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Thu 2nd May 2013

Elsdon Nordic Walk

Elsdon Nordic Walk

What a cold and blustery day! Heavy rain to start the morning, will our walk go ahead? A quick check on the weather forecast and it predicted a dry, sunny morning starting from 10am. Lets go for it!

The weather man was right. On arriving in Elsdon village the skies cleared and it was dry but still with a cold wind. People sat waiting in their cars to keep warm and we all piled the layers on until we got going.

During our warm up routine I talked about the route we were to take, the terrain and the incline. We started our walk following a tarmac track through a farm, were the farmer on his quad bike was tending to his ewes and lambs. The track was slightly uphill and so we soon warmed up. On reaching the farmhouse we regrouped and I broke the news – we are going up a rather steep hill. Yes, that one in front of us!

After a few words of encouragement, a reminder of how to Nordic walk up a hill and with the reassurance it was not a race, we set off, each person at their own pace. And ....... we all made it! Short stride length and leaning forward onto those poles really did help. This was a tough climb, requiring real grit and determination to climb. I stopped halfway up to ask if everyone was ok and got lots of smiling faces but no words said! What a great feeling when we reached the top though and the views over Elsdon were amazing. We could see the snow on top of Cheviot as well as the Harwood Forest stretching over to Winter’s Gibbet.

Once we had our breath back we continued over the brow of the hill, crossing styles through rough pasture ground and eventually into green fields. The benefit of all the wind was that it was mostly dry underfoot, with the exception of the odd muddy area beside the dry stone wall styles.

As we began to lose our height and head down towards Harwood forest the hill steepened slightly, giving us an excellent chance to practise our downhill technique. From here we returned to a solid underfoot track, which meandered through Harwood forest, taking us back to the farmhouse where we had begun our climb.

Whilst continuing along the tarmac track, back to the start point, we noticed that the lambs looked different to their mothers. Although the ewes were Scottish blackfaced sheep, with a prominent black face, their lambs had mostly white faces with black markings around their features. They were mule lambs, which are bred mainly in Northumberland. And if you want to know more about them....come on a Shepherds Nordic Walk!

A hard Nordic Walk but very rewarding all the same. Stunning views of the Northumbrian landscape and the satisfaction of knowing that you really did climb that hill.

Mon 29th April 2013

Two Chimneys and A Chapel, Allendale

Two Chimneys and A Chapel, Allendale

We met in the market place at Allendale as the sun started to shine and the cold morning air began to warm.

Actually it was raining and seemed to have returned to winter again but never mind as the group seemed up for a decent walk whatever the weather was doing.

Off we stroud at a fair lick.  We did ease the pace just enough to stop at points of interest on our climb up to the high point on Dryburn moor including the entrance to the Blacket level mine and the site of the Allen smelt mill. It was here that despite the really interesting industrial history we discussed the Allendale brewery beer (on the way into the site), the availability of tea and nice cakes (at the teashop on site) and on the way out the Allendale brewery again.

Having reached the top of the moor we appreciated what the view should look like on a nice day and that the best place to view the skill of the chimney builders was to get inside it out of the wind and rain.

Crossing into the West Allen valley we speculated on the accuracy of the weather forecast via the phone. The phone said the sun should come out at 12.00 and it did (well almost).

Feeling the benefit of a lessening of the wind and rain we continued on to a lunch stop at the Keenley Methodist Chapel (the oldest, working Chapel in the world etc etc).

Now on the home run along the banks of the Allen we negotiated a wee 'bad step' in the path. Someone helpfully suggested that if Paul the guide fell in the river he should make sure his Shepherds Walks uniform doesn't get wet!

Arriving back at the smelt mill we naturally fell into the tea shop before the last short leg back into Allendale village.

Sun 28th April 2013

Whernside - Yorkshire Dales

Whernside - Yorkshire Dales

Not just the first ‘away day’ of the year, but the first ever.

We have a great loyal group of Shepherds Walkers who we take out throughout the year week on week and to date all our ‘day walks’ have been in the North East.

I have also walked extensively in many other places and the Yorkshire Dales is one of my favourite places, especially the famous Three Peaks. I have walked these many times with friends and family over the past 20 years, so what better location to start our ‘away days’.

We planned to do one of the three peaks every other weekend and looking at bookings to date we had made the right decision.

As I arrived into Ribblehead at 10.00 am the weather was not the greatest. Sharp showers blew across and looking up to Whernside itself, it looked like it was going to be a blowy affair.

After meeting up with the rest of the group I quickly realised it was going to be a good day. We had some great characters and everybody gelled very quickly which was just what we needed for our climb up the highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales.

We skirted along the side of the Ribblehead viaduct and walked along the edge of the Settle to Carlisle Railway before crossing over the top of it to start the ascent. The path is great underfoot and the group managed brilliantly with a great atmosphere running throughout.

As many of us had started off very early that morning we stopped for lunch just after 12.00, with this also being just before we joined the long ridge walk to the summit. It was thought that a sheltered spot, in the now glorious sunshine, was just what the doctor ordered. It was a great sun trap as we sat behind the broken down stone wall.

After lunch the real climbing started but the whole group worked well as a team. They all had total respect and cared for every single member of the group and therefore the climb was broken up with some great conversations and debates. It was not long before reached the summit.

The summit shot, at the top of Whenside (all 2515 feet of her) was a must and we spent a good 15 to 20 minutes savouring the moment and enjoying the views on what has turned out to be the ideal day on the weather front.

As we started our decent the path did get steeper and it was just a case of taking our time and looking back on the great achievement the group had made.

After dropping back down to the valley floor we passed through some beautiful farmland appreciating the newly born lambs and discussing the qualities of the different breeds as we came across them.

A few moments was taken as we passed under the Ribblehead viaduct to really take in the true engineering and sheer scale of this stunning construction.

Back at the cars we said our farewells and I believe a real day to remember for many of group had really been had.

I think I should get out of the office more often; this is what Shepherds Walks is all about. Looking forward to leading the walk up the next one - Pen-y-ghent in two weeks time already.

Jon