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Sun 23rd March 2014

Training Walk - Budle Bay to Beadnell

Training Walk - Budle Bay to Beadnell

22nd March 2014

Training walk 1 for the Shepherd’s Walk Coastal challenge.

There is only really one word to summarise this walk – magnificent.

I had been reviewing the weather reports the evening before the walk and was delighted to learn that the winds of the last few days were dropping, that no rain was mentioned and that the sun might be shining. And shine it did.
Another feature of the weather report that I saw was that it said visibility would be very good. As it turned out this weather report was accurate and as a consequence we all had a great day.

There can be no finer sights than the Northumbria coast and we were rewarded with its full glory.

As we walked away from Budle Bay the land rises and we had a full view of the flats with birds flocked on the mud and the sun twinkling off the water - stunning.
As we turned south across the links the magnificence of Bambrough Castle comes into view- that’s a sight no one can ever tire of.
As we walked from Seahouses around the headland we were rewarded with the clearest view of the Farne Islands that I have ever seen. The weather forecasters got it right when they said the visibility would be good.

We saw plenty of bird life including skylarks twittering as they rose into the blue sky, curlews in the newly ploughed fields, eider ducks in the harbours. They too seemed to be enjoying the sunshine.

So it didn’t matter that this walk was a training walk it was simply a beautiful walk. We completed the route of 11.5 miles at a good pace and made it back to Beadnell in a total of 4 hours and 45 minutes. Of this we stopped for 50 minutes to eat and enjoy the view. This means that we were walking at 2.9 miles an hour but including the stops we were covering 2.4 miles each hour.

Knowing this helps to prepare for the full challenge walk in two ways. Firstly you can decide whether or not this is a comfortable pace because it is important that during the challenge walk you walk at the pace that suits you. Secondly you can work out how long it will take to cover the 26 miles and knowing this aids preparation and helps with pacing. A tip – walk at your own pace but reduce the overall time by reducing the stopping time.

After such a great day on training walk 1 I’m thoroughly looking forward to training walk 2.

Thank you to all the walkers and to Martin who helped by being the last man for the day.
A great walk in the best weather with great views and company – magnificent.


Mon 10th March 2014

Cheviot Panorama

Cheviot Panorama

Saturday 8th March 2014

This walk should really be entitled “Wind in the Breamish” some might even say “Windbag in the Breamish” but I couldn’t possibly comment.  To say the least it was more than usually draughty which to a large extent dictated our route.  The plan was to use the leeside of the hills wherever possible as shelter and to try and keep the wind on our backs when on the more exposed tops.  Even finding somewhere with calmer air for elevenses was a challenge but it certainly made everyone appreciate the value of a good hedge, windbreak of trees or even the much derided conifer plantation.  We opted for the latter but it was still rather breezy, apologies for the elevenses being a whole five minutes early by the way but the 09.00 hours start and the windchill meant we were all ready for it.  Ian had already had breakfast at home, second sittings in the car park on arrival and a few surreptitious “grazing” episodes en-route and was beginning to feel distinctly peckish.  My other carer for the day, John, was beginning to look at his watch often so it was vital to keep the staff happy – nothing to do with being client-centred you understand.

I forgot to mention to the twenty assembled pleasure seekers at the briefing about not asking questions and they certainly paid the price, sorry again.  A completely naive and very pleasant first timer from deepest Yorkshire just happened to ask about ridge (or rigg) and furrow whilst we were sheltering for lunch.  There were howls of “Don’t ask him any questions” and groans of frustration and disappointment from those I formally regarded as friends.  I provided what I thought was a comprehensive yet succinct answer.  Eyes glazed over and some even slept through the lunchtime break(down) despite the windspeed and hot air even in this windchill, if you understand what I mean?  Some of those who were not paying attention but instead enjoying themselves, chatting, having lunch etc consequently missed the hare running towards us down the quad bike track.  It must have spotted me because it veered-off and disappeared.

We had seen a lot of evidence of human occupation since the Bronze Age over the course of the morning in the form of hillforts and settlement sites plus the dreaded ridge and furrow and terrace-like lynchets.  We had also seen the panorama towards the coast as we crested the col between East and West Hill taking-in Ros Castle, the TV Mast at Catton Sandyford, the 28 masts of the wind farms in the Belford Moor area south along the sandstone ridge towards the radome at Brizlee Wood until it began to swing westwards towards Rothbury and the Simonside Ridge.  Unfortunately the visibility was poor and continued to deteriorate throughout the morning and early afternoon.  This wasn’t ideal for a walk based on distant panoramic views but such is life.  We (i.e. I) opted not to scale the heights of Old Fawdon Hill (315m) because some of our number were experiencing difficulty in staying vertical in the “undulating lowlands” or tiny insignificant hills as I prefer to call them.  

By the time we ascended Cochrane Pike, our highest point at 335m the visibility towards Cheviot and Hedgehope was very poor indeed.  The skyline to the west was equally impaired making Shill Moor, Cushat Law, Sting Head, Hogdon Law and Wether Cairn difficult to pick out.  Oddly enough the wooded brow of Hairhaugh Hill which was twice as far away at about 16 kilometres distance was much more prominent.  The tailwind of a constant 30 mph with gusts well in excess of that assisted our ascent but when I mentioned “gusts” Christine, who shall be nameless, said she would use the term as often as possible in conversation. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get me.

After lunch we visited Middle Dean hillfort, the tri-radial cairn and the exposed cists at Turf Knowe before going over the top to visit Brough Law hillfort and see some of the in-situ stonework.  The earlier morning start meant that we now had time to visit the Muddy Boots Cafe located in the former National Park Tourist Information Centre opposite Ingram church.  I was “led” off the hill by an enthusiastic band of walkers which really means that they stampeded downhill towards the cafe a mere two kilometres away. They had never moved so fast all day and they were walking into wind.  A good cup of tea, or coffee and lots of cake was had by some, well most actually before heading for home.  Despite the incessant wind and resultant windburn we didn’t get wet and the ground was nowhere near as muddy as last month’s walk.  It must have been OK because one particular connoisseur of Northumbrian landscape emailed me later to say “That was a route I'd like to walk again in different weather conditions - it would be nice to be able to stand up with confidence!!”   I do however notice that the person concerned didn’t say that my presence would be appreciated, on the other hand he, she or it (see, your identity is safe with me) didn’t say that it wouldn’t.  

Oh well, on the basis of a bit of cognitive dissonance, denial even, everything must be OK mustn’t it?  Ian, John and I look forward to seeing everyone again soon, just ignore me, everyone else does.

Monday, 10 March 2014   



Mon 3rd March 2014

St. Oswalds Way, part 8 - Harwood to Little Bavington

St. Oswalds Way, part 8 - Harwood to Little Bavington

As usual sundance had soft shoe shuffled all week and Friday was sunny, Saturday was sunny but Sunday was forecast for rain by lunchtime had the old magic worn off?

After a bright dawn by the time we met up a Little Bavington it had clouded over. A quick transfer and we were back at Harwood where we had finished last year’s walks.  A short walk along the road and after crossing a style we experienced what the rest of the days walk was going to be like, soft, slippery clarts and a cold breeze into our faces.

As we slipped and slithered our way across the fields towards the farm Fairnley.  From here it changed from soft to boggy.  It was round about now that Mike gave every one a shock as he suggested we could stop for a coffee as it was nearly 11 o’clock .  After coffee a firmish farm track lead us to and through Catcherside.

Once more we were in the clarts making a short uphill climb interesting.  Over a style to be faced with a wide area of bog we had to pass through with a burn also trying also to find its way through.  Climbing a small rise we came across a sheep on its back so our resident super hero went across and heaved it right way up, yep typical just ran off and did not even says Baa never mind thanks.  A short walk along the old Wanney Line and we had reached Knowesgate.  It was only a short walk to lunch stopping just to the north of Kirkwelpington.

After lunch a short very clarty walk we entered Kirkwelpington.and found a handy comfort stop.  A pleasant walk along a tarmac road soon gave way to another plodge across open fields before another section of road to West Harle.  From here a short descent lead us to the worst section of clarts on the whole walk.  It was uphill, bad enough but it was also churned up by tractors and animals the combination made this really arduous. Once more we welcomed walking along a farm track that took us to Great Bavington.

After leaving Great Bavington we walked along another road heading off to walk through a paddock. We all crossed the electric fence safely but at the other side of the paddock Mike forgot it was an electric fence and got quite a shock when he touched the wires (much too everyone’s amusement).  From here we had only a walk across a couple of fields to Little Bavington.  We carefully walked along the main road back towards to the cars.