St Cuthberts Challenge Training Walk
Saturday 19th July
Today’s walk had two main themes: how stunning the north Northumberland uplands are and, almost inevitably, what the weather held in store. There was however an intriguing subplot about how far we were walking.
The sub plot was created by the translation between metric and imperial measures. 17 was the pre walk number but crucially, was it miles or kilometres? So the walk began with a bit of chat about that. Having measured the distance on the map with a trusty, opened up, paperclip I was of the opinion that it was kilometres and that the ‘17’ roughly equated to 10.5 miles. What I also knew was that the route involves a good deal of ascending and descending – both of which add distance….
We left Wooler Common in Ron’s taxi and arrived in glorious sunshine at Kirk Newton and set about walking almost due East back to our starting point. The weather? It was warm and a bit muggy but very pleasant as we began to gently gain height as we left the village on the joint Pennine Way and St Cuthbert’s Way path. The height gain continued as we began to skirt Green Humbleton Hill, with its fort on top, and climbed steadily but relentlessly to the split in the ‘Ways’. The true beauty of the Cheviots reveal themselves as we climbed up to and over the water shed into Elsdonburn.
The muggy part of the weather started to become a main talking point because it made the uphill climbs uncomfortable. It was also suggestive of thunderstorms and we had all heard the weather forecast of the heat build up resulting in heavy downpours.
From Elsdonburn through the valley on a good surfaced track and then road we made our way to Hethpool and into the College Valley. Crossing the burn it began to rain. Just gentle cooling rain that fizzled out as we sheltered under a tree for lunch. Despite the shower the humidity remained high and the stillness of the air made the steep ascent out of the valley past Yeavering Bell and across the wild moors to Tom Tallon’s Crag a bit of a struggle. Frequent stops for drinks in this weather are important, as it is easy to become dehydrated.
Having gained height we made our way over the grouse moors to Gain Law and then on a good track over flat(ish) ground we made our way towards Wooler. This part of the walk is worth savouring because here you get a real sense of being on the edge of the Cheviots when you can see the plains below. The descent to Wooler finished with a final steep downhill through the woods.
So a great walk from Scotland to England, climbing over the border ridge down into the College Valley up and over the moors to Wooler. Stunningly beautiful. Warm and muggy but we avoided getting rained on too much. And the distance? 17 kilometres or 10.5 miles? As it turned out neither! We covered 12 miles at an average of 2 miles an hour. Herein lies a useful navigation tip when planning a route: measuring a distance on a flat (2D) map is often deceptive , especially when walking up and down hills. There is a formula for working this all out, it’s called Naismith’s Rule, and it involves counting contour lines to work out height gained and loss and…so on and so on.
We had a great walk but most of us were glad in the end that we hadn’t had to walk 17 miles not because of the hills but because of the weather.
I look forward to meeting my training partners on the full challenge walk in a couple of weeks time on 9th August when the weather will be perfect!
From Source to Sea - day 6
The River Coquet from Source to Sea
Day 6 Felton to Amble
Yet another glorious day dawned yes Sundance was back in the groove and the old soft shoe shuffle had done the trick. After a bit of too and froing in amble Mike found the car park with the mini bus in, and after the compulsory comfort break we set off back to Felton.
We were dropped off on the north bank of the old bridge and use it to cross to the south bank of the river. For the first part of the route the path follows the river.
Although you would not have known as the high bankside vegetation completely hid the river from view. As we left the river side we climbed up the only steep hill on the days walk, Mike had said that this was the only climb but by now the group had suss out the mike interpretation of what was flat was not always the rest of the groups view.
After a little while we started to walk on a well-defined track that we followed for the next two miles and other walking under the East Coast Main Line and it being rather muddy in places had not a not a lot to recommend it. Although track does take you very near Morwick Farm the home of delicious ice cream. Mike decided that this was too good an opportunity to miss and so dragged the group for an ice cream. Whilst there we also had lunch used the facilities and two shall remain nameless J & M had one large tub of ice cream each THEN went back for another!
After lunch we continued to follow the track and were able to look down towards Warkwoth, Amble and the North Sea Coast. The track brings you in to Warkworth and soon we were walking around under the castle before once more reaching the river (and able to see it).
At some picnic tables we stopped for a short break before once more following the river round to Warkworth Bridge. We continued to follow the river round Warkworth until new river defence works necessitated slight detour (Oh and a slight climb up a hill. Eventually we were back alongside the river and walk downstream to Amble Marina. We had to walk round one boat yard and round another corner and there were the cars. Mike allowed us to drop of our rucksack before we continued along the now key side until we were standing on the pier and therefore over the sea and the end of six days of good walking. A still the sun shone.
From Source to Sea - day 5
The River Coquet from Source to Sea
Day 5 – Rothbury to Felton
Well Sundance had danced the night away and yes it was a bright and sunny morning at Felton as the group met and the early birds had a cup of coffee from the local coffee shop, before jumping on the mini bus and heading back to Rothbury. The Rothbury facilities were put to good use before we set off. We made a slight detour to follow the old Rothbury rail way line through a cutting before once more joining St. Oswald’s Footpath a pleasant stroll along the railway line which we eventually left to head down hill and have a short walk along the banks of the River Coquet. At Pauperhaugh the path does a little detour leaving the river to cross the Forest Burn by a footbridge. Once across the bridge we stopped for lunch and some of the group used the trees to good effect.
After lunch we continued along the river before climbing up a heugh leaving the haugh land to walk away and well above the river. Then we walked past the farms of Thorneyhaugh, Middleheugh, and Brinkheugh and all though we passed Brinkburn Priory the trees were too dense to see the building or the river. The path continues through several fields until we reached the Todd Burn were it enters the River Coquet just above the old weir for the mill at Weldon. This section is one of the closest bits next to the river.
At Weldon we crossed the old road bridge before continuing on our way on the north bank of the river. While some of the group went into the pub to use its facilities the rest of the group continued to walk slowly eastwards. Once more we lost sight of the river catching only glimpses either through the trees or somewhat in the distance.
From Elyhaugh to Felton fence we more or less followed the river before climbing up out of the valley to walk high above the river but under the A1 trunk road as it crosses the River Coquet. The path took us through the grounds of Felton Park. From hear a short road section brings you to the centre of Felton (and the end of the days walk) also the older A1 Bridge (now a footbridge) next to a slightly more modern bridge still in use for vehicles that cross the Coquet.