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Tue 8th May 2012



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.

Mon 30th April 2012

YouTube Film - Roman Ring, part 4

YouTube Film - Roman Ring, part 4

Mon 30th April 2012

Roman Ring, part 4 - Haydon Bridge to Hexham

Roman Ring, part 4 -  Haydon Bridge to Hexham

Never a dull moment – unless you count 8/8ths cloud cover all day of course!  First a reminder of the opening paragraph of last month’s (March) blog for the Roman Ring 3 walk between Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge.  “What an amazing contrast to the Roman Ring 2 walk of last month.  Dry, sunny (once the morning fog had dispersed) and positively hot in the afternoon, what had happened to the wet, overcast and cold conditions we previously enjoyed?

We certainly weren’t complaining, well not very much anyway.  “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” Charles Dudley Warner.”

By contrast for this fourth stage of the walk the outside air temperature was just 5°C when I parked the car at Hexham prior to the luxury coach transfer (mentioned and appreciated by everyone present, thank you Jon) to our starting point.  In addition we had 8/8ths cloud and a cold wind from the north-east to head into, oh joy!  The immediate outlook wasn’t encouraging with strong winds and heavy rain forecast for the later but as Roger Miller said “Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.”

Consequently we set-off walking a little faster than normal with the intention of covering as much ground as possible before the rain and stronger wind set-in to minimise “the time exposed to misery” later in the day.  On the basis that no plan survives reality serendipity dictated that our worst fears were not to be realised, the promised wind and rain arrived late, in time for our drive home.

We started high above the Tyne Valley with good views to the east and the unusual sight of the plume from Eggar’s chipboard factory being blown westwards.  The first three kilometres went by quickly.  The house called Castle View in the hamlet of New Alston caused some confusion until we had walked a bit further when the view south across the Tyne valley opened-up to reveal Langley Castle four kilometres away on the other side of the river.

Castle View was from the back garden only.  There was plenty of evidence of former mining and quarrying activity along this stretch which had now become industrial archaeology.

Turning north east along the undulating and largely unsurfaced track leading towards Newbrough and the old Roman road of Stanegate we were relatively sheltered from the wind and what a pleasant difference it made.  Elevenses were taken only a few minutes late before completing a brief road section and entering Crow Wood.  This downhill section was accompanied by the strong scent of ramsons (wild garlic) and a discussion about the possibilities of putting some foraging walks into a future walk programme.  The site of the former Allerwash Mill proved interesting and the steep gradient of the peat coloured stream below the head pond displayed the relative thinness of the sandstone beds.

We emerged from the Crow Wood directly onto the north bank of the South Tyne adjacent to the railway line.  This section, between Crow Wood and Fourstones, was a contrast to our route so far with lots of evidence of the fluctuating level of the river showing both erosion and deposition as it meandered across its floodplain.  The collapsed fences with their posts still stapled to the wires hanging over the river cliffs and the dangling ends of plastic filed drains showed that natural processes predominate over human ones.  The glacial sands making-up the high river cliffs were home to sand martins whose nest holes were obvious.  It was almost lunchtime by now so we continued through Fourstones and up past the dressage ring and gallops uphill to Laverick Plantation just below Warden Hill.  This put us in the lee of the wind and in the shelter of the trees with good views up the Tyne Valley to the west so that we could see most of our earlier route.  It was here that sharp-eyed individuals spotted a couple of swallows who might be regretting their early migration.  The horses in an adjacent field showed interest in our picnic and a local out walking his dog was surprised to see 12 people walking “his” route and moved swiftly on.  As we shouldered out rucksacks it started to drizzle and slowly became more persistent as the afternoon wore-on.  Just before arriving at Warden Bridge to cross the Tyne we came across two politically incorrect parking notices one saying “ Reserved Parking for the Lady of Leisure” and the other, more direct one “ Don’t Even Think of Parking Here” – we thought the more humorous one worked best.

Crossing the bridge to the south side of the river took us via the National Cycle Network Route 72 to the A69 road bridge where we returned to the riverside for the final part of the walk.  Unfortunately our route had taken us away from the riverbank for a short stretch and we had not seen the confluence of the North and South Tyne rivers.  The drizzle had now turned to rain so we walked under the road bridge emerging alongside the railway line.  The tree-lined riverside walk via Tynedale Golf Course and Tyne Green Country Park sheltered us quite well on this final section of the walk.  As we had set a reasonable pace in the distinctly cool conditions, and kept our stops to minimum, we arrived back at Tyne Green car park earlier than planned which everyone appreciated – plenty of time for an “early bath” once home.  It was amusing to see “the professionals” comparing the distance walked as measured by guesstimation, pedometer, GPS and using both miles and kilometres to confuse each other further.  However it is the first time that I have ever heard anyone quote distance as “X number of calories consumed “with an obvious sense of achievement!

Thanks to everyone for making it such an enjoyable day, hopefully your time exposed to misery was minimised!

“Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” Kelvin Throop 3rd


Monday, 30 April 2012