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Mon 24th June 2013

In search of The Simonside Dwarfs

In search of The Simonside Dwarfs

On the approach to Rothbury this morning, it seemed that there was no need for sunglasses! The blades of the turbines at Wingates were turning rather well and despite the last few weekends spent basking in sunshine, the Northumbrian weather decided to show its true colours, grey style! Perhaps those pesky wee dwarves were against us from the start …

We were a select group today, but nonetheless the day was filled with many stories and much laughter! From Lordenshaw we picked our way through the Iron Age hill fort and tried to decipher where the various individual settlements could be! From here the group headed towards Whitton Dean and were subsequently subjected to my input on the prevalent winds  in the Coquet Valley and how this affects the trees (sorry folks, but now you know about this you will never look at a tree in the same way again!)

Heading towards Simonside Forest the skies darkened further and it wasn’t too long until we found ourselves in a downpour! During a quick break we were graced with a “ride-by and wave” of three young mountain bikers (one of which I now know to be Junior Monks) which on reflection, I would deem to be very good customer service.

Heading up out of Simonside Forest we skirted the bottom of Simonside itself, and as the rain moved in once more we hot-footed it up the rather steep ascent  onto Simonside summit, looking for the dwellings of the Duergar on the way! With lunch in sight, and a rain-shower not too far behind, we made a bee-line for Dove Crag and enjoyed a short break in the sun!

Forty-five minutes or so later we arrived back at Lordenshaw, and thankfully we were able to clamber into our cars before the prevalent hail-storm hit. Yes … hail .... in June ….. I blame those malevolent Simonside dwarves ;-)

Thank you to all who came along on the walk, and we look forward to seeing you on the other events you have booked onto during the Rothbury Walking Festival!

Wed 19th June 2013

Map and Compass training - June

Map and Compass training - June

For the second Map and Compass course for 2013 something unusual happened – the sun was shining again. The first half of the day we settled into the Parish Hall to learn about maps, compasses and basic navigation techniques before venturing outside in to the lovely weather. Shepherds Walks supplied us with new compasses and very handy map extracts of the area.

Most people this time had a basic idea of the topic and were taking part to give themselves more confidence when walking without leaders or when on their own. There are always a few surprises in store for people like realising there is more than one ‘North’ and some of them don’t stay still!

The bulk of the afternoon was about taking a journey through Rothbury and around the Carrigeways to practice the classroom skills. Just to see if everyone was paying attention pairs led short sections of the route for the group. Along the way we saw features we might normally walk past like signs of how maps were originally made, ancient earthworks and features that exist on the grounds but don’t appear on the map and vice versa.

Up on the carriageways we practiced walking on compass bearings, identifying features in the landscape and testing our pacing to see what happens when you try it for real. We also learnt a new language – all about how to find our way using collecting features, handrails and attackpoints.

We finished our journey in the late afternoon sun above Rothbury appropriately next to a Bronze Age standing stone. Paul said he was coming here on a regular basis to secretly pay homage to the rain and mist deity for the more advanced map and compass course in October.

Sun 16th June 2013

Training Walk - Cragside Challenge Walk

Training Walk - Cragside Challenge Walk

On Saturday 15th June I led an enthusiastic group on a training workout in preparation for the Cragside Challenge in a couple of weeks time. The weather was mostly warm and sunny but we had one of those days when sudden rain showers swept across the Coquet valley. Waterproofs were on and then as soon as the shower came it went and the sun came out again. Waterproofs off to avoid overheating and then back on again... There were no complaints - how can there be when the beauty of the river meandering through the flood plain is contrasted with clear views of the Cheviots to the north and the sea to the east.

We set off from Rothbury and made our way over to Sharpe's folly and on to Whittondean.

After passing through the farmyard the first hill followed taking us up to the iron age hill fort with its ancient cup and ring designs etched in the rock, before dropping down to Lordenshaw Car Park. We crossed over the road and set off up the track that leads on to the ridge over Dove Crag. Up to this point we were on the exact route of the challenge walk but instead of heading back to the forest track we continued on the ridge up and over to Simonside summit.

The western descent off Simonside is not for the faint hearted. Initially it's very steep with slippery, sandy soil under foot interspersed with rocks but this merely added to the adventure of the day. After a well earned lunch break overlooking the Cheviots we rejoined the route of the challenge walk through the forest and down to Tosson and the Lime Kiln. Here we headed back along the river to Rothbury leaving the trip over to Thropton and beyond for the actual day of the challenge walk.

Thank you to my fellow travellers and to Margaret for back marking. This was a great day out and I throughly enjoyed the company.

I look forward to seeing you all again at Cragside.