Saturday, 21 December 2013

Clarty and claggy .......................December 20th

  Clarty and claggy are two delightful North East Dialect words that sum up this walk, a rerun of the John Martin Trail that has been covered at least twice before.
Clarty means muddy and claggy means sticky, clart without the y is mud, and most of the day's walk was in it.
 Because of Christmas when people tend to travel to see family or have family visiting today's walkers are reduced to three unwanted gadgies, Brian, John and me. The walk starts at Haydon Bridge and is covered by OS OL 43, Hadrian's Wall. Travel west from Newcastle on the A69, turn off for Haydon Bridge on the A686 but do not cross the Tyne. Before the river turn left and follow the road past the Anchor Hotel and turn sharp left at the Haydonite Club. Just beyond the Shaftoe School there is a small (free) car park at NY844640.
As a reminder John Martin (1789 1854) was an artist born in these parts and famous for his huge canvasses, often with biblical themes. His brother Jonathon set fire to York Minster and was sent to the local asylum.
We stopped for breakfast at the café in the large car park in Hexham; true to my promise I had a pot of tea and no bacon sandwich.

                                              A car park again, Shaftoe school behind.
The walk;
We walked downhill from the car park and, almost  directly opposite the Haydonite, followed the road past a few houses, a caravan site and the East Land Ends farm where the great man was born.
                             John Martin's birthplace, his mum and
                            dad probably didn't have the conservatory
                             in 1789.
We stayed on the farm road as far as Lees Farm, which has plenty of dogs and went through the yard, following the markers for the walk.
                                                 Lees farm

                                             Watch out for the markers, they are useful.
Through the farmyard the path crosses four muddy fields before hitting the road which goes to Tedcastle. We turned left and after a few hundred yards turned right on a road which goes downhill. After a few hundred yards we followed the heritage trail through a gate on the left (marker vanished!) and walked across a muddy field to Morrallee Woods, a National Trust property, currently being cleared of rhododendrons which can become a bit of a nuisance. If you follow this walk watch out for the John Martin trail markers as there are several other walks in the woods. The JM trail goes steeply down to the banks of the River Allen, crosses a field, goes through another short stretch of wood, and emerges onto a road which leads to Plankey Mill.
Plankey Mill means, possibly, the neck of floodable land where games are played, according to the book of Northumbrian place names. First recorded in 1673 and known as Naked ale or ele,
naked meaning neck and ele being an island.
                                Plankey Mill Farm
                                                     Field at Plankey Mill,
                              a popular picnic spot in summer
                             and a pleasant Herbie Spot today.
We called a halt for lunch; today's offerings were a mince pie, a Dorset Cereal Bar and a slice of Mrs. A's Apple cake. So much for the diet.
Lunch over we walked along the river bank over two fields before re-entering the National Trust property of Allen Banks.
                                        Quite possibly the driest part of the walk.
                                                   The River Allen
After a while the path climbs steeply towards Staward  Peel. The footpath has been "stepped" in places, just as well on a clarty day or it would be two forwards and one back.
The peel is in a very commanding position, built on a peninsula with steep banks on either side, not that there is much left now. 

                                            Remains of the peel
                                                    And its gate house

Could have been impressive, once.
The footpath from the peel led us along a narrow path, be warned if you have small children with you and emerges into a field. We crossed the field and found the stile that took us into a wood with a steep path that led downhill, across a footbridge and up the other side, this path was very slippy because of the clarts which were claggy. Across another field and we came to the next farm, Harsondale, crossing a stile and turning right on the farm road.
Somewhere along this road Brian broke through his total walking mileage for last year, he had forgotten to bring a hip flask to celebrate, sad.
                                                        An artistic shot of trees.
At a point along this road a public footpath marker will take you
to Sillywrae, a farm that still relies on horsepower to carry out the work, but we continued on the track until we came to a road and turned left. Reaching a junction we took the marked path directly opposite the track we had walked  which took us down to the farm at West Deanraw. At the next junction we turned right but instead of following this road to Langley Castle we took the footpath across a field to Black Byre Plantation which surpassed anything we had seen for clarts. Another footpath, another field and we were at West Land Ends, another farm, with a classy hemel.
                           The hemel at West Land Ends farm.
Following the road we were soon passing East Land End again and were soon back at the car.
It was only 3.15pm. On the way home we called in at the Boathouse pub in Wylam, it had its usual large selection of hand pulled ales on offer.
The Matrix
Total disaster, Higear decided its battery was finished andLIDL3D defcided to shut down at the Herbie spot.
However Outdoor GPS gave a distance of 9.3 miles and Brian's GPS said 9.6.
Not a great day for birds but we saw a heron, a buzzard and probably a barn owl.

This map of the walk is from the
John Martin Heritage leaflet available
in the town and I shall probably
be in trouble for using it.
This map is from OUTDOOR GPS
and OS say I can publish it if I give
 them credit, which I have.
And this is Sadak searching for the waters
of oblivion. Why didn't he just go to the pub?
Gadgie walking total for the year: 462.6 miles. Must do better in 2014
This is the last walk of the year and therefore the last blog until January 3rd 2014 so a merry Christmas and Happy New year, let's hope it's a good one without any fear as John sang. And to quote that great Irish comedian Dave Allen, may your God go with you. 

Friday, 13 December 2013

A walk with the Common Broads..... Dec13th
(and it was a Friday.

  Whenever Frank Sinatra visited Britain he said he was going to Norfolk for the broads. How we laughed, the first time.
Today, five gadgies are out and we are walking from Langleeford in the Harthope Valley. The team consists of Brian, John, Ben, Dave and myself.  To get to Langleeford  from Newcastle take the A1, turn off at Morpeth on the A697, turn into Wooler and turn almost immediately into Cheviot Street. Follow this road to the fork, and take to the right, which now has a brown sign* directing you to the Harthope Valley. Turn right at the sign for Langleeford, drive past the still wonderfully named Skirl Naked and drive as far as it is permitted up the valley. There is a grassed parking area on the left.
A map is advisable, OS OL16 The Cheviot Hills, and the parking area is at NT954225.
The jovial Jock had promised us a cloudy day with the occasional shower and an unseasonally high temperature of 12 degrees C. He was right.
And of course we stopped at the Terrace Café in Wooler for breakfast but having added at least seven pounds to my weight recently I resisted the bacon and had a cup of tea.

                                                      Preparing for the off in the car park.

 We took the footpath directly opposite the parking area which leads up the Hawsen Burn and across moorland to a fence. The footpath, according to the map goes directly to the gate  and stile in the fence but we have always had to struggle the last few yards over boggy heather. Over the stile the footpath, wet in winter, leads downhill until it meets a well made track. It gives a great view of the College Valley, still my favourite Cheviot Valley, even on a grey day like this.
                                                The Cheviot, shrouded in cloud.
                                                   The College Valley ahead.

       We turned right and followed the track to the farm at Goldscleugh. If you follow this walk go past the farm and follow the signpost just beyond it which takes you across a ford onto a good farm track. Some of us tried a short cut and had to climb several fences, something that seems to be getting harder. Brian took off on a track before he got to the farm which took him to the plantation. The rest of the team followed the track uphill for a while  until we spotted the yellow marker that took us into the plantation.
                                          And a distant view of Dunsdale Farm.
                                           And a little yellow marker. Now you know what to look for.
The path through the plantation is a public right of way but is difficult to follow until about half way through where it joins a forest truck.
 Once out of the wood we followed the path in a north east direction. At a fork in the path we took the left fork, although there was some muttering about this being the wrong one. However as we came to a stream running down to the Common Burn a voice hailed us. It was Brian who had found an easier route. A Herbie Spot was declared. Apart from sandwiches we had ASDA flapjack,mince pies, Ben's famous ginger biscuits and Mrs A's cinnamon flavoured  muffins. Quite rightly Brian observed we were the only people who went out for a walk to put weight on. So much for declining the bacon sandwich.
Lunch over we continued on our muddy way towards Commonburn House. If you follow this walk look at the map. Shortly before the farm a footpath dips down towards the Common Burn, there is a ford and then a well made farm track leading uphill and over the moors towards Broadstruther.
                                    Look carefully, Commonburn House is visible
                                               above the wall in the background.
At Broadstruther, or near it, the footpath leads south before turning south east and coming to a fence.
On the south side is a boundary marker.
                                    Broadstruther, behind a large black box
                                             Moss covered boundary stone.
 At the fence  we turned left and followed the fence line  north east up Cold Law. There is a path on both sides of the fence, some took one side, some the other. Normally the path is boggy and it is a long slog to the top but today the trail was dry, an indication of a rain free week or so, and a tail wind drove us to the top.
                                                   Another Trig Point!
Should you follow this walk be careful on the way down from the top of the hill. There is a very good path leading approximately south south east from the top directly down to Cockshaw Syke and the car. Some of us, accidently I suppose followed a vague path across some Lauder Grass  and finished up near Back Wood (see the OS map) which meant we had to climb uphill one last time before finding the real path down to the valley bottom and the car where Brian, who had taken the proper route, was smugly waiting. Good day out though.
Just for a change we called in at the Anglers Arms on the way home. Today's beers were from Brains, a Welsh company, Adnams from Suffolk and a pint called Old Hooky. There is always  a warm welcome and a good pint at the Anglers.
Driving home we were entertained by a selection of carols sung by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Van,** at least that's what I think he said.


                                                                 steps                          miles
LIDL3D                                                  25897                         10.72
Higear                                                     23835                          11.27
Dave's 3D                                               24228                          11.14
LIDLUSB                                               23792                          11.26

OUTDOOR GPS                                                                         10.65
Ben's Bragometer                                                                         10.75
 Pretty good.


No bird or beast of the blog this week, plenty of grouse, (and grousing) possibly an owl but not a definite.
However a new feature:
I married a vegetarian and survived
My wife is a life long vegetarian, obviously I am not. But ever willing to try new things we bought some Quorn "bacon" and made sandwiches. I awarded one flitch and that was for the bun. If by any chance Carol Midgely, Times columnist and writer of one of the better articles on the struggle to be a veggie reads this, be warned, there is no substitute for a real bacon butty.
* On the first edition this was spelt as  "sine". Spotted by daughter who thought it might be an early indicator of a form of dementia, I prefer it to be the result of teaching sums for forty years.
** Should have been Band, deaf as well as demented.
Gadgie distance 453.3 

Friday, 6 December 2013

A winter's day, in a deep and dark December.

December 6th.

That was Thursday 5th of December when the northern part of the kingdom was battered by strong winds, heavy rain and even showers of hail and snow, causing the reporters on local TV to put on very serious faces. (Not helped by both Newcastle and Sunderland losing on the Wednesday evening.)
But the young lady who delivers the weather forecast for BBC Look North promised us a cold crisp day on Friday. Because some of us had enjoyed a surfeit of ale  and curry on Thursday evening we decided to have a relatively easy and local walk, starting from St. Andrew's Church  at Bolam. The easiest way to get there is to head north from Newcastle, turn off for Morpeth, turn left just after County Hall by the golf course and drive to the village of Whalton. Turn right after the pub (Beresford Arms) and follow the road to Bolam.  (Bolam means "settlement on a rounded hill") The church is on the right as you approach the tiny village and there is space for a few cars to park.
The whole walk is covered by map OS OL42, Kielder Forest and the church is at NZ092825.

St. Andrews is a pretty little church with a late Saxon west tower and Norman nave, the windows are 18th century, except for the small one in the south wall which was caused by a German bomb which penetrated the wall but failed to explode. Some  sixty years after the war the German pilot returned and apologised!
The church has a web site;  A few weeks ago some of us went for a bike ride and made use of the church porch for a rest and a drink. I was almost home when I realised I had left my cycling glasses in the church. (I only wear them to keep flies out of my eyes and there aren't many about in November.) I drove back next day, they were still there.


                                             St. Andrew's Church Bolam. I have noticed several churches
                                     in the region dedicated to Scotland's saint. I think it was to protect them
                                     against marauding bands from north of the border!
The rectangular window is the one caused by a
German bomb. It was not aimed at the church,
the crew jettisoned their load after failing to
attack their Tyneside target.
At last the walk:
In the north west corner of the churchyard is a gate, marked with the usual symbol. We went through it and across a couple of fields  to Angerton Steads, which has a tennis court. The fields would have been muddy but the freezing night time temperature made the ground firm underfoot, and kept your boots clean. Beyond Angerton Steads the footpath crosses a dismantled railway line, (1mile)  the footpath around the edge of the fields is well marked.
The old "Wanny" railway, now used as a run for horses.
The next farm is Low Angerton and the footpath  goes round the buildings before emerging on a metalled road. Just north of the River Wansbeck a sign post on the left hand side of the road directed us westward  but on the north bank of the river, across several fields (2m) before crossing the railway again; (And the line of the Devil's Causeway, a Roman road although there is nothing to see.)
Several fields later (3m) the footpath approaches Middleton Mill farm. A black arrow on a yellow background directed us round the farm buildings but we then had to go through the yard on to the farm track.
There is much evidence of ancient farming in the fields,many of them having ridges and furrows. The outline of the Medieval Village of South Middleton can be made out too.
                                                   R and F
                                                            More R and F  (and village site)
At the end of the farm track we turned left on the road, crossed Middleton Bridge and found a sign post on the right  that led us over the remains of the medieval village to an open rectangular shelter which made a Herbie Spot. Almost Christmas we dined on mince pies, chocolate flapjacks, ginger biscuits and a sandwich. Lunch over we continued on our way to Middleton South (5m) More fields in a generally south direction. Pausing to look at a standing stone we headed south east across more fields (6m) before passing through Salter's Nick and on to the rougher ground  around Shaftoe Crags.
A real stile.

                                                  A real standing stone.
                                                          Salter's Nick
  Bonny Bobby Shafto of yellow hair and sea travel  came from County Durham and not this part of the world. On the top of the crags is a stone  named  The Punchbowl. Legend has it that at his wedding, W Blackett of nearby Wallington celebrated his wedding on the crags and filled a depression on the rock with several gallons of wine.
                                         Listen children. These things, called "Trig Points" were
                                         used by map makers in the days before we had satellites.

                                                       Shaftoe Crags.
     Punchbowl Stone

Leaving the crags  (7m)we followed the road  past East Shaftoe Hall and through a muddy farm yard. The track beyond the farm is made from  old concrete sleepers, they work well. (8m)
At Bolam west houses we turned right along the road (9m) until we spotted the footpath, on the left which led us into Bolam Lake Country Park. Walking round the north side of the lake we halted to do a bit of duck spotting. A Canada Goose took off from the lake and flew at us, nearly hitting Dave, or goosing him! It was followed by several more and some swans. Obviously a popular bird feeding station. Sadly all our food had gone. My wife and I once bought some "Duck and swan food" and came out here to feed the birds. They ignored the food we had bought preferring bread.
Out of the park we turned left on the road and then right up the hill past the entrance to Bolam Hall(10m) and back to the church.
This has to be the bird of the blog;
                                                          Canada Goose
                                                              And swans
                                                        And Dave
The Matrix  MMXIIIB
                                                    steps                                               miles
High Gear                                   21466                                             10.15
LIDL3D                                     24100                                              10.84
Dave's LIDL3D                          23133                                              10.62
Dave's LIDLUSB                       22620                                               10.71
OUTDOORGPS                                                                                 10.28
Brian's GPS                                                                                         10.4
These must be the best results ever
         Contains OS data Copyright. Crown Copyright and Database right 2013
Gadgie total so far: 451.7

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Grand Cunyon...................November 29th
   When I was small my parents had several Burl Ives records on 78s. One of my favourites was "The Grand Canyon Line":
On the Grand Canyon Line I was riding along,
On the grand Canyon Line I was singing no song,
On the Grand Canyon Line I was riding along,
Couldn't go back to Texas 'cos I knew I'd done wrong.
Sitting alone in a box cars four walls,
Because of a breaking the rich man's laws,
I thought of my sweetheart and began to cry,
When I am caught by my neck I shall die.
I think my life long love of corny country and western started here,  the song has everything, a train, a lost love and a death. Mind you I also liked "Froggy went a Courtin'" for the guitar playing.
Then I grew up and discovered Rock n Roll, but how is it I can remember these words after 60 years and have already forgotten the headline story in yesterday's Times?

There are five gadgies on the walk today, Brian, Dave, John, Harry and me and we are walking from the old Ingram info centre car park. To get there: A1 north, A697, turn left at the signpost for Ingram, drive over the bridge across the Breamish, turn left and past the holiday cottages and St.Michael's church and park outside the centre.
 The centre closed two years ago, (Government cuts) but has very recently opened as The Muddy Boots Café  and, not surprisingly, we decided to field test their bacon butties. The café is run by some ladies who live in the valley and they are "getting organised." They were a bit short on the bacon, the delivery man had not yet arrived, so we settled for a bacon and sausage sandwich. It came in a white bun, too soft for my liking, with brown or tomato sauce and a generous helping of tea. John opted for coffee and had a cafetiere made with freshly ground coffee from The Ouseburn Coffee Company. I sampled it, really good. The ladies made us very welcome, service was excellent but only four flitches because of the bun. We wished them success in their venture, it should be a popular place in summer.

                                             Muddy Boots café  sells books of local interest too,
                                          The inevitable car park picture.
The walk. I would recommend a map for this one if you do not know the area

OL Explorer  16. The Cheviot Hills.
The Muddy Boots is at NU 020163.
In the corner of the car park a footpath leads through a small wood to another car park. This was the beginning of our walk. Leaving the second car park we turned right on the valley road and after a few hundred yards turned left towards the farm at Reavely. Just beyond the farm a sign post on the left pointed us in the direction of Threestoneburn Wood.The path across the fields was quite muddy and deeply rutted.
                                                    Deep ruts the wagons made
The path across the fields climbs steadily across several fields before reaching open moorland. Brian and I chose to go in a direct line and the other three took the footpath towards and past Reavely Hill.
                                                       A classic
                                                 Round 'em up, move 'em out.
Reaveley Hill was inhabited until the 1970s when the last family left. It was used a s a shepherds hut until the 1980s, the last shepherd tragically killing himself. Now it seems to be used as a store for animal fodder and a home for owls. Herbie, on past walks, has always climbed in and produced some owl pellets as evidence. Something for the nature table.
                                        Isolated Reaveley Hill.
Continuing in a line slightly north of west we all met up at the south east corner of Threestoneburn Wood and continued up the steep path along the side of the wood to Cunyan Crags where we stopped for lunch.
Cunyan Crags, an excellent Herbie Spot.
From the top of the crag we had panoramic views of the county,east to the sea, south to Simonside,
west to Hedgehope . And, as well as a sandwich, we dined on pork pies supplied today by both Brian and Dave, Mrs. A's home made muesli biscuits with chocolate icing, Ringtons ginger snaps. as Ben was away, and home made peanut butter fudge, courtesy of Well, on a cold day with a bitter wind from the north west you need energy.
Usually from this point we continue westwards to Dunmore Hill and down to Grieves Ash at Linhope. Grieves Ash is an ancient settlement and reminds me of Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, but that's another story. Instead we headed due south down the steep side of the hill towards Hartside. From here we took the road towards Alnhammoor Farm.
At the farm I made an executive decision and chose to follow the path on the north side of the Breamish. After a few  yards along the river bank the path, alongside a fence behind which there is a forest in the making, climbs steeply up to Hartside Hill. Hartside Hill is an archaeologist's paradise. It has Roman-British settlements, homesteads and cairns as well as a fort and evidence of ridge and furrow ploughing on the slopes.
At the east end of hill we waded through dying bracken down a steep path to the river and turned north until we hit the valley road. Turning east on the road we made our way back to the car park, arriving just before dark.
                                                Distant Cunyan Crags from the river Breamish
                                             St. Michael's Church, Ingram
                                                          Church Gate.traditional style.
A good walk for a cold and windy day. We decided to call at the Plough Inn, former coaching inn, at Powburn on the way home, just  for a change, but it was closed so instead we were forced on to the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge which served Black Sheep, Speckled Hen and Ruddles County. Almost heaven Weldon Bridge.
                                                                                  steps                        miles
Higear                                                                        20701                      9.79
LIDL3D                                                                     22448                      10.1
Dave LIDL3D                                                            22609                      10.4
Dave LIDLUSB                                                         21777                       10.31
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                                          9.3
Brian's GPS                                                                                                   9.4
Best day for pedometers for a long time!
Beast of the blog.
Quiet day for birds, probably because of the wind although we saw a kestrel and some finches but the award today hoes to the hare.
                                                        Hare joins the Home Guard.

Total gadgie walk this year  441.4 miles