for the time of the year, but ideal for walking, and we managed to find plenty of sheltered spots out of the wind for elevenses, lunch etc.  The company was similarly excellent too even including a Swede on this occasion.  As is so often the case this personís spoken English was immaculate but try as we may nobody could pronounce his name despite it being only four letters long!  We thought that we were pronouncing the name correctly but he didnít think so.  It could have been embarrassing but both everybody saw the humour in the situation.

Everyoneís perception of a particular walk is different and this walk was no exception.  The nominal distance was measured as approximately 10 miles or 16 kilometres but the various pedometers and GPS units, sorry Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), totals produced a scatter of measurements roughly in agreement with this – so much for electronic accuracy.  Satnav systems are quite topical at present as only two days beforehand two satellites that were intended to form part of the European Galileo satellite navigation system went astray from their intended orbit after launch from French Guiana.  They were launched for the European Space Agency (ESA) which of course we pay for!

Travelling west at relatively low level we were soon getting really good views of the Milfield Plain, site of a massive glacial lake towards the end of the last Ice Age and the reason for the present day sand and gravel extraction site and Second World War airfield (RAF Milfield) part of which is still used by the Borders Gliding Club.  Sailplanes were being tugged aloft above our heads from mid-morning onwards and the occupants were the only people to get a better view of the Cheviots than us.  Our target for lunch was the Yeavering Bell the largest Iron Age hillfort in the area but before that we skirted the slopes of Humbelton Hill, Harehope Hill crossed the Akeld Burn near Gleadsclough to pass below the summit of White Law to have a picnic lunch just below the southern entrance to Yeavering Bell: The Hill of the Goats.  The whole of the route towards Yeavering Bell was strewn with archaeology (forts, settlements, homesteads, hut circles); a target rich environment for anyone interested in antiquities, there wasnít even time to consider the important site of Gefrin on the south side of the River Glen below and north of the hill itself.

The return route took us south-west over old field systems and much more recent shooting butts to join the St Cuthbertís Way passing south of Tom Tallonís Crag and coniferous plantations via Black Law and Gains Law towards our starting point.  The combination of the morningís rough walking, the wind and sunburn plus the time of day meant that nobody opted for the transit over Humbleton Hill alongside the deep cleft of the glacial channel to its immediate south.  The great whaleback bulk of Cheviot and its second-in-command, Hedgehope dominated the southern horizon.  The clear air made it easy to distinguish the large cairn that occupies the top of Hedgehope, the objective of a previous walk.  The heather was just about at its peak and the variations in sun and shadow revealed numerous shades of pink and purple.  There was no Grand Prix start on arrival back at the car park; everyone was far too relaxed (not tired) for that so hopefully a good day was had by all.  Thank you for your company and both Ian and I hope to see everyone again soon.


Mon 11th August 2014

St Cuthbert's Way Challenge Walk 2014

St Cuthbert's Way Challenge Walk 2014

Guided group

Iím often asked before and during walks what the terrain ahead is like.  I interpret this question as – ĎAre there many hillls?í. Now life as a guide when asked this question can be tricky. Do you simply tell the truth knowing that this may be demoralising? Or do you come up with an answer that is economical with the truth and get caught out in the lie?

This challenge walk was no different as I was asked the question about what lies ahead shortly after getting off the bus. So immmediately Iím faced with the usual dilema. Except in the case of this walk there really is no dilema. Itís easy to describe the route as 3 climbs with falt bits in between.  What of course is not necessary to add is that the climbs are long and sustained. So I emphasise that the climbs are there and that they are an integral part of the challenge but the rewards of the effort is the endless beauty of the borderlands and the flat bits in between!

Starting at Morebattle walking eastwards from Scotland to England was a pleasure. The weather was good for walking. The air was clear, a breeze blew from behind and we made good progress over the first challenge within the challenge, climbing up and over Wideopen Hill (368m) and then down to Kirk Yetholm through the valley floor.  Climb one and section one successfully negotiated!

From Kirk Yetholm the route climbs again over the ridge from one valley into the next. This climb took us over the border to a high point of about 340m. We descended gently following the Elsdon Burn to Hethpool crossing the College Valley. Climb two and section 2 successfully negotiated!

From Hethpool there is a final climb but it is some way off as the route follows the contours at the base of Wester and Easter Tors. It is when it turns up the valley between Easter Tor and Yeavering Bell that the time for honesty in description is the only option, simply because the route is obvious. It climbs up and up until the watershed at about 340m when it flattens out and the effort all becomes worth it because of the view. And what a view – the sun was shining on the purple heather which was in full bloom provding a startling splash of colour on the flanks of the stunning slopes of the Cheviot Hills. Climb three successfully negotiated! But the challenge is not yet over. The walk from this point is easier than it has been but triedness makes it seem longer than it is – so it is with some relief when Wooler comes into sight and I can say with complete honesty that the route is ALL downhill from this point.

Great day. Well done to all who completed this challenge and a special word of thanks to the folk who I was walking with – we had one of the best days.

For the record the route covered 20.4 miles and we were walking for 9 hours and 10 minutes (which included 1 hour and 20 minutes of breaks) and therefore walked at an average pace of 2.2mph. The highest point was 374m and the total ascent was 1054m. A great challenge walk, with great company and in stunning scenery. What more could you ask for?

Chris Constable