Saturday, 9 February 2013

Oh! Oh! Coquet........................  February 8th.
                                               We're back in the hills and it feels so good,
                                               There's patches of snow and plenty of mud,
                                               We're off to a hill called Copper Spout,
                                               And we gadgies are happy just  to be out.
                                               Oh! Oh Coquet, oh! oh! Coquet!

With apologies to the late Roy Orbison, purveyor of hits like Only the Lonely, Pretty Woman,
one of the Memphis Sun Studios stable and member of The Travelling Wilburys.
Today there are six of us setting off for Alwinton in Coquetdale, one of the Cheviot Valleys.
To get there take the A1 north, turn off at the A697. Normally the route turns left for Rothbury at Weldon Bridge but recent heavy rains have caused a landslip at Pauperhaugh so it is necessary to continue north and follow the yellow diversion signs. Through Rothbury and Thropton,take the right fork signed Harbottle and Alwinton, parking on the village green opposite the bus shelter with the rather nice little clock.
But of course we stopped in Rothbury for breakfast, calling at Tomlinsons Bakery and Bunkhouse on Bridge Street.
The bacon sandwiches came in freshly baked buns and were accompanied by a side salad, such sophistication in Rothbury.

                                                Tomlinsons Bacon Butty, top class.
There were some differences on the awarding of flitches because the freshly baked bun was slightly under done. I like bread like this and was happy to award five but Brian does not like it and only gave four. We compromised at 4.5.  Harry had a toasted teacake.
 The walk; Six gadgies out today; music, pun, vogel,route, halfmarathon and blog. All pleased to be off the railways for a day.

A map is more than useful for this walk, OL 16 The Cheviot Hills covers it and the green where we parked (It,s free, there is a charge at the National Park car park in Alwinton and we are all pensioners) is at GR NT922063.
Free parking, a useful picnic table. The footbridge is on the right, just out of picture.
Booted up we crossed the footbridge over the  Hoseden Burn, turned left and followed Clennell Street for the next few miles! Clennell Street is a medieval drove road that stretched from Kelso to Morpeth
It was originally called Ermspath, meaning Eagles Path, probably as well the name was changed, there are not any of these magnificent birds around now.
There were some snowdrops out near the footbridge, a sure sign that spring is not too far away, and we saw a family of long tailed tits in the trees heading up the lane from Alwinton.There were also a number of chaffinches, but little else. The path (Street is a bit of a misnomer) now heads generally  north and uphill, the first time we have had to fight gravity for a few weeks.  On the left as the path turns from north to north west there are the remains of an ancient hill fort, Castle Hills and on the right is another, Camp Knowe. In fact the area is rich in cairns and settlements and a "cross dyke", whose true purpose seems to be unknown. We followed the street for several miles, mostly in a north west direction, on the edge of Kidland Forest, a conifer plantation much of which has been cut down. In places there are signs that it is being replaced with deciduous trees. Should be nice forfuture gadgies At one point we came to the site of a long defunct Youth Hostel which had been a shepherd's bothy, similar to the famous Black Sail Hut in the Lake District, but without the curry.
         No, the hut is not the old YHA, the site is. Cropped woodland in the background.*
We turned  south west off Clennell Street at a marker post  (NT897106 if you have a map or GPS) and after  a half mile the path turned south, heading for a hill with the interesting name of Copper Snout. I can't find an explanation, but once there were some illicit whiskey stills in the area although Copper Snout is fairly open territory!
The walk here is high above the Usway Burn, a beautiful valley carrying a stream of that name to join the River Coquet.

                              The lower Usway Valley and Burn. A poular gadgie walk.
Once over Saugh Rigg the path headed downhill to Shillmoor, a farm and a couple of cottages. The farm seems to be used at times by the army who have a huge exercise range to the west. We could hear the big guns firing most of the day but they missed us.
                                                 The farm at Shilmoor.
Shillmoor is on the Coquet** but we did not cross the river, instead took a sharp left of almost 180 degrees taking a the Pass Path back to Alwinton. Finding a sheltered spot above a minor burn we called a Herbie Spot, sitting out of the wind and into the sun, quite warm for February. We had the usual, sandwiches, pork pie and ginger biscuits but for a change we had chocolate too.  The table talk was the normal manly mix of smut and innuendo, although the punmeister dragged up an oldie and goldie as we talked about films.
"George Segal, Peter Finch and Sean Canary  have made a film with Alfred Hitchcock{ The Birds"
Lunch over we continued on the last uphill climb of the day, a relatively short stretch as we were getting a little gadgile.***
Below, built on a haugh by the river, the outlines of a medieval settlement were clearly visible.     


        Outlines of buildings and enclosures, clearly visible on this Medieval Village site.
The Pass Path eventually joins the road for the last mile back to Alwinton.
                        The Coquet Valley near Alwinton.
                                 Alwinton parish church, dating back to the 12th century although most of it is now 19th.        Dedicated to St. Michael.
 Changed we headed for the village pub, the Rose and Thistle but the large room was being used for a wake and the bar was crowded so we headed for the five barrell Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge which had Speckled Hen, Directors and Theakstons Black Bull on offer.
The Matrix      MCMVII
                                                                steps                  miles
Daves ASDAPED                                  18959                  8.53
Daves LIDLUSB                                    18640                  8.53
My ASDAPED                                       18787                  8.82
Higear                                                     19070                  9.02
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                8.21
Measured by Dave                                                              8.0
Measured by me                                                                  8.1
Another grand gadgie day out.

Bird of the blog, one of the few seen.

              Long tailed tit, common throughout Europe and Asia.

*If you like cats and tales set in Northumberland Paw Tracks in the Moonlight is a good little read.
The story of a man and his cat, which at one point he takes camping in this area - on horseback.
The book is written by Denis O'Connor, lecturer in Education at teacher training colleges and Durham University. He may have tried to educate me. This is not a reflection on his abilities but mine.
**Coquet has the same origins as the Welsh word cochwedd and means red. Not exactly the Red River although as it runs through sandstone it could be slightly cloured.
*** Gadgile is an Old English word meaning tiredness in older men, originally gagil. The female equivalent is fragile.