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Tue 13th March 2012

Debdon Lake Circular, Cragside and Thrum

Debdon Lake Circular, Cragside and Thrum

Well Sundance’s new boots look to be doing the trick, after completing the old soft shoe shuffle the night before we woke up to a bright sunny morning.

Arriving at the Rothbury TIC a cold wind was blowing down through the village so it’s on with the fleece and then the windproof.

Mike gave the usual prep talk about crossing roads i.e. do not get squished.

We set off through an alley way past the Co op and started to walk up hill. We then walked along Back Riggs before walking up through a modern housing estate before we reached the first carriage way (except it’s now a tarmac road) we quickly left this to walk up Pennystane Lane and on to one of the carriage ways proper.

This climbed up slowly and gradually to Brae Head, a short walk took us to where Physics Lane, a track from Thropton, meets one of the carriage ways.  From here we had spectacular views to the south of all the Simonsides. To the west, the hills of the Otterburn Army Range,  with Windy Gyle in the far distance, then the eastern hills of Kidland Forest, swinging round to the North West we have the huge mass of The Cheviot and of course then Hedgehog (Hedgehope).

With the majority of the days climbing over except for a couple of small climbs the walk now has become a pleasant stroll through the sunshine.  The Carriage way now started to head in a more easterly direction putting the wind behind us, making it feel more like a Summers Day!!! Rather than a (still officially) winters day.

At lunch time we were able to bask in the sunshine as well as eat our packed lunches.

After lunch we continued to follow the carriage way into the Debbdon Valley.  Passing a four walkers one of them greeted one of our party members and THEN another one of the four recognised one of our backmarkers!  At Primrose Cottage we crossed the Debbdon Burn for the first of many crossings.

Shortly after this we entered the National Trust Cragside Estate.  Mike was going to follow a path along the shore of Tumbeton Lake but at the chance of a comfort break the group overrode his choice of route and we ended up going to the Stable Block although Mike would not allow any one to go to the café or shop.

From the stable block we rejoined the Debbdon Burn as it flowed through the Cragside Estate.  Having walked under the Iron Bridge we found the footpath blocked so we had to go back round, up and over the bridge before once more descending in to the valley.  Here we passed a fantastic wood carving of Mike although most of us thought it was too good looking.

Eventually we reached the confluence of the Debbdon Burn and the River Coquet which is just outside of the Cragside Estate.  We now followed the River upstream past the Thrum Mill and the site of the Coal Gas Works (Built by or for Lord Armstrong).  A little later we reached the Bailey bridge and made our way back to the Rothbury TIC and the end of our walk.

Mon 12th March 2012

Nordic Walk - Cragside Carriageway

Nordic Walk - Cragside Carriageway

We couldn’t have picked a better day for a Nordic Walk, spring has definitely sprung!

Our large group of 19 Nordic Walkers, all of different abilities, set off, up the first climb of the walk, leaving the High Street of Rothbury for the ascent to the Cragside carriageway.

Some of the group were nervous that they may not make the climb but after being reassured the top was in sight and that once there it would be flat; our gallant group went onwards and upwards. After a brief stop at the top of Pondicherry and some points of useless information from Jon we carried on, upwards.

Eventually we reached green hills and we were rewarded with stunning views of the Cheviot and Cheviot hills. Down in the valley we could see the village of Thropton, with the River Coquet winding its way through it. Otterburn firing range saluted our ascent with the boom of their big gun and a plummet of smoke, a little unsettling. Onwards and upwards, nearly there, steepest part behind us!

We joined part of the Cragside Challenge route and followed the wall line towards the carriageway. At this point the layers came off and many of us walked in T shirts. Onwards and upwards, nearly there, steepest part behind us!

We climbed through the heather to reach the carriageway itself and at last I could say, with real conviction “we ARE at the top and the steepest part IS definitely behind us”. The views from the carriageway were stunning, the hard surface under our feet a welcome change to the heather land and as we progressed Rothbury came back into view. At this point the group made the unanimous decision to extend the walk by a further 1 ½ miles, to continue to the end of the carriageway. This was after getting an accurate hill count before we set off. So un-trusting!

At the end of the walk we dropped down through fields, said hello to a friendly horse and back into the village. After some cool down stretches those that could went for a well earned cuppa and reviewed the day.

I think I can safely say that everyone enjoyed this walk, even though it was quite demanding in places. One member had started the walk thinking she would not be able to complete it all. But after the initial climb she stopped and told me that she had never managed to walk up that hill, in one go, before. Even those people who had only learnt to Nordic Walk a few hours earlier managed the whole route and their techniques were much improved by the end of the walk. Those people who had come on their own had made friends and arrangements to meet on the next Nordic Walk..... and I like to think I have made some friends too.

A true testament to the power of Nordic Walking!

 

Mon 27th February 2012

Roman Ring, part 2 - Hallbankgate to Haltwhistle

Roman Ring, part 2 - Hallbankgate to Haltwhistle

Sunday 26th February 2012

All participants on this walk should now have beautiful feet considering the prolonged and intensive mud treatment that they received.  Having just spent an hour and a half cleaning fine caked mud from boots, gaiters and overtrousers, plus the non-optional sphagnum moss, it was a reminder of just how wet the route was.  Mark Richard’s guidebook describes the route as an all weather route!  It would provide a good venue for a bog snorkelling event.  Doubtless everyone will remember the particularly glutinous section of the walk between the two plantations on Denton Fell (neither were marked on the OS map).  This will never dry out unless we have a really extreme drought hidden as it is from direct sunlight for all but a few minutes each day shortly after sunrise and before sunset, and that only in the summer half of the year.  I think that the above provides a “picture” of the conditions underfoot.  Fortunately we stayed dry from overhead despite 8/8ths cloud above us that capped the North Pennine fells immediately to our south.   

There were really two separate parts to this walk.  The first half was east over the higher level moorland and rough grazing land, the second turning north-east to parallel the River South Tyne downstream towards Haltwhistle and our parked cars.  The first half of the day appeared surprisingly rural and agricultural at first sight.  However in the first kilometre or so the mainly 19th Century industrial archaeology apparent in the landscape proved otherwise.  We started the day following the track bed of a former mineral railway and crossed the route of yet another only a kilometre from the start – remember the embankment with the dismantled arch just after Clowsgill Home Farm?  By then we had already passed the former Clowsgill limestone quarry and an adit mine entrance.  All of the older (pre-twentieth century) buildings were built of the local Carboniferous sandstone and a little further on we paused briefly beside the Roachburn Colliery Memorial which neatly encapsulated the three major constituent rock of the Carboniferous, sandstone, limestone and coal all of which played a significant role in the industrial history of the area – Haltwhistle itself owes its industrial origins to coalmining and the Newcastle to Carlisle Railway was one of the first commercial railways in Britain actually used the coal. 

Leaving the Colliery Memorial at Coalfell, another clue, we struck out east across the moor having only walked two kilometres dry-shod after which things changed, see above.  Stoop Rigg plantation provided shelter from the cool south-west wind for slightly belated elevenses.  The plantation was the highest point on the moorland and so relatively dry, there were even pheasant feeders beneath the trees.  The next hour and a half before lunch are best described, with typical British understatement, as “rather damp and boggy” everyone had wet feet by now and the “walkers foot spa beauty treatment” began in earnest - and continued for most of the rest of the walk at no extra cost to participants!!!!

Lunch was taken in a field just before the final descent into the South Tyne valley in the lee of the wind which had developed a sharp edge.  Fortunately we had been walking downwind all day, all part of the planning and customer care of course.  We had visions of easy progress beside the South Tyne and that was the case – for the first half kilometre – after which we reverted to “mud, mud glorious mud.”  However this was different, it was on steep valley side slopes instead of undulating moorland and usually involved only a narrow “path” with adverse camber i.e. you very easily slipped downhill whilst trying to ascend!  Vibram soles and mud are a potent mix for a combination of mud-skiing and slow unsteady progress.  The pleasant views both of Featherstone Castle and bridge allowed a brief pause before negotiating the quagmire from there to beyond Wydon Eals Farm. The right of way around the latter provided some of the worst conditions underfoot of the whole river section which was a surprise.  We need to develop a descriptive Mud Index along the lines of climbing grades, or avalanche classifications.  It could be done in Geordie along the lines of:

1.    Geet Fettle Surface
2.    Dampish Surface
3.    Clarty Tendencies
4.    Canny Clarty
5.    Reet Clarty
6.    Claggy Clarty
7.    Geet Clarty
8.    Geet Very Clarty
9.    Droonin in Clarts
10.    Midden-like Clarty: note the subtle inclusion of mud aroma as yet another sensory variable.

Each of the classifications would have a detailed objective descriptor based on a number of variables e.g. water to solid ratio, viscosity of mud, depth of mud, coefficient of friction, nature of substrate, vegetation cover (type and percentage), indication of the area of mud (narrow, broad, extensive, etc. 

After that there only remained the walk into Haltwhistle and the odd looks we received from drivers and pedestrians alike mud-caked as we were from the knees downwards.  We also received a similar reaction clustered outside of the public conveniences in the centre of the town on our way back to the cars.  What they didn’t appreciate was that free hot water was on offer in addition to the usual facilities.  This represented excellent value for money – relief and luxury all round following a free Shepherds Walks foot mudpack and massage (actually just feet slipping about in wet muddy boots) plus a good walk.  What more can anyone ask of a walk in winter?  The stoicism and good humour of the British was well demonstrated in our happy band as muddy, wet kit was deposited in that essential piece of equipment beloved of walkers, the plastic bag, before the drive home with the heater on in the footwell.  Whilst most of our number can’t be described as “kit freaks” I really do recommend the use of waterproof socks for warm dry feet, it makes a qualitative difference to the day’s experience.  Do however use them in combination with gaiters because once the “water assisted regolith” (i.e. mud) overtops your socks you are back to square one; wet, cold feet with a high squelch factor!!!!!!! 

RNH
Monday, 27 February 2012