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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.


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