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Sun 12th June 2011

Pennine Way Part 2 Greenhead to Steel Rigg

Pennine Way Part 2 Greenhead to Steel Rigg

Sundance definitely blew it this time. After a lot of soft shoe shuffling the sun shone temperatures rose sky high BUT it happened two days too soon.

Sunday morning grey overcast sky an easterly breeze and cold. As we approached Steel Rigg it started to spit on to rain. At Steel Rigg extra clothing was immediately put on top, plus hat and gloves. As the rest of the group arrived Mike directed everyone to the car park at Once Brewed including the bus.

By 10.00 every one was on the bus although Mike’s counting skills only just managed a head count to make sure every one was on. A quick blast along the military road to Greenhead and we were off into a head wind.

The first bit of excitement was having just crossed over the railway line a train came along. Then we had a quick look at Thirwall Castle, from a distance, and then it was off up the first hill of the day, at the top a short level section took us to Wall Town Quarry and a rush for the loos.

By now it had started to rain with a bit more enthusiasm but this only lasted for a short while before it was back to spits and spots. A quick walk round the quarry brought us back on the Wall path and surprise, surprise another uphill section that lead on to a reinstated section of the wall proper and our first open views of the surrounding country side.

These were rather disappointing as the low cloud made the distant hills somewhat grey and vague, but we could just see the hills above Alston and some of the route of the previous two walks. From here on it was down and up and down again before once more going up to go down.

Then up before a long descent to a wood which afforded some shelter from the wind and so we had lunch in the rain with midges (Mike’s first of the year). The rain eased to just spits and spots as we finished lunch and a very gradual descent brought us to the next loo stop a Cawfields Quarry.

Leaving the quarry we once more went up to come down again to the road at Shield on the Wall. A steep ascent passed mile castle 41, a little bit of levelling off before the last up hill section and we had reached the trig point at 345m the highest point on the Roman Wall. From here we make out the distant hills of the Cheviots all be it briefly before once more lost in cloud. By now even the spits and spots had ceased and with our clothing drying out (except for Mike, his boots still leak and he had wet feet) we reached Steel Rigg car park.

It was now down the road to Once Brewed and in to the cars and away, although some became waylaid by a Coffee in the pub at Twice Brewed.

Max height gained was 1,112Ft and we climbed in total 1,352Ft. For the anoraks, below is the route profile.

Mon 30th May 2011

Hadrian's Wall, part 5 - Brocolitia to Steel Rigg

Hadrian's Wall, part 5 - Brocolitia to Steel Rigg

It started as a wet and windy day with the promise of an improving forecast.

The rain showers did recede but the wind didn’t abate as we made our way west into the teeth of the prevailing and unseasonably strong wind. 

The nominal eight mile walk was at least twelve miles plus in terms of the added effort of battling against it.  The shelter of the few patches of woodland along the route was much appreciated – and yes we were on the lookout for falling branches, there were plenty littering the ground.  

The Beaufort Scale

Beaufort Number    mph          kph           m/s1           Observed Effects on Land Lakes

0 Calm                    <1    1.6                   0.44             No wind, any smoke rises vertically.

1 Light Air               1-3    1.6 to  4.8        0.4 to 1.3      Smoke drift indicates wind direction, ripples on water

2 Light Breeze         4-7    6.4 to 11.3       1.8 to 3.1      Wind just felt on face, wavelets but none breaking

3 Gentle Breeze      8-12    12.9 to 19.3     3.6 to 5.4     Leaves constant motion, some wavelets breaking

4 Mod Breeze        13-16    20.9 to 25.7    5.8 to 7.2     Dust, loose leaves & paper raised

5 Fresh Breeze      17-24    27.4 to 38.6    7.6 to 10.7    Small trees in leaf begin to sway, many white horses

6 Strong Breeze     25-31    40.2 to 49.9    11.2 to 13.9    Larger tree branches in motion, some spray

7 Near Gale           32-38    51.5 to 61.2    14.3 to 17.0    Whole trees in motion, much spray

8 Gale                   39-46    62.8 to 74.0    17.4 to 20.6    Twigs and small branches broken off

9 Strong Gale         47-54    74.0 to 86.9    20.6 to 24.1    Slight structural damage (slates off roof etc)

10 Storm                55-83    88.5 to 133.6   24.6 to37.1    Trees uprooted, considerable structural damage

The table above shows the land criterion for the Beaufort Scale and highlighted is the evidence we observed.  The photograph of the foam streaks on Crag Lough (Force 8 Gale) is even more impressive when you realise that the lough was in the lee of the Whin Sill which was actively sheltering it from the full strength of the wind!  It was even draughtier where we were on top of the outcrop 100 feet (33 metres approx) above the water and totally exposed to the wind.  Nevertheless it was good fun even down to the incredulous looks on the people’s faces walking the “correct or sensible way” (i.e. west to east) with the wind behind them.  With wind assistance they were unsurprisingly “walking” about four times faster than us.

We snatched elevenses in the lee of a wall and a quick early lunch on the downwind side of Sewing Shields plantation, between Milecastle 34 and 25, while watching the cloud shadows racing east faster than the vehicles on the Military Road in the brief sunny intervals.  It was a Bank holiday after all and typical Bank Holiday weather.  The forecast was for a “breezy and showery weekend” which, with typical British understatement we got, I am still glowing with windburn to prove it, sunburn was never a realistic option.  

After Sewingshields Farm the terrain changed to the lumps and bumps of the Whin Sill and we followed the undulating contours from the trig point on Sewingshields Crag from where we could now see Cheviot and Hedgehope 33miles (53 kilometres) away to the north and the radar station on Great Dun Fell in the Pennines 24 miles (39 km) away to the south west.  The visibility had improved markedly compared to the head-in-the-clouds drizzly cloudbase we’d experienced at Steel Rigg waiting for the minibus.  All of the classic elements of the Roman Wall Country now came together and for the first time we could see the wall, vallum and ditch in their correct configuration and on the famous Whin Sill too.  On previous days each separate element had been seen but now for the first time all of the elements were united and classic views revealed.     

Broomlee Lough looked magnificent with its white horses and foam streaks and we were battered by the crosswind as we descended towards Kings Wicket and round to Housesteads.  The shelter below the north gate of the fort was appreciated as was the protection afforded by Rapishaw Gap a little further on where we were joined by the Pennine Way.  Skylarks were actually flying backwards (i.e.  a negative ground speed) whilst singing to their hearts content, amazing.   The descent from Hotbank Crags was a repeat of the Sewingshields Crag experience but this time with the iconic views of Crag Lough looking westwards instead.  Highshield Crags above the lough provided a genuine sense of exposure, as did the steep descent from Peel Crags – at least here the wind blew us into the hillside on the way down.  By the time we assembled at the Northumberland National Park Centre at Once Brewed it was a different world; we sat at the picnic tables finishing-off food and flasks and discussing the day before going our separate ways.   The collective sense of achievement for this rather different experience of Hadrian’s Wall was palpable.  Thank you to everyone for your company and see you again soon for the next walk in the series.   

Monday, 30 May 2011

Tue 10th May 2011

The Pennine Way Part 2 Small Cleugh to Greenhead

The Pennine Way Part 2  Small Cleugh to Greenhead

Sunday 05.30 torrential, rain is the walk going to be on? 

6.30 still raining BUT not as heavy, 07.30 still raining, 07.45 Longframlington rain and fog!

Come on Sundance what’s happened to the old soft shoe shuffle? 

09.15 Greenhead sunshine brilliant. 

As we started to kit up ready to get on the minibus Mike discovered that he had left his boots at home (A Senior moment perhaps?). Oh dear never mind but he had brought his waterproof socks. 

By 10.00 we were on route to the starting point but took a somewhat devious route, you can guess who was navigating, yes Mike. 

We left the minibus and a short climb brought us back on to the Pennine Way (PW) time for a group photo, whose camera batteries and spares had gone flat, yes you’ve got it, Mike’s. 

So after a quick witter we started heading north along the PW which also followed the line of a Roman road now known as the Maiden Way.  We left the Maiden Way just west of Lambley crossed the A689 and continued to walk north to the Hartleyburn, where we stopped for lunch (an early lunch for Mike 12.00). 

After lunch we headed for the farm of Batey but had to stop to put on our waterproofs as a fierce rain squall came over, but by the time some had struggled in to full waterproofs the rain had almost stopped, about 10 minutes later it had. 

A gentle climb lead on to what is a very bleak section of the walk but in its own way it had a splendid sense of isolation, but also a feeling of a lonely beauty.  The path was non existent and Mike just wandered about in a general NW direction and upwards although by his way of thinking this was not up but flat. 

By now all the group had come to the conclusion that if Mike says that this is the last hill you can guarantee that there will be another.  At the trig point on Blenkinsopp Moor the sound of silence was lost to the sound of traffic on the A69. 

We descended down to the A69 and then had the most dangerous part of the day if not on the whole of the PW to Byrness, by crossing the A69.  After crossing a couple of fields we then followed the line of the Roman Wall through the golf course down to Thirwall and the cars.