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Mon 15th February 2016

Northumberlandia Nordic Walk - 14 February 2016

Northumberlandia Nordic Walk - 14 February 2016

Weather conditions in Alnwick meant we had a couple of cancellations first thing but everyone else met bright and early at the car park at Northumberlandia.

We had a couple of new people to our group (Val and Sonia) and they soon fit right in.

I introduced my volunteers, Ruth (first time officially as a volunteer) and Sharon to the group and we headed off.The route was once around the perimeter of the Lady of the North, the group soon found their pace and the path meant we could spread out.  At one point I asked the group at the front to add an extra incline into the walk to let the rest catch up, everyone followed - ha ha.

We then headed up each of the different areas of the Lady of the North's body. At the top of the face, Steve offered everyone a huge box of biscuits, this ended up being the catchphrase of the walk.

John went on a mission and, we think, walked around the whole sculpture at least twice, everyone else was happy just going around once.  The weather was clear so we could see Simonside and Lindisfarne. John pointed out some Meadow Pipits to me.

Ruth checked her pedometer because as usual no one believed that the distance I had said was the distance we had walked.  I was right, of course.

Once we had completed the whole of the sculpture there was one last turn around the perimeter before cake.

Next stop The Parlour at Blagdon for tea and cakes.  Orders taken, now the wait for the food and drinks which came out very sporadically, if they came out at all.  The chatter was very loud around the table.

I went through the walks up to August.  A request was made for the Pilgrims Causeway to be added again.  I promise I will look at this.

Thank you to Ruth and Sharon for your help today.  It was invaluable as always.

Thank you to you all for coming along I hope you enjoyed the walk, even though tea and cake was a bit disjointed, and we hope to see you all again soon.


Sat 16th January 2016

Nordic Walk - Derwent Walk Country Park

Nordic Walk - Derwent Walk Country Park


When I woke up this morning there was snow on the ground in Sunderland.  I donned my thermal leggings under my walking trousers and set off with time to spare so I could check out the conditions and ground before the walk.

I headed from the Thornley Woodlands Centre down to the Railway path on the Derwent walk, the ground was crisp with frost but great to Nordic walk on.  I saw 4 deer in the trees and hoped they would still be around for the group to see.

I headed back to the car where I met up with everyone, quite a few regulars but also 4 people new to the group.  The chatter was fantastic to hear catching up after the Festive period.  I left them to it and took the new members to one side to teach them the technique.  I love teaching people about Nordic walking and hope that they get hooked (which most of them do).

Once we had finished, we had a quick warm up and time for the first photo of the day. 

We then headed along the path where I pointed out the various carvings in the trees, we kept our eyes open for the deer but unfortunately they had gone into hiding.

The railway path along the Derwent walk is perfect for Nordic walking and everyone got into their stride while I helped one of our new walkers with her technique.  It was an interesting time, Susan found an interesting variation to the technique, she started great and then her body went into a funny wobble, which made us laugh very loudly.  She also decided that she couldn’t move her head whilst she was concentrating.  We caught up to the group and I decided to leave Susan to walk without me watching her.

We turned and headed back along the same path towards the 9 Arches Viaduct with the Column of British Liberty (in Gibside) in the distance.  We hoped we would see the red kites but we were unlucky again as they were keeping away from prying eyes.

Next stop was Hollinside Manor, this was a point in the walk where everyone had a choice to go up the steps to visit the ruins of Hollinside Manor or if they preferred to stay on the railway path. 

Surprisingly everyone decided to go up to visit the Manor.  Geoff (aka Elbows) took the opportunity for elevenses. 

As we were nearing the Swalwell Visitors Centre, there were two paths, Ruth pointed out a signpost but I decided to take a detour (well it wouldn’t be a walk with me without one).

A quick comfort break when Russell took out his flask, there was a lot of conversation around the hot drink in it, I think I heard mention of green tea with lemon.

I offered the group two options for the walk back, the route that I had planned had been very claggy the week before but everyone was very happy to risk it.  Parts of the path had some treacherous ice on it but we managed to skirt around these areas on the slightly frozen grassy sides.  Everyone managed to stay on their feet.

There was an incline up to Red Kite Hill which really showed the new members Russell, Steve, Ken and Susan the benefit of Nordic walking poles.

The pace picked up substantially when the Thornley Woodlands Centre was in sight with the promise of cakes and tea and the café.

A quick stretch before we descended on the café. Unfortunately they had written the date we were attending down wrong so the lovely owner was on her own but she was so friendly and welcoming and we weren’t in a hurry.  More opportunity for us to chat.

Toasties, panninis, soup and cheese scones were ordered, unfortunately for Ruth she missed out.  Kim felt a bit guilty but not guilty enough to share! 

Whilst we were waiting for our food I handed around copies of the Shepherds Walks brochure and got everyone to read them whilst I took a photograph. 

We were given free top ups of tea and coffee and offered free biscuits.  A few of us ordered cake, namely me, Laura (chocolate fudge) and Anne (carrot and orange).

Russell and Steve left first as Newcastle were playing, everyone else left saying they would see us soon.  Susan said thank you for making me feel welcome and that she had thoroughly enjoyed her day.

I hope to see you all on a future Nordic walk.  Don’t forget the next walk is at the Happy Valley on 14th February.

Thank you again to Laura for being backmarker and an invaluable help.

See you all very soon.



Tue 22nd December 2015

Under & Over the Tyne Amended

Under & Over the Tyne Amended

Sunday 20th December 2015

It was planned, intended and initially advertised, that this walk was to take place in December 2014 having been scheduled in the November 2013 planning session!  It has proved impossible to do owing to the failure of two separate companies’ involved in the refurbishment of the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel.  The intended, and relatively short-term closure, has now become a very much longer-term closure as the contract is put out to tender for a third time!  As a consequence the route was altered several months ago to provide a walk in the same locality.  Plan B was “Both Sides of the Tyne” based on walking both of the Tyne Piers linked by the Shields Ferry and incorporating the North Shields Heritage Trail and an outline of the little known former Tyne Whaling Trade.  Suffice it to say that pre-arranged checks early on Sunday morning revealed that the Port of Tyne were not going to open either pier at all on Sunday 20th December due to high forecast wind speeds e.g. gusts of 45 mph on the piers between 11.00 and 13.00 hours.  Plan C, the final back-stop, was to walk south of the Tyne as far as Marsden Bay and Grotto which is what we eventually did.

The bonus was the blue sky for most of the day, if a little wet and definitely breezy.  However, even the “wet bits” provided us with quite frequent rainbows out over the sea - but nothing to rival the brilliantly coloured examples we’d seen only last month walking north towards Alnmouth.  We started rather damp and ended similarly but were lucky enough to stay dry for most of the time between.  Despite the unseasonably mild temperatures everyone appreciated the warmth of the heating on the Shields Ferry.  We began the walk wearing over-trousers and they did keep the wind off and add another layer of insulation so not all bad.  The real pleasure of the day was the company and companionship of everyone present.  The walk wasn’t in any way technical or demanding being easy underfoot and gave more opportunity than usual to just chat as we progressed.  Four of us had completed this very route at the end of January 2013 (apologies to Conrad, Marian and Ian).  What an odd coincidence.  This walk is to my last walk on Jon’s Shepherds Walks programme and it will be the only time that I have repeated a walk other than by prior arrangement with specialist groups or private parties, serendipity strikes again!  

Going south before lunch we managed to remain protected from the wind but once up on the grassland of The Leys were fully exposed to the wind.  Despite that it certainly wasn’t either as strong or gusty as forecast.  We looked back towards the Tyne Piers which remained closed (Plan B) but at no time did we see any waves breaking over them – better safe than sorry I suppose.  A civilised lunch was taken on picnic benches below the cliff outside of the Marsden Grotto pub where everyone was protected from the wind.  Some people, obviously including Ian, took the opportunity to supplement their lunch box.  Malcolm was quietly munching his salad when Ian casually mention that it might go well with his chips, subtle!  The homeward journey was uneventful and direct with lots of banter.

For my part I will really miss the opportunity to plan and carry out day walks in the plethora of wonderful Northumbrian landscapes and elsewhere.  What I will miss even more is the contact with, and friendship of, everyone who comes on the walks.  The “Regulars” know who they are and I hope that we remain in contact in the future.  My very special thanks and appreciation go to Ian for more than I can possibly say, a true friend.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the last few years, thank you all and very best wishes to everyone.

Happy Christmas and a Happy New 2016.

Richard, Ian and Malcolm