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Sun 17th July 2011

Hadrian's Wall, part 7 - Walltown to Walton

Hadrian's Wall, part 7 - Walltown to Walton

Sunshine and showers was the forecast and what we got, very heavy showers and 20 minutes of sunshine whilst waiting for the minibus in Walton.  Ironically we were waiting outside the Centurion public house which had ceased trading – so near and yet so far!

We started the day in waterproofs and we ended the day in waterproofs.  In between we tried to pretend it was summer but invariably ended up donning jackets and overtrousers post haste, especially when we decided to stop for a snack and particularly when we arrived at Birdoswald for lunch when the heavens really opened and the thunder and lightning we’d previously heard in the distance moved overhead.

The light westerly wind meant that the showers were very slow moving and the clouds deep resulting in very large raindrops and lots of them.  It was a good job that some of us are interested in meteorology.  Watching the showers approach down the Tyne Valley and gradually obscuring the fells of the North Pennines and knowing we were soon to get wet again soon was particularly galling when the sky to the north, over the Scottish border, was turning blue.  It gave us lost to talk, even laugh, about we were all British after all.  It certainly added to the interest at the river and stream crossings which ran uniformly high, turbid and peaty brown, we’d had a lot of rain in the last 48 hours.

Today was the day we crossed the watershed near Gilsland, left Northumberland to enter Cumbria (for the Cumbria & Northumberland Border Rain Festival?) and moved off the iconic scarp and dip profile of the Carboniferous Whin Sill rocks onto the more subdued pink coloured rocks of the New Red Sandstone.

The landscape became gentler once past Gilsland and when it wasn’t raining and the visibility improved we could glimpse the Carlisle plain and once even saw the Caldbeck fells “Back O’ Skiddaw.”  The Wall in this section of the walk was new to most people and the transition from stone wall to turf wall made an impact. 

The section between Gilsland to Birdoswald was particularly interesting with the long section of continuous wall, the abandoned Roman bridge abutments due to the migration of the meander of the River Irthing and the modern Willowford Bridge.  We climbed the steep hill up from the bridge towards Harrow Scar (Milecastle 49) in a brief burst of warm sunshine only to very quickly don waterproofs at the top.  By the time we reached Birdoswald “for lunch” on their picnic benches lunch was out of the question.  We sheltered briefly in the coppice adjacent to the English Heritage facility and moved on, the trees just made the drips bigger (no, not us).  Lunch was thirty minutes late taken standing-up with rucksacks and wet kit draped over farm gates.  After a few minutes drought the monsoon season resumed.

Most of us ran out of food by the Pike Hill Signal Station stop just before Banks so it was both a relief and a pleasure to encounter the self service Haytongate Snack Hut with picnic benches and a WC only 150 yards off-route, luxury.  This excellent facility enhances your faith in human nature.  As this was out seventh day together on the Wall Walk everyone knows each other’s foibles quite well and the banter flows freely with lots of dry humour.  This friendly continuity is one of the outstanding aspects of this series of walks – sometimes I almost relax!  Thank you to everyone for your many and varied contributions to yet another excellent, if somewhat damp, day out.  Our next appointment for “The Hadrian’s Wall Walking Therapy Group” is Sunday 28th August for the Walton to Carlisle leg.   


Sunday 17th July 2011

Wed 6th July 2011

Pennine Way part 4 - Steel Rigg to Stonehaugh

Pennine Way part 4 - Steel Rigg to Stonehaugh

The Sundance Kid had been hard at work, had the soft shoe shuffle worked? 

Sunday morning was warm, bright and with little wind, things were looking good.
By the time we had all arrived at some obscure spot in the middle of nowhere that Mike had chosen as the meeting place it was starting to become quite warm.  After a slight delay we set off for Steel Rigg in the mini bus.

We piled out of the mini bus at Steel Rigg and started walking straight away.  The climb up to the top of Steel Rigg crags quickly got us all very hot and ‘glowing’! Then it was back to the down up down into Sycamore Gap and the up onto the top of the crags at Crag Lough, by now every one was starting to cook.  The descent to Hotbank gap was only eased by walking in the shade of some trees.  The climb up Hotbank brought us to a suitable lunch stop with views over the Tyne valley to the North Pennines.

After lunch a gentle walk along the top of Hot Crags brought us to the next dip, here we left the Wall.

The route once more started to head in a northerly direction.  The path took us between Broomlee Lough and Greenlee Lough. Interestingly the out flow heads west back to Cawfields before heading south to join the South Tyne at Haltwhistle.  Eventually we reached the south east corner of Wark Forest which extends north to join Kielder Forest and over the border in to Wauchope Forest, some 40Km of continuous forest.  We followed a forest road for about 1.5km before heading into the forest itself for a short distance coming out on to a stretch of open ground.  From here all the streams now drain into the North Tyne until we cross on to the border ridge above Byrness.

It was not long before we were back into the forest for the final stretch of the days walk.  As we progressed we became aware of an odd flapping sound.  Was this some mythical forest creature or worse? No some ones boot sole had become loose and was flapping around much to the merriment of the rest of us as we were entertained by several strange (funny walks dept. take heed) walking techniques, none are recommended.  Eventually we reached a road which the PW crosses and marks the end of this section of the day route.   On the short walk a long the road Flapper became sole less and completed the day with one boot and one new boot slipper.

Well the Sundance Kid had over done the soft shoe shuffle this time as every one ended the day very very hot and sunburnt, well those in shorts and T shirt anyway.

This was another day to remember as Mike hardly wittered on except a couple of times about the views back to Cross Fell and forward towards The Cheviot.

Tue 28th June 2011

Goats on the Roof - Rothbury Walking Festival

Goats on the Roof - Rothbury Walking Festival

Shepherds Walks did this as a guided walk earlier in the year and after reading the blog I could not resist in putting myself down as the guide for leading the same walk during the walking festival.

The reason for this is that the walk passed through Greenleighton Farm, which is the farm I used to shepherd on.

After meeting in the morning we skirted around the edge of the reservoir before we climbed up through Greenleighton to what I think is one of the finest views in Northumberland, from Greenleighton Hill. It is truly one of the hidden gems.

We then dropped back down and passed through the farm before heading west through the trees to head back onto ‘hill country’.

After a very quick lunch, kindly cut short by midges we were heading towards the Fallowlees Burn and instead of dropping down and crossing it we continued on the reservoir.

We soon crossed back into the reservoir and made our way back to Goats on the Roof. What better way to end a guided walk than a nice cup of coffee and a slice of carrot cake!