Northumberland Coastal Challenge 2012
Being on the start and finish line allows me to see you all come and go as the day progresses. I see the excitement, optimism, anxiety and general giddiness in the mornings – and that’s just the staff! But at the end I like to be there to give you that well deserved pat on the back and a cup of tea. But I also get to hear your wonderful and sometimes quite moving stories.
So, with your permission I would like to share some of those stories with you.
Most people on finishing were tired, wet and very windswept and the offer of a hot drink was more than appreciated. But 2 participants, who arrived back late afternoon, looked fresh as daisies and told me how they had never done the challenge or distance before but had thoroughly enjoyed it. And did they want tea or coffee? No, they settled on a pint! Well done lads!
A lady who arrived back late afternoon was laughing as she couldn’t see through her glasses because of sand on the lenses. As she entered the clubhouse her glasses also began to steam up so she took them......or at least tried to. The wind had been so aggressive that it had completely tangled her hair around the frame of her glasses. My colleague tried to help untangle her but in the end she had no choice but to cut her free! Luckily it was only the end of her hair cut and not a large clump. Next year we may well have to have an on-site hairdresser with us!
We have many groups and individuals who walk with their dogs. They are amazing as most cross the finish line ready to go again! One dog in particular caught my eye this year. Her name is Bess, she is a Border Collie and she has walked on quite a few challenge walks with her owner over the last few years. When she crossed the finish line this year she looked tired, a sign she is getting older, and was quite happy to sit with her owner for a rest. That was until she found a tennis ball the cricket club had been using in training. The tail wagged, she was up and looking for someone to throw the ball for her. I guess that’s where the saying ‘life in the old dog yet’ comes from.
Another regular client of ours not only walked the challenge but completed an 8 mile stretch of it by Nordic Walking. This lady came on a Nordic walking training course with me last year and has worked really hard to perfect her technique. I am so proud of her. The same lady also told me that she was raising money for a young boy, to enable him to travel to the States for an operation. She alone had raised £200 completing this challenge. The boy and his lovely family had come to see their friends finish the challenge, including some people who they had never met before. He spent all afternoon watching out of the window for people he knew and had a gingerbread man or two. I hope he gets to the USA and all is well in his future.
Lastly, and perhaps the most moving story I heard was that of a lady who finished the challenge in the late afternoon. She came through the clubhouse door looking like she had won the lottery. Jon followed her in and announced that she had attempted the challenge in 2011 but had had to retire. She had been quite upset but had been determined to go for it this year......and she did! She completed the challenge and got a massive cheer from all in the clubhouse for her efforts.
So whether you tried and failed, or thought about entering but didn’t or perhaps you just want to complete the challenge year after year, I hope you feel inspired to join us next year. The coastal challenge is such a wonderful day for staff and participants alike. And I really hope to see you next year on the start....and finish line!
Sunday was certainly a day of four seasons.
As it was a little while since I had done this walk I decided to re walk the route in the morning, before the group arrived in the afternoon.
As I pulled into Blanchland at 9.00am I was a little shocked by the number of cyclists all warming up getting ready for the Tour of Derwent Cycle race, which had many top riders in including Team GB. It looked far to energetic for a Sunday morning!
Thankfully my walk out of Blanchland was a little more leisurely than there exit and as a climbed up onto the heather clad moor it was like a spring day. During my ‘recce’ I managed to bump into the walkers doing the Allendale to Haltwhistle walk, which is part of the Haltwhistle Walking festival. A few familiar faces and a quick chat made for a welcome break before preparing for the Shepherds Walks walkers in the afternoon.
After eating my lunch in Blanchland the group started to arrive. This was a ‘private group’ which is a group of walkers that have come to Shepherds Walks to guide them. I take many groups out like this every year and work with them beforehand to make sure the route is exactly what they are looking for.
As we climbed out of Blanchland the group kept very good pace, but we all appreciated a bit of a breather as we reached the moor.
From this location I explained to the group about the burnt heather. This has been done to regenerate and encourage new younger plants to grow. This would also have been done to make a good habitat for the grouse. The young grouse birds will live in the old thicker heather but feed on the young vegetation that will grow in these burnt patches. If the heather had been burnt solely to generate new growth for sheep to feed there would not have been a need to burn lots of small patches. Therefore just one large swathe of heather would have been burnt.
As we continued on we dropped down to and followed ‘Carriers Way’. This is an ancient route that runs from dale to dale. This would have been the main route for carrying supplies across this barren landscape. It would have carried packhorses and occasionally horse drawn sleds. In this area of Northumberland large amounts of lead ore were carried by packhorses from mine to smelt mill.
After a quick snack in the shooters lodge we headed back through the trees into a completely different world.
A world of lush green fields, full of ewes on lambs. A great time of year and a good opportunity to discuss the different breeds of sheep.
As we continued to drop down we passed the magnificent Newbiggin Hall before arriving back in Blanchland.
It had been a great walk and the group gave a very kind thank you, which is always appreciated. I look forward to seeing them all again next year.