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Tue 9th April 2013

St Oswalds Way - part 1

St Oswalds Way - part 1

Sundance had been quietly soft shoe shuffling during the week and it had worked for Saturday but had he soft shoe shuffled to soon?  Very early Sunday morning even before the larks had rizzed! Mike gave a sigh of relief it was DRY but overcast and cold.

At 7.00 Richard picked up Mike and they set off for Belford to meet the group.  By the time the taxi arrived everyone was getting ready and so Richard and three of the group set off for the start on Holy Island as soon as the taxi left the mini buses arrived.  Mike was so keen to get going that in the mad scramble to get everyone on board that he very nearly left two of the group behind.

We met up again with Richard and others at the start of the Pilgrims Way where he explained (wittered) about the tides, the sand formations, the fact the marker poles are a fairly recent addition.  Eventually we set off across the sands heading towards Snook Point, at first people tried to dodge the puddles but in the end just walked through them.  As we approached Snook point we entered an area of Eel Grass this was just an excuse for deep mud and puddles hidden by vegetation.  Eventually we reached the tarmac causeway the walking underfoot was easier but we then had to dodge the traffic.  In the end we managed to reach the main land and had a short break.

After a couple of fields the next issue was to cross the North East main line, a quick phone call to the signal man on the phone provided we were given permission to cross and then after another quick phone call to say we had all crossed safely we started to climb up away from the sea and make our way inland to the next major obstacle, crossing the A1 this took about 5 minutes as a constant stream of traffic first one way then the other made the crossing a waiting game.  Eventually all crossed safely and after walking through the village of Fenwick and another witter we stopped for lunch.

After lunch the group was split into three allowing for people to walk more at there own pace. As usual mike helped bring up the rear.  The route now enters Detchant Wood and although a pleasant stroll little in the way of views.  Just after leaving the wood St Cuthbert’s Way  heads west whilst St. Oswalds continues south.  It was along the next section we reached the high point of the day 165m. A good track lead to Swinhoe Farm then one last climb and it was all downhill To Belford.

Mon 25th March 2013

Coastal Challenge Walk 2013 - Training Walk 1

Coastal Challenge Walk 2013 - Training Walk 1

A hardy group of walkers who have signed up for the Coastal Challenge Walk 2013 met at Beadnell for a 12 mile training walk. The country was covered in snow but by some weather quirk the North East coast had escaped the snow fall that caused white out conditions. However the wind was coming directly off the North Sea and made the walk a considerable challenge. The wind stripped warmth from our bodies and good clothing was essential.

The group were taken by minibus to Waren Mill on the edge of Budle Bay to walk southwards to Beadnell. And southwards we began walking glad to be going following the coastal path and St Oswald's Way signs along the lane, up through the wood and across fields. The sea and coast are not visible from this early part of the route but after about 3 miles on  arise the magnificent castle at Bambrough comes into view. So far so good we were protected from the wind until we came to the exposed links course at Bambrough when turning into the wind (we had no choice) it was simply a matter of heads down and get on with it. A small cave underneath the castle provided a short rest bite but the group didn't linger and after a quick drink and sandwich to eat we set off for Seahouses.

Crossing a muddy field that threatened to suck the boots off our feet was followed by a flatter section that helped us to get up a good rhythm - this was after all a training walk.

The approach to Seahouses follows a wooded path which merely lulled us into a false sense of security because when we got to the harbour in Seahouses and the first check point on the actually Challenge Walk we had turned once again into the full force of the wind. The snow began at this point as we searched in vain to look for a sheltered spot for more to drink and eat. We huddled into a doorway in full sight of diners in a near by hotel - were they laughing at us?? No matter this group were up for the weather and to prevent us getting too cold we set off agin for the last leg to Beadnell.

The route out of Seahouses follows the coast about 3 meters from the sea for about half a mile. This was a half mile of searing cold as we were walking directly into the wind. The sea was spectacular with white topped waves curning up froth and leaving no beach to walk on even if we had wanted to. Across the links out of Seahouses the route turns abruptly by 90 degrees. This took us out of the wind and there was a group cheer at this point - we felt as if our ordeal was just about over. The walk along the road to Beadnell is not the prettiest part of the route by it was probably what we needed to finish off the most amazing day.

Well done to all the walkers. As a training walk it was great- we talked about techniques and strategies including pacing and eating on the go. We also worked out that the best way to recover is with a good pint - of milk (believe it or not).

Thanks to the group for a truly memorable day. I for one am looking forwards to meeting again at the next training walk in April.

Chris Constable.

Tue 19th March 2013

Nordic Walk - Bamburgh

Nordic Walk - Bamburgh

Well the weather last Sunday morning could not have been more un-inviting. Heading across to Bamburgh all we could see were big, white, fluffy snowflakes and dark skies. Not a good way to start the day and so we were fully expecting to wear full waterproofs and 50 layers to keep out the cold.

Surprisingly, by the time we reached our meeting place, the snow had stopped and it was….dry. Even more surprisingly our trusty (or maybe that should read ‘mad’!) group of Nordic Walkers arrived, ready to embrace the elements.

After a quick warm up and introductions to the Shepherds Walks team, including our official photographer for the day, Gill, we headed for the beach. After a short walk through the sand dunes we were there, ready to go full pace along this gorgeous stretch of sand. We headed south, towards Seahouses.

Nordic Walking along the beach is perfect for 2 reasons. Number 1, you can really feel the benefits of Nordic Walking when on the sand. You are able to push back fully on the poles and the fact the sand falls away from under your feet makes you ‘squash your lemons’! And if you want to know what I’m on about you have to come on the training course! Number 2, you can go at your own pace and not lose the group!

As we walked along the coastline we passed the Farne Islands, where the stranded MV Danio had run aground, although it wasn’t visible as it was 3 miles away from the shore. Watching the waves crash against the rocks did make you very aware of the peril to both humans and animals.

As we approached Seahouses a strange thing happened. A bright light appeared in the sky and the sky itself turned…! The Shepherd of Shepherds Walks seemed to remember this strange sight as being something called ‘the sun’, something they had in the old days. We thus changed direction and followed this strange glow, re tracing our steps back to Bamburgh Castle. I can also state for the record that some members of the group, including myself, were forced to take drastic action and remove a layer of clothing! Who says Nordic Walking isn’t exciting!

On our way back through the sand dunes near to the castle we narrowly missed impailing a toad. How it had survived on the dunes was amazing. We also stopped for a group photograph in front of the castle itself, such an iconic image of Northumberland.

After a few cool down stretches and an update of the next Nordic Walks coming up we went wearily on our separate journey’s home. Tired yes but feeling exhilarated after such a glorious walk along our beautiful coastline.