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Sun 27th November 2011

Whitton Hillhead Nordic Walk

Whitton Hillhead Nordic Walk

After a Saturday of gales and rain it was nice to see a bright start to Sunday, with the wind dipping just a little bit.

We met on the Haugh car park, next to the River Coquet which was well up after the previous days rain and after a quick warm up we were on our way climbing ‘Jacobs ladder’, before following St Oswald’s Way up past Sharp’s Folly, which was built by REV. DR. Thomas Sharp, Rector of Rothbury ( 1720-1758), for the relief of unemployment amongst local stonemasons and use as an observatory. It is the oldest folly in the country and is a listed building.

As we continued Nordic Walking our way up the track we were heading directly into the wind.  This gave everyone the chance to practise leaning into their walk and thereby improving their technique. The power of using the poles and also the stability they gave really showed the benefits of Nordic Walking off, but a welcome rest was well appreciated behind the trees, just before reaching Whitton Hillhead itself.

After skirting around the farm we reached the highpoint of the walk from where we were treated to stunning views of The Cheviot Hills in the distance, with Thropton nestled in the valley bottom, next to the river.

As we dropped back down to The Coquet and crossed Lady’s Bridge we where thankfully sheltered for the home run (or rather Nordic Walk) along the recently opened cycle path that now follows the North Side of the river.

A few cool down exercises where then in order before a good number of the group headed into Rothbury for a well deserved coffee and cake at Thomlinsons.

It was a great lively group with the whole group gelling very quickly and settling into the Nordic Walk very quickly. I hope we see you all again in March for a tour around the other side of the valley.

Mon 24th October 2011

Budle Bay, Bamburgh

Budle Bay, Bamburgh

The weather forecast was for a nice October day, but as we all pulled our boots on the drizzle was starting to fall. On the plus side the car park machine was not working, which was a real bonus at the start of the walk and with everybody turning up early it was great to get away on time.

As we skirted Bamburgh Castle, passing the recently set up Zip Wire we headed towards the coast and headed north up the Northumberland Coastal Path. The 64 miles / 103 km long Northumberland Coast Path forms part of the international North Sea Trail. This long distance path starts at the small village of Cresswell in the south and ends in the historic town of Berwick upon Tweed in the north.

As the drizzle stopped we approached and followed the path through the golf course. Bamburgh Castle golf club was founded in 1904 by Lord Armstrong of Bamburgh and Cragside, with the support of his friends, after the failure of two earlier courses on the links between Bamburgh and Seahouses. This effort was on a larger scale. He donated the clubhouse and funded the development of the course, which was laid out on leased land from one of his Newcastle based friends and colleagues, Mr Cruddas.

We continued a little further up the coast before arriving at Budle Bay, a bird sanctuary. At low tide a large amount of mud flats are exposed and therefore is home to many thousands of sea and land birds.

After skirting around the edge of Waren Mill we again joined the Northumberland Coastal Path for our return trip passing lime kilns and the caravan site, before being treated to one of my favourite approaches into Bamburgh. Approaching Bamburgh from the highest point on the walk, with Bamburgh Castle in the distance is a view which I think really shows the imposing castle off superbly.

It was again a lovely walk, a truly relaxed walk and with lots of like minded people on the walk it made for a brilliant atmosphere. Thanks everybody for coming along and I look forward to seeing you all again sometime.

Tue 18th October 2011

Hadrian's wall, part 10 - Burgh on Sands to Bowness

Hadrian's wall, part 10 - Burgh on Sands to Bowness

Day ten and the final leg of our journey across the isthmus linking the east and west coasts which started ten months ago back in January in sunny Tynemouth, how time flies.  It may have been sunny when we started this series of walks but there was snow on the ground too, and plenty of icy patches so we’ve walked through all four seasons – sometimes in a single day, do you remember the Force 8 westerly gale on the day we started from Brocolitia for instance?   

With only a nominal 7.1 miles to cover we enjoyed the luxury of a more leisurely pace even though some of us met at Kirkharle for 8.00 am for the drive over to Carlisle and beyond, the narrow main street of Bowness-on- Solway certainly has the feel of “beyond.”  The use of the company people carrier is really appreciated by all for longer transfers.   A civilised start included morning coffee (from flasks) before boarding the minibus for the drive back to our starting point at the now familiar cattle grid near Dykesfield.  Alighting here sight wasn’t the dominant sense, surrounded as we were by incontinence; some of us had only just got our kit clean from last month!

The three miles to Drumbrough (pronounced Drumbruff) were uneventful if you discount elevenses at the rather posh shelter overlooking the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Boustead Hill.  The village has a unique assortment of different styles of housing and is built on a drumlin, a remnant of the last Ice Age but I don’t think anyone was listening by then – I’m used to it by now.  Far more interesting was watching one of our numbers tucking into a third breakfast and repacking his rucksack for the umpteenth time, what a hero.  Oh yes, and someone else literally “put his foot in it” which I fully accept was my fault for suggesting we walk on the salt marsh away from the traffic, sorry honestly.  If we hadn’t come this way we wouldn’t have seen the haff netting frame on the edge of the saltmarsh, a rare and ancient form of fishing unique to the estuaries of the North West.  As we approached Drumbrugh we were passed by a convoy of classic tractors, little (by today’s standards) Massey Fergusons, David Brown and International Harvester models en-route to somewhere – we didn’t see them again after that, not even the one flying the Union flag.  Their drivers were very gracious and waved to us as they passed and not a single piece of bailing twine in sight anywhere.  Team photographs in front of Drumbrugh Castle having studied this bastle house and noted the Roman alter at the top of the steps with a possible second one at ground level.

Down the lane from Drumbrugh towards Drumbrugh Moss National Nature Reserve, a raised bog, eventually took us past Walker House Farm, an apt name in the circumstances.  The sections of the walk in the vicinity of Drumbrugh and Glasson proved to be very wet and muddy.  As we were quite close to the respective mosses named after them and the fact that the highest point in the area was only 13 metres - and that in the middle of the raised bog it isn’t surprising!  Lunch was taken perched on some articulated farm machinery to keep out of the mud.  One of the smallest and lightest of our number clearly hadn’t absorbed the moments of a force part of her physics education  however causing havoc with everyone else’s carefully balanced sandwich boxes and flasks and cups – how we laughed.  Having just packed everything away ready to move off it poured down, waterproofs on we squelched towards Port Carlisle.  This was intended as the outport for Carlisle itself linked initially by a canal and replaced 30 years by a faster rail link.  After failing as a port it was promoted as a resort which also failed.

Just short of the failed port’s dilapidated breakwater and harbour installations we stopped to take off said waterproofs because the sun came out and remained so for the rest of our walk.  On the red sandstone breakwaters the ornithologists spotted a solitary little egret and a grey heron plus lots of lapwings, oystercatchers.  Some ducks, probably pochard ducks judging by their reddish-heads were in the water beyond these structures.  Cormorants flew along the firth at low level whilst the westbound contrails of North American bound passenger jets passed overhead considerably higher.  Sunbathing session over we followed the shoreline past the remains of the lock gates with their smoothly crafted masonry around the seaward side of the village towards Bowness only just over a mile distant.  The flood tide was coming-in quite quickly now as we reverted to the road walk between the two settlements.  On arrival at Bowness we made our way to the official end of the walk for celebratory photographs and returned to our vehicles.

A celebratory drink, alcohol for some, tea for others, was taken at The Greyhound in Burgh-by-Sands on the way home along with a very nicely decorated Hadrian’s Wall cake courtesy of A (thank you VERY much indeed).  We all really appreciated it and Three Breakfasts Man even took some of the remaining cake away with him in case of an emergency stop in a lay-by on the way home!!!!!!  In the last few months we have seen and experienced several different landscapes, in a range of different conditions, in addition to the focus of the Roman Wall itself.  We are really lucky to live in such a diverse and accessible landscape.  Equally importantly we have come to know each other quite well, to appreciate on another’s personality and sense of humour so that the banter has been light hearted and a real and genuine pleasure.  I’ve really looked forward to our walks; they have been more than the sum of their parts.  I hope you all feel the same and that there are many more to come in the future.