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Mon 1st October 2012

Night Walk - Heart of The Cheviots

Night Walk - Heart of The Cheviots

We met next to the pond at South Middleton, a lovely location not far off the A 697, but a world away, just before moonrise at 18.06.  The sky was clear but for a scattering of high cirrus to our west.  By 18.30 the almost full moon had risen above the line of sandstone hills to our east as we walked south through the attractive “lumps and bumps” landscape of features associated with the most recent glacial period.  Farming hereabouts is a mixture of both arable and pastoral, the grain fields were now stubble with both pheasant and partridge foraging for remaindered seed.    The barns were full of large circular bales and beef cattle were grazing the hilly pastureland approaching the edge of the moorland the latter mainly occupied by hill-sheep but with lower grazing densities of cattle too. 

By the time we reached the moorland edge the light was changing, local sunset was 18.52, and the sun was already below our horizon due to the higher ground of the Cheviots to the west.  We were now into civil twilight when the sun is between 0° and 6° below the horizon.  Everything was still easily distinguishable and a very few of the brightest stars and planets began to appear in the darkening eastern sky.  To the west the higher lenticular clouds were now illuminated from below.  We were now out onto the moorland track having passed the intake land drystone walls built of Cheviot lavas.  The circular sheep stell we passed was a work of art and a tribute to the skill of the craftsmen who built it.

Tuning north-west past the conifer plantations and old settlement we headed gently uphill towards Brands Hill crossing a particularly wet section that well illustrated the need for careful route planning on night walks.   We were now well into nautical twilight (sun 6°-12° below the horizon) but our eyes were accommodating to the decreasing light levels and our night vision slowly improving.  By the time we turned west the moon was high enough to produce distinct shadows which changed position as we changed our heading from north-west to south-west.  The Harthope valley, fault aligned NE-SW, appeared as a deep trench to our right hand side with Cold Law prominent on the far side.   Following this skyline led to the bulky profile of Cheviot with Hedgehope to its south separated by the pronounced col at the top of the Harthope Burn.  The cloud cover was now steadily increasing from the west, lowering and blotting-out the starfield we were hoping to see.  I had intended to identify a few constellations and planets and show how they could be used for stellar navigation but it wasn’t to be.  To the east the moon was still mostly cloud-free so we were able to use shadow, wind direction, it was quite breezy, and first the sound and then the orientation of the various streams on the moor to navigate by.  The various tors also stood out well against the sky as did the navigation lights on the TV transmitter on Sandyford Moor that extends to 349 m above sea level.  The back-bearings obtained from these and other landmarks gave reasonable fixes on our location.  No-one had resorted to using their torches yet, our eyes were dark adapted and the party found no difficulty in locating the track junction with the one coming-in from Langlee Crags to our west.

We walked towards the welcome shelter of Middleton Crags where we could get out of the cool wind for a night-time picnic sitting looking east towards the coast.  This was the highest point of the walk at 404 metres.   As we arrived the moon finally disappeared behind cloud but we could pick-out the coastline by the moonlight on the sea and the linear beads of light at both Bamburgh and Seahouses.  Occasionally we saw the sweep of the beam from the Farne Islands lighthouse.  Further south the sodium lights of the RAF radar station at Brizlee Wood on the western side of Hulne Park a little over 17 kilometres away to our southeast showed up clearly.  Refuelling stop over we set-off downhill back to our cars via the recently upgraded and much improved track to be used to extract timber from Threestoneburn Wood on the eastern slopes of Hedgehope.  A brief half-hearted attempt to drizzle on us on the way downhill but it quickly subsided and we were back to our cars for 22.40 hours.  A pity we didn’t manage to see the night sky and all it had to offer, better luck next time.  The experience of night walking was new to some and hopefully everyone gained some insights about how to go about it if ever benightment intervenes.  Similarly everyone now knows what  disturbed grouse sound like or how easy it is to see a formation of geese silhouetted against the night sky, simple pleasures, good fun in good company, I hope everyone enjoyed it.

Monday 1st October 2012

Sat 29th September 2012

Nordic Walking taster session

Nordic Walking taster session

Last Sunday we worked with some other parners to help deliver a Nordic walking day at Seaton Delaval Hall, which is owned by The National Trust.

Shepherds Walks delivered family Nordic walking taster sessions and please do enjoy looking through the pictures and short YouTube film from the day.

Please do look online at all our Nordic Walks and Courses and come along and give it a go yourself.

Wed 19th September 2012

Nordic Walk - Cambo

Nordic Walk - Cambo

Proof walking this route 2 days earlier I was prepared for the weather (Waterproofs, gators, waterproofing my walking shoes). But then the strangest thing happened.....the sun came out! A bit of a breeze but not unpleasant and not a cloud in the sky. The perfect weather for a Nordic Walk.

The group met in the quiet village of Cambo and after the usual warm up exercises we set off. On leaving the village we went immediately into some freshly combined fields. The path was unexpectedly dry underfoot and the grass not too long, allowing us to remove the paws from our poles and really push back as we walked. The path was wide enough to allow us to walk alongside a friend and have a chat. Eventually we came to another combined field and followed the prominent path diagonally through it. There is something quite naughty about going through the centre of a field and not keeping to the edge but this is where the footpath lay and so we followed. Walking through a freshly combined field, with only short yellow stalks still remaining, was a real Cadbury’s flake moment! Quite beautiful.

We passed through a short woodland area before returning to our combined fields again. The next field however, was very square and grassy. We entered through a gate in the top right corner.  This is no ordinary field and quite unusual in the way we pass through it. I warned everybody of this and again set off at a diagonal through the field, to the middle of the far side boundary. Once everyone caught up there were many comments of “well that wasn’t unusual”. And so we set off again, almost back on ourselves but to the top left corner! We basically travelled through this field in a ‘V’ shape. Now I know a few people thought I had well and truly lost it at this point but no, this is the way the public footpath went through the field. It’s a great example of why footpaths were placed where they are as originally they were solely used to join neighbouring farms together. Nobody ever imagined that Mrs Shepherd would be walking around the footpaths for pleasure, much less with poles!

We continued on along a tarmac track and so the paws were returned to the feet of our poles to prevent too many headaches from all the clanking! This track had a gradual incline, which to a walker would prove a little tiring and would certainly get their heart rate up. Us Nordic Walkers however were able to climb the hill with very little effort, and still chatted all the way. No breathlessness and no red gasping faces. Even our newest member tried walking without her poles and commented on how easy it was to climb the hill with poles.

The tarmac track eventually led to a farm where the sheep dip was evident and the various gateways used by the farmer to sort his sheep and their lambs before dipping them. However the farmer had decided to tie up the gate leading into the field where our public footpath ran. ...and tightly knotted too. Not to be beaten Mrs Shepherd calmly decided to lift the whole gate off its hinges so we could continue on. Where there is a will there is always a way!

We continued uphill through the field, skirting around the edges to avoid the cattle, which were terrified of us and ran away as we approached. One last field, again which was passed following a tree line through the middle of a field, and we returned to Cambo village again.  

This is such a lovely walk, highly recommended to both walker and Nordic Walker and great for the kids too.