Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Saint Oswald's Way November 4th. Haughs and Heughs

In the early days of  Christianity in England  Northumberland seems to have produced its fair share of saints. Cuthbert, Aidan, Hilda, Wilfred and Oswald  to name but five.  Cuthbert is probably the most famous as he was carried round the north east in his coffin before the pallbearers decided Durham was not only a good place to bury him but an imposing site for a cathedral too. Health and Safety would not allow that sort of thing today.  The Venerable Bede didn’t quite make it to sainthood but did write a book on the history of the church of Enland some several hundred years before the Reformation, a great act of foresight.

  Two of these saints also have long distance footpaths named after them, Cuthbert and Oswald, and today  a team of four gadgies are following a section of St. Oswald’s Way from Rothbury to Longframlington.  As well as being a saint Oswald had been a king. When he died his arm was taken up by a raven which flew off to a tree, afterward known as Oswestry (think about it). His head supposedly rests in Durham Cathedral although three other religious houses in Europe also lay claim to owning it.

  We seem to be acquiring nicknames, I am the blogmikester, Harry is the routemeister because he usually plans the walk as nobody else can be bothered, not because he likes London buses, Brian is the punmeister and poor Dave has been unfairly christened the snotmeister because he has had a cold recently. I think I shall call him the vogelmeister because he is good at bird recognition.

 The walk starts in Rothbury, easy to find from Newcastle. Follow the A1 north to its junction with the A697 signposted Wooler and at Weldon Bridge turn on to the B6344 for Rothbury, a pretty little town, ample parking and several cafes for a bacon butty to start you on your way. (Except for Ray but he wasn’t out so it doesn’t matter.

  Because St. Oswald had his arm taken by a raven some of the markers on the route have a silhouette of  a raven, some are just public footpath markers and some are proper finger posts.

  From the main street take the road that crosses the river and turn left. Walk past the road leading to a caravan site and a little further on turn off the road at the “St. Oswald’s Way” finger post. The footpath leads through woodland, there are easily spotted markers and some kind soul has tied plastic yellow ribbons round the trees, even though they are not oaks.

  You may, if you wish make use of the dismantled railway line for a while, it is less muddy and the paths eventually converge. The footpath continues through fields and patches of woodland until you reach the road bridge at Pauperhaugh.* Admire the bridge but do not cross  it.

The bridge at Pauperhaugh.

Turn right and walk up the road a few hundred yards before turning left into a field. After a few hundred yards there is a dilapidated old farm building with a mini hemmel** and a rusting tractor.  We made it a Herbiespot and settled down for lunch. The vogelmeister coyly admitted he had not brought his usual offering of mini pork pies as he was getting concerned about their fat content. A feeble excuse really as they have become one of the traditions of gadgie walks. Next week I shall make sure I bring a supply.  The tractor was carefully examined by Dave who lived in Coventry and knows about these things. It had been red so couldn’t have been a John Deere, I think he said it was an International.

  After a few awful jokes to make up for the lack of pies we continued via Thorneyhaugh and Middleheugh*** to a point on the river across from Brinkburn Priory a 12th century priory famous for escaping destruction by marauding Scots by not ringing bells, used in summer for outdoor concerts of classical music and owned by English Heritage. It was closed anyway, like a lot of England. 

  The path then continues through Brinkheugh and Thistleyhaugh  to Weldon. Pause on the old road bridge and watch the river. We saw several salmon leaping the weir, a dipper and some distant ducks that were difficult to identify.  If you must,  walk past the Anglers Arms, turn right and go under the modern bridge that carries the A697. Take the track through High Weldon, past the gun shop at Low Town and follow the road into Longframlington. A few hundred yards down the road  opposite the Village Inn  (See “The Invisibles”) there is a bus stop and an hourly service that takes you back to Rothbury. A proper gadgie walk, including bus passes!

  There has been a lot written recently about feral English children and their appalling behaviour. The bus we caught was obviously a school bus and the twenty or so teenagers on it were very well behaved. And like children all over the north east they each thanked the driver as they got off the bus.

  Back in Rothbury and after a quick change of footwear we drove back to the Anglers’ Arms at Weldon Bridge. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord or Abbot, and I was driving.

  Not the best of days for the classy HiGear pedometer which sulked but ASDApeds claim  9.2 miles. And quite easy going too.

*Pauperhaugh.  The inhabitants may well have been poor but it comes from Papworthaugh, whoever he was.

** Farm outbuilding, usually with several open arches.

***Haugh and heugh. Not a spelling mistake.

A haugh is a piece of flat land near a river.

A heugh  is a promontory or hill.