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Tue 26th June 2012

Bush Tucker trail

Bush Tucker trail

We all met outside the Rothbury Tourist Information centre. As this was the first Bush Tucker Trail we were all looking forward with anticipation to the day ahead.

The guide, survival expert Rob Caton, welcomed everyone with a firm handshake and explained the agenda for the day. We were to take a relaxed walk to the hidden bushcraft area on the Cragside Estate, where we would be shown the essentials of bushcraft and get a chance to try a few things ourselves before being led back to the start of the walk. Questions were encouraged, as was sharing of observations and information from any member of the group about the things around us on the way.

Rob led us down to the bank of the River Coquet for the walk into the Cragside Estate.

Once onto the riverside path proper, we were quickly introduced to our first bush tucker experience, the Stinging Nettle. After a detailed and fascinating description of the benefits of the nettle and how to prepare it for eating we decided to try out our newly acquired bush tucker knowledge by picking a leaf, preparing it and eating it. The consensus was that it wasnít as bad as we all thought it would be and even have a pleasant flavour. As usual, thereís always someone who doesnít follow the instructions so Rob explained how the nettle also contains a remedy for its stings.

The first bush tucker experience whetted our appetites for more, with the youngest member of the group being the most enthusiastic. Rob was full of interesting information about the plants growing along the path, including medicinal plants like Woundwort and Herb Bennett, food plants like the Dead Nettle and Japanese Knotweed and poisonous plants like Hogweed and Hemlock.

Once onto the Cragside Estate and after a short climb we were on one of the many paths around the estate. This gave us the opportunity to sample a few more bush tucker plants. One member of our party knew more than he was letting on and even pointed out a few edible plants, like Wood Sorrel, before Rob got the chance. The youngest member of the group was still clamouring for more and had the opportunity to try Dandelion. This opportunity was immediately regretted, as Rob explained that at this time of year the Dandelion is extremely bitter. A little of the more palatable Wood Sorrell helped take the taste away.

After the lovely walk Rob stopped us and showed us the secret path to the bush craft area. Needless to say none of us could see it. However, after the short walk through the forest of Rhododendrons we reached the site. We sat down in the bush shelter for a well deserved rest and some lunch while Rob explained knife use and fire making.

As the midges were also having their lunch, on us, we were keen to get our fires started and generate some smoke to get rid of them. We all went out to gather the necessary materials from the trees around us. We then prepared our materials and got our fires lit and our Kelly Kettles going. In the mean time Rob set the fire for cooking the Rainbow Trout and we gathered pine needles for our pine needle tea. When the Kelly Kettles were boiled we enjoyed our pine needle tea whilst watching Rob and the younger members prepare the fish and start it cooking. After salivating for a while we tasted the fish and agreed that the flavour was wonderful and all the better for being cooked and eaten outdoors. Once the youngest member had finished off all but the most inedible parts of the fish, and we were all suitably relaxed, we tidied up the site and embarked on the return journey back to Rothbury, retracing our steps.

On reaching the Rothbury Tourist Information centre we congratulated Rob on a great day and thanked him for sharing his expert knowledge with us. Saying our goodbyes we all again received another firm handshake from Rob and embarked for home, equipped with our new found bush tucker knowledge.

This bush tucker trail certainly opened up our minds about the wild food that is around us. A truly unique day was had by all as everybody was shown how to survive outdoors and eat what is around us.

Tue 26th June 2012

Brizlee Tower and Hulne Park

Brizlee Tower and Hulne Park

What an evening, who could have asked for better weather.

After meeting in Alnwick market square we head off through historic Alnwick to Hulne Park, which is the only remaining park of three that surrounded Alnwick and is owned by The Duke of Northumberland.

The stunning walled park was a true oasis, being peaceful and on sock a lovely evening what better place to be.

After discussing the land management of the park we climbed up to Brizlee Tower, a Grade 1 listed folly set up high on the park. It stands 26 metres high and it has recently been restored.

After visiting the tower we also visited the created new burial ground for the family, with its 12ft high highly ornate gates. From here we had great views looking north over to the Cheviot Hills.

We then dropped back down and made our way back into Alnwick just in time for the chip shop.

A great walk was had by all. Thanks very much.

Tue 26th June 2012

Quarries of Coquetdale

Quarries of Coquetdale

Around Rothbury there are the remains of a number of old Quarries, all with different stone, which have played an important part in the development of the area. This walk aimed to look in much more details at these.

After a short transfer the first stop of the day at Caiston Quarry, an old sand and gravel quarry. The modern operation commenced production in July 1956, although there had been a very small production unit under previous ownership situated further upstream. The old wet pits left after extraction were to be restored into a nature reserve.

From there we crossed the valley floor over to Tosson to look at the Limestone Quarry that created the essential stone for the Lime Kiln, which helped transform the agricultural land in the area.

On our way back to Rothbury the last stop will be just on the edge of the village, at the old Sandstone quarry, which many of the original houses were built out of.

A great walk.