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Mon 2nd July 2012

Rothbury Forest

Rothbury Forest

This was was part of the Rothbury Walking Festival.

As usual Sundance had been doing the old soft shoe shuffle to conjure up a dry day with a little more in the way of desperation than normal.

A dull morning with dark threatening clouds had the shuffle worked?

The group met at Rothbury Tourist Information Centre and were sent off by Mike ( as he was not quite ready) to look at The Coquetdale Angler’s Carved Headstone and The Lord Armstrong Burial plot.  By the time we had looked at the cemetery we were ready to start, no, Mike needed to take a group photo.  Now we were off, down the steps across the footbridge and we followed the road up to Whitton  where we wittered about border raids pele towers, bastles and of course the folly Sharpe’s Tower.  At this point Jon overtook us on his Geo trail.

Leaving Hillhead road we started to follow St. Oswalds Way.  This first headed towards Whitton Dean and then started the long climb up to Lordenshaws Hillfort.  On reaching the hill fort we admired the ditches and remains of the ramparts before finding the remains of the foundations of a building (house?).  We next headed for a rock that was covered in cup and ring carvings.

Continuing along St. Oswalds we climbed over a small ridge and descended into Cualdhole Moss, fortunately the track was not to water logged, eventually arriving at an old Shepherd’s  cottage called Spylaw, which is looked after by Blyth Scouts.  This made for a good lunch stop (in warm sunshine).

After lunch the path to Blagdon Farm was none existent, fortunately Mike’s GPS kept us on the right line.  Although at one point it looked as if we would be headed off at the gate by some cows’ a stern look from Mike and they decided not to pursue the issue and we reached the field gate without any fuss.  As we approached the farm yard a shearer slammed a big gate shut just in front of us.  Not to keep us out but to keep the sheep in.  We then stopped while Mike had a chat to the farmer’s son while the rest of us watched as they sheared the sheep.

From Blagdon we walked down the farm track did a little zig and zag across a B road and headed for the Crook Crossing.  This is where the Rothbury –Morpeth old railway crosses a small road, it was just after this Mike gave us a choice of routes left or straight on.

Unfortunately we choose left as once more the path was non existent we kept being taken down a muddy and very boggy valley side to try to find the way down and across the Bog Burn!  Eventually Mike found the sort of ford to cross over but the rocks were incredibly slimy and slippery.  Once more Mike trying to be a hero stood in the stream and helped the ladies across (the creep).  Eventually we found a way marker that put us on the right course and we arrived at the Lee Siding.  According to Mike there was a siding for coal wagons but according to the lady of the house Mike was talking rubbish and there was not a siding.  If we looked in the field at the end of her house we could see the remains of the winding gear that was part of a rope way that brought coal to the siding from the Lee Pit across the valley.

We now followed a minor road to Brockley Hall farm originally a bastle  built in the 1600’s.  At East Raw we turned right, walked passed Butterknowes  (another bastle) and then onto Brinkburn Station.

We were now able to walk along the old railway line all the way back to Rothbury.  It was just before Wagtail farm that we experienced a light rain shower which did not really get any one wet and had stopped by the time we reached Rothbury.

So yes Sundance had more or less managed yet another dry walk.

Q. Would his luck continue to hold for his next walk on Friday?

Fri 29th June 2012

The Goat Track

The Goat Track

This was certainly a walk to tell the grandchildren about, not just for the stunning scenery but the conditions we walked through for the last section of the walk, but more about that later ........

As we met in Alwinton Car Park it was dry and high spirited.

Today’s guided walk was going to pass along one of the best footpaths Northumberland has to offer, we call this ‘The Goat Track’. It is not a walk for those that suffer from vertigo, but it is very different from other paths we have in Northumberland.

The group where certainly up for this challenge and with it being dry underfoot and dry above we set off along the road, heading up the valley to this epic path.

After a quick briefing we climbed gradually to the goat track and made our way along it, with the River Coquet (in full flow) a long way down below. The confidence and expertise shown by every participant was second to none and as we regrouped at the far end everybody had a large smile on their faces.

As it was still dry and relatively sheltered we stopped for our lunch just before we reached Shillmoor and as the drizzle started we continued to head west and then north as we started to follow the Usway Burn. I am a big fan of this valley; as you pass up it on a wide track you really get a sense of the height of the towering hilltops all around you.

Just before Batailshiel Haugh we left the track and started our climb out of the valley. A well positioned stile gave us a great excuse to catch our breath and the well bonded group where truly stunning in their fitness, humour and expertise in walking in this testing landscape.

As the ground levelled out it was a great photo opportunity to show everybody at home the achievement of that steep climb out of the valley bottom.

After a soggy mile or so we reached Clennell Street and glad to be on the hard footing we headed south. Then it began to rain ........

Yes it was heavy, then it got heavier and it was joined by thunder and lightning. Then Clennell Street became Clennell River. I have never seen as much rain in all my life. The path was flowing like a river as the water rushed off the higher ground.

Waterproofs were penetrated and feet became wet but thankfully the high spirits of the group continued as we chucked our way back to Alwinton. It will stop any minute now was said many times but it continued on and on.

As we arrived back at Alwinton everybody had really enjoyed the walk and only when we got back into civilisation did we realise how the whole North East had been affected by the flash floods. The city had ground to a halt. Shops in nearby Alnwick had been flooded and people washed down in the torrents of water that fell in that short period, the Metro Centre was closed, the A1 was closed in sections and we, a hardy bunch of walkers, battled our way through from some remote hill tops in the Cheviot Hills back to the relative civilisation of Alwinton.

Thu 28th June 2012

Night Patrol - What do the army get up to on the ranges?

Night Patrol - What do the army get up to on the ranges?

The group met in high spirits at the Buckhams Bridge car park high up the Coquet Valley and those early attendees where well entertained by the shepherd working his border collie high up on the hill side. A lovely June evening and a truly spectacular sight.

After a quick overview of what was ahead of us the group started the steep climb up over Deel’s Hill and as we gained height the clod started to just settle on the hill tops and gave an eerie feel with sunset approaching and the cloud base meeting the ground.

As we continued on we reached the border fence and turned north along The Pennine Way as we passed over Black Halls and Broad Flow before reaching the Lamb Hill Refuge Shelter. It was now 10.00 pm and it was certainly turning dark.

At the refuge shelter we stopped for snacks to build our energy (and confidence) ready for our decent in the dark back to the valley floor. After our eyes had adjusted as the sun set we all agreed to walk the first section without torchlight and everybody was amazed by how much they could see ‘in the dark’.

As we continued to drop down and follow the Blind Burn it was truly dark and many of the group used their head torches, whilst others chose to really test their ‘night vision’.

As we hit the tarmac road it was a big relief for many of the group, not least as it was approaching 1.00 in the morning, so it had been a long night.

The sense of achievement was clear in everybody’s voices as they took off their boots and prepared for the journey home.

A truly special experience, walking and navigating in the dark.