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Thu 10th October 2013

St. Oswalds Way, part 7 - Lordenshaw To Harwood

St. Oswalds Way, part 7 - Lordenshaw To Harwood

Sundance had eased off during the week so that a concentrated shoft shoe shuffle the day or so before the walk would do the trick.

Sunday fantastic clear sky as the sun rose over the horizon it looked promising.  By the time we were meeting up in Harwood the sky had clouded over it was not looking good.  We climbed on to the mini bus for the short drive to Lordenshaw carpark the end point of last month’s walk.  We quickly sorted ourselves out and started up the hill heading towards Spylaw Cottage.

Just before the crest of the hill Mike stopped for a witter about the view and an ancient wall that was a boundary for a medieval deer park.  After a few more meters of climbing the path levelled out and other than a couple of small climbs out of the stream valley the route was relatively flat.  Just before we reached Spylaw a call went out for a coffee stop, as usual Mike tried to ignore the demand.  However after telling us that Spylaw was where he took his wife on their honey moon!! we had our coffee bright sunshine although the strong breeze took the edge off the break.  After a very short break we continued on towards Coquet Cairn.

On the way Mike met a couple of people who he had not seen for about 35yrs and who like Mike used to be members of the Scout Mountaineering Club who used to rent Spylaw from the Duke.  Mike eventually caught the group up to ensure we stopped at Coquet Cairn for lunch.  The views from Coquet Cairn plus the bright sunshine and the fact that the trees were acting as a wind break made it an ideal place to stop and relax.

After lunch we entered Harwood Forest here we followed a well-defined track south before a short section on a forestry road.  Leaving the road we walked through a recently re-planted area of wood land with lots of stones sitting on tree stumps to mark the way.  Eventually we reached the farm Falllowlees.  From here you could see the hillside north of Greenleighton where Jon used to be a shepherd.  Once more we left a forestry road to walk alongside the Fallowless Burn before entering another section of forest; here the trail is marked by big green paint spots on the trees.  Leaving the trees we walked past Redpath Farm after admiring a couple of small ponies.  By now the skies had darkened and a light drizzle had started to fall.  As we followed the forestry road back to Harwood village waterproof tops were donned in slow succession as people gave in to the fact it was wet.  Once through the village we only had a couple of hundred meters to walk back to the cars.  All except Mike who had parked about half a mile away and had bit more to walk in the drizzle (so much for the old soft shoe shuffle).  

This marked the end of this year’s walks with most of us having started in March from Berwick down the cost to Warkworth then up the Coquet and then south west to Harwood.

To celebrate the end of good years walking we headed back to Rothbury for Coffee and Cake at Tomlinson’s.

Mon 7th October 2013

Map and Compass course

Map and Compass course

Mungrisdale - what a venue for Shepherds Walks map & compass courses. The weather was even kind although I think our guide secretly wanted a bit of 'proper' Lake District conditions.

Fifteen participants had travelled from all corners including a happy band all the way from Sussex. Most people wanted either a bit of a refresher or more skill in using the compass - which is often the thing that puts people off navigating on their own or away from a guidebook.

Like the Rothbury course we started off in the classroom with a basic introduction to the map and compass (that plastic twirly thing with a red needle as it was called). After lunch we went outside to 'navigate' ourselves on two short journeys round very different landscapes.

The first loop was around a typical rural area that walkers find themselves in and often are more difficult to navigate around that being up on the fells with lots of field boundaries, twists and turns. Some were surprised to discover that the map isn't to be relied upon 100% as sometimes things exist on the ground but not on the map and vice versa. We also had a bit of practice at walking on a compass bearing. Perhaps the most useful thing we learnt was that is if you look up from the map occasionally we can appreciate the view and there are plenty of things in the landscape that can help to fix your position without resorting to a GPS!

The second loop took us over a bit rougher ground and used features like streams and fences to help us navigate. On the way were also learnt a little bit of the local history.

Here's some of the thoughts on the day, thanks for your feedback.

- Thanks for a great day. I look forward to putting what I have learnt into practice.

- Good course, well instructed.

- Very enjoyable.

- A very informative and enjoyable day.

- A fantastic team.

- Found the day very useful and feel confident that with practice when out walking will gain even more confidence.

- Excellent day.

- Thanks very much. You were really useful and patient. A really enjoyable day.

- Paul was very helpful and knowledgeable. Excellent course.

- Professionally run course at the right pace.

Wed 25th September 2013

Planned Villages & Byerhope Bank

Planned Villages & Byerhope Bank

A small but select group representing various corners of the Commonwealth assembled in Allenheads Village for a short potter around the upper Dale.  

I think some of the group thought that the barbeque tent outside the pub was a Shepherds Walks special lunch special lunch stop but it turned out that today coincided with a major classic motorbike rally passing through the Dale (missed that one Jon).

This is the second walk in Allendale and what's surprising is how few people have visited this area. Come on folks it's still in Northumberland and no further from Tyneside to here than it is to some of the more popular parts! After a wee introduction the industrial history of the area off we set following the Allen down to the site of the former lead smelter. Tales of children cleaning lead deposit from the inside of flue chimneys and how lead pipes drove the Romans mad reminded everyone we don't have it that bad today.

A little later we climbed up the side of the Dale to the abandoned hamlet of Byerhope. High on the fells side this had been a thriving mining settlement until an industrial dispute over 'time and motion' had forced the miners to leave and emigrate mostly to Illinois. Now Byerhope consists of one remaining house and a series derelict smallholdings across the fell side. Reaching our high point we could look down over Allenheads and view the various features left in the landscape by mining activity and admire the sweep of the open moorland.

Dropping back down we peered down the 300' Gin shaft that was one of the entrances into the Allenheads mine situated in the middle of the village that during it's brief life proved to be one of the most productive lead mines in the country. As always on 'old man' walks (this refers to the ghosts of past miners not the age of the Guide) tea and cakes followed. Julie the cakes were very nice sorry you missed this one.