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Tue 24th December 2013

Christmas guided walk - Simonside

Christmas guided walk - Simonside

All through Saturday it had rained and rained so on Sunday it was a little break in the weather even with the biting wind blowing from the west.

We all met at the Shepherds Walks base in Rothbury and after a slight delay we were off, following the River Coquet upstream from Rothbury. The evidence of the overnight flooding of the River Coquet was clear to see with the path flooded in a few places. But this did not deter the hardy folk on the walk.

After crossing the River Coquet and Lady’s Bridge we gradually climbed up to Great Tosson and had a well-deserved rest next to Tosson Tower.

We then climbed up to and again rested near to the hllfort. The hillfort at Tosson Burgh is located in ay defended site overlooking the Coquet valley to the north, west and east.

There are no traces of habitation within the ramparts, the fort is unexcavated, and such features will more than likely survive below ground level. It is thought that construction of this hillfort would have been sometime after 600 BC, in the Early Iron Age.

From here we climbed up through the forest and sheltered from the wind we had our lunch just before leaving the forest.

After lunch we continued to climb to just under the famous sandstone crags of Simonside.
With the wind being very strong at this point (even though the sun was shining) it was decided to skirt below Simonside itself and instead climb up into Dove Crag for our Christmas surprise. This we did and as we reached the summit the famous decorated Christmas tree was waiting to greet us. It made for a great photo opportunity on this festive walk.

I think Dove Crag is one of the best vantage points in this area of Northumberland with Fontburn Reservoir to the South and Rothbury nested down below. Today Cragside House could be clearly picked out in the trees and the effects from the River Coquet birstling its banks overnight were very clear to see on the lower lying ground.

From here we descended to the Beacon and again down to Lordenshaws car park before following St Oswald’s Way all the way back to Rothbury.

We just had one short shower all day and everybody was in high spirits after they had battled against the wind on this a truly great start to Christmas 2013.

I hope you all have a very Merry and a Happy New Year, from all at Shepherds Walks.

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.