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Mon 2nd September 2013

GPS in the Hills

GPS in the Hills

Our GPS in the Hills course is very practical and is aimed at those people wanting to get out in the hills and get to grips with their Garmin GPS unit.

Thankfully we were greeted with some great weather as we met at the Coquetdale Centre, the home of Shepherds Walks. After transferring a ‘route’ onto everybody’s GPS unit we set off climbing up out of Rothbury, stopping to enjoy the view on the way.

It was great to see the GPS units working to their full potential as we past Sharps Folly on the track to Whitton Hillhead. But before we reached the farm we stopped following the pre-programmed route and started to manually programme the units.

By inputting waypoints we made our way up to Lordenshaws Iron Age Hillfort and found a sheltered spot for lunch just before the hill fort itself. We then climbed up to Lorenshaws and visited the cup and ring marks.

We then descended back down St Oswald’s Way stopping on route to refresh everything we had done so far before setting our units away again to guide us on a lovely walk first to Whitton Hillhead and then along the River Coquet back into Rothbury.

Here we did a bit of geocaching before sitting in front of Garmin BaseCamp for a while, which is the free piece of software used to manage the routes on your Garmin GPS.

I hope a good day was had by all, a really good group who quickly picked things up and best of all they always had a smile on their faces.

Tue 27th August 2013

Around and Above the Harthope Blog

Around and Above the Harthope Blog

Saturday 24th August 2013

A typical Bank Holiday weekend, grey, overcast and wet – and after a long spell of good weather too!  However, it was good to meet-up with the ever youthful “Old Team” of the usual suspects for another walk in the (Northumberland National) Park.  It was especially good to welcome back my indispensible volunteer carer, Ian, following his recent foot operation and to welcome Judith to the group again.

The plan was to circumnavigate the upper Harthope from the Hawsen Burn car parking spot along both the north-west and south eastern ridges dropping down for lunch somewhere overlooking the Coldgate Water near Grimping Haugh opposite Watch Hill.  The cloudbase was well below the ridges when we set-off up the Hawsen Burn to follow the stream up onto the bridleway towards Broadstruther.  Big mistake, the bracken growth was so dense that the path kept disappearing and parts of it had been undercut and washed away so we zigzagged up the burn nimbly switching from side to side until one of our number contrived to slip into the burn much to the amusement of everyone else – but we were concerned really.  The overtrousers were necessary to avoid getting soaked from the bracken overgrowth but at least it wasn’t raining now so we climbed up to the bridleway to make easier progress amongst good hearted banter about the route selection by the guide – at least I think it was!  I did recce (we professionals call it ground-proofing) the route a few weeks previously and it was fine, honestly.

Elevenses at the gate on the ridge above the Hawsen Burn were taken at 11.30; well we only started at 10.30 and onwards to the Cold Law trig point (452m) overlooking the Harthope.  The cloudbase was slowly rising and we could look down onto the parked cars through the ragged and decaying lower cloud, nicely atmospheric.  On towards Carling Crag with some of the “team” becoming restless, what is it about undulating ground that there is to misunderstand?  The terrain gently rolls down and up, the up bits were apparently the problem!  A brief lecture about managing the moor for grouse and the importance of peat in the ecosystem followed a question about what we were seeing meant it was approaching lunchtime.  One would think that regulars would learn not to ask questions by now; we must have some slow learners in our midst.  A quick look at the walled and Scots Pine cross-shaped livestock shelter and we were off downhill towards Coronation Wood free ranging across the Access Land.  Ian went off on his own around the back of the shelter to walk in peace and quiet for a few minutes, good plan.  More “observations” along the lines of “Is he lost again?” really helpful, confidence building and encouraging, thank you.

We crossed the Harthope Burn via the wooden footbridge and pitched camp approximately half a kilometre beyond it adjacent to Skirl Naked hidden in the plantation opposite.  Two of our number accused us of hiding from them when they eventually caught-up having made a comfort stop en route.  Marion and I did think we heard a whistle minutes earlier - but we were off-duty for lunch – it’s a team thing.  After lunch we trudged to the top of Brands Hill and I didn’t speak for a whole ten minutes, I don’t know whether that was appreciated or not as nobody was speaking, just breathing hard.  Langlee Crags, one of several tors surrounding the Cheviot granite, was our next objective and the wry witty banter continued throughout.  The invitation to climb only 60 metres (a mere undulation) up to Housey Crags, another tor overlooking our starting point was firmly but politely declined in favour of swift descent back down to the vehicles whereupon the weather decided to rain on our parade.  Actually we’d done really well compared to the forecast with a Big Drip leading (or allowed to think he was) the happy band both at the beginning and the end of the walk.

Sorry that you didn’t get the long distance views of the coast to the east and Cheviot and Hedgehope to the west but it was better than we could have hoped for according to the Met Office weather warning issued for the day.  I hope that everyone feels that the above account captures at least some of the experiences that we had on-route and that it corresponds in some measure to the actual walk you experienced.  This is in response to the obviously well-meant “observation” by one of our number that the blog sometimes didn’t correspond to their experience.  I know this is just to keep me in check, so thank you.  I don’t know if this particular therapy is working or not but will keep you informed when I develop a personality and some self-confidence.  Thanks to everyone who attended and I hope to see you all again soon to continue with my course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Wed 14th August 2013

St Cuthbert's Way Challenge 2013 - guided group

St Cuthbert's Way Challenge 2013 - guided group

Well Sundance did it again the old soft shoe shuffle kept the rain away.  Well nearly we had a couple of spits and spots that did not even have you thinking about putting on the waterproofs.

08.00 registration; Mike trying to finish a cup of coffee made at home before the drive to Wooler register people in and trying to be less grumpy than normal at this time in the morning.  

0815 on the bus being driven to Morebattle for the start of the challenge walk.  Although

Mike was one of the first off the bus by the time he was ready we were at the back.  After gentle stroll to start off the day, we started on the first BIG climb of the day.  After a constant steady pull (drag) upwards we were rewarded with stunning views over the Tweed valley to the north and the Cheviots to the south.  

A rather steep descent brought us to a farm track and the first food stop of the day; it was Mike’s second breakfast, the one he had intended eating at Wooler before he got on the bus!  By now we were at the back as all the second bus walkers had stormed passed as we were having our food.  From here a stretch of road walking took us to checkpoint 1 leaving the road we walked over some fields and crossed the road bridge that joins Town Yetholm with Kirk Yetholm.  

After yet another short road section, either the last bit of the Pennine Way or the start of the Pennine Way we started on the next big climb which leads to check point 2 but more importantly the border between Scotland and England. It was on this section we overtook two ladies who were doing the challenge walk (they had stopped for lunch).  They did pass us again at checkpoint 2 as we had a longish lunch stop there.  It was now all gently downhill to checkpoint 3 and a hot cup of coffee.  We were now just over half way.  

We now climbed steadily up to the base of Yeavering Bell and then the last steep climb of the day up to Tom Tallons Crags.  From here the route gently undulates with the uphill sections even for tired legs are not noticable.  This section of the walk gives some of the most spectacular views over the Tweed valley to the north views of the North Sea to the N. east The coastal sandstone hills to the east and south and of course the Cheviots fill in the rest of the view with The Cheviot dominating the sky line.  A steep little descent brought us to check point 3 at Wooler Common and the start of the final leg this is downhill for most of the way on road through Wooler.  Eventually at about 5.30pm we turned the last corner and there was the finish with a seat, hot drink and a goody bag.  Of course Mike was the last one of the group to finish the walk.  

Overall a good day, mainly because Mike did not witter on too much.