Fenwick to Berwick (North Sea Trail)
YES Well! What a day to finish the new Northumberland long distance footpath Alston to Berwick. Sundance had finally got his act together his soft shoe shuffle did the trick, wall to wall sunshine. The fact that he had another brand new pair of boots that needed to be tested out to see if they were waterproof may have had some influence over the weather.
To leave home to get to Berwick the car windscreen had to be de-iced for the first time this autumn. After a very pleasant and quiet drive up we arrived at Berwick to find half the group had all ready arrived and well before the departure time we were all on the mini bus heading back south to Fenwick.
After getting off the mini bus we had only walked 20m before Mike had the (new, a bright orange colour for when he leaves it behind) camera out and wanted the obligatory ‘group photo’. Then we followed a road for a short while before climbing up a lane where we had fantastic views over Buddle Bay to Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle (this was the highest point on the walk 131ft ). After crossing a minor road and a gentle descent through a field we arrived at the main North East railway line Before you cross the line you have to use the phone to call the signal man up to get permission to cross and when you have crossed you then have to use the phone on the other side to tell him that you have crossed! Having crossed another field the path winds its way through some tank blocks before arriving at the Holy Island road crossing. From here we followed the high water mark around Beal Point (fortunately it was low tide) and continued towards a sluice across South Low but just before arriving at the sluice a bird hide has just recently been built and this provided us with an ideal excuse for our lunch stop.
After lunch we crossed the sluice walk eastwards leaving the landward path until we reached the beach. A whole four miles of yellow sands and totally flat not a hill or rise to be climbed a rather novel experience. On the down side we could see Berwick about 7miles away in the distance as the seagull flies. Between Goswick and Cheswick the sand dunes fall away and you have a fantastic view of The Cheviot and the surrounding northern hills above Wooler.
Just after a coffee break at Cheswick Black Rocks we climbed the sand dunes above Far Skerr and joined the path cycleway that would take us to Spittal but more importantly an ice cream van. Unfortunately there were lots of rocks and this gave Mike the opportunity to bore us by him telling us all about how they were formed. It was on this section we climbed our second ‘peak’ of the day 95ft.
On arrival at Spital we walk along the sea front and started to follow the Lowery trail which led us to Tweedmouth and eventually the old road bridge across the Tweed and into Berwick.
Congratulations to Chris, Peter, Peter and Judy who have completed all the sections over the last two years. Route length 115 miles, height ascended 16,768ft. (This does not include all the walks in and out to get on to the route that has been done). National trails used Pennine Way, Hadrian’s Wall Path, St. Cuthbert’s Way, Northumberland North Sea Trail and lastly Lowery’s Picture Trail.
What’s next? back to our starting point, Alston this time using the North Sea Trail, St. Oswald’s Way, Hadrian’s Wall Path and Isaac’s Tea Trail.
Hidden in the Hills
Hidden in the hills - advanced map and compass training
Six miles of walking, five great hours, four hill tops, three hill forts, two boundary stones and a marker post on a hill top. It's not christmas yet though but it's definitely Autumn. It was a little chilly as we all met in the tree shaded car park at Ingram. Keen for a bit of warmth from the Autumn sun, our guide Russell led us to the sunny Visitor Centre car park a short distance away.
After giving us some pointers on safety in the hills and checking we all had compasses and maps, off we trekked. The first stop was at the foot of Brough Law. Two of the group were despatched to navigate to the summit. Shortly after the rest of us followed. It was a short but sharp ascent alongside some woodland, setting us up nicely for a days walking in the hills. The warm cloths put on earlier were quickly shed as the sun warmed us as we climbed, with calls to turn on the air-conditioning heard. Ian, one of the volunteers, promised that he'd arranged that at the top. At the summit we found the other two resting in the centre of the hill fort, enjoying the cool breeze and spectacular views of Hartside Hill and the Breamish Valley.
After a few minutes of enjoying the scenery Russell set us our next challenge. We set off walking towards a small valley. On reaching the valley side he asked us to walk towards a rock and once there provide an 8 figure grid reference for our position. Given a few minutes to think about it one of the group announced a figure. Astonished, Russell had to look at his list. Only 20m out. He'd obviously taught us well on the Map & Compass course.
The next objective was a grid reference which was identified by the group as Ewe Hill on the map. We discussed how we would reach it and off we went. As a relatively flat hill top it would be harder to see the closer we got. A good exercise in navigating terrain with few features.
Once at Ewe Hill we immediately got the grid reference of another location. We formed into groups of two and started planning our strategy to get there. Faced with an option of following marked paths or walking on a bearing, the majority of the group chose to take the opportunity to practice walking on a bearing, making various paths through the long grass, bracken and thistles. There was a little confusion nearer to the objective but eventually everyone reached the spot and it was deemed a good place to stop for lunch.
When we'd had our fill, we set off for a hill fort a short distance away at Middle Dean. This one is unusual in the area as it is not on a hill top. From here, Wether Hill, the third hill of the day, was our next target. The group were again allowed to make their own way to the hill fort at the top. Everyone managed to successfully navigate the way there and once reaching it enjoyed the views of the hills towards the east of the Breamish Valley and the North Sea beyond. A helicopter could even be seen landing at distant Boulmer RAF station.
A short stop for an afternoon snack and we were on the move again. Our next objective being a feature on the map labelled BS. Hmmmm, what could it be. Various routes were taken as everyone was becoming more confident in their navigational skills. Even when the objective was reached we were still puzzled as to what it's purpose was. When Russell arrived he explained it was a boundary stone, one of several in the area that are listed monuments and were once used to mark parish boundaries.
With glee Russell sent us back up the steep grassy slope to find the next Boundary Stone. However, as an incentive to get us up the hill he pronounced that there would be a prize for the first one there. Off went the only lady of the group in pursuit of the prize. Once we all reached the stone Russell announced that her prize was free entry to all national parks for life. Russell's prizes are always this generous!
Our next exercise was to walk on a bearing towards a path marker on Cochrane pike, the fouth hill. Sounds easy but the marker was out off site from our location. Showing our navigation skills we all arrived within 20m of the marker, boosting our confidence in our navigational skills even more.
After a little rest and more information on navigational techniques we set off for the final objective, back to the Visitor Centre.On arrival everyone agreed that this had been a great day in the beautiful hills of the Breamish valley. It had iron age archaeology, history in the later parish boundaries, interesting natural features, flora and fauna, spectacular scenery and all of the navigational challenges needed to practice this skill.
Anyone who needs to practice navigation, whether to increase their confidence in their skills or simply brush up on navigational techniques, should do this walk. The guides and volunteers are able to pass on their extensive knowledge and experience in an interesting and informative way, making it an enjoyable day for anyone who wants to get to the parts of Northumberland that are rarely reached.
Nordic Walking training
Saturday was our last Nordic Walk training course of the year and what stunning weather we had, not bad for October.
The group quickly grasped the technique of Nordic Walking and a good day was had by all.
Please do enjoy the YouTube film and images from the day and I very much hope you can join us on a Nordic Walk in the near future.
You can view our full Nordic Walk programme for the coming 12 months online by clicking here.