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.
Cartington Castle and Great Tosson Tower
Fingers crossed the weather was going to hold off; they had forecast rain for early afternoon.
Today’s the tale of two castles (well one tower and one castle to be precise) so after meeting everybody at Rothbury Tourist Information Centre we headed north up onto Addycombe Hill and the lovely wooded section high above Rothbury.
Just as we reached the woods the drizzle started to fall but it certainly did not dampen spirits everybody still enjoyed the great views from this side of the valley.
After leaving the woods we headed over in the direction of Debdon Farm and Primrose Wood before heading North West stopping for lunch and then continuing on to initially South Cartington and then Cartington itself.
Cartinton Castle was looking fairly sad for itself, on a damp June afternoon. It is a Grade 1 listed building. Its first recorded owner was Ralph Fitzmain who held it in 1154. In the late 14th century a pele tower was built. This was extended to include a great hall, and probably a tower-defended courtyard, by John Cartington in 1442 when he was granted a licence to crenellate his home.
In November 1515 Mary, Queen of Scots (with her baby daughter Margaret) stayed here on her way to Harbottle Castle. The castle continued to be occupied until 1860 and in 1887 Lord Arnmstrong restored a section of the castle.
From Cartington we then dropped down to Thropton crossed the river and rose up to firstly Tosson Lime Kiln and the Great Tosson Tower itself.
Tosson Tower was probably built at the end of the 15th Century. From 1553 it was used as part of the Lord Deputy General of the Marches’ system of watchtowers designed to curb lawless reivers of Redesmouth and Tynedale. Two men were stationed to keep watch every night. Coquetdale was a Royalist area during the Civil War when the garrison was increased to a lieutenant and six dragoons. Asleep in their beds they were easily captured when parliamentary troops arrived in July 1648.
From Tosson we again dropped back to the valley floor and crossed the River Coquet before making our way along the river bank back into Rothbury.
By the time we reached the village the sun was coming out and the waterproof coats where well put away.
We had covered the walk at a really good pace and the great company was appreciated,
Bush Tucker trail
We all met outside the Rothbury Tourist Information centre. As this was the first Bush Tucker Trail we were all looking forward with anticipation to the day ahead.
The guide, survival expert Rob Caton, welcomed everyone with a firm handshake and explained the agenda for the day. We were to take a relaxed walk to the hidden bushcraft area on the Cragside Estate, where we would be shown the essentials of bushcraft and get a chance to try a few things ourselves before being led back to the start of the walk. Questions were encouraged, as was sharing of observations and information from any member of the group about the things around us on the way.
Rob led us down to the bank of the River Coquet for the walk into the Cragside Estate.
Once onto the riverside path proper, we were quickly introduced to our first bush tucker experience, the Stinging Nettle. After a detailed and fascinating description of the benefits of the nettle and how to prepare it for eating we decided to try out our newly acquired bush tucker knowledge by picking a leaf, preparing it and eating it. The consensus was that it wasn’t as bad as we all thought it would be and even have a pleasant flavour. As usual, there’s always someone who doesn’t follow the instructions so Rob explained how the nettle also contains a remedy for its stings.
The first bush tucker experience whetted our appetites for more, with the youngest member of the group being the most enthusiastic. Rob was full of interesting information about the plants growing along the path, including medicinal plants like Woundwort and Herb Bennett, food plants like the Dead Nettle and Japanese Knotweed and poisonous plants like Hogweed and Hemlock.
Once onto the Cragside Estate and after a short climb we were on one of the many paths around the estate. This gave us the opportunity to sample a few more bush tucker plants. One member of our party knew more than he was letting on and even pointed out a few edible plants, like Wood Sorrel, before Rob got the chance. The youngest member of the group was still clamouring for more and had the opportunity to try Dandelion. This opportunity was immediately regretted, as Rob explained that at this time of year the Dandelion is extremely bitter. A little of the more palatable Wood Sorrell helped take the taste away.
After the lovely walk Rob stopped us and showed us the secret path to the bush craft area. Needless to say none of us could see it. However, after the short walk through the forest of Rhododendrons we reached the site. We sat down in the bush shelter for a well deserved rest and some lunch while Rob explained knife use and fire making.
As the midges were also having their lunch, on us, we were keen to get our fires started and generate some smoke to get rid of them. We all went out to gather the necessary materials from the trees around us. We then prepared our materials and got our fires lit and our Kelly Kettles going. In the mean time Rob set the fire for cooking the Rainbow Trout and we gathered pine needles for our pine needle tea. When the Kelly Kettles were boiled we enjoyed our pine needle tea whilst watching Rob and the younger members prepare the fish and start it cooking. After salivating for a while we tasted the fish and agreed that the flavour was wonderful and all the better for being cooked and eaten outdoors. Once the youngest member had finished off all but the most inedible parts of the fish, and we were all suitably relaxed, we tidied up the site and embarked on the return journey back to Rothbury, retracing our steps.
On reaching the Rothbury Tourist Information centre we congratulated Rob on a great day and thanked him for sharing his expert knowledge with us. Saying our goodbyes we all again received another firm handshake from Rob and embarked for home, equipped with our new found bush tucker knowledge.
This bush tucker trail certainly opened up our minds about the wild food that is around us. A truly unique day was had by all as everybody was shown how to survive outdoors and eat what is around us.