Saturday, 28 April 2012

Keep the sea on your right      (April27th)
and you can't go wrong on this walk on part of the Northumberland Coast Path, provided you are walking north.
Several days of steady rain have persuaded the five gadgies out today that the hills will be soggy underfoot so we have chosen a coastal walk from Alnmouth to High Newton by the Sea.
The most scenic way to get to Alnmouth is to take the Coastal Route up the A189 which becomes the A1068 and turn right into Alnmouth at Lesbury, parking in the beach car park for a mere £1.50 for a whole day. A map is not essential but the route is covered by OS332 and the car park is at GR250106.  But bear in mind that the walk is a linear one of 12 miles and you may have to make arrangements to return to Alnmouth. There is a bus service from High Newton to Alnmouth but I am not prepared to give information on that except that it is the 501 to Newcastle and does not run very frequently.
There are five gadgies out today, punmeister, vogelmeister, halfmarathonmeister,inviteemeister Bob and me, blogmeister

Alnmouth is a pretty little village, not surprisingly at the mouth of the River Aln. A medieval port it grew steadily until 1806 when a violent storm changed the course of the river and the port slipped into decline as the river silted up. Now it seems to be a genteel holiday resort with a golf course by the sea. and several attractive hotel and pubs.
Watch out for flying golf balls in Alnmouth.

The footpath from Alnmouth is very easy to find. It follows the coast heading north, mostly on the beach passing points with interesting names, Bally Carrs and Marmouth Scars, , Boulmer Haven and Bewick Stone to mention but four. The first pub is at Boulmer itself, although we nobly passed it by. Boulmer is home to the RAF helicopter station and it used to bristle with radar aerials watching out for invaders from the east.
  Continue on the beach, watching for the sea birds, of which there are many, including a couple of gannets who might have suffered in the recent high winds  and a guillemot which had come to the same sad end. All three had lost their eyes to crows.
 We made a Herbie stop at the Howick Burn, some 4.5 miles from our start and just after the points marked Sugar Sands and Iron Scars on the map.
It used to be possible to park near Howick and walk through Cushat Wood to this point but that path seems to have been closed.
Just above the Howick Burn is an ancient settlement and a short way north is the site of what has been described as the oldest house in England, a Mesolithic home, rather like a teepe. After an archaeological survey a replica house was built in 2003 but sadly it was blown over in a storm although the circular base remains.
"Didn't last as long as the original," said Ben
The information board at the site of England's oldest house.

The next part of the walk has been covered before but that was bound to happen eventually. More interesting names as we approached Craster,  Rumbling Keys,
Black Hole and the very interesting Hole of the Dike. Near this one a dike of dolorite emerges from the land and makes a straight line for the sea. A dyke is a vertical intrusion of volcanic rock, as opposed to a sill, a horizontal intrusion and useful for building castles on in Northumberland. Interesting: Americans spell the word as dike, so why "The Hole of the Dike"?
Craster is the home of the kipper, a slowly smoked herring, usually eaten by Englishmen for breakfast.

The harbour at Craster; the tide is out. The building on the end of the pier was used for loading whinstone chippings from a nearby quarry.
Craster is another pretty Northumbrian fishing village but its main attraction for me is the approach to the ruined Dunstanburgh Castle about a mile north of the village.
The writers of Pevsners " Northumberland "* say it is one of the most moving sights in the county and who could disagree. Approached across a grassy slope kept neatly cropped by sheep the castle was started in 1314 by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. John of Gaunt made alterations in 1380 before he lost his horse shoe in Lancaster. The castle fell into ruin although most of the giant gatehouse remains, but only the foundations of the barbican which was outside the gatehouse.**

Dunstanburgh Castle behind its defensive gorse.

The main feature on the west side is the Lilburn Tower. There is a village called Lilburn in Northumberland near Wooler but I do not know if there is a connection. And of course John Lilburn of Leveller*** fame was 17th century character so it wasn't his.

      The Lilburn Tower at Dunstanburgh Castle.

Beyond the castle, still heading north, is  Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Course, so watch out for flying golf balls.
On the seaward side is a fine example of an anticline, illustrated in a previous walk, and also the sweep of Embleton Bay, sandy and beautiful with more interesting names, Jenny Bells Carr and Scadpallet.

                                     Embleton Bay, this picture needs cropping to get
                                    rid of the boulders in the foreground.
 And at the north end of the bay is Newton by the Sea, another pretty fishing village, complete with a pub, the Ship Inn, and a Nature Reserve behind it. At this point we headed inland for High Newton by the Sea and the Joiners Arms.  We were made very welcome by the new management and I enjoyed a couple of pints of Mordue's "Workie Ticket"**** . Chatting idly in the sunshine as we sat outside the pub, Dave asked if we knew a footballer called Wiley, I might have been tired after 12 miles but still had the wit to quip;
"Yes, I saw Stanley Matthews, he was a wily footballer"*****


                           The Joiners Arms at High Newton. Great pub, good beer.

We caught the 16.26 bus (501) outside the pub, flashed our gadgie passes and headed for Alnmouth.
But the walk was not quite over. The vogelmeister who also prides himself as a timetablemeister said we should get off at Hipsburn, as the bus didn't go into Alnmouth, and walk the mile back to the car, which we did. A few hundred yards down the road we were passed by the same bus which had gone to Alnmouth Station and turned round before heading for the village. It did not matter, it was a flat and pleasant walk on the riverside to the beach and the car.

I had bought, at great expense, (69p) a new App called ifootpath which was going to track our walk and draw maps and show distance and everything. It will be my fault, I never read manuals, and it failed.
Reliable Higear said 12 miles and so did Ben's bragometer. I wait Dave's calculations.
This is another excellent walk, obviously pretty level, but walking on sand can be quite tiring.

* Pevsner. A series of books on the buildings of England. Originally written by Nikolaus Pevsner, the Northumberland one has been updated  by four writers.
** My sister has taken up an interest in barbicans so I mentioned it.
*** John Lilburn: olonel in Cromwell's New Model Army and one of the advocates of greater democracy. Not too popular with Cromwell afyter that.
**** Workie Ticket: North East dialect word for a trouble maker or awkward customer
***** Stanley Matthews, my first footballing hero. Played for Blackpool and Stoke City (and England). Famous for his skill at rounding defenders with his dribbling skills and bursts of speed. Remembered for the "Matthews Final" of 1953 when Blackpool came back from being 3-1 down to win 4-3. First game I ever saw on TV, a small black and white set, probably with a 10inch screen.
Stop Press
Dave has sent pedometer readings  average of 9.25.
Measured walk:11.1 miles

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Waters of Tyne               April 20th

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
                                     Gang aft a-gley"

as Robert Burns* wrote to the mouse.
  The Hannah Bayman appreciation society, having listened to the weather forecast given by that young lady, decided the planned trip to the Howgills should be postponed.  April's sweet spring showers indeed seemed likely to be "going on for hours and hours" as Flanders and Swan** sang.
 Instead  six gadgies met on Eldon Square Bus Station, Newcastle and caught the !0.25 am number 10 bus to Prudhoe. The bus continued to Hecxham but we all alighted on Prudhoe high street and whilst Brian and Harry went for a bacon butty Dave, Ben, Herbie and I walked round the town trail, spotting the places where John Wesley had preached, admiring the community allotments and the art work in the bus shelters. No kidding, it was not grafitti. Brian awarded the bacon sandwich 3 flitches, mainly on account of the rather inferior bun it came in.
Refreshed we walked downhill to Prudhoe Castle on the south bank of the Tyne. Originally constructed as a motte and timber bailey in the latter years of the 11th century bu in the following 100 years a fine stone built edifice was completed, a castle that proudly boasts to be the only one in the region not taken at any time by the Scots.

  Dave approaches the barbican of Prudhoe Castle.

                             A gloomy view of the castle on a gloomy day.

The castle is a listed building, owned by English Heritage and is well worth a visit.
Walking down to the river and crossing the railway  line, we turned right on to the footpath that sticks close to the south bank of the Tyne. There was plenty of bird life to listen to and we did spot blackbirds, chaffinches and a few sand martins.

After a couple of miles we came to Hagg Bank railway bridge which crosses the river into Wylam. No longer used as a railway bridge it is part of the riverside walk but is a very impressive structure.
                                             Haggs Bank Railway Bridge.
 Built as a single span with no piers in the river to disturb the relatively shallow mine workings in the area, the deck is suspended from the arch by iron rods.
Dave had promised  us a heron in this area and although the river was running strongly we did spot one flying sedately upstream.
 Now on the north bank of the Tyne we walked througjh Wylam, carefully avoiding the Boathouse pub, heaven for real ale drinkers, and continued on the Wylam Waggonway, passing first George Stephenson's*** Cottage, now a National Trust property, with tea room!

                          George Stephenson's cottage on the Wylam Waggonway.

                            And a plaque on the wall commemorating the father of the railways.
 The path here is right on the river bank, we saw a pair of goosanders who appeared to have had a domestic dispute, but then all bird life was put to flight  by a number of lightweight boats, single sculls, coxless pairs and coxed fours. My knowledge of boats is limited to the fact that hopefully they float but it seemed to be an ideal stretch of water for rowing, wide and slowly flowing.  But Brian and I agreed we couldn't have put up with the little miss bossy boots coxing one of the boats.
At last we reached the Keelman pub. Utilising an old steam pumping station this is the home of the Big Lamp brewery. A beautful pub, restaurant and micro brwery all on one site, and with an excellent selection of ales. I chose a pint of Prince Bishop, straw coloured and as divine as it should be with such a name. We sat outside in one of the days few sunny spells. eight miles from the start of our walk.
 At this point Harry, Brian and Herbie decided to stay a while in the pub and then catch a bus to Newcastle. Dave, Ben and I chose to continue the walk but we all agreed to meet in a quayside pub in Newcastle.
 We walkers went first to see St.Michaels's church in Newburn. The tower is early Norman although Dave suggested it could have been Saxon. It is the church where George Stephenson married and is also the burial site of two other railway pioneers, Hedley and Hawthorn.
 In olden times Newburn was a place of some importance on the river. It was the first spot where the Tyne could be safely forded  and it was the upper limit of the tide.
 In August 1640 the Battle of Newburn took place. The last cry in the second Bishops' war a small army of English on the south bank of the river faced a much larger Scottish army who had set up camp on the north. The Scots had placed their cannon in the tower of the church and having the advantage of height were able to bombard the English. The English, underpaid, underfed and non too keen on the battle anyway, (probably all Yorkshiremen) soon took flight allowing the Scots to cross the river
 and capture  Newcastle from the south. It cost CharlesI £200,000 to get it back.

            The lych gate at St. Michael and all Angels' church, Newburn.

                           St. Michael and all Angels at Newburn.

Returning to the Newburn Riverside path we followed the Tyne round Newburn Haugh almost to the point where the A1 crosses the river when we realised we would be very late meeting the others. So we caught a bus to the Central Station, walked down to the quayside past one of the remaining stretches of city wall and down the long steps. The others were sitting outside The Quayside, a Wetherspoons  pub in numbers 35-37 the Close, a medieval building and one of the oldest in the city, not counting the castle keep of course. After food and drink we all went home by bus!
 A true gadgie walk, passes used and a heron seen.
My Higear gave a reading of 11.9 miles at the Central Station, Dave's ASDApeds averaged 11.5 and we both measured it as slightly over 10 on the map. I reckon taking into account our wanderings the benbragometer reading of 12 was about right.
A good walk, easy going as it is flat, but full of interest.
* Oh come on, you know who he was.
** Flanders and Swan. A revue duet singing such wonderful songs as Transport of Delight, about London buses. Their revue was called At the drop of a hat.
*** George Stephenson 1781 - 1848.  Not the inventor of steam engines but he developed them for use on the railways which he also engineered. He also invented the miners' safety lamp generally used in the north east of England. One theory says the name Geordie for natives of the area comes from the use of his lamp.
Back to the hills next week.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Kielder Sanction II the South Shore
Friday April 13th.

 Because it has been Easter and people have been on holiday, visiting family, putting  up family or just chilling, the organisation of this week's walk has been done by a steady stream of emails. The government spies at GCHQ must have had an interesting time with messages from routemeisters, blogmeisters, punmeisters, halfmarathonmeisters and vogelmeisters, probably plotting to blow up Kielder Dam and send the contents of the reservoir down the Tyne to wipe out the chipboard plant at Hexham.
But this is the other half of the Kielder Sanction I walk of December 2nd, and totally innocent.
  Six gadgies, two cars and bus passes at the ready we met at Tower Knowe on the south side of Kielder Water in time to catch the 880 bus, operated by Howard Snaith, a friendly bus company, which would take us to Kielder Village. It was at Tower Knowe I realised I had had my second senior moment in two days. On the previous day I had gone to watch Durham play cricket. As I got out of my car my wife rang to tell me, rather gleefully, that I had forgotten my sandwiches, my bag contained only a flask of coffee. Today as I got my kit out of Ben's car I realised I had left my walking socks at home. Fortunately Ben had a spare pair, saving me having to buy new ones at the visitor centre, true Yorkshire spirit.
My friend Jim's * mum has a cottage in Kielder Village, currently being renovated and refurnished, hence the unusual garden furniture.

Ruth's cottage at Kielder. Jim and I became furniture men when she bought it about 1980.  We hired a van and took loads of stuff up.
  The Duke of Northumberland once had a shooting lodge in Kielder Village, which he had constructed in 1775. Today it is a visitor centre and cafe. Having puta few extra pounds onto my officially overweight body with all the Easter chocolate I restricted myself to a cup of coffee. Brian the punmeister awarded three flitches to the bacon sandwich, good service, pleasant staff but bacon not the best.
We had a quick look round the visitor centre which had a good display of the flaura and fauna to be found in the area, a gift shop and a TV set which had a live picture of the Osprey nest, but the birds were out fishing or picnicking.
  At last the walk. A map is not essential as you follow a well signposted Lakeside Way but if you need a map the LR 80 at 1;50000 is OK but the map available from the visitor centre is better for this walk. Kielder Water and Forest Park published by Ashworth Maps is excellent as it shows the art works round the lake, but they get very cross if you reproduce it without permission.
                                     Kielder Castle visitor centre.
 From the castle take the path down the right hand side of the maze with the hilarious name "The Minotaur" and turn right on the road. After a couple of hundred yards the Lakeside Way is signposted on the left. As a short diversion go to the bird hide which overlooks Bakethin, the original reservoir. We saw a pair of squabbling sandpipers, well it is spring, three cormorants and some mallard ducks. The very large and very noisy RAF hercules which had been sent out to find us by GCHQ failed as we were in the hide.

                                    The RAF failed to find us in the birdhide,
                                     but we spotted them on each of their three
                                     runs over the water.

Leave the hide and rejoin the Lakeside Way, watching out for cyclists. There are many and why not, it's a good track round the lake. After about a mile you reach the first workm of art, "Mirage".  In the trees by the lake there is a lot of decking and suspended from the trees, usually, a number of pieces of metal which flutter in the breeze. Missing today, perhaps they really are a mirage and only appear on hot days..
The lakeside path turns and follows the Lweis Burn at this point, which it crosses, eventually, on a rather pretty footbridge.

                                    Gadgies near  the Lewis Burn bridge. It has
                                    been awarded a Prime Minister's badge for
                                    bridge design. Well, they have to do something.

  Shortly after the burn the path cuts inland . We made an area which had several tree trunks to act as seats a Herbiespot and settled down to sandwiches and coffee. I had not brought pies, I do not wish my fellow gadgies to become officially overweight, although I expect several are. As a break from politics and football the discussion turned to the origin of the word "lug" used to describe some metal parts as well as ears. Brian the punmeister suggested the word originated in the Scottish town of Lugg in Earshire. Not too bad.
The next visitor centre is at Leaplish, there is also a small indoor swimming pool and a cafe, but we marched on. past works of art such as "Mapping", "Shadow", "Whirling Bears" and "Birds of Prey Centre". But we did stop at the squirrel feeding centre. Not a squirrel in sight, although there is a colony of proper British red ones in the area and a sign warning greys to keep away or else...
 In the hide we were watching  a small flock of finches, including a couple of greenfinc, enjoying a meal when the RAF sent two jets looking for us. Hidden as we were they failed to spot us but they frightened off the birds, much to dismay of the Scots family who were also in the hide.
The next work along the shore is "Freya's Cabin", a copper clad hut which looks directly across the water to "Robin's Hut". Read the blog for December 2nd for the whole sad tale.
 At this point the party split up, causing more confusion and concern at GCHQ. Brian cut across the Bull Crag Peninsula to save a few miles and the rest continued round the perimeter.

                                      Freya's Cabin. As a work of art I prefer it
                                      to a pickled shark. At least it offers shelter
                                     in the rain.

 At a signpost on the south side of  the peninsula we divided again, Dave and John the musicmeister, taking the correect route, Harry, Ben and I taking a slightly longer path which involved a short walk on the road past the Calvert Trust b efore returning to the Lakeside Way. READ SIGNPOSTS CAREFULLY!

Eventually we all returned to Tower Knowe at about the same time, Brian having stopped to admire a pair of Crossbills.

                                   A walk round the lake needs a picture.

 According to old faithful Higear this walk was 13.3 miles. The Outdoor App failed because I had forgotten to recharge the battery booster, another senior moment.
Ben's bragometer claimed 15 miles and I await results from Dave.
It is a long walk, mostly flat and requires eithe a bus ride or cars at either end. You could walk all the way round of course, about 27 miles, as one man we met claimed to have done with his small dogs too.
The Pheasant Inn was closed again so we went to the Cheviot Hotel in Bellingham, an extremely friendly and genuine local with a good selection of beers, Jennings Cumberland, Black Sheep, a Wylam Beer and a strong one with wolf in the name.
And a final note: although we never saw them the Ospreys have arrived in Kielder_ two pairs.

And we didn't blow the dam up. Next week; The Howgills, the hunt for beaver!

* Jim Cunningham, author of:  The Heights, Starballs in Space, and The Last time I saw Elvis. All available from Amazon

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The iceman cometh
 Because it is Good Friday there is no gadgie walk this week. Brian and Ray are visiting gadgieland (Madeira) with their wives, Dave is running, Ben and Harry have family visiting and my wife and I will be entertaining the amazing Alex and his mum and dad. So to keep my readers happy, or bored, I have dug out of the memory banks a brief account of one of the trips abroad that Harry and I made in search of adventure.
 Just before we achieved gadgie status  we, having been given wifely permission, packed a car with camping kit, food, walking gear and music and set off tom drive to Solden in Austria.
 We drove to Dover, crossed the channel, crossed northern France, past Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich and finally arrived at the Solden campsite in the Stubaier Alps and pitched tents next to the Otztaler Ache a lively river. We drove in turn, two hours on, two hours off, with the passenger in charge of the music. Fortunately we have similar tastes.
 Solden is a ski resort but the walking in the area is first class with a variety of  hikes at different levels of difficulty and length.

Campsite at Solden, two pre gadgies relaxing in the evening.

Next day we decided that our first walk out should be an easy stroll in an attempt to acclimatise ourselves, so we hiked to the Brunnenkogelhutte from the next village up the valley, Zweizelstein.  As a polyglot I thought this meant " two stones". (French GCE, Russian GCSE, German failed GCE, passed GCSE grade B!)* It actually means a place where a valley divides into two and compares with the Northumbrian word for the same thing"twizell".  At 2738 metres a relatively easy walk. The hut was basic but offered some accommodation and refreshment, it was a good start to the week.

The Brunnenkogelhutte. There should be one on Scafell Pike. Sorry, I forgot, there is but it is always closed. Ask anybody coming down Scafell as you struggle up.

Returning to base we showered and changed and headed for the town to taste the nightlife. We found a promising looking bar/restaurant and entered, ordered two biers, bitte and some food.  On the bar was what appeared to be a stuffed sheep. The barman pulled its tail and lager was pumped from its backside. Tasted good too, I refuse to make jokes, they are too obvious. As the clock struck the hour the fun started. Owls on wires flew across the room, a train driven by a squirrel chugged round on an overhead line, and then silence returned.
 The following day we set of for our first overnighter in the Hochstubaihutte. Being well brought up Englishmen we told the camp manager we would not be in that night. Much to our amazement she answered that if we brought a token from the hut we would not be charged for the night's accommodation on the site, only having to pay for the tents. Never happens in England.
 We left camp and followed the Windach Valley, stopping for light refreshment at the Klebelealm before climbing steadily towards our goal It seemed to me that the hut was always in sight, teasing us, as we climbed, passing the Laubkarsee,crossing several mini icefields before we finally arrived. There were few fellow guests and facilities were fairly basic but we were provided with a hot meal and beer before retiring to the communal bed which we had to share with a young couple on a hiking holiday. They didn't seem too happy as we climbed into the ten berth bed. I can't imagine why.

                                                  The bed!

The Hochstubaihutte at sunset. 3174 metres above sea level.

After a good night's sleep we returned to camp by the same route and dined with the owls again. This was the first time I had stayed in a mountain hut, this is the best walk I have ever been on and I would love to repeat it. The views from the hut were spectacular, the night time silence in the mountains was almost spiritual.
 For our next hike, the following day we opted for an easy downhill stroll and caught the early morning bus from Solden to Timmelsjoch, a restaurant and former customs post on the Austrian Italian border. There were several other people on the bus who also got off at the restaurant. They were the staff! We had to wait until they opened up and lit the stoves before we could enjoy breakfast of mushroom omelette and coffee. Refreshed we started back down the valley on a path that followed close by the road. We passed several Heidi type chalet homes, all decorated with boxes of bright geraniums. An ancient Austrian bye law demands that Heidi homes are bedecked with geraniums. Every spare piece of land was a hay field. Men cut the grass, either by machine or on tiny fields by scythe and women and children raked the hay into rows to dry in the sun or gathered it into mini stacks to be collected for winter food. Doe eyed cows in the fields almost persuaded me to become a vegetarian. It all reminded me of the small farm my uncle ran near Howarth in the 1950s. The walk passed through Zweilestein before following a stream back to base, shower and evening meal.

The friendly sheep of the Austrian Tyrol

 This pleasant stroll was to be followed by another overnighter - in the Similaunhutte on the Austrian Italian border.
 We drove to the village of Vent, second highest settlement in the Austrian Tyrol at 1895m and asked where we could leave the car overnight. Directed to a field behind a hotel we were charged approximately £5 for parking but given vouchers for coffee in the hotel, which reduced the fee to almost nothing! Armed with fresh rolls, sausage and flasks we set off. First stop was the Martin Busch Hause, an impressive hut offering accommodation and refreshment and accessible by road. We continued for another two hours and 500 m of height, crossing several glaciers (carefully) until we reached the Similaunhutte itself a t3017m.  Spectacular views on both sides of the border, a gaggle of giggling  maidens and a troop of handsome Italian police cadets out training made for a pleasant evening. We shared a ten berth bed with a family from Dresden, the sixteen year old daughter being wellprotected between her parents!

View from the Similaunhutte.

The next morning we retraced our footsteps to Vent, picked up the car and returned to Solden, but the adventure was not finished. Some years ago Otzi the iceman emerged from a glacier near the Fieilspitze, just inside Italy and not far from the Similaun. He was found by a couple out hiking and he had been in the glacier for some 5000 years. Fairly complete himself, he had with him clothing, a knapsack with food , bow and arrows and a copper axe. So the following day we had a break from walking and drove over the Timmelsjoch into Italy to the town of Bolzano to visit Otzi in the museum. It was a good day out, over the mountains, through actres of orchards and finally after queing for a while a glimpse of the man himself, and his equipment.**

Otzi as he emerged after being in the freezer for 5000 years.

Otzi at rest in Bolzano.

For our final walk we chose a stroll to the Stubai Falls, an easier hike with a short steep climb but it had been a long week!                                                

The Stubai Falls, not where Sherlock fought Moriarty.

Next day we packed up and headed home. On the drive back from Dover we stopped at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford near Cambridge to look at some boys toys, namely aircraft, military and civil, and a collection of tanks. guns and other bits and pieces. 

*Having studied German for two years at school, taught the traditional way I failed GCE. In 2005 after 20 lessons I got GCSE Grade B in German. This says much about GCSE, not me

** Book of the blog; Man in the ice, by Konrad Spindler. 

PS Thanks for all the birthday greetings , 
especially from Sarah, Tim, Virginia, Helen, Kirsty and Dan.
Of course there was a cake, made by Kate, and the girls, Mark and the handsome Alex took me out for a meal.
Chocolate heaven from cakepoppins.