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Mon 14th February 2011

Out and about in Elsdon

Out and about in Elsdon

Guided Walk date - 29th January 2011

Elsdon is regarded as the most complete example of a medieval settlement in Northumberland National Park. This long history was certainly evident during a recent walk on a frosty and sunny day.

The name Elsdon comes from the Old English for Elli’s Valley and the location of Elsdon in a valley or bowl was certainly apparent during the walk, which was initially along the southern ‘rim’ of the bowl, before returning along the northern ‘rim’. Elsdon3

After introductions we walked through the village, noting the 11th Century Motte and Bailey castle (considered to be the best preserved example in the county), the 12th Century parish church, the 15th Century pele tower (a fortified house reflecting that the medieval period was one of the Border Reivers and England/Scotland warfare) and of course the lovely village green.

The 18th Century was more peaceful – the Jedburgh to Newcastle turnpike opened in 1776 and a number of inns were built in Elsdon to serve the needs of travellers – although only one remains, the buildings in which others were situated can still be identified around the village green – while in the countryside farming developed and farmsteads were built.

After crossing Elsdon Bridge we followed the Elsdon Burn to one of these farmsteads – The Haining. This has recently been refurbished and is now a very attractive house. We then started to climb up through some recently planted trees to Castle Hill and Gallow Hill (further evidence of the Border Reivers!), where a coffee break was taken to enjoy the lovely views over Elsdon to the snow-covered Cheviot Hills in the distance. Elsdon19

Continuing along the southern rim of the bowl we passed by Hillhead Cottage, where we briefly stopped to admire the owner working hard to put in some fence posts. In the distance from this point could be seen Winter’s Gibbet at Steng Cross, which is where William Winter was suspended in chains in 1791 after being hung in Newcastle following the robbery and murder of a local resident.

We continued downhill and then past West and East Todholes, but did not see any foxes – tod is a local name for a fox. After this we entered Harwood Forest, which was planted during the 1950s with spruce and pine trees. The Forest is very dense and so the path was very muddy, but we reached an opening where the path crosses the Mill Burn. Here the sun was able to reach the ground – melting the frost on the grass and creating a cloud of steam – and we stopped here for lunch, enjoying the sun and the sound of the bubbling stream.

The Mill Burn is part of a small nature reserve - as the stream flows through limestone it is very clear, and there are a number of rare plants. Elsdon6

The name Mill Burn is further evidence of the more peaceful life during the 18th Century – the development of industries. In the case of Elsdon this was millstone quarrying, lime quarrying and burning and corn milling. The next farm that we passed, Whiskershiel Farm, was a centre for corn milling in the 18th Century, although it is now a sheep farm.

After passing Penman’s Leap, we walked uphill across sometimes boggy ground to the northern rim of the walk and started the journey back to Elsdon. This gave the group good views of the route taken earlier in the day.

Walking across the lower slopes of Landshot Hill, we had to cross a number of stiles, which gave the group the time to take a breather and enjoy the view. It also gave the two dogs on the walk, the opportunity to entertain the group with a game of ‘chase’ – as the larger dog was losing he decided to sit on the smaller dog, which was a very effective way of bringing the ‘hostilities’ to an end!

We then descended to Landshot and followed the road back to Elsdon. A number of the group took the opportunity to relax over a ‘cuppa’ and a piece of cake at one of the cafes in the village, before the journey home, which was a great way to end the day.

Overall, a lovely walk on a lovely day, with some superb views and a great group – a good time was had by all!

Martin Laidler - 6th February 2011

Sun 6th February 2011

Goats on the Roof, Fontburn

Goats on the Roof, Fontburn

Guided Walk Date - 5th February 2011

After several days of high winds and occasional periods of rain the soft shoe shuffle went into overdrive had Sundance done enough for Saturday to be a dry day?  YES. 

Although overcast and grey it was not raining and the strong winds had died down to a steady breeze.  We arrived at the café at Goats on the Roof and availed ourselves to the facilities before setting off to walk back to the entrance gate to Fontburn Reservoir on the way crossing the Scots Gap to Rothbury railway line and the farm Roughlees which is set up as a rare breeds farm. 

At the gate the footpath left the track and headed west along side a wood.  After a short distance we once more crossed the line of the railway.  The footpath then turned south through the wood before we once more continued to head west over rough pasture land.  A steady gentle climb lead us past a number of sink holes (allowing Mike to witter on about how sink holes were formed) this eventually brought us to the top of Greenleighton Hill. 

Here we looked down into Greenleighton Quarry (and once more Mike went in to raptures because he was able to talk about ‘rocks’ in this case that this quarry had given its name to a species of brachiopod Pleuropugnoides greenleightonensis and this was junction between the Lower and Upper Carboniferous period, the Visean – Namurian junction, lies in the vicinity of the Great Limestone. 

From here it was a short walk to Greenleighton farm (Jon’s old stomping ground) leaving the farm we entered another woodland this sheltered us from the wind so Mike condescended to stop for lunch having been threatened with a rebellion if he didn’t.  After lunch we left the woodland to walk North West through some rough pasture until we reached the Fallowlees burn.  As this was the furthest west we were going we turned east heading back to the top end of the Fontburn reservoir roughly following the route of the burn.

Our route now followed the southern boundary fence of the reservoir this is a permissive path.  The path eventually enters into the land adjacent to the reservoir and follows a well maintained path back to the overflow dam which is just in front of Goats on the Roof.  Mike as usual made a long detour along to the Dam proper so we could see the over flow pipe (it looked like a big plug hole), then to look at the water treatment plant and in the background the old railway viaduct. 

At long last we headed for the restaurant for a well deserved cup of coffee and some chocolate cake.

Sun 6th February 2011

Tynemouth to Segedunum.

Tynemouth to Segedunum.

Guided walk date - Sunday 23rd January 2011

The Romans never had this problem.

Our planned Metro ride from Wallsend to Tynemouth didn’t take place because the Metro was closed for maintenance so a quick vehicle transfer had to be organised to position vehicles at both ends of the route so that everyone could get home at the end of the walk.  Next we were told that the gates of Segedunum would be closed and locked at 3.00 pm not 4.00 pm as advertised!  Now we had an hour less for the route and jogging became a possibility!

Once we got parked in Tynemouth Front Street (on the site of the medieval market) we were off.  Tynemouth Castle and Priory, plus the former Coastguard Station in the grounds, along with the Volunteer Life Brigade (VLB) building, Collingwood’s Monument, the Black Middens passed in a flash along with the house that was the location of the “Supergran” children’s TV programme (years ago) overlooking the river.  On past Knotts Flats with good views south to the sea stacks at Lizard Point and Souter Lighthouse.  The low tide revealed the need for the Tyne Improvement Commissioners, VLB, the RNLI as the rock of the Black Middens were well exposed.  Even part of the promenade near the 16th century Clifford’s Fort (the Dutch wars), well within the protection of the Tyne Piers, was breached and awaiting repair.

Morning coffee was taken on the newly refurbished North Shields Fish Quay just below the High Light where we picked out the sites of the old slums on the south facing slopes demolished n the inter-war period.  The changes of use of buildings were noticeable, fewer fishing related commercial premises and more catering and retail uses plus flats “over the shop.”  Some of our number purchased fresh coffee; the rest of us had to make do with our flasks.  On past the ice house that used to service the fishing boats towards the new riverside apartments near the Haddock Shop, a former dry dock that specialised in the maintenance and repair of these particular fishing boats.  Beyond that was more industrial dereliction before coming to the refurbished building near the ferry terminal that was known locally in the 1970’s as “The Jungle” had been converted into smart apartments as had the old sailors’ home adjacent to it.  The short stretch between the Fish Quay and the corner of Borough Road, an former toll road, up towards North Shields provides a social and economic history of residential and commercial buildings since the 18th century - and that is without mentioning the former Tynemouth Literary and Philosophical Society building later to become the offices of the Stag Line who’s emblem still adorns the south gable of the building.  We didn’t have time to view the statue of Stan Laurel in Dockwray Square on the bank above but we know where to find it.  

The next section of the walk deviated from the map due to the large scale reclamation of the former shipyard areas between the Ferry Landing and Royal Quays, brown land ripe for redevelopment that afforded good views across the Tyne to South Shields and upriver towards Tyne Dock also on the south side of the river.  A sudden transition to modern soft landscaped roads and new homes signalled our arrival at Royal Quays Marina.  We walked across the locks and around the marina.  Alongside the marina was moored HMS Chatham, a Type 22 frigate built by Swan Hunter, launched in 1988 and in service with the Royal Navy since 1990.  In the marina, along with the yachts was a North Sea Fishery Protection vessel, two training craft of the RNLI and two naval patrol boats.

It was lunchtime and we sheltered from the breeze on the landscaped approaches to Royal Quays Retail Park using their facilities on the way past but resisting the temptation for retail therapy en-route to cross the site of the new Tyne Tunnel Toll Plaza currently under construction and skirting north of Howdon Green Industrial Estate.  The final section of the walk took us via the residential roads of Willington Quay to cross Willington Cut in the shadow of the massive Willington Viaduct built in 1839 to carry the Newcastle and North Shields Railway across the valley.  George Stephenson lived near hear following his marriage in 1802 and his son, Robin, was born here in 1803.  The link still exists today in the form of the Stephenson Memorial Schools.  After the climb back up from the valley the route followed the line of the former Newcastle and North Shields Railway, which predates the present Metro line, back to the Segedunum site adjacent to the former main entrance to the Swan Hunter shipyard.  We arrived back with a few minutes to spare before the gates were due to close to retrieve our cars and transfer everyone back to their own cars in Tynemouth. 

A good time was had by all, we didn’t get wet or too cold and at no time did we have to jog to get back to the cars in time to beat the gate closing deadline at Segedunum.  Next time I’ll make sure that there is time to include the Metro ride, information about Howdon Pans and Jarrow Slake, even an excursion to the Pedestrian Tunnel or a ferry trip across the Tyne to view our route from a different perspective, there are lots of possibilities, we have only just scratched the surface!