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Saturday, 25 August 2012

Canadas, Coots, Greylags and Grebes.....Aug 24

The forecast was for another damp day but three heroes decided to head for the lower hills at least. Dave the vogelmeister, Harry the routemeister and me, with some pies.
We decided on a relatively gentle walk from the visitor centre at Ingram. To get there take that well known route up the A1, turn off north of Morpeth on the A697 and shortly after Powburn turn left at the Ingram sign post. Continue along  the road for about 2.5 miles and after crossing the river turn left to the visitor centre. It is a useful place to start, it has toilets and sells ice cream, sweat shirts and books. It is only open between the beginning of April and the end of October.
 A map is useful on this walk and the one to use is OSLR 81, Alnwick and Morpeth or preferably because of the better scale OL16, The Cheviots and OS Explorer 332 Alnwick and Amble. Regardless the visitor centre is at GR019163.

                                          Ingram visitor centre
Leaving the centre, walk past the church and down the lane past several lovely holiday cottages until you meet the "main"road. Keep left and walk past Ingram Farm, watching out for peacocks, over the cattle grid and on the left is a footpath leading to the hills. Take it and follow it, initially in a souith western direction but slowly swinging towards the south east before making a right -angled turn back to the south west.
Much to Dave's delight as he is an archaeologist when not being a vogelmeister the track follows the line of cultivation terraces, possibly neolithic but on your left is a rather isolated cottage, Ingram Hill.
Ingram valley is rich in ancient settlements, hill forts and terraces and roughly a mile beyond the cottage we wandered off the official track to examine the remains of a settlement. This turned out to be a mistake as we entered an area used for rearing  partridges and there were several hundred of them running loose, plus a polite notice as we left the area asking mus not to enter.
Crossing Middledean Burn we continued following the official path in a south easterly direction over Cochrane Pike before going down a steep slope to cross Rocky Burn. Once through the fairly new gate across the burn you have a choice of paths. On the left the path goes uphill to the top of old Fawdon Hill, the right skirts the hill, easier on the legs but eventually the two come together again.
Also at this point change sheets if you have invested in the two 1;25000  maps.
On the top of Old Fawdon Hill is a trig point, useful to rest against after a short but steep pull up and plainly visible a little east of south is a settlement on a lower hill. The perimeter walls of this bivallate (!) settlement are clearly visible.
  A nameless settlement but even on a grey day you can see the remains of the perimeter walls. The dots are sheep, and very pretty ones too.
 High over the wood we watched a pair of buzzards being teased a bit by a kestrel, or the other way round.
Walking down the hill in a north east direction we stopped at the bottom, near a small wood and made use of a pile of logs for a Herbiespot, checking carefully that there were no snakes, or anything else, in the woodpile. The usual sandwiches and sections of pork pie, fast becoming the gadgie walking diet. Walking along the east side of the wood we joined the footpath that follows the hedgerow across fields to Fawdon Farm. As we approached the farm we saw, thankfully in an adjacent field, an extremely large and fit looking bull, but in the field we crossed, and guarding the gate into the farm yard was the skinniest, scrawniest cow I have ever seen. It moved to let us pass, slowly. On the left hand side of the yard a gate  leads to a track going back to Ingram but we followed a path that is marked on the map but not on the ground, a few yards from the gate, heading initially due north before turning north east. After about a mile a low sign post directs you across a field which had a fine looking crop of barley (or was it rye?)  to a road and the not too obvious entrance to Branton Conservation Ponds. Look for the entrance to the right of a metal gate which is the entrance to some sort of holding area.
Branston was a gravel pit but since the extraction ceased a great effort has been made to fill the pits, landscape them and encourage a variety of birds to make it their home or a calling place as they pass through. It seems to have been successful; there are two ponds each with a bird observation platform or hide. We saw a flock of Greylag Geese which magically turned into a skein as they took off for the skies. There were many Canada Geese too, swans, lapwings, a little grebe, coots and several breeds of duck, plus small birds in the trees and bushes round the ponds. There is a circular walk round the ponds, an interesting place, but watch out for adders.
                                  A skein of Greylag Geese.

               A pair of pylons and part of the Branton Ponds.

                                             Swans in reflective mood
 It has been suggested that whilst in the ponds we witnessed a miracle, the two buzzards and the kestrel were transformed into three para-gliders. However, looking at the map I notice that East Hill, which is to the west of the ponds, is the headquarters or jumping off point for a hang gliding club.
Back at the entrance turn right and walk a matter of yards down the road and cross the River Breamish by the splendid footbridge, or use the ford next to it. The bridge is a new one, replacing one destroyed in a flood some years ago.
Cross the main valley road at Brandon, (not a spelling mistake) and after a few hundred yards an unsigned track on the left leads past a cottage at Heddon and along some fine ancient cultivation terraces before dropping down to Reavely. At the end of the road turn right and walk back to the centre. Just over the bridge a footpath on the left cuts the corner off and brings you back by way of the church wall.
On the way home we stopped to rehydrate at the Anglers Arms, fully resored to a selection of quality beers including Ruddles County, Taylors Golden Bitter and Jennings Cumberland.
Harry wonderecd how President Hollande would feel in Angela's Arms. Ha Ha

The Matrix IV
                                          Steps                          Miles
Dave's ASDACurve         17091                            8.09
Dave's LIDL USB            23707                           10.79
My Higear                        23935                           10.86
 As measured by Dave on his pritsticked map 9.5 miles
OUTDOORS claimed 9.83 miles with a height gain of 3497 feet and height lost 2391 feet. Can somebody explain?
A  good walk any way, with a bit of birding thrown in.