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Tue 10th February 2015

Nordic Walk - Bamburgh

Nordic Walk - Bamburgh

What a fantastic sunny morning to Nordic walk along one of the best beaches in Northumberland from Bamburgh to Seahouses.

Everyone met in the car park in plenty of time, some a few minutes later than others (a detour to the other car park).  Poles at the ready, I introduced (just in case people had forgotten who we were) myself and Jon who had joined us on the walk and it was said that I had to be on my best behaviour by the group not Jon!

We warmed up in the car park and headed down onto the beach.  

Jon, Elbows (aka Geoff) and Angela took off at a fast pace but as always with Nordic walking everyone goes at their own pace so we were stretched across the vast sandy beach but everyone was walking alongside someone else.  We soon realised we had lost one member of the group as John had decided to remove a layer straight away and when we were gathering for our “group shot” in front of the iconic Bamburgh Castle, John ran to catch us up.  As usual some of the group tried to hide behind the taller members but were soon shuffled to the front.

The beach was relatively empty bearing in mind it was such a lovely day and there was lots of chatter going on within the group as some people hadn’t seen each other for a while.  The beauty of Nordic walking is that you can walk and talk at the same time.
We had to stay on our toes as Jon was taking quite a few photographs (as you will see below) as we were walking.  There were a couple of small plodging parts where there were little rivers luckily these weren’t as deep as the week before when I had recce’d the walk.

We got to Seahouses and there were various routes off the sand, Jon and John went over two routes and the rest of the group followed me over the not so steep parts.  We walked along the grassy top to Seahouses where the conversation turned to where we were going to have lunch.  We decided to sit looking out of the harbour as the temperature was warm and some people had brought sandwiches, the rest of us headed to the fish and chip shop for our not so healthy lunch.

Refreshments finished we noticed the temperature was dropping a little, as the tide was coming in slightly, so we decided not to take any layers off and John put his chin strap on so he didn’t lose his hat.

We headed back towards Bamburgh taking the same route.  We had more of our group walking at a quicker pace, Ruth and Sharon had joined Jon, Elbows and Angela at the front.  All the techniques were still looking good at this point.  Although John asked me to check his technique, which Pam was happy about.  I gave him a few pointers and we walked quicker so that he could really use his shoulders and feel the difference I also showed him how to walk slower but get more out of his workout.  After waiting for everyone to catch up, one of the group mentioned walking over the sand at Holy Island and it was decided that we would hold a Nordic walk starting in August and I said I would check the tide tables and let Jon know so that he could put it on the website.  

Once we got back to the cars, we did our stretches.  I thanked everyone for joining me on the walk and the conversation very quickly at that point moved to tea and cake at a coffee shop.  John checked his GPS and it had measured 7½ miles, ½ mile less than advertised.  We left the cars and decided if we walked to the coffee shop that would take us over the 8 miles.

We all headed to the Copper Kettle in Bamburgh where we all relaxed and I told every one of the forthcoming walks especially the Nordic Walking Inaugural Challenge Walks on 18th April.  Elbows and Sharon confirmed they would be joining me on the 15 mile walk whereas the rest said they would stick with Jane on the 7.5 miles.

A fantastic walk, brilliant day with good friends and I hope to see everyone very soon.  Our next Nordic walk is Whitton Hillhead for an afternoon start on 7th March.


Mon 26th January 2015

Tyne Bridges & Victoria Tunnel

Tyne Bridges & Victoria Tunnel

Tyne Bridges & Victoria Tunnel Blog for Sunday 25th Jan 2015-01-26

The walk was certainly different to our usual diet and hopefully enjoyable for the 28 people who met at The Cycle Hub, Ouseburn.  A morning walking four of the seven bridges crossing the Tyne Gorge between Newcastle and Gateshead and part of the afternoon underground in what would at first sight seem to be an unprepossessing  area of industrial Tyneside.

It didn’t take me long to decide to ignore the twenty-one pages of A4 notes that I’d prepared and treat it as an pleasant walk in an unusual location (for Shepherds Walks) instead.  Generally speaking we don’t “do” urban areas but on the basis of this walk they have much to offer.  The logic of offering this particular walk was to provide a day out in a location that we knew participants could reach easily even if the weather was unhelpful.  As it happened the weather was benign for late January and improved as the day progressed.  Remember the sunshine on the bridges and at coffee time in the Newcastle Garth by the Black Gate next to the remnants of the old city wall?

Even the starting point proved convenient with the advantage of free parking and access to hot drinks and toilets at the beginning, I even saw a few of our number stocking-up on food supplies there before we started – and none of them were Ian.  The overview from near Glasshouse Bridge and the walk along Newcastle Quayside towards the bridges provided a brief introduction to the contrasts between the previously heavily industrialised Lower Ouseburn valley and the historic site of Newcastle.  The changes brought about by the redevelopment of the quayside could easily be appreciated by comparing upstream and downstream on both sides of the river.  Despite passing it along our route we ignored the newest addition to the Newcastle-Gateshead bridges as we’d be returning over the Millennium Bridge at lunchtime.

Our first bridge of the day was the iconic Tyne Bridge constructed between 1925 and 1928 and definitely not the model for the much larger Sydney Harbour Bridge which was constructed between 1923 and 1932.  This urban myth is often quoted but untrue.  From the bridge deck the roofscape of Newcastle and the proliferation of building ages and styles was quite striking, the more so as the sun came out along with the cameras.  Lots of us are used to driving, or more usually queuing, across the bridge but few actually walk across it and some of the views are amazing e.g. towards the other Tyne bridges, the Sage, the Baltic, down towards Bessie Surtees House etc.  Having rounded the corner at the Gateshead end we passed the refurbished Central pub, popularly known as “The Coffin” because of its shape, before walking back across the river via the road deck of the double-decker High Level Bridge.  At 166 years old this is the oldest of the seven bridges.  The rail deck was opened first by Queen Victoria on 28thSeptember 1879 followed later by the opening of the lower road deck on 5th February 1850.  More photographs were quickly followed by morning coffee adjacent to the Newcastle Keep in the sunshine and out of the wind.  

Next it was down Dog Leap Stairs past the remains of the old city walls to pass the Guildhall and Bettie Surtees House at ground level having seen them from high above on the Tyne Bridge previously.  Onto the Swing Bridge which opened in 1876 and along with the efforts of the Tyne Improvement Commissioners, transformed the fortunes of the Tyne by opening-up the river to shipping by providing access upriver to Armstrong’s Elswick works where the Swing Bridge and its operating gear were manufactured.  Several of our number had memories if the Tuxedo Princess which used to be moored on the Gateshead side of the Tyne close by.  

We were getting hungry now so a quick walk along to The Baltic meant everyone could get a hot drink etc before crossing the Millennium Bridge (officially opened 7th May 2002), the world’s first tilting bridge.  The bridge actually opened to the public 17th September 2001 following its installation on its 19,000 tonne concrete base by one of the world’s largest floating cranes (Asian Hercules II) which brought the 800 tonne steel deck upriver from Wallsend where it had been assembled.  We didn’t want to get trapped on the wrong side of the river in case the bridge tilted at lunchtime, we needn’t have bothered as it didn’t happen.  Lunch was taken on the Newcastle side of the river before we walked along to the Victoria Tunnel entrance on Ouse Street for 1.30 pm.  
Tunnel tours are limited to 15 individuals so the lucky ones went underground and the remainder had to stay with me for a walk around the Lower Ouseburn Valley to see how this relatively small valley had been a key area in the industrial history of Tyneside since even before the industrial revolution.  The whole area is in transition and it is amazing how new stands in juxtaposition with the old and derelict, how buildings have been converted to completely different uses, old factory sites cleared and redeveloped.  This work has been in progress has since the 1980’s but is gathering momentum despite the recent recession.  There were lots of unexpected surprises such as the Seven Stories Centre for Children’s Books, the Cluny, a John Dobson designed flax spinning mill which later became a flour mill, then a bonded warehouse for McPherson’s Cluny Whisky (hence the name) and is now a pub, restaurant and music venue as well as the home of a large artist’s studio group.  The former Maynards Toffee Factory site has been converted into a hub for creative businesses.  The former Mayling Pottery site is being redeveloped for residential accommodation etc.  Another former warehouse has been converted into an upmarket hotel.  Even the three bridges that dominate the upper part of the valley are significant in the transport history of the area such as the newest, and pre-cast, Metro Bridge which was the first bridge in the UK to be bonded together by epoxy resin.  Alongside it is a mainline railway bridge, still in daily use, which has cast-iron metalwork which replaced the woodwork original i.e. it pre-dates modern steelwork!  Even the Ouseburn Farm Environmental Centre occupies the site of a former lead works.

Having done a quick figure-of-eight around the lower valley we arrived back at the tunnel entrance to say goodbye to the emerging first group and Ian escorted them back to their cars.  Our turn to be troglodytes for an hour and it proved to be a really interesting experience, next time we must do the two hour tour and learn a lot more.  On our return to the cars several of us repaired to The Hub cafe for a hot drink and something to eat before going home.  It was a very different day to normal; I hope that you enjoyed it.  If anyone feels cheated that you didn’t get the full twenty-one pages of information (or alternatively, you are a chronic insomniac) an email to Jon will stimulate him to send me your email address so that I can send it to you – I won’t hold my breath but we do hope to see you all again soon.

Richard and Ian

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.