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Sat 11th August 2012

St Cuthbert's Way Challenge Walk

St Cuthbert's Way Challenge Walk

Well done to everybody who completed this 19.5 mile challenge walk.

After checking in at Wooler all the participants got on a number of busses that took them up to Morebattle for the start of this truly stunning challenge walk.

Initially they climbed Wideopen Hill, the highest point on the St Cuthbert's Way before climbing up through The Cheviot Hills. What a day!

You can view the finishing times for all participants by clicking here.

Please enjoy the YouTube film and the pictures from the day. I very much hope you can join us again next year.

Tue 7th August 2012

Still heading North - St Cuthberts Way

Still heading North  - St Cuthberts Way

After a week of Sunshine and showers Sundance was rather worried.  Had the old soft shoe shuffle worked? 

The drive up to Wooler looked promising that is until about 2 miles south of Wooler when the roads became very wet, but it was not raining. Our hopeís rise that the soft shoe shuffle had worked? 

We all met at Wooler Common and piled on a mini-bus for the transfer to Kirk Yetholm.  Things started to look bad, very dark clouds ahead and the roads west of Kirknewton had rivers running down the sides, then it began to rain!  By the time we had reached the start of the walk at Halterburn (the end of the last Pennine Way walk) the rain had stopped but as the mini bus pulled away it started to RAIN again.

So the first job was for every one to don waterproofs.  We set off along the clearly marked footpath heading upwards to the border after a climb of  500ft we reached the border between Scotland and England strangely there was no Border Control Agency people waiting to check passports, could it be the weather?

From here there is a very gradual descent to Hethpool following the Elsdon Burn.  It was still raining! There was not any shelter from the rain as we walked through a plantation just bigger drops.  At Hethpool we stopped for lunch as well as becoming lunch for the midges whilst trying to gain some shelter from the rain by sheltering under some big deciduous trees.

As we started to leave our lunch spot it stopped raining.  It was at this point we realised that the rain had a positive effect it had stopped Mike from wittering.  Yes you guessed he now started. We crossed the College burn by a substantial bridge before starting to climb gently up the eastern side of the College valley.  By now the sun was shining and waterproofs were being discarded, after a short stop to watch a small herd of Wild Cheviot Goats we entered a picturesque little wooded valley.  The path gradually climbed up through a wide open hillside that was covered in harebells and a variety of other little flowers.

The path levelled out for a short distance past Toleehouse, before starting the long last climb up passing the side of Yeavering Bell and then Tom Tallonís Crag. The path from here gently undulates for the next 3 or 4 Km.  Views of the North Sea and Bewick Moor gradually began to disappear in the murk of another mass of rain clouds and yes it began to RAIN once more but only for about 30 minutes or so.  The descent down Browns Law returned us back to our cars and wet boots and waterproofs were quickly discarded for dry clothes.  

Sun 5th August 2012

Bat Walk - Rothbury

Bat Walk - Rothbury

This was the first ever Bat Walk we have done so Shepherds Walkís teamed up with Rob Caton from Wild Harmony.

After meeting everybody at Rothbury Tourist Information Centre we walked down to Tomlinsons Cafe in Rothbury. In Tomlinsons we had set up a short presentation of the habitats, breeds and conservation that bats live in. Rob went through this and his vast knowledge and enthusiasm was second to none.

There are 18 species of bats living in the UK (17 of which are known to breed here). Some of the bat species are very rare. The bats have remarkable navigation system called echolocation and this is what we were hoping to hear with the use of the bat detectors.

With bat detectors in hand, we set off along the banks of the River Coquet. The bat detectors convert their pitch to an audible frequency for humans and this sound changes as the bat feeds to a more buzzing noise, rather than the clicking sound that we hear when they are navigating. Using this method the bat can also determine where the object is, how big it is and in what direction it is moving. The bat can tell if an insect is to the right or left by comparing when the sound reaches its right ear to when the sound reaches its left ear: If the sound of the echo reaches the right ear before it reaches the left ear, the insect is obviously to the right. The bat's ears have a complex collection of folds that help it determine an insect's vertical position. Echoes coming from below will hit the folds of the outer ear at a different point than sounds coming from above, and so will sound different when they reach the bat's inner ear. Itís all very interesting stuff.

Initially we could just see birds feeding on the insects flying high with just one bat spotted; this was going to be a long night.

But as we hit the stepping stones area of the River Coquet everything changed. Thereís a bat and another and yet another.

Initially they flew high but over a five minute period the bats where now flying and feeding just inches above the river, descending over our heads.

The bat detectors were buzzing and clicking away and the feeding bats and the whole group was totally drawn in by the excitement of the bats flying all around. As it was still dusk we could see the bats clearly and even identify some of the breeds, it was a real experiencing especially as the passed our heads from the higher ground around, heading for the river at our feet. There were plenty of insects about so rightly the bats where utilising these ideal conditions.

The group covered all generations and it was great to see the boys sat on the riverside, bat detectors in hand, totally enthralled by the whole experience. There was a real sharing of knowledge and has the evening got darker and after experiencing a real evening to remember we started out journey back.

We headed back to Tomlinsons for soup, roll and hot drinks. It had been a great night and we could not have asked for better conditions. It was warm and for the first time ever everybody was pleased to see midges, as this attracted the bats out to feed.

Hopefully this can be the first of many bat walks as we all get to grips with the different breeds that we are watching.