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Mon 11th June 2012

Pennine Way - part 11, Clennel Street to the source of 3 rivers

Pennine Way - part 11, Clennel Street to the source of 3 rivers

Pennine Way Clennel Street to Cairn Hill - Sunday 10th June 2012

Well Sundance had danced, had the old soft shoe shuffle worked?  Not really, but have we got a new Rain Goddess lurking in our mists? The next walk will tell.

As we drove up the valley to the car park at Windyhaugh the surrounding hill tops were covered in cloud but it was dry.

By 10.30 we were all in the mini bus for the drive up to the start point, Salter’s Road where a bridle path which crosses a forestry commission track in the middle of the forest above Uswayford, this was as close as we could get to the Pennine Way.  By now we had climbed into the cloud/mist and exiting the bus it was damp (not yet proper rain, Sundance) grey and not very pleasant.

We followed a well made path through the forest until it joined Clennel Street.  The ground under foot was very wet and Clennel Street could have been renamed Clennel Burn as it had so much water running down.  A little way along the Street Mike came across two burst balloons they looked very much like the two he had found snagged on Beefstand Hill a month before and released to fly on.

Although the cloud had made the visibility poor navigation was not a major issue as the track was easy to follow and we quickly reached the point where we left the Pennine Way on our last walk. 

Where Clennel Street crossed in to Scotland we now turned right and followed the Border Fence eastwards.  The going was good as the National Park had laid slabs to replace the black morass that use to be the path.  The misty conditions meant that you had no real sense of progress and it was only on reaching King’s Seat (still has Trig point) that you felt you had made any progress.  Eventually we made Score Head and stopped for lunch.

During lunch the mist drifted apart to give us a brief glimpse of the potential view that we should have been enjoying. All too quickly the mist rolled back in to shrink our views to 100m or so.  A gentle climb eased us back into our stride before the steep climb to the summit plateau. On reaching the plateau the Pennine Way turns sharp North heading for the Schill but an optional Pennine Way extra is to take in The Cheviot summit.  Before you reach the Summit you climb over Cairn Hill which was our turning point for today. By now the visibility had closed in and at times was less than 30m.

On reaching Cairn Hill we stopped for a photo and then like the Grand Old Duke of York who marched his men to the top of the hill and marched them down, we reversed and began the march down the hill the way we had come.
What a surprise the views back the way we had come looked exactly like the views up, Grey Mist.

The walk back to the Pennine Way Clennel Street junction seemed to take for ever as we all trudged along in the grey murk.  Eventually we reached the Clennel Street and followed this back to where it crosses the Usway Farm Track. Much to our delight and amazement we walked out of the mist with about 500m to go and had the first real views of the day looking down towards the Coquet Valley.  As the track became visible Mike started to get a little bit worried as there was no sign of the mini bus.

The panic only lasted a few minutes, the mini bus approached from the opposite direction. As we had not arrived back at the pick up point on time the driver had gone to where he had dropped us off just in case we were waiting for him there.

The final insult of the day is we arrived back too late and found the Tea Room had closed.  All in all a good days walk!

Mon 28th May 2012

The Roman Ring - part 5

The Roman Ring - part 5

Sunday 27th May 2012

What a great day’s weather to finish this fifth and final section of the Roman Ring, better even than Day 3 at the end of March.  Remember, it was hot and sunny then but we didn’t have any shade and the long straight drove road sections looked even longer than they actually were and, unlike last Sunday, there was no cooling breeze either. 

An early bonus was meeting Jon Monks on the Wentworth car park just minutes after beginning the walk.  Jon was dressed incognito in motorcycle leathers standing next to his magnificent machine.  Several of our number hadn’t actually met The Boss before.  He and his associates soon roared off leaving us to continue at a more modest three miles an hour through Hexham with historic buildings (Moothall and Manor Offices etc) plus the Market Place adjacent to the Abbey and Shambles.  The shade was appreciated as we went uphill via Eastgate past the Northumberland National Park offices to overlook Hexham from Tyneview Terrace.  The view from here was stunning, totally unexpected and taking-in almost the whole route of the day’s walk and dominated by a cloudless blue sky, fresh green vegetation everywhere punctuated with patches of bright yellow oilseed rape.

Into the trees of Halfmile Wood and on past the Gothic extravaganza of Dukes House with its 35 plus chimneys  it was time for elevenses even if a bit late.  Onwards towards Dilston Park Farm and the Scout Camp, lots of modern hooped frame tents in evidence and not a single bell tent with the tent walls rolled-up for ventilation, scouting has obviously moved-on since “our” day.  A little further-on was the colourful Dilston Physic Garden alongside the Devil’s Water shortly before reaching Dilston Mill which showed some interesting building styles including wooden shingle cladding.  Over the road bridge onto the opposite bank of the Devil’s Water we reached its confluence with the River Tyne for a picnic lunch in the sun.

A dog walker who we’d seen earlier being taken for a “walk” by his two dogs returned  to report seeing two kingfishers a little further along, we kept our eyes open but didn’t see anything.  We did hear the child who was making his presence felt for some considerable time however!  Along the flood bank past the massive remains of the Roman bridge pier to the present  bridge over the River Tyne at Corbridge led us to the ice cream seller on the south side of the bridge prior to a comfort stop on the north side of the bridge, the logistics were falling into place well.

The remainder of the route was mainly uphill, some parts steeper than others e.g. Deadridge Lane, the name provides a clue.  Crossing the busy A69 necessitated a bit of a detour but we were soon on course for Aydon Castle, with only one minor unintended “deviation” just prior to the footbridge over the Cor Burn, sorry!  Coffee, tea or water break at Aydon Castle in the afternoon sun, or just a quiet sit down – why was the “nice shady spot” where the castle wall bulged out and overhung reserved for me I wondered?  Onwards gently uphill towards Halton, a lovely hamlet with beautiful views southwards over the Tyne Valley from the delightful little church.  The topiary in the well kept churchyard was impressive as was Halton Tower and its manicured garden and lawn.  American tourists would consider this a quintessential English scene.  The final few hundred metres up to the Military Road revealed lots of “lumps and bumps” either side of our route, a combination of both ridge and furrow and the purposely unexcavated remains of Onnum Roman Fort.  Turning west parallel to the Military Road took us back to the cars at the Portgate roundabout where the important north-south Roman Dere Street intersects the line of Hadrian’s Wall.  The much later Military Road was constructed under the supervision of General Wade following the Jacobite Rebellion; he died before it was completed.  It is interesting to reflect that logistic and communications routes remain just as important today hundreds of years after the Romans begun the process.  The cars were like ovens so doors and hatchbacks were flung open whilst we changed footwear for the drive home.  The Errington Arms across the road looked enticing but was closed on Sunday afternoons after they had served lunch, oh well.  Thank you to everyone who has made this series of walks such a delight, never a dull moment, well, except for the dull wet days but even they had their moments.

Those of us who knew and walked with Jim on many occasions would like to dedicate this lovely day’s walk to his memory.  We will miss the friendly banter, repartee and leg-pulling in his soft Scottish accent.  Jim would have appreciated the irony of a pub being closed at the end of a walk on a hot day and would playfully have tried to negotiate a cheaper price for a 99 ice cream too.  We will eventually have a drink on his behalf and he would laugh at that too, we will have to pay for it ourselves!   He was a lovely man, always fun, interesting and a genuine pleasure to walk with.


Monday, 28 May 2012                  


Mon 28th May 2012

Nordic Walk - Alnwick

Nordic Walk - Alnwick

More weather like this please, this is more like summer.

As we met in Alnwick Market place at 10.00am on a Saturday morning the sun was truly cracking the flags and with the market in full swing in the square we quickly left the hustle and bustle of the town centre for a more peaceful place for our warm up.

After a quick warm up we skirted around the edge of Alnwick Gardens before heading down to the River Aln and after crossing it on a bridge we left the road and all appreciated a quick drink of water before heading off across Alnwick Pastures.

Alnwick Pastures and the River Aln that runs through the pastures were designed by Lancelet ‘Capability’ Brown, the famous landscape gardener.

We stopped next to one of the weirs and split into two groups and did a few Nordic Walking exercises to try and improve our techniques. This is something we hope to do in all future Nordic Walks so we can all continue to keep our Nordic Walking in the right direction.

Alnwick Castle was looming above us so it was a great spot for our group shot and what a stunning backdrop for our Nordic Walk.

As we continued on we passed the famous Lion Bridge before continuing on following footpaths which at times made us skip over a few nettles. Not usually a major problem but as the majority of the walkers had shorts on it put a spring in everybody’s feet.

After again crossing the River Aln we climbed steeply up to the entrance of Hulne Park, which is owned by The Duke of Northumberland. Another great spot for a quick breather.

Within a few minutes we skirted the edge of Alnwick before returning back to the Alnwick Market Square and after a few warm downs it was agreed by all that a good Nordic Walk had been enjoyed by everybody.

Thanks for coming along and we look forward to seeing you all again in June at Hauxley on the Northumberland Coast.