Nordic Walk - Alnmouth & Lesbury
On opening the bedroom curtains this morning I felt like shutting them again and hibernating. I was in the middle of a blizzard...and supposedly Nordic Walking in only a few hours time! Still I decided to at least go through the motions of getting ready.
On arriving at our meeting place, Alnmouth Beach, we put on the layers of warm clothes, waterproofs, hats, balaclavas, gloves and looked ready for the Arctic. However, a quick warm up and off we went.
The walk began by following the River Aln back inland and away from the coastline, taking us down Lovers Lane and onto the cricket club where the coastal challenge starts and finishes. We however had only just started and so continued on, towards Lesbury.
After a brief stop in a little suntrap, out of the wind, we carried on along the river again but now heading back out to the coast. This took us through a farmer’s fields where the crop had been harvested. This uphill stretch was perfect for really feeling the magic of Nordic Walking and we all managed to climb the hill without stopping or getting out of breath. From here on it was all downhill. The view looking back over to Lesbury and the meandering river was stunning.
We continued on down a tarmac road to Foxton Hall golf house and then whipped across their green 9public footpath of course) to return to the beach. Although now tiring it was noticeable how people began to walk quicker, the beach making the perfect medium for Nordic Walking.
After stopping to see a seal cub on the beach and talking through the finer points of advanced Nordic Walking techniques, we finished with a cool down.
We arrived back at the start with a few layers less than when we started and.... we didn’t get wet!
Pennine Way - Byrness to Brownhart Law
Sundance had been frantically doing the Old Soft Shoe Shuffle all Saturday but the magic did not seem to be working. Sunday morning was dull and damp. By the time we left for the start of the walk it had even rained a bit.
It became drier as we progressed inland and the sun was trying to come out, things were looking up. But by the time we reached Buckham’s Bridge car park there was a hint of dampness in the air. Gradually we all arrived and piled on to the mini bus and set for Byrness.
The road took us up the Coquet valley to Chew Green and then into the army range. Unfortunately Mike took the opportunity to give a running tour guides commentary if you look to your left you can see so and so if you now look over there you can see etc. etc! Everybody was glad to get to Byrness and out of the Tour Bus.
Leaving the mini bus behind a short walk brought us to the Pennine Way, where we had stopped last year.
Having safely crossed the A68 after a very short pleasant walk (flatish) we started the first and really the only big climb of the day (633ft) to the summit of Byrness Hill.
The ground underfoot was not as slippery or as wet as I would have expected. Part way up we exited from the conifers to an area of recently felled wood which gave the first of many superb views of the day. After a little scramble (and for those with short legs an extra helping hand) we reached the top of Byrness Hill.
Through the various showers around us we could see as far as Cross Fell and to the north tantalising views of Scotland. The Pennine Way now follows the ridge line between the Spittlehope Valley and the Cottonhope Valley. After a gradual climb we reached Houx Hill and shortly after stopped for a late lunch in relative shelter from the wind at of all places Windy Crags!
After lunch we continued to gradually gain height until we reached Raven Crag, as we were admiring the view we experienced our first and last rain of the day, but by the time we had put on waterproofs the shower had passed over.
The route now was defined by a long stretch of board walk. Having reached Ogre Hill we began the decent into the Coquet Valley. A wooden bridge has been built for the Pennine Way to cross the Coquet, although it is more an area of boggy ground with a couple of channels of running water six to seven inches wide.
We now crossed into Scotland to reach Coquet Head. Passing through a second fence took us back into England and Chew Green. We left the Pennine Way to walk diagonally through the remains of the various Roman Camps before once more picking up the Pennine Way which now followed the line of the Roman Road ‘Dere Street’. After a short climb the Pennine Way once more meets ‘The Border Fence’ near Brownhart Law and other than a couple of short stretches the Pennine Way follows this fence line virtually to Kirk Yetholm.
It was at this point we left the Pennine Way to head back to our cars. We followed a easy grassy path over Deel’s Hill and began the long decent (over 2km) into the Coquet Valley eventually crossing Buckham’s Burn just before it joins the River Coquet and very nearly doubles the River Coquet’s size.
Well had Sundance’s Soft Shoe Shuffle worked, a guarded ‘yes’, we did get about 5 minutes rain but when you looked at the number of rain showers that were around us all day, it definitely was not a wet walk.
What weather for the end of March!
The weather had been great all week, it was surely going to break on Thursday, the day of the walk, but thankfully this was not the case.
I met my walking companions for the day at the ‘Wedder Leap’ car park, nestled in the Coquet Valley. The group I was taking out where from Brasher Boots on one of their ‘countryside’ days where they get out and experience what their customers do and yes the whole group wore their Brasher boots with many sporting the most recent addition to the range, the Fellmaster GTX.
We followed the road up the valley a little way, passing Barrowburn Tea Room before we left the valley floor gaining height quickly as we climbed up Hindhill and we started to follow the old drovers’ road, The Street.
‘The Street’ is the name given to the clear track leading from Barrow Burn over Black Braes and the main ridge of the Cheviot, which is crossed near Monzie Law, and down to Hownam in the valley of Kale water. It is an old drovers’ road used by both packhorse trains and also for moving livestock to the English markets. Although traffic eased on these drovers’ roads during the period of medieval border warfare, it became firmly re-established in the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly by drovers keen to avoid the tolls of the new turnpike roads.
We stopped for lunch, sheltering on the side of Swineside Law, just out of the wind, it was a lovely little sun trap with a great view.
Then we continued on to the border fence and started our climb to the summit of the day, one of my favourites, Windy Gyle.
Windy Gyle is 2010 feet (619 m) above sea level. Therefore it exceeds the magical 2000 feet barrier, this is usually the point that hills finish and mountains begin.
The massive cairn on the summit is called ‘Russell’s Cairn’. This is a Bronze Age mound but it was named after Lord Francis Russell who was killed in the border battles in the area, probably at Hexpethgate where Clennell Street crosses the border ridge; on 27th July 1585. This was the day of the truce. It was the day that the English and Scottish met together at selected points along the border to air their grievances and right their wrongs.
We continued to follow The Pennine Way. The Pennine Way was the first U.K. Long Distance Path (now National Trail) and was officially opened in 1965. Its original theme was the provision of the opportunity to make long distance journeys through predominantly wild country.
In 1989 the Pennine Way was 502km (314 miles) in total, including loops. By 1994 rationalisation of some of the misalignments had reduced this to 463km (288 miles). It runs between Edale in Derbyshire and Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders taking in Northern England's finest moorland scenery.
We then left the Pennine Way and started to follow Clennell Street. This old road runs from Alwinton to Cocklawfoot in the valley of the Bowmont Water, on the Scottish side of the border. This ancient route has been traced back to prehistoric times but was used more recently by smugglers.
After a short distance we left Clennell Street and skirted over Middle Hill before dropping back down to Barrowburn and the car park.
After driving back down the valley we all went to The Coquet Vale for a meal to celebrate a great days walking one of the best day walks the area has to offer.
Great weather, spectacular walk, good company and a nice meal at the end of the day. A perfect day out!