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Mon 23rd September 2013

Whittingham Vale

Whittingham Vale

It was Christine Hall’s fault.  Things were going well, everyone had arrived early and we were off to a good start when she asked if the walk would be “precipitous”?  Where did that come from, and why?  Just bear that remark in mind for later.  Fortunately Conrad intervened and expressed surprise at the use of such long words so early in the day, the ribbing had begun, and “normal service” had been resumed.  What newcomers Mary, Carolyn and Christine made of this is anyone’s business but I hope it reassured them that we are an easy-going friendly group just out for an enjoyable day.

We were only going to walk about 8 or 9 miles over the course of the day looking at what makes the physical and human landscape of the area fringing the Cheviots so distinctive using the Vale of Whittingham as a case study.  Fortunately it was possible to do this as a circular walk without getting far of the beaten track making the point that gems can be found locally without the need to go to exotic, high profile honeypot locations. We started overlooking the site of Thrunton Brickworks, still smouldering after almost three weeks and, although the wind was from the south, we could still smell it.  The glaciation that eroded softer rocks forming the valley and the later post-glacial lake that deposited the clays that would provide the brickworks with its essential raw material.  Looking down from the car park it was easy to pick-out the main components of the landscape and see how these traits blended together to give the sub-region its particular character.  Near Thrunton Farm the view to the north allowed us to trace the self-same landscape characteristics around to the west  and looking beyond the Vale of Whittingham we could see the obvious differences in landscape and land use between it and the upland Cheviot region providing the backdrop.

Elevenses were taken sitting on a farm bridge in the middle of a field with our feet overhanging the meandering River Aln adjacent to one of the numerous conifer plantations which was also a heronry. Into Whittingham next to see the main conservation area of the village, see the pele tower and mention of the Border Reivers.  We followed the path that used to be the main road to Eslington past the pele and over the river to the north side of the village past the village hall (book sale in progress) and the church with some really attractive cottages throughout.  The distinctively patterned brick gable ends of buildings near the church attracted particular comment.  The Vicarage is now a private house but you couldn’t miss the lime trees behind the high wall surrounding the property.  We re-crossed the infant River Aln as we walked north along the lonnen and also a small tributary, the Callaly Burn, that makes Whittingham a possible site of the Synod of Twyford in 684 (along with the better known Alnmouth) mentioned by Bede.  The lonnen provided us with our first real indication of the abundance of food for free, see below.

Lunch was looming so we crossed a couple of fields’ by-passing the disused Whittonlea Quarry into Thrunton Wood.  The last large field contained a lot of potentially frisky cattle so we bravely sent Christine out in front with her red rucksack (I know cattle are colour-blind but it makes a better storey) as a distraction.  It worked and once safely into the trees we had a leisurely lunch.  Marion foraged for her sweet course, the blackberries were prolific.  Earlier she had enjoyed a pre-lunch snack of blackberry and apple pie (without the pastry), both fruits were everywhere in profusion.

Immediately after lunch we embarked on the precipitous part of day, a direct assault on the scarp slope to get out onto Thrunton Crag.  Fixed ropes were not necessary; it didn’t take very long and saved an additional climb and descent over Castle Hill followed by another climb!  Once on the track above the crag we got an even better view of our route so far and all of the elements of the landscape came together to make more sense.  We also saw autumn fruits galore either side of the track.  In addition to the brambles Conrad had already collected a few field mushrooms to which we could easily have added ample amounts of rosehips and haws from the hedgerows and huge clusters of rowan berries.  On the sandstone ridge were lots of bilberries (aka Blaeberries in Northumberland) and we had never seen so many cranberries, it had been an exceptional year for fruits despite the late and cold spring.

We worked our way onto the dip slope to see a clear felled part of the wood that provided a view south down the dip-slope towards the second escarpment of Coe Crags and to the Simonside Hills beyond Rothbury.  The felling had “let the wind in” with lots of resultant wind-throw in adjacent stands.  The broad, shallow root plates showed just how shallow the soil is and how prone the trees are to wind damage.  It was here that we met an intrepid cyclist on his mountain bike three times on his various circuits around the forest; we got to be quite friendly in passing.  Soon we were back at the car park in time for Christine to meet her golfing partner for the drive up to Scotland for the weekend.  I hope everyone enjoyed the day; the weather was kind and the banter relaxed and light-hearted.  I hope that Mary, Carolyn and the other Christine decide to join us again and don’t think that the regulars have a screw loose.  We go out to enjoy ourselves in addition to the walk and yes, we did miss Ian.

Richard
22 September 2013

Mon 9th September 2013

Kielder Challenge Walk 2013

Kielder Challenge Walk 2013

What a day, after a wet day on the Friday the sun joined us on the Saturday, the day of the Kielder Challenge Walk.


Well done to everybody who took part. 


I very much hope you enjoy the YouTube film and pictures from the day and I look forward to seeing you all again in 2014.


Wed 4th September 2013

St Oswald's Way, part 6 - Weldon Bridge to Lordenshaws

St Oswald's Way, part 6 - Weldon Bridge to Lordenshaws

St Oswald’s Way part 6 - Haugh’s  (HOFF’S) and Heugh’s (HUEFF’s)

Weldon Bridge to Lordenshaw

Sundance was worried 6.30am it was not looking very promising had the magic of the old soft shoe shuffle worn out?  By 9.00 it was slightly brighter so we live in hope.
All the group and mini bus had gathered at Lordenshaw car park and were ready to roll.
Mike took great delight in showing us where he lived and as usual was wittering away as we drove passed and so missed his wife waving at us.  After a short drive we arrived at Weldon Bridge and piled out of the mini bus.

Ian was designated as photographer for the day and of course Mike went straight into witter mode as we crossed the bridge looking down on the old mill race.  As soon as we crossed the bridge we left the road and had a pleasant walk along the river bank through woodland and eventually came across the old weir for the mill race.  Emerging from the wood we entered a field with a herd of bullocks with accompanying apprehension in the more faint hearted walkers.  In the next field we crossed the Roman Road known as the Devil’s Causeway but did not see any trace of its line.  We had by now passed Thistleyhaugh and were on route to Brinkheugh.  Looking at Brinkheugh farmhouse allowed Mike to speculate on the history of the building as it appeared to have at least four to five extensions.  

The route skirted a woodland through which we caught tantalising glimpses of Brinkburn Priory.  Eventually we passed Middleheugh and just as we were crossing a footbridge over the Maglinburn, Mike had to overcome a serious 11’s revolt probably lead by Ian (Famous for his huge packed lunch and constant grazing) by promising to stop at Pauperhaugh for dinner and that it was only 30mins away.  Mike overcame the revolt and we reluctantly continued on.  After passing Thorneyhaugh we again were walking close to the river when Mike spied a big bird and said it was a buzzard even though it was not flying as a buzzard flies, one of the more birdy members of the group said, “No it was an Osprey!”  Wow. Only the second one Mike had seen on the River Coquet in a lot of years.

After lunch we crossed the Forest burn by a small footbridge and headed for Pauperhaugh Bridge along the road Mike pointed out flood debris caught up in the hedgerow about 5ft above road level.  After a short walk along the river we left the river to climb up towards West Raw farm.  As we walked to join the old railway line we passed several orange sheep! Why orange?  The route now took us along the old Rothbury railway line right in to Rothbury and a coffee stop.  As part of the bribe to keep walking before lunch Mike had also promised to take us to a coffee shop. So leaving the route we crossed the refurbished Rothbury Bridge and had a pleasant break.

The final stretch of the walk is all uphill.  We re-crossed the bridge and immediately started to climb to Whitton.  After Sharpe’s folly the climb is quiet gentle until you pass Whittondean Farm.  From here it is a steep climb to Lordenshaw’s hill fort.  From the crest of the hill the cars are only a couple of hundred metres or so away.  Mike took us on a short detour to see a stone with pre-historic rock carvings on, and after a few photo’s we headed for the cars and home.

Oh by the way we also passed by Gyllheugh, Westerheugh and Cowhaugh (the car park next to the river in Rothbury).  A heugh is a steep riverbank next to the river and a haugh is the very flatland (flood plain) next to the river.