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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 person’s 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 didn’t think so.  It could have been embarrassing but both everybody saw the humour in the situation.

Everyone’s 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 wasn’t 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 Cuthbert’s Way passing south of Tom Tallon’s Crag and coniferous plantations via Black Law and Gains Law towards our starting point.  The combination of the morning’s 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

I’m often asked before and during walks what the terrain ahead is like.  I interpret this question as – ‘Are there many hillls?’. 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 I’m faced with the usual dilema. Except in the case of this walk there really is no dilema. It’s 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

Tue 5th August 2014

Hauxley Nordic Walk

Hauxley Nordic Walk

The morning didn’t start with great looking weather, in fact everyone had rain (some torrential) before they left home.  I was checking the Met Office website first thing to see what we could expect.  It did say it would be dry from lunchtime and with this in mind I decided on shorts and t-shirt with waterproofs in the bag.

The group met with plenty of time to spare and as most of them were regular Nordic walkers they all started catching up.  I introduced everyone to the newest member of our group and explained that the walk was to go through the Nature Reserve and if they kept their eyes open they may see the red squirrels which had just returned there, we would then go onto the beach and come back on the coastal path, a discussion took place and it was agreed that the group would be happy to stay on the beach and make this a linear walk, so the plan changed slightly.

Just before we started the warm up we had a short rain shower so everyone quickly donned their waterproofs.  After the warm up I reminded everyone that they should go at their own pace.  The group had a wide range of abilities and length of time Nordic walking but I reminded everyone that my eyes would be focused on their technique so to remember to keep their elbows straight.

The group started off and soon settled into little groups.  I dropped back to talk one of the group through technique as this was only her second Nordic walk she had been on after completing a training morning with us.  It didn’t take long for her to get back into the swing of it.

We left the Nature Reserve and dropped onto the sand when most people took their waterproofs off because the rain shower had lasted less than 5 minutes.

We headed North on the beach and everyone again picked the pace they wanted to go at with John and Cathy leading the pack at a cracking pace.  

The great part of walking on the beach is that we could really work on technique and people could feel the effort they were putting in and also check the sand to see either the holes or alternatively the little squiggles their poles left.  Squiggles just mean that they aren’t pushing through their straps enough and I gave extra pointers to help.

As John had been on the Advanced Technique course I went to the front with him and we left the group behind as I pushed him through the full advanced steps and really made him and me work!  After a few minutes we turned around and watched the group come towards us.  We could see that everyone had got into pairs or sometimes fours and were enjoying the walk, scenery and weather.  When the group came together I suggested that (if they wanted to) they had a try at going faster than they usually walked (just for a while) to try and get people to the next level of their Nordic walking.  

We got to the top of the beach where the group at the front had stopped to chat and discuss the merits of having a tea shop at the end or in the middle of a walk and we were going to turn around when someone said “we’re close to Amble and Spurrelli’s (the ice cream café)” after a short discussion we went up onto the coastal path to Amble via the harbour and everyone had an ice cream.  The funniest part was when Cathy had gone back into the café and John put his ice cream tub onto Cathy’s chair and Cathy sat down without looking needless to say John was in trouble (luckily they are married to each other).

We started back the way we had come with John and Geoff (aka Elbows) taking up the front we dropped onto the beach as soon as we could and walked back to Hauxley Nature Reserve.  

At Hauxley we had a cool down and I told everyone about the Rothbury Railway Nordic Walk on 6th September and the Pilgrims Causeway Nordic walk on 27th September.
It was an excellent walk with a slight detour (which is now why John has given me the nickname of Julie “Detour” Barnett) for ice cream, fabulous weather and brilliant company.

Thank you everyone for a great afternoon I look forward to seeing you at the Rothbury Railway walk or the Pilgrims Causeway walk.

Julie “Detour” Barnett