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Mon 19th January 2015

Nordic Walk - Souter Lighthouse to South Shields

Nordic Walk - Souter Lighthouse to South Shields

This was our first Nordic walk South of the Tyne from Souter Lighthouse to South Shields Seafront and back, which was part of the feedback we had received from our questionnaire we asked to be completed last year.

I checked the Met Office and the forecast for the day didn’t look great, rain or sleet from 9 am until 3pm.  Nevertheless car packed with poles, warm clothes and waterproofs I set off to the car park at Souter lighthouse, which was locked!  Detour Julie strikes again, we all headed off to the car park beside the Grotto pub/restaurant, which would make the walk slightly shorter.  

The group consisted of people who had never tried Nordic walking, people coming back to Nordic walking and some of our regulars.

Poles sorted out I started off with a training session for those new and coming back to Nordic walking.  They took to it very easily and we were soon ready to start.  

We did a very quick warm up as everyone just wanted to get started and down to Minchella’s for a cup of tea.  Also we wanted to avoid any wet weather as it had stopped raining/sleeting at that point.

As always everyone went at their own pace and the group soon stretched with Debbie and Rachel taking up the lead at a fair old pace.  We were walking on the grass as the path was slippery but as the grass was very short this didn’t hamper anyone’s technique or enjoyment, apart from slightly damp feet.

As we walked past the Gypsies Green Stadium the beach was spotted and some members of the group went along the beach whilst some others stayed on the path.  As we all know the beach is a great surface to Nordic walk on and the group on the beach were very happy to be able to really push their technique.

Minchella’s was busy but luckily we all managed to get seats and the cups of tea and cappuccino were very welcome just to warm everyone up (no ice cream for anyone).  I checked that everyone was okay and as one lady was struggling with the length of the walk following recent knee operations the group split into two sections one section followed the path we had taken down and the others took the shorter path.  

The weather had stayed dry on the way down and as Angela and Geoff looked over to Tynemouth we realised we couldn’t see the Priory and we all picked up the pace so we could hopefully miss the bad weather.  As we were elbows were starting to bend so I gave a little encouragement to everyone to straighten them and everyone soon realised that once we were walking quicker the elbows didn’t bend.  We got to the Grotto and we decided to walk to Souter Lighthouse (as we had had to start elsewhere) just to make sure we walked the whole 7 miles, chancing the weather.

We were very lucky as it didn’t start raining until we had got into the Grotto and were sitting drinking our tea and coffees.  

This was a very enjoyable walk, despite the cold, with a lovely group of people who I hope to see very soon.

Our next walk is on 8th February 2015 which is Bamburgh to Seahouse and return – lots of beach walking to be had – and I hope to see you all there.


Sun 30th November 2014

Holy Island Walk

Holy Island Walk

Saturday 29th November 2014

The grey and misty day with restricted visibility contrasted markedly with the day Ian and I did our recce a month ago when we sat in the sun for lunch and even observed mirage phenomena where the Farne Islands appeared detached and “floating” above the water.  No such temperature gradients today, it was uniformly cool, with no sun and definitely no view of the Farne islands.  The bonus was that we were restricted to looking closer-in at detail rather than the usual big sky and far-horizon landscapes.  Following a quick introduction and walk onto the island proper our first real stop was adjacent to St Cuthbert’s Island (aka Hobthrush).  This overlooked the mud and sandflats and the salt marshes of the pilgrim route from the mainland over Holy Island Sands, most of which was still under water as the tide receded.  The seals on the emerging sandbanks provided interest to the east but the south-easterly breeze carried their “song” away from us.  Whilst there we had a quick look at the structure and features within the boulder clay cliffs displaying evidence of the most recent glacial period.

The south coast contrasted between the high viewpoint from the old Coastguard Lookout on top of the Heugh (with excellent views into the Priory) to the old storm beach at sea level by The Ouse now occupied by the iconic sheds made from upturned boats which provided shelter from the north-east wind.   The Heugh forms part of the Holy Island Dyke complex and is made of dolerite, a hard intrusive igneous rock.   During the walk along the road towards the castle we encountered more people that we saw for the remainder of the day.  Walking between the castle and the Gertrude Jekyll designed walled garden, we arrived at the shingle spit, on the south-east corner of the island, on which limekilns were built in the 1850’s for the trade with Dundee.  This site provided a relatively sheltered, if somewhat draughty, location for lunch.  At least we were protected from the gentle drizzle and the scale of the kiln complex itself was impressive.  

Here we picked-up the former waggonway that led north along the east coast where we could easily pick out the raised beach that resulted from the glacial rebound, a result of the melting of the overlying ice towards the end of the Pleistocene glaciation.  From here we could easily appreciate the changing landscape produced by hard and soft rocks, erosion and deposition etc as we approached the white panted navigation marker on Emmanuel Head at the north – east corner of the island.

Turning west provided yet another marked change of environment where massive sand dunes concealed two broad sandy bays.  We crossed Sandham Bay at beach level, the point of Emmanuel Head providing some protection from the wind.  The relative sense of wildness, tranquillity and remoteness contrasted starkly with the tourist honeypot activity on the south coast just an hour previously.   We climbed over the slippery, folded rocks of the headland of Castlehead separating Sandham Bay from Coves Haven.  A different landscape again, a former limestone quarry was revealed, now largely reclaimed by nature.  The whole area comprises both a National Nature Reserve (NNR) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).    The contrast between the hard and soft rocks, erosion and deposition and natural and human impacts was easy to see and appreciate.  

The broad sweep of Goswick Sands north-west towards the Berwick coast would normally have been clear but the visibility hadn’t improved and all we could see was the grey breakers rolling-in.
We turned south near Snipe Point to cross The Links, the sand dune belt that forms a broad strip across the whole of the northern part of Lindisfarne.  From here it was possible to see the westward extension of the dune belt that forms The Snook.   We could just make out the grey silhouette of Snook Tower approximately three kilometres away from us at the eastern extremity Lindisfarne, the visibility was improving.  This area had been the location of an old settlement called Green Shiel which may date from the ninth century.  It is interesting to view the area on Google Earth.  Walking across the dune slacks between the lines of dunes provided shelter from the cool breeze before emerging from the dunes to walk back to the cars by way of the lonnen passed St Coombs Farm. A brief shower at this stage gave us the only proper dampening of the day but we were now only half a mile from the vehicles.  The sky displayed a few tiny patches of pale blue with a brief pink glow as sun was beginning to set; it was the first sky colour we’d seen all day.  

Thank you to Andrea, Margaret and Ian for their assistance throughout and also for Ian’s role as photographer.  We hope you enjoyed the day, we certainly did and we look forward to meeting you again soon.  Our next walk, on Sunday 25th January, is a bit different.  It is in central Newcastle and we shall be visiting the Tyne Bridges and the Quayside Sunday Market in the morning which will doubtless include a genuine coffee break.  In the afternoon we are going underground for a guided tour of the Ouseburn Tunnel which involves a couple of hours out of reach of any inclement weather.  We would be delighted to see you there.    

RNH 30th November 2014

Tue 4th November 2014

Nordic Walk - Warkworth to Alnmouth

Nordic Walk - Warkworth to Alnmouth

I had been keeping an eye on the weather all week via the Met Office and was so pleased to see that it was forecast for a dry, sunny and warm (around 13°C) day.  The tide was on its way out as well which was a good sign.

We all met nice and early.  Introductions were made between members of the group who hadn’t met before, poles were distributed and we did the warm up, as usual.  As I introduced myself to the group I was met with lots of comments of “we know who you are”.  I explained it was in case they had forgotten my name!  I was reassured that they would never forget my name!

A few members of the group were concerned that they would not manage the 10 miles (as our Nordic walks are usually around the 5 mile mark) and I reminded them that it was actually two 5 mile walks as there was a lunch break in the middle – some of them still weren’t convinced but I reassured them they would be okay.

We set off down the bank, from the car park, towards Warkworth beach, at which point some people took off their fleeces as it was warm – t-shirt weather in November!

I told everyone to go at their own pace and that I would be checking technique. I also explained that if anyone needed any help they should give me a shout.  

It didn’t take long for the group to split into twos and threes to chat as they headed up the beach towards Alnmouth.  Kirsten became a very popular member of the group as she offered around sweets to everyone.  

We were walking along at a nice pace when we heard (what we thought was) a funny robotic sounding bird.  It seemed to be saying “nawdic, nawdic, nawdic”.  We realised a few minutes along that it was actually Kirsten who had discovered that this was a good way for her to keep her arms straight, whatever helps you Kirsten!

We came to a section of the walk where there were some rocks (Birling Carrs).  Unfortunately the tide hadn’t gone out enough so a detour came into play (it wouldn’t be a Julie walk without one). Paul and John headed straight up the grassy bank, to the caravan park, and the group followed once they reached the top.  The bank was quite steep but everyone managed no problem with the help of our poles.

Much to everyone’s delight we came back down to the beach quickly and were greeted by the sight of three flocks of geese flying in varying formations.  

We headed on towards the River which split Warkworth beach and Alnmouth.  I gave the group the option of swimming across or heading up to St Cuthbert’s Cross, which is said to be the location where St Cuthbert agreed to become Bishop of Lindisfarne when petitioned by the King.  Needless to say we headed up to St Cuthbert’s Cross. As we were walking towards the cycle path which would take us to Alnmouth, there was a muddy and slippery area, around some mud flats, over which everyone managed to keep their feet – EXCEPT for me, as you will see by the photographs. The knee of one of my trousers took the brunt of the slide.  No injury just concern from the group.  
We walked along the cycle path that had just had a new layer added, which isn’t good for cyclists but is excellent for Nordic walking, as the poles (minus paws) kept a very good grip. The pace was steady, although people were starting to tire slightly and techniques weren’t as good as usual.  
Once we came off the cycle path, and Alnmouth was nearly in touching distance, the pace picked up and we headed to the café.

At the café John checked his GPS and informed everyone we had walked 5.6 miles that morning, although Martin’s said 7 miles.

The Dandelion Café was our stop for a lunch of sandwiches and cakes. Chocolate, potato and orange cake for some and apple and stem ginger cake for others.  Mary was very good and didn’t have cake, a fact she was very keen to point out.

After lunch we headed back to Warkworth, missing out St Cuthbert’s Cross and heading straight over the dunes back onto the sand.  

Kirsten suggested a Nordic race and drew a line in the sand.  Unfortunately I got a fit of giggles so the race was curtailed quickly.  At this point some of the group decided they were going to “welly it” (aka go faster) and shot off into the distance.

We all got back to the cars where John and Martin checked their GPS’s and they read just over 10 miles and 12 miles respectively and everyone decided they would go by Martin’s as 12 miles sounded better.
We did our cool down with an extra lady (who had walked along the beach) joining us and I told everyone about up and coming walks/events and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.