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Sun 24th June 2012

Rothbury and Tosson Lime Kiln

Rothbury and Tosson Lime Kiln

Rothbury Walking Festival – Sunday 24th June

Day two of the Rothbury walking festival and at the start of today’s walk it was nice to see that the strong winds that walkers had experienced yesterday had finally ebated! Instead however, the sky was full with the promise of rain at some stage very soon!

We left Rothbury after a quick briefing down by the river (The briefing was quick as we feared we may have needed a snorkel and flippers if we hung around for too long!) wearing an amount of Gore-Tex equal to our collective body weight as a group! However, arriving at Whitton fifteen minutes or so later it was necessary to remove a number of layers! It was also noted that a pocket of blue sky could be seen overhead. We had obviously won Mother Nature’s favour today!

Continuing our journey we headed for Sharpe’s Folly, a high stone tower built under the instruction of Dr Thomas Sharpe, in 1720, which provided work for the local people. We did however pass a number of comments amongst the group that the tower had superb views out towards the Northumberland coast. The tower also happened to be a prime location for an observatory, as it is rumoured that Dr Thomas was also rather fond of astronomy! How “convenient” for him!

Our route then headed out towards Whitton Hillhead and down into Simonside Forest. It was on this leg of the journey that a number of topics were discussed amongst the group including the proportion of accidents in the outdoors related to cattle, and not for the feint-hearted, the variety of gate fastenings seen around Northumberland. It was concluded that there are indeed many!

Heading through Simonside Forest we were aware that we were indeed travelling uphill rather rapidly, and that there was a very wet rain cloud heading in our direction. A quick 5 minute input on the ancient practice of using soft-rush as a candle-wick, and the merits of burning both ends at the same time to give extra light meant that I could not only share perhaps the only seed of knowledge that I have about the grasses of Northumberland, but we could also remain sheltered under the trees to ensure that the aforementioned raincloud had indeed fully downloaded somewhere in the region of Alwinton! Carrying on down the track, there was evidence of the wrath of the recent high winds with many tree branches down, and we then headed North-East towards Great Tosson and then to Tosson Lime Kiln, which was a perfect spot for lunch in the sun!

After some discussion about the use of lime in 19th Century farming, and lamenting over (or perhaps for some in the group, relishing) the potential fate of Daisy the cow (burgers, steaks, and there was definitely some mention of a barbecue!) who after the 2nd World War wandered too close to the edge and fell into the lime kiln, we headed down towards Thropton. It was here that we were relieved to be able to walk the riverside path, despite the recent heavy rain. The overgrown vegetation due to the recent warm and wet weather did however need some “coaxing” to allow us to pass through! It was a venture that even Bear Grylls would be proud of!

Entering Thropton, we surprisingly met up with the other Shepherd’s Walks group who had encountered some problems with the recent heavy rain-fall which meant that there intended route was completely water-logged. As a preventative measure to curb the sprouting of webbed feet within the group, their guide had needed to employ an alternative route. After many (friendly) insults were passed between the guides over the rights to the route (The route was in our group’s plan, but the other group were ahead of us!) we all walked together for the short stretch up Physic Lane, before reaching the lower carriageway track above Rothbury. It was at this point that the sun came out in full-force and we were reminded that it is actually June!

Onwards and upwards, and with some bog-dodging here and there, we hit the higher carriageway track above Rothbury, which was historically used by Lord William Armstrong to showcase the surrounding countryside to his guests! We then headed across the crags and then followed the track down into Rothbury. Additionally, we managed to remain in the most-part dry and at my last count just above Rothbury, we were still a group of 15 – Always a bonus!

This was a lovely walk with a great group who made my first guided walk for Shepherd’s Walks very enjoyable! Thanks to all who came, and I hope to see you all again!

The name Daisy has been used to protect the identity of the cow in question.

Sat 16th June 2012

Nordic Walk - Hauxley and Druridge Bay

Nordic Walk - Hauxley and Druridge Bay

Today was going to be a day of shower dodging. Everybody had travelled through all four seasons on their way to the meeting point, Hauxley Nature Reserve.

After a quick warm up we headed around the edge of the reserve out to the beach. After a little time of ‘Nordic Walking on the spot’ which hopefully will help us all take our skills to a higher level we headed south along the beach at a good pace.

The beach became narrower and narrower and at this point we made our way to the path which runs behind the dunes to continue our journey south to Druridge Bay Country Park.

Druridge Bay Country Park was full of VW vehicles as over the weekend the ‘Dub Fest’ was taking place, which is a celebration of everything VW. But for us Nordic walkers the cafe at Druridge was a welcome haven with warm refreshments and a good opportunity to relax and chat to everybody in the group.

Full of energy again we headed back north up the beach and really pushed on giving a true full body workout. Walking on the beach gave everybody a really good opportunity to work on their advanced Nordic Walking technique.

Just as we turned back into Hauxley Nature Reserve the heavens opened and I know for sure i was glad to get the car heaters on during the drive home.

Thanks everybody for coming and I hope you enjoyed this coastal Nordic Walk. It gave everybody a very different environment to get out and really feel the difference that those two poles can make.

Mon 11th June 2012

Pennine Way - part 11, Clennel Street to the source of 3 rivers

Pennine Way - part 11, Clennel Street to the source of 3 rivers

Pennine Way Clennel Street to Cairn Hill - Sunday 10th June 2012

Well Sundance had danced, had the old soft shoe shuffle worked?  Not really, but have we got a new Rain Goddess lurking in our mists? The next walk will tell.

As we drove up the valley to the car park at Windyhaugh the surrounding hill tops were covered in cloud but it was dry.

By 10.30 we were all in the mini bus for the drive up to the start point, Salter’s Road where a bridle path which crosses a forestry commission track in the middle of the forest above Uswayford, this was as close as we could get to the Pennine Way.  By now we had climbed into the cloud/mist and exiting the bus it was damp (not yet proper rain, Sundance) grey and not very pleasant.

We followed a well made path through the forest until it joined Clennel Street.  The ground under foot was very wet and Clennel Street could have been renamed Clennel Burn as it had so much water running down.  A little way along the Street Mike came across two burst balloons they looked very much like the two he had found snagged on Beefstand Hill a month before and released to fly on.

Although the cloud had made the visibility poor navigation was not a major issue as the track was easy to follow and we quickly reached the point where we left the Pennine Way on our last walk. 

Where Clennel Street crossed in to Scotland we now turned right and followed the Border Fence eastwards.  The going was good as the National Park had laid slabs to replace the black morass that use to be the path.  The misty conditions meant that you had no real sense of progress and it was only on reaching King’s Seat (still has Trig point) that you felt you had made any progress.  Eventually we made Score Head and stopped for lunch.

During lunch the mist drifted apart to give us a brief glimpse of the potential view that we should have been enjoying. All too quickly the mist rolled back in to shrink our views to 100m or so.  A gentle climb eased us back into our stride before the steep climb to the summit plateau. On reaching the plateau the Pennine Way turns sharp North heading for the Schill but an optional Pennine Way extra is to take in The Cheviot summit.  Before you reach the Summit you climb over Cairn Hill which was our turning point for today. By now the visibility had closed in and at times was less than 30m.

On reaching Cairn Hill we stopped for a photo and then like the Grand Old Duke of York who marched his men to the top of the hill and marched them down, we reversed and began the march down the hill the way we had come.
What a surprise the views back the way we had come looked exactly like the views up, Grey Mist.

The walk back to the Pennine Way Clennel Street junction seemed to take for ever as we all trudged along in the grey murk.  Eventually we reached the Clennel Street and followed this back to where it crosses the Usway Farm Track. Much to our delight and amazement we walked out of the mist with about 500m to go and had the first real views of the day looking down towards the Coquet Valley.  As the track became visible Mike started to get a little bit worried as there was no sign of the mini bus.

The panic only lasted a few minutes, the mini bus approached from the opposite direction. As we had not arrived back at the pick up point on time the driver had gone to where he had dropped us off just in case we were waiting for him there.

The final insult of the day is we arrived back too late and found the Tea Room had closed.  All in all a good days walk!