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Wed 1st August 2012

Moss Troopers Trail 1: Walltown to Housesteads

Moss Troopers Trail 1: Walltown to Housesteads

It was sunny and warm when I left the coast to drive to Housesteads.  By the time I reached the westbound A69 it was cloudy, drizzling and the indicated temperature had dropped from 18° Centigrade to 13° Centigrade, an omen of things to come?  The car park at Housesteads proved to be a “bit draughty” adding (subtracting actually) to the wind chill temperature.  Some people who shall remain nameless optimistically arrived in summer gear so at least their legs would be self-draining later in the day!

We made a positive start with the transfer to Walltown by minibus and enjoyed a civilised cup of coffee from the cafe prior to beginning the walk.  A quick overview of the reclaimed Walltown Quarry site and we were on our way, past the distinctive profile of Collar Heugh Crag the glacial erratic near Hangingshields Rigg finally leaving the tarmac just beyond Low Tipalt Farm.

We were soon into the long wet grass near Bundle Hill and on to the saturated rough grazing land north of Chesters Pike.  The final hundred metres to the road en-route to Benks Hill was a morass which hops, skips and jumps between infrequent stones did nothing to improve – it may be marked as Burnhead Moss on the map but it is supposed to be summer.  We took the longer, but drier road route towards Edges Green stopping-off for lunch on the way.  We enjoyed the brief sunny interval but as soon as we set-off again it rained, then it rained hard, then really hard.  On balance we definitely preferred watching the showers sweeping in from the west to our south over the North Pennines or to our north over the Wark Forest but we were to get used to sunshine (think of them as short periods of drought) and heavy showers for the remainder of the day.

The Resting Gap bog snorkelling event went well followed by the ditch jumping experience.  This  entailed jumping from waterlogged mire to waterlogged mire over much deeper open water (i.e. the actual ditch, aka The Moat) to continue our route which was blocked by a fenced plantation not marked on the map.

Tracking east to the north of Swallow Crags via Gibbs Hill and the clear felled Greenlee Plantation we arrived at the Greenlee Lough boardwalk.  Luxury, we were actually walking above water level for a change, even if our feet were still enclosed in wetsuit style soggy boots.

It got busy on this section of the walk; we passed two people going the other way.  We visited the bird hide seeing no birds whatsoever but the sheep on the side of Greenlee Lough were building rafts.  A note in the hide diary mentioned the muddy few yards from the path down to the hide – they don’t know they are born, a mere nothing to our happy band.

On past East and West Stonefolds to intercept the Pennine Way going south to Rapishaw Gap on Hadrian’s Wall.  Just before the Wall we gave the two bulls, numerous cows and their offspring as much space as we could but inevitably they were tightly grouped around the only available stile.  The two bulls were bellowing at each other from either side of “our” stile!  Everyone went into “Best British Stiff Upper Lip” mode and, totally ignoring the livestock threat, (no not really) we continued carefully but swiftly on our way.  Actually everyone very kindly let me go first in my red jacket – but I knew that cattle are colour blind so it made no difference; I was equally ready to make a quick dash.  Housesteads car park and its facilities were in sight and time was getting-on. 

Walk Statistics:

1.    Moving Time: 4 hours 54 minutes (We can’t really call a lot of what we did walking, can we?).

2.    Stopped Time: 2 hours 19 minutes (includes minibus transfer and morning coffee, bog snorkelling, falling over, getting-up, being stranded, ditch jumping, etc).

3.    Total Distance Walked: 20.72 km (12.87 m).

4.    Moving Average: 4.1 kph (2.54mph).

5.    The Terrain: Mostly “Geet very soggy” to “Thick, muckle clarty” with short sections of “Just too shallow and claggy to swim in” on the North East Dampish Underfoot Scale. 

6.    Everyone present had a lot of “fun,” whatever that is, and professed to having enjoyed themselves whilst becoming expert on the natural history of the Border Mires.  Everyone can instantly recognise and describe sphagnum moss from both head height and ground level (at a range of 2 – 3 cm) when finding themselves temporarily prone on its surface.  Some of our number inadvertently tasted it too!

7.    There is no surcharge for the mudpack beauty treatment experienced by all as it wasn’t advertised on the Shepherds Walks website at the time of booking.

It was sunny and warm when I arrived back at home, had been all day apparently!     

RNH Monday, 30 July 2012

Mon 23rd July 2012

Nordic Walk - Rothbury Forest

Nordic Walk - Rothbury Forest

Another fabulous day for Nordic Walking, just what we ordered. The sun was out, a lovely breeze and for once....no rain!

After worrying about the initial route I had set out to do I decided at 4.30am to change it to a route that was not so steep. I think the correct decision was made.

The Nordic Walker’s met in Simonside car park, we gave out poles and Julie ran through a quick refresher for those clients who were new to Nordic Walking. A quick warm up and off we went, up Simonside.

The first section of the walk was uphill, but on good track, allowing us to use those poles to help with the gradual increase in gradient. A few people lifted their poles en route to assure themselves that walking with the poles DOES make it much easier. No lead weights around the ankles as we climbed, just lots of work for our shoulders. We took plenty of breaks up this steep section, giving everyone a chance to catch their breath and take in the scenery – plus take a much needed drink on such a hot day!

Once at the summit of our walk the path levelled out and with the forest below us, we took full advantage of the light breeze that cooled us. The views from here are spectacular, we could clearly see the Cheviot Hills, Rothbury, Simonside Crags above us and out to the East we could see the sea. Just beautiful views with very little effort, due to our Nordic Walking poles.

We stopped briefly as a grass snake caught the eye of those at the front of the group, rudely awakened by the clanking of 15 pairs of poles. A little further along the top flat track, just below the summit of Simonside, before beginning our descent. Jon warned us a boggy section ahead and so we set off fearing the worst.

As we descended, back into the forest, the way became a bit steeper, making it necessary to unclip our poles from our gloves and use them as a trekking pole. And by the time we hit the boggy section it had dried to a muddy section and really wasn’t an issue. Clean shoes for once!

Once through this section we re-joined the path and were able to re-attach the poles and Nordic Walk downhill and back to the car park.

Many of those who joined us on this walk had only just learnt to Nordic Walk. But by the end of the 4 ½ mile route, and with prompting from 2 instructors,   their techniques had developed noticeably, the youngest of our group striding ahead on the return journey.

As usual this was a lovely group of Nordic Walkers who become friends as they walk along. You have the chance to meet up with new people as well as old friends and all abilities of walker came and completed the route. As the saying goes....no one gets left behind on a Mrs Shepherds Nordic Walk!

Mon 16th July 2012

Pennine Way - Kirk Yetholm to The Schil

Pennine Way - Kirk Yetholm to The Schil

Wednesday rained all day all local rivers and streams in flood.  Sundance decided to alter the route for Sunday to one where there was only one stream to cross and even that could be missed out.  Saturday Sundance had been doing the old soft shoe shuffle now for three days, and the weather had improved. 

Sunday 5.30 am bright sunshine has the soft shuffle worked?

The Group met where the Pennine Way and St. Cuthbert’s Way cross the Halter Burn it, was still sunny but the amount of cloud had built up. 

We took the Alternative Pennine Way route that follows the Halterburn upstream.  As we approached Halterburn Farm there were a lot of sheep penned in a small field next to the farm.  Some one said they must be in for shearing but smart pants Mike said no those have been sheared but as we got up to the barn, lo and be hold, they were shearing which prompted Mike to  start wittering on about ‘Sheep, shearing and maggots, wet fleeces and the price of a fleece’.  Fortunately we were soon passed the farm and Mike shut up. 

At Burnhead farm the route leaves the road and becomes a farm track up to Old Halterburnhead a derelict farm.  As the track petered out the path became rather soggy in places.  So far the path had been rising fairly gently but as we reached the watershed between the Halterburn and the Curr Burn the ascent steepened and those with short legs allowed those with long legs to get on ahead.  Eventually we all got back together on the col between The Curr and Black Hag and had lunch.  From here we had great views of the route of the last walk which we did not see at the time because of mist.

All too soon we started once more and quickly joined the original line of the Pennine Way. By now it was a strong wind making it feel much cooler and by the time we crossed the border fence into England we all had wrapped up.  The Pennine Way now follows the border fence (and the border ridge) all the way to Chew Green some 14.5 miles away.  After a boggy quarter mile we started the long hard slog up the Schil. 

By now the wind was making walking rather difficult, eventually we reached the sort of summit and this allowed us to take in the fantastic view all round.  From the North Sea in the east, across the Tweed valley towards the Southern Uplands to the North, the Cheviots stretching to the west and of course The Cheviot with the Hen Hole immediately filling the view South. 

After Mike had taken some photos we set off to the Schil summit proper but only when some one had given Mike his walking poles and some one else gave him his gloves that he had forgotten about.  As it is in Scotland we had to cross over the border fence and scramble up a tor to say we had been to the top.  Much too every one’s amusement as Mike was dashing about the top he got his boot jammed in a crack and not amount of tugging by Mike would allow the boot free, in the end Mike undid his boot laces and twisted his foot and then his boot before it popped free.

Now according to Mike it was all down hill except for a couple of ‘little ups’, we have heard this before! We retraced our steps back to the border crossing and just below Black Haggs the Pennine Way splits and this time we took the original Pennine Way which still followed the border ridge and fence.  The long descent down Steel Rig offered us stunning views to the north across the Tweed valley we could even pick out the Waterloo Monument just north of Jedburgh.

After a pleasant if windy descent we then had a very steep climb to White Law before descending once more to the head of Witchcleuch Burn and the last ascent of the day. 

Here St. Cuthbert’s Way joins the route of the Pennine Way back down to the Halterburn and our cars  By now the wind had eased the sun was warm and we were walking gently downhill. What a perfect way to end a really good day’s walk.