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St Cuthberts Challenge  Training Walk

St Cuthberts Challenge Training Walk

Tue 22nd July 2014

Saturday 19th July

Todayís walk had two main themes: how stunning the north Northumberland uplands are and, almost inevitably, what the weather held in store. There was however an intriguing subplot about how far we were walking.

The sub plot was created by the translation between metric and imperial measures. 17 was the pre walk number but crucially, was it miles or kilometres? So the walk began with a bit of chat about that. Having measured the distance on the map with a trusty, opened up, paperclip I was of the opinion that it was kilometres and that the Ď17í roughly equated to 10.5 miles. What I also knew was that the route involves a good deal of ascending and descending – both of which add distance….

We left Wooler Common in Ronís taxi and arrived in glorious sunshine at Kirk Newton and set about walking almost due East back to our starting point. The weather? It was warm and a bit muggy but very pleasant as we began to gently gain height as we left the village on the joint Pennine Way and St Cuthbertís Way path. The height gain continued as we began to skirt Green Humbleton Hill, with its fort on top, and climbed steadily but relentlessly to the split in the ĎWaysí. The true beauty of the Cheviots reveal themselves as we climbed up to and over the water shed into Elsdonburn.

The muggy part of the weather started to become a main talking point because it made the uphill climbs uncomfortable. It was also suggestive of thunderstorms and we had all heard the weather forecast of the heat build up resulting in heavy downpours.  

From Elsdonburn through the valley on a good surfaced track and then road we made our way to Hethpool and into the College Valley. Crossing the burn it began to rain. Just gentle cooling rain that fizzled out as we sheltered under a tree for lunch. Despite the shower the humidity remained high and the stillness of the air made the steep ascent out of the valley past Yeavering Bell and across the wild moors to Tom Tallonís Crag a bit of a struggle. Frequent stops for drinks in this weather are important, as it is easy to become dehydrated.
Having gained height we made our way over the grouse moors to Gain Law and then on a good track over flat(ish) ground we made our way towards Wooler. This part of the walk is worth savouring because here you get a real sense of being on the edge of the Cheviots when you can see the plains below. The descent to Wooler finished with a final steep downhill through the woods.

So a great walk from Scotland to England, climbing over the border ridge down into the College Valley up and over the moors to Wooler. Stunningly beautiful. Warm and muggy but we avoided getting rained on too much. And the distance? 17 kilometres or 10.5 miles? As it turned out neither! We covered 12 miles at an average of 2 miles an hour. Herein lies a useful navigation tip when planning a route: measuring a distance on a flat (2D) map is often deceptive , especially when walking up and down hills. There is a formula for working this all out, itís called Naismithís Rule, and it involves counting contour lines to work out height gained and loss and…so on and so on.

We had a great walk but most of us were glad in the end that we hadnít had to walk 17 miles not because of the hills but because of the weather.

I look forward to meeting my training partners on the full challenge walk in a couple of weeks time on 9th August when the weather will be perfect!

Chris Constable


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