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Mon 21st February 2011

Hadrian's Wall, part 2

Hadrian's Wall, part 2

Segedunum to Newburn. Guided Walk date - Sunday 20th February 2011

What a difference walking from east to west makes.  We saw all sorts of things that walking the opposite way some of us had never seen e.g. the Newcastle skyline from St Anthony’s Point including the Civic Centre, the seven bridges from St Lawrence’s near the Ouseburn redevelopment, even approaching the Baltic and the Sage from an unfamiliar angle made it a wholly different experience.  From now on I shall be encouraging participants to turn round and view where we have come from more often.

The grey overcast didn’t change all day but we didn’t get wet and at least the chill south-east wind was behind us all day, not bad for a late February day especially as a few of our number were prevented from getting out and about yesterday with the slushy wet snowfall in the uplands.

There were quite a lot of cyclists out on the initial section between Segedunum and the Walker Riverside Park but after that it was relatively quiet going as from here the cycle route diverges from the Hadrian’s Wall Path.  We lunched overlooking St Peter’s Basin with an explanation of the significance of a boat moored there called “The Three Amigos” which relates to a previous walking group on this route  -  you had to be there to appreciate it.

Onwards to The Baltic, our only crossing of the river of the day for a quick drink and comfort stop before negotiating the quayside market and the seven bridges each with their own particular stories to tell.  The rafts of debris on the incoming tide populated by seabirds kept us amused as far as Dunston’s coal staithes, a section had been destroyed by fire since my last walk on this route.  Looking south beyond the staithes we could easily pick out the tall block of flats (The Rocket) that was adjacent to the site of the Gateshead Garden Festival which none of us could remember the date of (it was 1990 according to the internet).  Was it “only” 20 years ago?

The Metro Centre was passed at a safe distance i.e. on the other side of the river as we passed the British Airways call centre on the redeveloped Newcastle Business Park.  There were some rye comments about how few people were working there and no wonder we couldn’t get through by phone to make reservations.  We walked out onto the Scotswood Road which, in the days of Lord Armstrong’s Elswick Works boasted no fewer than 44 public houses.  Crossing the road we entered Paradise near the start of the Vicker’s tank factory, well that is what the map said anyway.  Unfortunately the visibility was too poor to look back and see the Angel of the North, it is the only place it can be seen from along this route. We walked along a former rail track with lots of redevelopment being carried out beyond new fences to our north before looping around and over the A1 via a footbridge linking Denton Dene to Bell’s Close prior to the final run into Newburn via the southern edge of Lemington.  We had mentioned the catastrophic floods along the lower Tyne in 1771 earlier because it resulted in the collapse of so many bridges downstream of  Hexham but seeing the flood level marker outside the pub by Newburn Bridge certainly made an impression.  The last leg was literally alongside the river to the memorial of the Battle of Newburn 1640 where the first fording point on the River Tyne made it a natural choice for raiding parties from Scotland, they won that one.

That completes the second day of the series of one-day westbound walks along the Hadrian’s Wall Path.  From now onwards it is mainly rural, except for passing through Carlisle, but that is for the future, the aim is to reach Bowness – on – Solway, the official end of the walk, in the autumn.        

Tue 15th February 2011

Nordic Walk, Hepburn Woods

Nordic Walk, Hepburn Woods

Guided Walk Date - Sunday 13th Feb 2011

The morning was damp with a slight chill in the air and with poles at the ready the group gathered in the car park. After a brief introduction into Nordic walking and instruction on the basic technique, we set off along the forest tracks ready to burn some calories and create some heat. Everyone got on really well and soon got hang of the technique, quickening the pace as confidence grew.

The group were chattering away as they motored along (Nordic walking is extremely  sociable and allows you to talk and walk which has to be a bonus hasn’t it girls?) and were amazed at how much ground they were covering without feeling the effort, especially when negotiating a long, steady incline.

After a couple of miles of Nordic walking we paused for a little snacket.  It had started to rain quite hard at this point and we took shelter amongst the trees for a little respite.  Not wanting to get too cold it wasn’t long before we were off again, completing the previous route in reverse so that we took in a steeper incline.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day even the cold and wet didn’t dampen our spirits. I can’t wait for the next walk around Humbleton Hill from Wooler Common on Sunday 13 March. Why don’t you join me?

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