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Sun 25th May 2014

Blencathra Challenge 2014

Blencathra Challenge 2014

The Shepherds Walks Blencathra Challenge took place on Saturday 24th May 2014.

This epic route taking in one of the most iconic mountains, Blencathra, and is second to none.

Well done to everybody who completed the walk!

Please enjoy the YouTube film and you can view all the official pictures taken on the day underneath it.

Mon 19th May 2014

Nordic Walking - Take your skills to the next level

Nordic Walking - Take your skills to the next level

Even though I have been Nordic Walking for years and teaching for a couple of years, this was the first time that I had taught this course.

The small group met promptly and were chatting in the shop ready for a 10.30 start.  We headed down to the riverside to start on the next chapter of their Nordic walking technique.
Everyone was asked to walk using their normal Nordic walking technique so that I could establish the level that they were at.  Everybody had a good basic technique so we started on steps 6 to steps 10 that go to make up the full technique.

We used training drills in pairs to learn and practice the necessary skills before trying it on our own.  It created a lot of laughter, talking points and questions.

John asked if your wrist should be straight, which of course it should be as the pole should be an extension of your arm.  Ray came up with an interesting way to remember to keep your wrist straight - he said to pretend you had broken your wrist and had a plaster cast on!
As everyone had picked up these techniques quickly, I decided we should take them for a short walk.  

The pace was a relatively fast one but the pace wasn’t the most important part of this course as the technique was central to what we had been working on.  
We passed Jane who was taking a beginner’s taster session hopefully those participants saw the way Nordic walking looks when you get past the beginner’s stages.

The techniques were looking very good especially the rotation - Judith and Valerie said they thought of a man’s swagger to encourage their shoulders to move.
We walked back to the riverside where we had started and finished with a cool down and stretches.

A few were going to do the 6 mile Rothbury Railway Walk that afternoon but others weren’t I thanked everyone for coming along and hoped to see those who weren’t joining us in the afternoon very soon.

I hope I will see you all soon and keep up the good work.


Mon 19th May 2014

Above the College Valley

Above the College Valley

The exploration of the southern end of the College Valley was a new experience and enjoyable experience for most, access isn’t easy beyond the public car park at Hethpool and the really interesting stuff is another five and a half kilometres further down the valley on the Pennine Way which actually follows the Border Ridge.

We started from the Mounthooly Youth Hostel having made use of the facilities (thank you Pauline) in a very strong wind but it was dry and threatening to become sunny later.  A quick “good morning” to the shepherd by the sheep pens adjacent to the shelterbelt just beyond Mounthooly and we were off following the steam that flowed out of the Hen Hole as far as the first of the cascades that allowed us to peer around the corner into this huge glacial bowel.  We even found a place out of the wind – well, more or less.  From here it was a free-ranging uphill trudge to the Border Ridge crossing the contours to make the ascent easier.  We emerged onto it a few hundred metres east of the Refuge Hut into the full blast of the wind form the southwest.  The Refuge Hut made an excellent place for elevenses (dead on time for once) with the “outsiders” sitting in the lee of the wind on the bench looking north down the length of the valley towards Hethpool and the “insiders” discussing the merits of the shelter in inclement weather whilst listening to the wind buffeting the structure.

As we walked the ridge from the shelter towards Red Cribs when someone spotted an Adder on the path and, despite being in a strong and chilly wind it moved-off quite quickly, too fast for anyone to get a camera out in time to record it.  Nevertheless it was a first for some and all the more satisfying for that.  Looking down the path that follows Red Cribs up onto the ridge it was obvious taht we had followed a much more pleasant and gentle way onto the Pennine Way.  Behind us we could now see into the Hen Hole properly and to its right we could follow the line of the long distance path up towards Auchope Cairn.  To the south we looked into Scotland which felt a bit odd until you look at the map and spot the kink in the route of the border.  Looking even further south onto the hazy skyline we were looking back into England and could make out the profile of Russell’s Cairn on Windy Gyle close to where we were last month when we went to Davidson’s Linn.

Turning north at Red Cribs we started the undulating ridge walk towards The Schil.  It was good to have the strong wind behind us for the uphill sections, every little helps.  In the few dips when we were protected from the wind it was idyllic.  Unfortunately it really was blowing a hooly (the derivation of Mounthooly?) when we reached The Schil (601m)and with little shelter we decided to have lunch lower down a little later.  We descended to the col between The Schil and Black Hag where the Pennine Way goes over the Border Fence in to Scotland by way of a substantial stile.  We turned east instead to descend back into the College Valley but made a mental note about a possible walk, to or from, the beginning or end, of the Pennine Way at Kirk Yetholm at some future date.  The prospect of a drink at the pub there drawing 100% support, nothing changes.

We tracked along the Fleehope Burn, crossed it to the south and stopped for lunch adjacent to the conifer plantation sitting on dry heather in the sunshine out of the wind, luxury.  Conditions underfoot had changed frequently and often since passing Red Cribs and we had experienced mud, bog, stone pitched paving, dry springy peat, flooded sections, clearly defined and hidden, secret sections (i.e. invisible) of the path all in short order.  

After a pleasant lunch the rest of the walk was really pleasant and straightforward, the wind had dropped considerably and the day was beginning to heat-up.  Just before we left Mounthooly we heard a cuckoo somewhere in the shelterbelt we’d passed earlier in the morning at the very beginning of the walk.  Hopefully a good time was had by all.  The College Valley was looking its best; it could easily have been high summer when the sun came out.  The intense yellows of the numerous gorse and broom bushes shone out from the myriad of shades of green which is so characteristic of trees in springtime.  I hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as I did and that we meet-up again soon.