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Mon 23rd March 2015

Shepherds Cairns & Hogdon Law

Shepherds Cairns & Hogdon Law

Sunday 22nd March 2015

What an unexpectedly good day.  The weather forecasts leading up to the walk certainly didn’t suggest that we would experience such a true spring day.  Yes, the wind was a bit draughty in some of the more exposed parts of the walk but it was also dead calm in some unexpected locations too, most notably the top of High Knowes.  It was decidedly chilly when we visited the Shepherds Cairn and memorial commemorating the deaths of Jock Scott and Willie Middlemas in the snows of November 1962 so close to home and safety at nearby Ewertly Shank farm.  Only half a mile away, on a much more exposed site, there was no wind and warm spring sunshine on our backs, extraordinary.

The morning’s walk included the above location plus a walk over the moor, including spotting an unidentified reptile, into the Upper Breamish valley to visit Nellie Herron’s memorial stone (there are different spellings of both names in different sources) that pre-dated the November 1962 tragedy by almost a century, this event taking place on December 3rd 1863.  The stories of both incidents were told and parallels drawn concerning the sometimes harsh realities of living in the Cheviots.  Morning coffee, or first sittings, was taken in the shelter of a beautifully constructed sheep stell in a sheltered spot overlooking a tributary of what eventually would become the Cobden Burn which flows into the River Breamish.  Returning back across the moor to join the Salter’s Road we had excellent views to the north towards Hartside Farm which was where Nellie Herron was returning to and where she lived with her farm worker husband.  The views north towards Cunyan Crags, Dunmoor Hill, Hedgehope and Cheviot, still with its distinctive south-facing snow patch, were excellent. We heard first, and eventually were able to pick out, the yellow speck of the search and rescue helicopter from RAF Boulmer flying west south of the Border Ridge.  We could also see the smoke from the moor burning appearing from several locations in the Cheviots and several miles to the south along the Simonside Ridge.  The burning season will be over soon, it ends on 10th April.

Lunch (second sittings for some) was taken, very unusually for us, in the comfort of our cars as our not quite a figure-of-eight route passed close-by.  A comfortable seat, out of the cool wind, but in the sun, with good views and a choice of radio channels or CD-ROMS i.e. not having to listen to someone who shall be nameless spout lots of hot air, an unexpected luxury!  The ascent of Hogdon Law followed and was both uphill and into the wind.  The shelter of the morning’s session was appreciated at this point.  The views opened up quickly with the increasing height and the protection of the summit cairn and shelter were enjoyed by all providing good views to the north, east and south.  To the west we looked down into the eastern edge of the Kidland Forest where the clear-felling of recent months had changed the appearance of this extensive feature.  The good bit came next being both downhill and downwind and we could see the cars waiting for us in the distance, motivation indeed.

Back at the cars there was one little extra on offer to complete the day.  Adjacent to Castle Hill, an Iron Age hillfort (approximately 800 BC to 43AD) on the map is a “Lord of the Rings” type feature marked intriguingly as “The Grey Yade of Coppath.” On the current OS 1:25,000 scale map there is no related symbol to indicate its location but on the older editions of the 1:25,000 blue or green Pathfinders it does indicate the location.  The feature is actually a large isolated rock on the north side of the road.  A “grey yade” is an old Borderers term for a grey mare or horse.  The rock is a detached block of Cheviot andesite lava, pinkish in appearance due to the pink feldspar minerals it contains.  In direct sunlight it definitely has a pink hue but in shade, its dense covering of greyish lichens fulfilled the grey yade description perfectly.

We hope that everyone enjoyed the day as much as we did; we were lucky with both the weather and the participants and hopefully a good time was had by all.  We hope to see everyone again soon, even on our next walk along the highest part of Hadrian’s Wall and including a visit to Vindolanda on Sunday 19th April – or is that too much of a good a thing?  We hope not.

Richard & Ian                              

Mon 9th March 2015

Nordic Walk - Whitton Hillhead

Nordic Walk - Whitton Hillhead

This is one of my favourite short walks around Rothbury area so I was really looking forward to it.

Everyone met in the car park nice and early and raring to go. Unusually the group was all ladies and most had not been on a Julie Nordic walk, although they had walked with Jane.  I made a quick call to check on a walker who hadn’t arrived to be told that they weren’t coming along.  

As we warmed up I explained that there were two routes at the beginning of the walk, one was up the steps (aka Jacob’s ladder) and the other was up the slight incline on the road.  Needless to say we headed up the incline of the road.

Off we set and everyone soon settled into their walking rhythm and into little groups. I mentioned that I was a stickler for technique and they would probably hear me say “elbows” quite a lot and that the terrain varied from road surface, tracks, grass and a few muddy/clarty areas.  This did not phase anyone.

I was alternating between the groups of ladies to find out a little more about them and also to tweak their technique.

It was a really relaxed group and Sharon and I were just commenting that it was unusual for me not to have slipped on the mud when we noticed a slide mark in the mud.  Everyone came to a stop and we found out it was Sandra who had slipped, in a very graceful almost balletic way, only one muddy knee though and no injury.

We continued on and were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as muddy as we expected it to be.

Once we got to the road again we all looked at our poles and the tips were very muddy so that nobody wanted to put their paws back on.  We did find an ingenious way of cleaning them without getting our hands dirty, all you need is a roadside with moss on and rub your pole tips into it and it cleans them up quite well.  We were all feeling very pleased with ourselves.

We headed towards Rothbury, over Lady’s Bridge and across the field to take us onto the riverside path and which point I mentioned that if anyone was interested at the end of the walk we could venture for tea and cake and the pace of the walk picked up even more.  

At the car park we did our cool down and stretches and I told everyone about walks that were coming up even though everyone knew when they were.  Those of us who were up for tea and cake headed into Rothbury.

Unfortunately Tomlinson’s was full, two buses had come in.  We headed to Harley’s tea room where we were greeted with a basket of blue covers for our shoes (which were relatively clean by this point) unlike our poles tips.  Lots of chatter around the table and around an hour later everyone headed home.

I hope to see everyone really soon and definitely at the Nordic Challenge Walks, although most will be on Jane’s shorter walk.

Thank you for your company.


Mon 16th February 2015

Druridge Bay

Druridge Bay

Sunday 15th February 2015

The first test was to find the Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s car park at Low Hauxley, well done everyone!  The second was to survive my commentary throughout the day while pretending to be interested.  Thank you for allowing me to continue under that delusion.  Did Ian and I mention that when we were doing our recce the previous Tuesday the weather was gorgeous, a really bright and warm spring day with a big wide beach and virtually nobody else around?  The day of our walk was a bit different, grey and overcast, with a cool breeze off the sea and limited visibility – but at least we didn’t get rained on.

Apart from the intrinsic interest of the Hauxley Nature Reserve itself the North Hide provided a convenient place to brief everyone about the day’s walk, it wasn’t very warm but at least we were out of the chilly breeze.  We certainly felt its effects when we left the relative protection of the Reserve and emerged onto the beach to revel in the joys of peat beds, climate change and the site of the 2013 rescue dig – well I thought it was interesting anyway.  Do have a look under “Rescued from the Sea” on the internet and you will see video of the animal and human footprints, including those of children which are thought to be circa 7,000 old.  I know the regulars smile because I usually say this but do also have a look on Google Earth at the area of our walk, it will mean so much more having walked it.

The plan was to walk the length of the beach before high tide at noon stopping-off en-route at Druridge Bay Country Park for access to the facilities and hopefully the cafe would also be open too.  Fortunately both facilities and cafe were open so that helped a lot and it was surprisingly warm there out of the wind.  The spring migration of caravans was in full swing with the main car park being taken over by enthusiasts having spent the previous night there.  Back onto the beach and heading south into the wind, surprisingly we didn’t see any naturists at all fog-bathing near Chibburn Mouth which is a designated naturist beach.  Here we went inland behind the dune line to follow the Northumberland Coast Path as far as Druridge Pools Nature Reserve.  On this section it was easy to appreciate the characteristics of the now restored former opencast coalmining landscape, low-lying, gently undulating farmland with mining flashes used as nature reserves, there are six spread along the seven miles of Druridge Bay.  Lunch was taken in a large bird hide overlooking the landscaped lake at Druridge Pools.  Nothing exotic was seen just overflying curlews and some shelduck on the water.  Compared to the large skeins of calling geese we saw on Tuesday last ...... no forget it.

The first stop after lunch was the remains of the Knights Hospitallers Low Chiburn Preceptory dating from 1313.  It has had a chequered history following the Dissolution and being passed-on to the local Widderington family who added a dower house in about 1550 before it was attacked and burnt by the French in 1691 along with Widderington village.  At least with the European Union we are not constantly at war with the French anymore – I think I’ve got that correct.  As recently as the Second World War part of the original chapel structure was converted into a rudimentary “pillbox” as part of the defences of northern England.  Following that opencasting in the area dug up everything in the area except the building site itself, even destroying the surrounding moat.  The only remaining clue to this is the curve of the fence surrounding part of the site.

On the return route we had the advantage of the wind behind us and the impetus of a brisk walk back to the comfort of Druridge Bay Country Park for the facilities prior to tanking – up on more coffee.  As it was now afternoon there were a lot more people on the beach and the tide was falling allowing us to walk the south end of the beach which was denied to us on the outgoing leg.  Kite surfing was in full swing as was kite-boarding but hey obviously don’t rise early for these activities. On reaching the cafe the spring migration of caravans had taken place, the car park was now empty of big white boxes on wheels.  The final leg back to Low Hauxley was uneventful save for the overflight of RAF Boulmer’s Seaking heading north back to base at less than a hundred feet.  We could hear it before we could see it in the coastal mist even with its navigation and winching lights on, it very soon disappeared back into the murk.  In April this year they are to be taken out of service as the RAF and RN Search and Rescue flights hand responsibility for the service over to HM Coastguard. Back at Low Hauxley the visitor centre was open with a copy of the recently published book on the aforementioned archaeology rescue dig on display.  

Thanks to everyone who attended, we hope you enjoyed the day and hope to see you all again soon. Our next walk, on 22nd March, is in the Cheviots starting from Alnham and visiting the Shepherd’s Cairns on the moor near Ewertly Shank Farm and topping-out on Hogdon Law one of the best, easiest and underrated value-for-effort viewpoints in Northumberland.  Come and find out about the mysteriously named Grey Yade of Coppath which sounds like it should be in a Harry Potter book.  

Richard and Ian