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Mon 2nd December 2013

Bamburgh and Budle Bay

Bamburgh and Budle Bay

Bamburgh and Budle Bay guided walk
Sunday 1st December 2013

I’ve have never had a December Shepherds Walk like this one.  The weather was superb, calm, clear blue anticyclonic skies all day and almost no wind made the experience delightful, and it goes without saying, all who attended.  

The fact that we started the walk with eighteen people and ended it with sixteen due to a twisted knee earlier in the week was the only negative note.  Hopefully our efforts to assist with this turned even that disappointment into a positive.  By getting as far as Lonsdales Hill at the edge of the golf course to be picked-up by car the individual concerned, hereinafter referred to as “The Knee” enjoyed the most scenic section of the walk and had a picnic lunch in the sun on the dunes overlooking Budle Bay at high tide.  Incidentally, wearing my Mountain Rescue hat it is worth recommending the value of carrying a pair of walking poles (even if you prefer not to use them) just in case of minor lower limb injuries, it can make the difference between a painful hobble and more secure, steady and comfortable progress – “comfortable” being a relative term of course.

It was nice to see the regulars again, sorry that I couldn’t be with you for the November walk last month above the Glen Valley.  Similarly it was just as enjoyable to meet some new faces who didn’t know what they were in for; the light hearted banter while everyone was getting ready in the car park was a clue!  As the whole route was only approximately 8 miles (13 kilometres) long and the weather so favourable we were able to have a very relaxed walk – we were still approaching the lighthouse at Blackrocks Point after an hour and it is only 1.25 kilometres for the car park in a straight-line.  On the way we’d mentioned the iconic castle, the prevailing weather and use of aircraft contrails in short-term weather forecasting, the intrusion of the Whin Sill, formation of sand dunes and wave-cut platforms etc - it’s a wonder I hadn’t put myself to sleep!  Martyn, a well-known troublemaker who shall be nameless, missed a lot of the interpretation throughout the day because he was invariably not paying attention and must try harder in future.  Ian and John, my carers for the day, were happily snapping away with their cameras (I do realise that it is much more technical than that gentlemen).  The challenge had been set earlier by “The Guide” that he didn’t want to see any more “Boyhood of Raleigh” shots of him (or it, he’s usually an it) pointing into the middle and far distance, we shall see when the blog and photos are combined.

An early lunch was taken in the dunes west of Budle Point overlooking the bay as we hadn’t had time for elevenses.  Clear sky, sunshine and no wind, lovely and an unexpected bonus for December 1st it really doesn’t get any better than this.  Except that it does because Ian and I went to find a suitable way out of the dunes and up onto the golf course for “The Knee” so everyone had time to moan, grown and sympathise about the hopeless guide without causing offence.  John didn’t mention anything about providing me with transcripts of those conversations at the end of the walk, he’s far too professional.  The views we got of this iconic area north over Budle Bay towards Lindisfarne and towards the Lammermuir’s north of the Border inland were unexpectedly sharp and clear.  Similarly the views south towards Dunstanburgh (the classic tourist board brochure publicity shot) and out towards the sun-drenched Farne Islands archipelago where as good and anyone could expect at any time of the year.  It was so bright that it was sometimes difficult to spot the flashes of the Longstone lighthouse.  Following our picnic lunch we swung inland away from the coast to complete the country part of this walk.  It involved walking initially south and then east along footpaths and bridleways down lanes and crossing fields that exemplified the mixed farming nature of the North Northumberland Coast Plain.  As we left Ingram Lane a large cloud-bank of altostratus blanked out the rapidly sinking sun and the whole aspect of the day altered and became noticeably chillier.  As we walked north-west through the fields north of Fowberry towards Bamburgh the whole of the western sky was a brilliant orange-pink as the cloud was illuminated from below by the setting sun with just a narrow band of bright red sky beneath the clouds on the western horizon creating a silhouette of Cheviot and Hedgehope.  

I have to say I was a little surprised that nobody took me up on the offer of a seminar on the landscape character, physical and cultural influences, buildings, settlement and land use of the area of our walk when we returned to the car park, perhaps next time?  The next walk is very different and involves a coastal walk from North Shields Fish Quay (easy access and parking) north along the coast to St Mary’s Island.  We will be passing several cafes en-route both at the Tynemouth and Whitley Bay ends so it will be civilised.  Once we reach St Mary’s Island we will walk via Brier Dene Farm to the disused railway track between Whitley Bay and Blyth and follow it south to Monkseaton Metro Station for the ride back to North Shields.  

Have a pleasant Christmas and New Year and I hope to see everyone again in January for the “I must lose some of this weight” (and feel virtuous) New Year’s Resolution exercise regime aided by the North Shields to St Mary’s Island Coffee and Tea Drinking Mini-Marathon.

Monday, 02 December 2013     

Sun 17th November 2013

Yeavering Bell

Yeavering Bell

I would describe this walk as a ‘proper Northumberland walk’ because it encapsulated all that is great about Northumberland. A walk defined by the geography – steep sided hills and glacial cut valleys; a walk defined by the remoteness- not far from civilization but within a few miles there is a sense of being miles from anywhere; a walk defined by the history – we were walking in the footsteps of the ancient tribes of the iron age for it is estimated that the hillfort which is easily visible on the top the the double summit of Yeavering Bell was built around 500BC.

It was also a walk of two halves.

The first half an uphill and rugged moorland challenge as we ascended the steepest side of Yeavering Bell having passed, at it’s foot, the Old Palace, a buiding currently under reconstruction but which dates from the early 16th Century when it was build as a bastle house which was a defensible farmhouse. As such it offered protection for the farmer and his animals from the maurauding bands of the Border Reivers.

The ascent was unrelenting but it wasn’t difficult to find excuses to take in the views of the beautiful Glendale valley which revealed its self with every metre we climbed. In this valley at the foot of Yeavering Bell is the site of Gefrin an Anglo Saxon royal villa built around 600AD. The Anglo Saxons often occupied the sites of ancient Britons and this was no different as there is plenty of evidence of this area being used for centuries well before the Roman invasion. The name Gefrin is local and has evolved into the modern Yeavering that means ‘the hill of the goats’.

As we reached the summit of Yeavering Bell the view to the south and over the Cheviot Hills was stunning. The weather helped as the blustery and cooling wind kept the threat of rain away and gave us clear views of The Cheviot. With Yeavering bell behind us we walked across rough ground to an old settlement where we had a break to get out of the wind. As I sat there I wondered whose hands carried the very stones used to build it that we were using as shelter from the wind. Moving on we ascended White Law and skirted Akeld Hill passing a fort nestled on its slopes and descended to the valley at Gleadscleugh. This was the half time lunch stop.

The second half of the walk was gentler as it followed levelled and well marked paths with gentler inclines. Completing the cirle as we traversed the south side of Yeavering Bell walking was easier and allowed a more relaxed end to the day. To cap it all the clouds broke up and the sun shone down on us and the beautiful Cheviot Hills.

Well done and thank you to all of the folk who joined Ian, Margaret and myself on today’s walk. It is good to see friends and meet new friends who we hope will come back and join us at Shepherds Walks again soon.

The route covered 7.4 miles with 520 metres of ascent (1720 feet). The whole walk took 5 hours 35 minutes of which 3 hours 49 minutes were spent moving which gives us a moving average of 1.9 miles an hour.

Thanks to Richard who devised this route – a proper Northumberland walk.

Best wishes

Chris, Ian and Margaret.

Sat 16th November 2013

Geo-trailing - Wooler

Geo-trailing - Wooler

Geo-trailing is an activity we deliver to both young people and adults of all ages throughout the year, but this Saturday it was 30 young people from Young Farmer groups throughout Northumberland.

As a former Young Farmer I was looking forward to the day ahead but with such a large number it called for a second hand so David, from Shepherds Walks came along.

As always with our Geo-trailing we walk the route before meeting with the group so we get a good understanding of conditions under foot and this also enables us to put the caches out, for the groups to find.

Normally we meet groups at 9.00 in the morning, so this often means a very early start, but with us just starting our walk at 1.00 pm it was a more leisurely walk than normal as we set everything up.

We met the Young Farmers at the Cheviot Centre and after a brief introduction of how the GPS units worked and splitting them into four groups we were away.

They did not hang around as they quickly grasped the concept and followed the units as it took them through Wooler towards Wooler Common to their first cache site and after finding it and answering the quiz question.

Once we knew they has grasped what they were needing to do there was no stopping them and off they went.

What weather for November, it was dryer under foot than we had seen a number of times on this route as the groups now working on their own joined and followed St Cuthbert’s Way.
Cache 2 and then 3 were all found and then we bunched all the groups up again as we entered the forest (picture taken at this point). Cache 4 was a little harder to find before dropped back down to the final cache site just outside Wooler.

It was good that they all stopped and rested at this point and it was great to hear such positive feedback on the day. I can honestly said they had all enjoyed themselves which had made for a great afternoon Geo-caching.

We then dropped as a group back into Wooler and then cut along a footpath to Wooler Youth Hostel, which is where they are all staying the night.

Good company, good staff and great weather. Thanks