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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.

Wed 27th June 2012

Cartington Castle and Great Tosson Tower

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,