Saturday, 30 June 2012

Three men on a scorcher.... June 29th.
   The curse of Carol King continues. I could not get out last Friday but the rest of the team cancelled a walk because of the rain.  Yesterday, June 28th, a months supply of rain fell in the north east of England in a couple of hours. Homes were flooded, railway lines closed by landslips, the metro closed down, cars were left abandoned and in some areas electricity supplies were cut. It all got a few paragraphs in The Times.
 Because of the disruption only three of us have turned out today, me, Dave the vogelmeister and Ben the halfmarathonmeister and we have decided the best bet is a "Railway Walk" on one of the disused tracks that Durham County Council have transformed into foot/cycle paths.
 We met on Eldon Square Bus Station in Newcastle and caught the 10.15   X21 to Lanchester, making the day out a proper gadgie walk, utilising bus passes.
 Lanchester is a pretty village close to the River Browney. Sadly some of the houses had suffered from flooding in yesterday's storm. Not far  west of the village is a Roman fort Longovicium from which the village takes its name.* The fort was built about 150 AD on the Roman road Dere Street and of course, it is not far from Hadrian's Wall.

  The old railway from Consett to Durham runs through Lanchester. Yards from the village centre, on the road to Tow Law (the B6296) you can take your pick, walk south east to Durham (See The Railway Gadgies  January 6th) or, as we did set off north west on the line to Consett on the Lanchester Valley Walk.
(You can easily follow this walk without a map but should you want one Explorer 307 covers the whole route and the start of the walk is at GR165473)
Mostly the footpath, which is well built, wooded and with heavily grassed verges follows the old railway. After a few yards we startled a yellow hammer that had been snoozing in the grass.  There are a couple of right angled turns that trains could never follow near Hurbuck and the Knitsleys where there is a farm shop selling local produce and tea. I have always liked farm shops, I used to embarass my daughters when they were small by asking for "two hill farms and a ranch please" whenever we visited one.
Approaching Consett the path is back on old railway line and there is a junction. To the left is the Waskerley Way which wanders off to Stanhope, to the right is the Consett and Sunderland Railway Walk and straight ahead is the footpath that takes you to the Derwent Walk which is our chosen path for the day. Walk a short way on the Consett and Sunderland and see the monument to the Consett Steel Works.
    For over a hundred years the Consett Iron and Steel Works produced steel for the north east but it was closed in 1980, leaving another northern town without its main employer.

  By the junction is a small park with picnic tables, neatly vandalised, so we sat on the ground, backs to a fence, for a Herbiespot including pie from Dave and ginger biscuits from Ben. I felt a bit ashamed.
 Lunch over we continued. The path skirts the town of Consett, crossing the site of the old works where a new estate is being built. There is one road to cross, one cemetery to pass and then the path follows the line of the Derwent Railway.
On the left is Shotley Bridge, birthplace of Paul Collingwood MBE, who played cricket for England, captained the one day team, and still plays for Durham CCC. And he got to carry the Olympic torch!
Further down the line passes Ebchester which also has a Roman fort (Vindomora) on Dere Street. The old line is now well wooded but still has pretty rather than spectacular views over the Derwent Valley which is heavily wooded. There are several high viaducts that give spectacular views of the trees below but do not permit abseiling or climbing.

                             Dave and Ben walk the line.

  Approaching Rowlands Gill the walk enters Red Kite country. Hunted out of England they were reintroduced to the north east in 2004. Over the next few years 94 pairs were let loose and they have been successful, slowly spreading from the original release area.

 It was a windy day and we only spotted one kite near Rowlands Gill, but the information board showed us what we had missed. There is a Red Kite Trail to follow, about 12 miles long and sightings still not guaranteed. Another good kite spotting area is Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire.
        The River Derwent from a viaduct. It is muddy after yesterday's rain.

 Our walk ended at Maguire's Fish and chip shop, tempted but I fought it, in Rowlands Gill although it is possible to continue as far as Swalwell, close to the dreaded Metro Centre.
We caught a bus back to Newcastle and made our separate ways home.
 My Outdoors GPS awarded the walk 13.6 miles, Ben's GPS which uses Ukrainian satellites claimed 13.9 and my good old HiGear pedometer read 12.5 miles. I'm with Ben on this one. Dave has a new "curved" pedometer but I await his results. They will be added.

 I really needed a walk out today and thanks to Ben and Dave for making it such an enjoyable one. Surprisingly after the wet misery of the previous day it was warm and dry, a scorcher before lunchtime.
I know someone who would have loved this walk, wish I had taken you on it.

* For my foreign readers. If a town in Britain ends in "chester" or " caster" you can guarantee it had a Roman connection

Sunday, 17 June 2012

It might as well rain until September.......June 15th

 as Carol King sang in September 1962. It certainly seems like the British summer will be a wet one. Could add some interest to the Olympics, the 100 metre mud dash, kayaking in flooded streets, beach volleyball turned into mud wrestling, and how popular would that be ! 
I could not get out last Friday, the few who made it had a wet walk up the coast. Today's forecast is no better so the four of us braving the June downpour have opted for a day of culture in Durham City. For my readers abroad Durham contains a magnificent cathedral which is a world heritage site and the third oldest university in England.
 It's a proper gadgie walk too, as we are catching a bus, the X2, from Eldon Square station in Newcastle, flashing the passes as we get on. It was raining.
We got off the bus near County Hall as the bus approached the city centre and headed for the Durham Light Infantry Museum. The DLI museum is set in a very attractive park, the trees looking particularly fresh and bright green thanks to all the rain.
The DLI was founded a couple of hundred years ago and saw action in the Peninsula War, the Crimean War, India, New Zealand and both World Wars. The museum houses a selection of old uniforms, weapons and many personal and very touching items from soldiers who served in the regiment plus a large display of their medals.
Interesting though it is if you want to see a really good war museum in Britain go to the Imperial War Museum in London or its sister museum at Duxford near Cambridge.
The DLI museum also has a small art gallery, one room containing sketches of horrific facial wounds inflicted on soldiers, the other a selection of photographs of people who have undergone, voluntarily, some cosmetic procedure to improve their appearance.
Having seen the exhibits we headed for the cafe to have a bacon sandwich. Served with a small salad and crisps we awarded it four flitches. It failed to score the maximum because of the soft doughy white bread bun it came in.
We left the museum. It was not raining.

        A very poor picture of the DLI museum.

 As the rain had stopped, temporarily, we decided to walk along the bank of the River Wear as it meanders round the town. We walked into town, through the Market Place and down to the Elvet Bridge. On the left hand side of the bridge, and before crossing it, are some steps which lead down to a good footpath which runs alongside the river. On the opposite side of the Wear, after the first bend, is the Racecorse Sportsground. Here, on this very ground, Durham County Cricket Club played their first first class cricket match. Of course I was there. A  couple of years later the club moved to their new home, The Riverside, at Chester le Street.
After about a mile a footbridge crosses the river and once safely over we immediately turned left and walked along the river bank to the road bridge at Shincliffe. Turning right and crossing the road we turned into a minor road almost immediately. The Pump Station Restaurant is signposted and is soon reached. Shortly afterwards the entrance to Houghall Woods (pronounced hoffle) takes you on the Houghall Mine Discovery Trail which has a series of information boards explaining the now mainly vanished mine workings. But eventually, having considered sinkers and pit heaps, you turn north across a field to Great High Woods. Upon entering the wood turn left and follow the path uphill. At the only junction take the right path and climb a little further to Hollingside Lane. Turn right past the back of the University Botanical Gardens, walk along the road through several university halls of residence which could offer  Homer Simpson moments, and on to the A177 road.
At this point on our walk it started to rain, heavily, with accompanying thunder and lightning, so we made our way quickly to the Millenium Place next to Milburngate Bridge where there is a library, a theatre, an information centre and a Wetherspoons public house, the Bishop's Mill. The modern building is on the site of a mill, owned by the Bishop of Durham, where freemen of the city could grind their corn. The information centre is a good place for picking up leaflets on the city and a map which has most of this walk on it. Should you want an OS map, you need OS Explorer 308.
Not all gadgies enthuse about Wetherspoons pubs but I like most of the ones I have visited, including this one. They do not have the ambiance of old English pubs but the beer is cheap, important factor for pensioners, the food is reasonable.  The Bishop's Mill offered Ruddles Bitter and Abbot plus at least two other beers and the usual collection of UKfizz lagers for the children.
But I am getting to be a miserable old gadgie; I don't like being asked "Are you being served, MATE?"; I don't like being served anywhere by gum chewers and finally I don't like being served by staff who continue to hold a conversation with their colleagues as they attend to your wishes.
Outside the pub is a statue commemorating the monks who carried St. Cuthbert around in his coffin from Holy Island on the Northumbrian coast until they decided to stop and build a monastery at Durham. He was, of course, being a saint "Uncorrupted" by the long journey.
                        The carrying of Saint Cuthbert.

The Olympic Torch, on its wanderings round the country, was due to cause chaos on the streets of Newcastle today so to avoid this we caught a bus to Sunderland and the metro back beneath the streets of Newcastle., finally catching a bus home.
No blog about Durham would be complete without a picture of the cathedral and although we didn't visit it today, here it is.

                            Durham Cathedral, absolutely amazing, awesome actually.
Pretty tame after some recent adventures but it's the weather. There was a time when we would have gone up the hills regardless, but not anymore!

Today, June 17th is Fathers Day. This is one of my gifts:

                                           Amazing. Thanks Kate, you too Lucy.
And for more cakes go to

                                             And Helen.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Searchers................(June 1st)
 is one of John Wayne's more interesting films. Made in 1956 it tells the tale of Ex-Confederate soldier Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) as he searches for his niece who has been captured  as a child by Comanches.
It is loosely based on the true tale of Cynthia Parker, captured as a child in 1830s Texas and brought up by the Comanches. She married a chief and had three children, one of whom grew to be Quanah Parker, Comanche chief. Cynthia was eventually captured and returned to her family. She died, longing to return to her nomadic tribe. Quanah lived into the twentieth century, built a large house and entertained lavishly - and Theodore Rooseveldt.*
I first saw this film in Fort McMurray, north Alberta. There were more First Nations in the audience than whites and they cheerfully booed John Wayne as I sank deeper into my seat.
  All we were searching for was a bacon butty; first we tried the village of Longframlington which did not have a cafe, so no flitches. Then we drove back to Longhorsely which offered sandwiches and tea but only to be eaten outside. (It was cold)
One flitch. Finally we went to Rothbury and called at the Elm House Cafe for bacon and tea. The staff were very friendly, the bacon was fine, so was the tea, but the sandwich came in sliced brown bread, not a roll, so 3.5 flitches.
  At last the walk:
Three gadgies out today, me, Brian the punmeister and Dave the vogelmeister. Other gadgies are attending family functions or working.
  We are having a relatively gentle walk round Thrunton  Woods in Northumberland.
To get there from Newcastle take the  familiar A1, familiar A697 and take the left fork at the sign saying Thrunton Woods. After about a mile and a half there is a car park, picnic site and information board describing the walks in the woods. There are four, we have chosen the longest, the Four Crags walk, red trail, three booter and possibly muddy and one steep section. A map could be useful although the trails are clearly marked on posts. OS Explorer 332 covers the woods and more. The car park is at GR085097

                                        The car park for Thrunton Woods.
  Enter the wood just to the right of the Information Board and after about 100 yards take the footpath to the right, following the red arrow. After walking north for about a half mile turn left and remain on the woodland path past Wedderburn's Hole to the first crag, Thrunton Crag.

                       It is a woodland walk in part, in this part mostly conifers,
                                       planted in straight lines too. Very dull.
  In spite of this being a Forestry Commision wood, unlike some of their small forests, there is some ground cover making it more interesting and also on this section of the walk there are view points just off the footpath offering magnificent northern views of  Northumberland. Sadly the skies were overcast but the views were still good.

                               Not the best of days for photography.
Shortly after Thrunton Crag it is decision time.   As you emerge from the wood there is a red marker pointing south. However, on the right is a kissing gate, go this way, passing Callaly Crag,  and follow a narrow footpath past Hard Nab to a large cairn which makes an suitable Herbiespot. Looking to the north is Callaly hamlet and Callaly Castle.
 Kindly Dave had brought pork pie to add to sandwiches and coffee, a leisurely lunch, it wasn't so long since the bacon breakfast. Cave, donning his archaeologists mantle decided the cairn probably was an ancient burial cairn, well it gets Gothic script on the map.
 The path from the cairn heads down hill, a few degrees east of south and alongside a wood. At the bottom of the hill it is possible to take a short cut across by crossing a stile and heading east but that is not the way of the gadgie. Instead we took the rather steep and muddy and boulder strewn path up the other side of the valley. Having reached the ridge the path turns east to pass more crags. The first is Long Crag which also has a Trig Point. From a distance we could see a small bird sitting on the point. Dave, the vogelmeister did not recognise it but Brian, as sharp as ever claimed it to be Trig-warbler. Crossing moorland the path next comes to Coe Crags which have views north over the wood and south west towards Simonside.
                                   Dave on one of the Coe Crags......
                                       ......... and Brian on another

 Leaving the crags the path goes downhill quite steeply to the Coe Burn, which fortunately has a footbridge. A few yards beyond the bridge it is possible to turn right back to the road or turn left on the forest track and follow it as we did through a mixture of conifer plantations and areas where the trees have been cut down.  Not being sure I asked the vogelmeister what types of tree the conifers were. He reckoned they were Sitka Spruce, Lodge pole pines and Norwegian Spruce. "Norwegian Wood eh" I exclaimed.
"Yes, " he quipped, "it's a pine record."  Work it out yourself .
Some areas of the wood appeared to have been burned, some cleared and in some patches, deciduous trees were growing, birch and rowan and holly. Much nicer than coniferous plantations.
 The forest track meandered uphill, then down and back to the car park.
Good old Higear recorded the walk as 8.7 miles. The footpath App recorded not only a map but claimed the walk was 8.4 miles, both somewhat short of the 10 the Information Board claimed. Nevertheless another fine walk we got ourselves into.
On the way home we stopped at the Anlers Arms, Weldon Bridge. On offer; Speckled Hen, Ruddles or Abbot. I chose Abbot. This pub gets five barrels, always has good beer, always has friendly staff and one day we shall stay there.
Considering we walked through woodland we did not see a lot of birds, although we heard them. From the crags we looked down on a pair of buzzards and we saw dhaffinches and blackbirds. Brian maintains he saw a twite. They are interesting, have tattoos and carry iphones. At least I think he said twite.

  Contains O.S. data. copyright. Crown copyright and data base copyright 2012
Book of the blog, which has nothing to do with walking;
Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne. A history of the Comanche v Texans from about 1830 onwards, much about Cynthia Parker and her son Quanah.