Monday, 30 January 2012

Holy Island (Lindisfarne) January 29th.
Святой Остров
    This was not, strictly speaking, a gadgie walk although there were several bus pass holders taking part. It was a stroll round Holy Island with the "Russians", an ill assorted collection of people who can speak that language or have tried to learn a little. (I have GCSE grade C, and am very proud of it. ) The party included Ukrainian Irina, the lady who tried to teach me, Siberian Irina, wife of Jeremy, the Powells* John and Lizzie (MFA) and daughter Kate, plus several others whose names I have forgotten.
  Holy Island is easy to find from Newcastle; take the A1 north to Beale, turn right and drive over the causeway. BUT be careful and read the tide tables for crossing times before you go, otherwise you will finish up as a news item on BBC Look North.
The news reader will put on sad face and tell the viewers that another family or couple have been forced to scramble to the refuge on the causeway as their car was halted and swept away by the tide. Even better if they have a dog. Happy faced newsreader will then inform us that the refugees were saved (unless the dog is lost in which case no happy face) and finally serious face will tell us that this is the 57th time this has happened this year and that people should take more care and that several local councillors are considering forming a sub-committee to discuss the problem before it goes to the environment group who will then take it to the council. How about a huge notice at either end saying; "If you need rescuing it will cost you £500, so read the tide tables!"
 There are many books detailing the history of the island but briefly:
Nobody knows for certain where the name Lindisfarne comes from although Eilert Ekwall in The Concise Dictionary of English Place-Names suggests  early inhabitants may have travelled between the island and North Lincolnshire which was called Lindis.
Irish monks founded a monastery  on the island in 635AD, they were invited by King Oswald (See St. Oswald's Way November 4th)  who later made it as a saint.  The monks founded a school,  used nuns to copy out gospels and spent a lot of time converting the pagan Saxons until 793AD when a gang of Vikings arrived, pillaging and raping probably, and generally wrecking the place. I think that at this time the remaining monks left, carrying the uncorrupted body of St. Cuthbert on its way to Durham. In 1083 the Bishop of Durham founded a Benedictine Monastery on the island and this lasted until the Reformation and the dissolution. The ruins of the priory remain.
Ruins of the Priory on Holy Island.

Recently on a walk my fellow gadgie Ben, halfmarathonmeister, was telling us that he had once been best man at a wedding on Holy Island. The happy couple were met by a guard of honour carrying shot guns (no escape for him then) and that at one point in the proceedings a cake was broken over the bride's head. I was telling Kate ( about this as it could be a useful sideline, nothing too exotic, easily broken, wouldn't spoil the hair etc.. She said it dated back to Roman times, she had heard of the practice in Croatia and it was fairly common in Eastern Europe. Anybody know about it? Information gladly received.

 The walk;
There is a large car park on the left as you approach the village (£4.40 for a day). As it was Siberian Irina's birthday (almost) we started the walk with a glass of champagne and chocolate.
Leaving the car park we turned left and then took the first right followed by another left to take us on a footpath behind the priory. The Priory is owned by either the National Trust or English Heritage and there is an entry fee. Having been at least once we gave it a miss and walked through a boatyard  until we joined the track to the castle. On a good day the views are worth the journey, the Farne Islands and Bamburgh Castle to the south, the Cheviot Hills to the west and the sea to the east, but today was overcast.
  Lindisfarne Castle is also a National Trust property. It was built in 1549 and was used until 1819 as a garrison, later by coastguards and then sold in 1902. The owner, Edward Hudson, employed Edwyn Lutyens to do the redecorating. Outside there are some upturned fishing boats, part museum, part information centre.

Lindisfarne Castle, built on an outcrop of the Whin Sill. (Obviously still wanting to teach a bit of Geography)

A few hundred yards from the castle, on the eastern side, is a walled garden. It was laid out in 1911 by Gertrude Jekyll as a place for her to hide!  It is quite small with three high walls and a low south facing wall. It is paved, many of the plants growing between the stones.
Me and my hardy annual. The photograph was taken in
the walled garden on Holy Island in the summer of 2009.

But a few hundred yards south-east of the castle are the best lime kilns I have ever seen in Northumberland, and there are many. From the top all that is visible are six circular stone lined holes, carefully fenced off of course. Walk past and down the bank and there are the entrances to the whole complex, almost as they were in the 19th century.
 A Dundee company built them in 1860, stone was quarried on the north side of the island, coal was brought in by sea and the lime exported from a jetty north of the kilns, some fragments of its timber still visible.  We all went in to look round, it was amazing, I got so carried away I forgot to take a photograph of the outside but here is an interior shot.

Lime Kilns on the inside.

 After the excitement of the lime kilns, John Powell, looking out to sea and with all the knowledge of the sailor that he is, explained to us the different meanings of the buoys we could see. Should he ever join us on a Friday he would have to be yacht/motorcyclemeister.

Liz, Ukrainian Irina, Kate

 Continuing along the east side of the island we saw a large flock of Brent Geese on the sea, cormorants and a heron before we came to a small pond with a bird hide. A fine place to watch the moorhens and ducks, an even finer place to knock back the vodka and brandy that were on offer!  By now it was raining so once out of the hide we walked north a little before finding the footpath that brought us back to the village and the Ship Inn. The landlord made us all welcome, he had a locally brewed bitter on offer and some very good lunches, served with chips. For once I was not driving, what  a day out. Short by gadgie standards but very enjoyable at 3.6 miles, which could be extended. And a walk suitable for very small future gadgies too.
* Read John's account of his motorbike ride across Canada at
Wonderful reading.

Thrilled to see I have some Russian and Ukrainian readers аgain


Saturday, 28 January 2012

North Yorkshire Moors- a walk on the mud slide,  January 27th

   I was born in Yorkshire. Had I stayed there I would be walking round saying things like
"There's nobbut thee an' me" or"Reet oh lad tha can only blame thissen" or even "Sitha", but in the last case only to my equals or inferiors. But I didn't stay so I don't.
  Today's walk however,  is in Yorkshire, as the title suggests It starts in a pretty village called Chop Gate and takes in the Bilsdale Moor and Bransdale.  My book of every place name in the British Isles seems to have missed out on Chop Gate but at a guess I think it means "trading place by the path." (Chop meaning trading place {CF shop} and gate meaning path)
 Directions from Newcastle are straightforward; take the A19 through the Tyne Tunnel  (toll £1.40), at Acklam take the A1032 and B1365 to Stokesly and the B1257 to Chop Gate.  Just beyond the village, still on the B1257 is a car park (free!), picnic site and toilet, and some very friendly robins.
  A map is advisable for this walk, I used a photocopied section of OL26 and the car park  is at GR 558995. (A little of the Yorkshireman lingering, too mean to buy a map)
  Today there are seven gadgies, Harry the routemeister, Ray the DandDmeister, Dave the vogelmeister, Brian the punmeister, Ben the halfmarathonmeister,  guest Cornish Johnny the musicmeister and me the blogpiemeister.
 Leave the car park and turn right on the road, almost directly opposite a rather discreet signpost points you across  muddy fields in the direction of Wilham Beck farm. (Another indication that we are in God's county, using the word beck for a small stream)  through the farm  yard and up a muddy track. Today a flock of sheep were being driven by a cheery farmer on his quadbike, assisted by a collie. The routemeister got quite excited as the sheep approached, and not through fear. After about half a mile the track joins another, more substantial track, turn right and follow it. This track, well built to assist shooters on their journey to the Grouse Butts, descends into a pretty, wooded valley called Tripsdale. At the bottom it begins an immediate and quite steep ascent until it reaches the flatter Slape Wath Moor. A small team of men were bailing heather on the moor, possibly clearing the land to encourage new shoots of ling to grow to feed the grouse to give the shooters something to aim at.  Keep on the track, after about a mile there are the remains of an old stump cross (Spotted of course by vogel/archaemeister Dave).  At this point it is essential to spot a path leading off to the left. A narrow path, scarcely visible in the heather which also acts as a cover for the mud,  is at GR606982.( Got an iphone? get Apps Outdoors and Grid Reference, brilliant unless you are a grump who won't  get owt newfangled)
  This path  descends quite steeply, is a bit slippy in places on wet days, crosses a road and continues to another road at Colt House Farm. Almost immediately across the road the footpath leads over fields, past an old sundial, to Bransdale Mill, elected Herbiespot.
 A man introduced himself to Brian and I at the mill. He explained that in summer it was used to give  young refugees a break from  the hell that is called London, a sort of Youth Hostel for young people who could not return to their own countries for whatever reason. Had we been there in summer, we would have been offered refreshment, as it was we settled down to pies and pasties, sandwiches and flapjacks.  Ben had brought home made ginger biscuits, Dave, not to be outdone had chocolate chip cookies to hand round. No wonder we are sometimes called "Wobbly Bellies".

 The house at Bransdale Mill. Above the lower window, cut into the lintel, it says "Rebuilt 1842". Round the back of the building on the right is an inscription, possibly in Hebrew, certainly in Greek. Beneath these is the name of one of the Strickland family who attended Cambridge in the 1830s.

I think these are the remains of the old mill at Bransdale, the stream being diverted to power the wheel, undershot of course.

Herbie time at Bransdale Mill. From the left: Cornish Johhny,Harry, Brian, Ray, Dave. Ben was doing a quick halfmarathon.

 As usual over lunch, wit and repartee flowed, as did conversation of a slightly higher order. Vogel/archaemeister had been out birding again, although he is not a twitcher. Washington Wetlands was overflowing with water birds.
 Brian, a literary gent, said he had just picked up an old volume in a second hand book shop. The dusty tome, written in the 19th century,  was the adventures of a duck that flew constantly between London and Paris. It was "The Teal of Two Cities" by Charles Duckens.
 This reminded me that the first time I ever took a girl to see a FILM  was to see "A Tale of Two Cities", starring Dirk Bogard. Asked if we had sat on the back row and snogged, I had to admit that the pair of us were too frightened. How times have changed.
 Leaving the mill ascend a flight of steps, cross a few (muddy) fields to the road at Cow Syke . Turn left and walk along the road for about 100 yards. On the right a footpath climbs steadily, with a wood on the left until it reaches a well made track. Turn left and walk a couple of miles to Bloworth Crossing where it meets a dismantled railway. A sign post proclaims that either fork is on the Cleveland Way. The way back to Chop Gate is by taking the left hander, along the dismantled railway line. After a few hundred yards  take the footpath on the left. It is well paved for a while, but with irregular stones, not the ones from redundant wool and cotton mills. After little more than a mile  there is a trig point on the right and a footpath on the left. Take the footpath on the left which crosses moorland before descending through fields to Bilsdale Hall. The lane here has thousands of snowdrops growing in the verges, putting to shame the couple of dozen in my garden. I should have brought a trowel and plastic bag and taken a few home! At the end of the lane turn left and follow the road back to the car park.
 This was the first time I had ever walked on the North Yorkshire Moors, but hope it isn't the last. It is full of contrasts, the moors, which seem to go on for ever, the green valleys and the lovely stone houses with their red pantile rooves.
Sadly the village pub, the Buck, was closed, little trade on a Friday afternoon at 3.30 I expect.

Two ped Dave claimed 11.8 and 12.7 miles, an average of 12.25.
Higear was generous at 12.99 miles, Ben's bragometer claimed 12.5 miles and the Outdoors App said 12.2.  Measuring said 12.2 and Ray had told us at the start it was 12.1.
12.2 seems fine by me.
Height gained 3491 feet and height lost 3523, getting closer!
 On the way home the roadside taverns were closed but we stopped at a large pub near Middlesbrough and consumed varying quantities of Black Sheep, or tea.

It were a grand day out,  even if it were mucky, cad, but no need for t' topcoit. Good neet.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Hedgehope January 20th

  When I came to the North East of England the first walk I went on was up Hedgehope Hill. I remember it well;  it was a Sunday in January 1965 and it was snowing. A bus load of students were taken to Langleeford and set off up the hill. It was a cold day, Ian Dixon and I decided the best thing to do was get up there, get down and get to Wooler as quickly as possible for some beer. We got up there, got down and made it into Wooler by 1.50pm and managed a couple of pints.  It is well worth pointing out that in those days pubs were only allowed to open on Sunday lunchtimes from 12 till 2pm.
  I have been up Hedgehope many times since then; it is a pretty hill, from some quarters it looks cone shaped like a child's drawing of a hill, quite unlike the plateau of its slightly higher neighbour the Cheviot. One day in late summer us gadgies saw a family of peregrines playing in the sky on the summit, another time, in pre-gadgie days four of us sheltered on a cold winter's day in an igloo shaped contraption that Brian had. We just pulled the hemisphere over ourselves and body heat and breathing kept it in shape and kept us warm. Enough, today six gadgies, the regular team, are going to walk up Hedgehope from Langleeford, usually we go from Hartside in the Breamish Valley but variety and all that. For directions to Langleeford see post The Henhole a favourite gadgie walk.  I can't find any explanation for the name Hedgehope; hope in this case means a narrow valley, which the Harthope Valley is but the hill lies between this valley and the wider Breamish (or Ingram) Valley.
 No matter, we six left the grassy parking area, turned left and headed up the Harthope Burn, passing first the farm at Langleeford with its impressive new bridge through the delightfully named "Cat Loup"  and at the end of the track passing Langleeford Hope, the last building in the valley and by all appearances a holiday cottage. The track now becomes a footpath, continuing alongside the stream but frequently crossing it, not always easy, some of the stepping stones being slippy with moss or ice. The path climbs steadily, passing Harthope Linn, a pretty waterfall and something we all managed to miss today. Eventually at a point near Scotsman's Knowe  we declared a Herbiehalt. (On OL16 this unmarked Herbiehalt is at GR906191). 
  Hunkered* down out of the wind the pies were passed round, Halfmarathon meister Ben offered home made ginger biscuits and conversation flowed with the hot coffee.
Dave mentioned that ten days ago  some of us had been in Gosforth Park Nature Reserve and had seen, amongst other birds, a rather handsome bittern. Dave had returned some days later but there was no bittern in the reeds. "Once bittern, twice shy!" quipped the punmeister. A good one I thought, with the promise of more to come.

  Lunch break near Scotsman's Knowe. Actually nobody is hunkered down in this picture but there is a hint of snow.

Lunch over, it's back on your heads and turning through almost 180 degrees we crossed a fence and  set out on the footpath for Comb Fell and Hedgehope beyond. It began to snow, lightly, but undeterred we plodded on, with the wind at our backs, unlike the only other people we met, a couple going in the opposite direction. We agreed it was a nice day out for a walk.

This view of Hedgehope was taken from the Herbiehalt, skies darkening and snow beginning to fall.

Ray, me, Brian, Harry and Ben on top of old Hedgie. Dave took the photo, practising for the day he gets his camera out of the box.

There is a well built shelter on the top of Hedgehope, usually a good Herbiespot and affording views of the hills on three sides and the distant coast. On a really good day you can see Blyth** from here. Having worked there for thirty years I make no comment.  From the top of Hedgehope the path heads slightly east of north down a steep slope, gently curving more to the east until it comes to an outcrop called Long Crags. It goes through the crags and to the left of Housey Crags where the archaegadgie identified an ancient settlement and homestead.  Continuing down the path we soon came to a footbridge over Harthope Burn and back to the cars.
 Not surprisingly we stopped to rehydrate at the Anglers Arms pub, Weldon Bridge. Timothy Taylor's Landlord was on offer and some took it, but driving again I had tea.  Brian entertained us, his worst effort being that he had called his pet lizard tiny because it was minute. The rest of the jokes are not fit for publication here.
However,  a breakthrough in forward planning; next week's gadgie walk will be on the North Yorkshire Moors. No need for last minute emails, phone calls and questions. Of course if it rains it could be a Railway walk. An even better idea was to have a walk,book in to the Anglers Arms, have dinner and drink beer all night, going home the next day. Sounds good to me.
There was the usual variations on distance walked:
Two Ped Dave said 8.72 miles or 10.05 miles
The Bragometer (Ben) said 9.3 miles.
Higear said 10.39 miles but I would blame that on short steps going up the steep valley and Hedgehope.
The Outdoors app, bought at considerable expense and ably assisted by the " mophie juice pack" which extends battery life came in at 8.7 miles and it drew a map! Curiously it claimed we gained more height than we lost, by a considerable amount too. can somebody explain.

Measured on the map the walk was 8.7 miles. I think 9 will do.
* Hunkers a phrase used in the days of mining to describe the way miners squatted "with the hams resting on the calves of the legs"
** Blyth; small coastal town, once famous for mining, exporting coal and building ships. Approximately forty miles away from Hedgehope.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Alnham, gateway to the north   (January 13th)
as Peter Sellers almost said.*

  Eleanor (Nellie) Heron lies in Whittingham churchyard. She died in December 1863, aged 50, walking across the moors from Alnham, where she had been looking after a sick shepherd, to Hartside in the Breamish Valley, where she lived.  She was caught in a winter storm. A memorial stone was erected at the place where she died and one of the aims of today's walk was to find it.

Eleanor Heron's grave in Whittingham Churchyard.

 There are six gadgies out today, Ray, DandDmeister Brian the Punmeister, Ben the halfmarathonmeister, Dave the archaemeister, Harry the routemeister and me.
 Today's walk starts at Alnham, a tiny village in the Northumberland National Park. To get there, from Newcastle, take the A1 north, turn off onto the A167 north of Morpeth and turn left at the crossroads where the sign says Whittingham. Take the second left in Whittingham and follow narrow country roads west, looking out for fingerposts saying Alnham.
  There is a small church at Alnham and not much else. The church is dedicated to St. Michael and was restored from ruins in about 1870, although some of the building suggests it originated in the 12th century. There is a grass verge in front of the church, room for half a dozen cars. On OL16 the church is at GR 990109.
St. Michael's Church Alnham. "It was a sunny day"

  Walk past the church and a house, on the right is a small stream and a footpath which leads off in a North West direction across a couple of fields before hitting the moorland. A path on the right leads to Prendwick, ignore it and continue heading north. At the next fork take the right, heading just west of north and continue across the moorland towards  Cobden. Just before Cobden is the site of Nellie Heron's memorial stone. As we approached, Harry, Brian and Ray wandered off towards Hogden Law, as we later discovered. Dave Ben and I spent some time looking for the memorial stone. We had a Grid Reference, 979136 and the use of a hitec GPS system with references on the screen, a map and everything, but the stone remained invisible. Eventually admitting it must be covered by plants and running out of time we gave up, promising to return another day and search again.
 The three of us continued down to Alnhammoor Farm, a farm poor Nellie would probably have passed on her way home to Hartside had she not been caught in a storm.
 We have often made this a Herbiespot and today was no exception. We dined in warm sunshine, sitting against a wall, waiting for the others. They did not arrive so we continued the walk. They are grown up after all, and well equipped.
 There is a gateway by the farm with a marker. It leads eventually to Hartside, but for this walk continue on the path past the farm and down a short incline to cross a stream on a couple of well positioned planks. The path runs west for a short time and then turns  south west, climbing steadily uphill. The views are magnificent, Hedgehope to the north(ish) and Cunyon Crags to the north east.
 Eventually the path joins the Salters Road track, now a well made up road, not with tarmac but surfaced with stones. The road bed is fairly new, if you turn right it leads to High Bleakhope (seeHigh Cantle 11-11-11). But turn right and follow the road down to the Shank Burn. A young man was working hard pedalling his mountain bike up the steep slope out of the burn which brought to mind Harry's famous piece of advice to me and Allan as we approached a long hard climb on a bike ride once " Just put it into bottom lads and tickle away!"
The memorial to two shepherds who perished in a storm in 1962
 Walk through the farmyard at Ewartly Shank and continue on the metalled road towards Alnham.  Leave the road to see the Shepherds' cairn, a memorial to two shepherds who were caught in a blizzard in November 1962 and perished.    A  mile South East of Ewartly Shank and about 300metres north east of the road  is a homestead, High Knowe, of the first millenium BC, complete with parallel slots for its timber palisades, the outlines of buildings inside. And 100metres away to the east is a smaller settlement with a number of houses outlined inside.

 We stood on the hillside admiring the view, hills on three sides and far in the east, the north sea. How lucky we are to live so near the Northumberland National Park and how lucky we are to be able to enjoy it. It was a bright, January day, cold but with no wind, the sort of walking day you rarely get. I made the comment that this was England's big country, far horizons and not a city in sight. Ben replied that his American nephew, on his first visit to Britain and thinking all sixty million of us would crowd out our little island had exclaimed "Gee, mom, I never thought there was so much open space in England!" How right he is.
 Down the hill, near Alnham we could clearly see Castle Hill, another ancient hill fort, and built, apparently, mostly of earth.
 Back at Alnham there was no sign of the lost boys but within five minutes they had arrived. Pedometer readings were compared;
Dave the bipedometer man said  9.9 or 8.8
Higear said 9.2 but I know it had had a false start. I had managed to switch off the hitec iphone App.
Ben's exageratorGPS said 10.4 miles and personally I think it is an excellent machine and accept it.
 On the way home we stopped at The Anglers Arms for beer, except for us two drivers who ordered the largest pot of tea they had, and biscuits.
One of the interesting things about blogs is the stats page. Last week I had 11 Ukrainian hits. Well of course it might be one person eleven times but thank you. A few years ago I stayed in Kiev and Yalta. Kiev was beautiful, Yalta was interesting, partly for the wartime conference palace and partly for Chekhov's House.
* Peter Sellars. For my foreign readers he was a British comedian and film actor. He was one of the Goons on radio and made the Pink Panther films and the very funny Dr. Strangelove.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Old Rooklands,    January 7th.

   Strictly speaking this does not qualify as a gadgie walk; certainly no buses and some of the walkers were in their twenties. However it is a pleasant stroll on a fine day and I was invited to join the group by John Lockey who is a proper gadgie and there were at least two others who qualified.

  The walk starts in Alwinton in the upper Coquet Valley, a pretty village with a pub, The Rose and Thistle, but no shop or cafe. There is a carpark, with a charge of £2 for a whole day and a public convenience where Dave once found a £5 note and now always makes sure he pays a visit, just in case. On OS map OL 16 the carpark is at GR 919063. Alwinton is best approached by car through Rothbury, Thropton and Harbottle.
Alwinton means the village or farm on the river: there are several ancient settlements in the area.
  Leave the carpark and walk back towards the tiny village green. If you are a Scot or Yorkshireman you can park here for free, but it spoils the view.
  There is a footbridge here that crosses the Hoseden Burn. Cross it and turn left, you are on Clennel Street.
  Clennel Street is a very old drovers' road between England and Scotland. Once used in the numerous cross border raids, for driving cattle and smuggling, it is now a pleasant trail for walkers. This area of the Upper Coquet was also used by illicit whisky makers, including two with the names Jack Kane and Black Rory, the sites of their stills can still be found. (Google Clennel Street) . Should Alex Salmond get his way and Scotland be independent he may impose heavy taxes on alcohol. This would lead to convoys of quadbikes, driven by Geordies, taking trailers of super strength lager across the border,  headlights dimmed, engines muffled but how would they darken the windows of their vehicles.
  Clennel means "clean hill" in the sense that the grass is not full of weeds, and the path is quite broad as it winds up the hill. On the hill on your left is Castle Hills, an ancient settlement and there are more ahead also on the left. After a little over a mile the path forks, today our group took the left trail and followed Clennel Street to Kidland Forest, a man made plantation currently being felled.  Almost immediately on entering the wood turn right on a good forest track which meanders downhill until it reaches the River Alwin. Turn right and follow the river. The river bank has been heavily reinforced with large and quite regular blocks on the first bend, they make a good lunch spot. They are really there to protect the bank and stop the formation of Ox bow lakes and putting Geography teachers out of work.

River Alwin Valley. You can just see the river on the right, hiding behind the telegraph pole.

Follow the road down the valley, crossing one bridge, but just before the second bridge turn off on a footpath up Rooklands Syke. The path is narrow and a bit steep at times but leads to the ruined farm Old Rooklands.

   Old Rooklands, usually a Herbiespot, but not today.

Follow the path infront of the ruin and after about a mile and a half walk through fields hit a metalled road. Turn right. Keep on the road past Rookland farm, across fields, through a small wood , past a caravan park to Clennel.Walk through the farmyard. Ahead is a footbridge with signs advising you to take care with your fishing rod as there are overhead power lines. Cross the footbridge, cross the fields and you are back on Clennel Street. Turn left and you are on the tiny village green, complete with the cars of Scots and Yorkshiremen too mean to support National Parks.
 The Rose and Thistle is a very friendly pub, serving a tasty real ale and providing meals.
 This walk was 10 miles on my super new walking App on my iphone and 10 miles on the good old higear pedometer.  A good walk, not too demanding and the views are great, typical Cheviot country.
 Dennis O'Connor in his charming book about a cat Paws in the Moonlight brought his feline friend on a camping expedition to this part of the county. He travelled on horseback, camping near Alwinton. Must have been fun.



Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Railway Gadgies   by Ben Steine
January 6th

с Новым Годом 

Happy New Year!
  After the decline of mining and heavy industry in the North East of England and
thanks to the cuts of the Beeching Axe* many branch and mineral lines in Durham were abandoned by the railways. Some have been transformed into well surfaced walks or cycle paths and today's walk follows one of them, from Lanchester to Durham.
 This is a linear walk so it is ideal for gadgies. Five of us caught the bus from Eldon Square bus station (X30/31, leaving at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour and taking about one hour). Arriving in Lanchester we soon found a coffee shop, through a gift shop heavily scented with pot pourri, and up the stairs. Bacon butties available, or toast, or cheese scones.
  I have decided to inaugurate a system of "flitches" for cafes offering bacon butties, similar to Michelin stars but of more use. On a scale of one to five I am awarding this establishment 4.5 flitches. Service was excellent, staff were friendly, the bacon was real, not the watery pink plastic stuff from supermarkets, the tea was plentiful, and strong but I do like to be offered brown sauce, especially HP. (See High Cantle 11-11)
 Lanchester is a pretty little town, not much bigger than a village. You can do this walk without a map but should you want to take one the walk crosses OS Explorer Maps 308 and 307 and the centre of the village is at GR165473. In the South East corner of what is almost a village square, with the parish church on your left on the road back to Durham look for a sign saying Lanchester Valley Walk and follow the track into Durham. That's it. Simple.
Lanchester was called Longovicium by the Romans and their fort is about a mile South West of the present town. It was really a Services Area on the Romans' equivalent of the M1, known as Dere Street, housed about 1000 soldiers and is now on private land so you can't get into it.
Back to the walk; shortly after leaving Lanchester the walk passes the sewage works, which was pretty ripe on our walk, but after that the old line is in fairly open country, quite attractive and as it is a railway, sloping gently down, making the walking very easy, allowing time for chat.
 As wise old gadgies we talk on many subjects from aardvarks to zymurgy. ( Look this one up in a dictionary and you will see why it is important to us unless you already know of course) . Too often about education and frequently about politics. A bunch of gadgies with similar yet differing political views is always guaranteed to give rise to a heated but friendly discussion and as we shared the pork pies today the chat veered towards trade unions and their place in politics and society.  Having all lived through the days when unions had more power than today, and having all been in a union we have a real interest. Somebody asked the question "Should the government pander to the unions?" and Brian brought the serious side of the discussion to an end by quipping; " It is not really a black and white issue." A good one I thought but explanations are available if needed. We also discussed the true meaning of "floating voter" when the opposite action of floating is sinking. We can be trivial.
  Shortly after the pie and coffee break we passed Langley Park, famous for being the birthplace of Sir Bobby Robson, footballer, manager of several clubs including Newcastle and England, and a gentleman, much loved by football fans and many others too.
 Langley Park is also home to "Diggerland" paradise for small and not so small boys who like the opportunity to drive an assortment of construction machinery. I took my Canadian nephew there a few years ago.It was the best thing he had seen in England, better than the Harry Potter tour of Alnwick Castle, better than playing with cousin Kate's cats.
 A couple of miles after Langley Park there is the opportunity to visit Bearpark. There is a track off the railway walk that leads to Bearpark Farm at GR239440. But in the grounds of the farm are the remains of the Bishop of Durham's summer residence. Built as the Priory of Beaurepaire (Beautiful retreat) it got knocked about a bit in the various border wars and was eventually destroyed in the English Civil War.(1642 -51) It is now a pile of stones and bits of wall.
The track is now approaching Durham and at Baxter Wood you have a choice; continue on the old railway line, clearly marked Bishop Auckland (and somewhere else but I have forgotten) or turn left following the path signed Durham. Go through the farmyard, cross the river Browney and immediately over the bridge (watch out for trolls) is a marker on the right saying "Small Pilgrims Path". Crouching to join them, follow the path alongside the river until you emerge on the road near Neville's Cross. ** Turn right and after a hundred yards there is a large, light controlled intersection. Cross  with care and take the Darlington Road (A167). Almost immediately there is a footpath (or ginnel as we quaint Yorkshire folk say) between houses. take it onto Geoffrey Avenue. Walk down the avenue and on the left is another footpath between houses. Follow it across a football field and through a new estate behind the old Nevilles Cross training college and down Clay Lane. At the road turn right, walk past buildings belonging to Durham School, along Grove Street and into South Street, a terrace of interesting, individual older houses. The view on your right hand side now makes the whole walk worth while. Sitting magnificently on its peninsula is the Norman/Gothic Durham Cathedral and the castle. At the end of South Street turn right for the centre of the town. Turn left up the hill for a Wetherspoons and the bus station.
  The Norman Cathedral was begun in 1093 and the main body of the church was built in 40 years, although additions were made over the next four hundred years, the Gothic West Towers in the 12th and 13th centuries and the massive central tower in the 15th century.

Durham Cathedral of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Cuthbert, the third most important bishopric in the Anglican Church after Canterbury and York
A World Heritage Site too, quite rightly.

  The Cathedral houses the remains of St. Cuthbert and the head of St. Oswald. (see St. Oswald's Way November 4th). It also has the mortal remains of the Venerable Bede.
On a lighter note it was the subject of one of the funniest editions of Blue Peter***
I can never decide which is my favourite building, St. Pauls in London or Durham. Different in architectural styles but both beautiful.

 The signpost in Lanchester said Durham 9 miles. My super new iphone App measured the walk at 8.75 miles, Ben's wrist GPS claimed 8.65. ( I started mine before he did though) and the old tech Higear came in at 7.8 miles. Naturally I believe the iphone.
* The Beeching Report into British Railways in the 1960s resulted in the closure of many little used non profitable lines.
**Neville's Cross. Originally the site of a Saxon Cross. In 1346 King David II of Scotland, attempting to aid Philip VI of France who was at war with England under Edward III, marched into England, burning and pillaging as armies do. They got Bearpark! At Neville's Cross he was defeated by an English army under the command of the Archbishop of York.
*** Blue Peter;  a childrens' programme on BBC TV. Famous for making things from sticky back paper and used washing up liquid bottles. Also for elephants and cathedral sanctuary knockers.

OK, so you didn't look it up; It means the chemistry of brewing.