Saturday, 13 April 2013

A Happy Nook in Northumberland where
the Willows grow.............  April 12th

Today's walk is almost a repeat of Martin in the Fields.May 4th 2012, with a slight deviation.
The weather has again deterred us from driving to the Lake District as we are promised some rain and a definitely damp day. Instead we are walking the John Martin Art trail from Haydon Bridge, his birthplace in 1789.

                                               Ink, blood and Magic by John Martin.
                                               He specialised in dramatic scenes, often biblical.
                                               Proper pictures, non of your modern stuff.
There are six gadgies on parade today, mm, vm, pm,hm, rm, and bm and we met in the Wentworth Café which is in the large car park in Hexham which also contains a Waitrose Supermarket and a sports centre. The café is the white building next to the steps leading to the town centre. It is a comfortable place, friendly staff and good service. Those of us who indulged in a bacon sandwich which came in a fresh roll, awarded the establishment 5 flitches +T.
After breakfast we headed for Haydon Bridge further west along the A69, turned into the town and then turned left past the Anchor Hotel and parked in the space just above the Shaftoe school.
For this walk a map is useful, it is covered by OS OL 43, Hadrian's Wall. This map is printed on both sides and conveniently the walk is on the edges! Photo copy and laminate if you want. The Shaftoe school car park is at GR 843641..
                                        Continuing my series of car park photographs this is
                                        taken at the Shaftoe School.

                                         The school was founded by the Reverend John Shaftoe
                                         in1685. Whether or not he was related to Bobby Shaftoe
                                         I do not know, but it is a nice looking building.
 The walk;
We went down the hill from the car park, turned left and then almost immediately took the right fork past some fairly new houses to the first point of interest on the John Martin Trail, East Land Ends, the farm cottage where he was born. It has a wonderful notice to deter visitors:
And a plaque to commemorate the artist's birth.
                                                        Poor picture, sorry
                                                    More information.
Continuing along the lane we soon came to Lees Farm. We walked through the farm yard and past a row of cottages before entering a field with several horses and headed uphill towards the first stile of the day. The route heads west across five fields, stiles and gates all displaying "John Martin Trail" markers so it is quite easy to follow, if a little boggy after the recent snow. When we came to a road we turned right downhill for a few hundred yards before turning left, crossing a field and entering Morralee Wood.
This is a National Trust property and has a small tarn supporting some Mallard ducks. If you use the recommended OS map it is labelled, with great originality, The Tarn.
There are several walks in the wood, marked with different coloured arrows, make sure you find and follow the John Martin ones, initially uphill and then forking to the right and going downhill to the banks of the River Allen.
We followed the path as it meandered along the bank until we came to Plankey Mill, a popular picnic and camping site in summer but deserted today and without so much as a table to eat at. So we sat on the stony river bank for lunch, Dave still off the porky pies but Ben brought his ginger biscuits and we had chocolate too. The only birds to be seen in the area were grey wagtails, although other species sang in the woodland.
                                                 Plankey Mill
                                                      Pensive Brian

                                                 The River Allen at Plankey Mill.
It has been suggested that Plankey comes from Play Necket or Neck of Floodable Land where Games are played. It is certainly flat enough, and near the river.
Lunch  over we continued across fields by the river before entering a wood and There is little left of this fortification beginning the short but steep climb to Staward Peel but it must have been pretty secure when it was built in the English Marches to defend the area in the long wars against the Scots.
                                                  How it looked when new
                                                         remains of the gate.
Staward Peel is on a high narrow neck of land with steep drops on either side, a bit like a Madeiran Levada in places, with several notices advising walkers to take care, especially with their children|!
The path beyond the peel took us across a field, Harry spotted a deer, back into the wood, downhill, across a stream and uphill again. Emerging from the wood we crossed a field to the farm at Harsondale, turned right down the lane and after a few hundred yards left the John Martin Trail by crossing a stile on the left and crossing a few fields, very wet and with snow remaining against the walls, until we came to the farm at Silly Wrea.

This farm is famous for its use of horsepower to plough and pull. I was looking forward to this as it reminds me of my childhood days on my uncle's farm near Haworth in Bronte country. He had a horse that provided power for the  mowing machine, the rakes and the cart for taking  the hay to the barns. Sadly the horses were not out today but he lambs were very friendly!
                                                          Boot sniffing lamb
                                             Some authorities maintain it means "Happy Nook"
as Silly is old English for Happy. others say it means The Nook where  Sallows or Shrubby Willows Grew. Nice name anyway.

                                                   Brian finds a friend.
The lady of the farm told us that the prolonged bad weather had seriously affected the years lambs. The Ewes were not producing sufficient milk for their offspring and some had been lost in the snow.
Normally at this point we would take a path left across fields but as the sheep had been unsettled by the weather we went straight down the lane, turned left and at the next junction, Lough Green, turned right and took the lane across fields to a cottage on a T junction, and back on the John Martin Trail. Following the road east we came to Castle Farm and Langley Castle.
                                                              Information Board for.....
                                                Langley    Castle in the mist. Hotel and tea room

Across the road from the castle a marker for the trail took us through woods, across a few fields, through woods high above a stream and finally we emerged on a road. We turned right, went under the A69 and turned right across a playing field before arriving back at the car park.
Changed we headed for the Boathouse at Wylam with its large selection of beers. Sadly I was driving.

My book on Cumbrian Gate Fastenings is making little progress so I have headed on in a slightly different but related direction, The Stiles of the North of England. many of the modern ones are little more than ladders but here are some examples of stiles you may meet in the north.
                         Note how easy it is to attach a marker to this modern, wooden stile
                                                Ben demonstrates the correct way to cross a stile

A classic stone stile.

The Matrix       MMDCVII

                                                                     steps                         miles

My ASDAPED                                           22825                        10.49
Higear                                                         22053                         10.43
Daves Asda                                                 23154                         10.18
LIDLPED                                                   23550                          10.40

OUTDOOR GPS                                                                            11.0
Brian's GPS                                                                                     11.0
Ben's Bragometer                                                                             11.0

                                        Pretty consistent.
Bird of the blog;
Not the best day for birds, crows, possibly a sparrow hawk nest or two, gulls, finches, long btailed tits and blue tits but the bird of the blog is the grey wagtail seen on the river at Plankey Mill.
                                                            Grey Wagtail
And a book of the blog, if you can find it!
The Last Horsemen by Charles Bowden
A year at Silly Wrea, Britain's only Horse Powered Farm
Publisher Andre Deutsch

The Last Shepherds by the same author.

                                                                                           DD         Brian, me

Saturday, 6 April 2013

It's our birthday and we'll drink if we want to.*
Alnhammoor April 5th.

Had my mother got a move on my birthday would have been 4/4/44, a fascinating number.
As it is I appeared a day later, 5/4/44, still a good day as it is the last day of the tax year.
My friend Harry, routemeister, arrived a year later so he has 5/4/45 as a birthdate, a palindromic number.
We had known each other about 15 years before we knew we shared a birthday, and only found out as I needed his details to put him on my car insurance for the great Austrian trip. (The Iceman Cometh). We agreed that had we been women we would have shared this information within a day of meeting
So today we are celebrating our birthdays with a walk from Ingram Centre because there has been a considerable amount of snow which has been melting and we thought the higher hills would be messy. As it turned out the melting snow made grass and tracks slippy and muddy on this relatively low level walk.
Six gadgies out today, apart from the birthday boys there are vm, mm, pm and hmm, two cars and a meeting at Powburn Tea Shop where we were well looked after by a lady who put up with changing requests, offered bread or rolls for the bacon butties and also offered white bread or brown. Five flitches +T without any discussion.
The walk itself, when we finally got under way, starts near the Ingram Centre. To get there, A1 north, A697 from Morpeth and turn left just after Powburn following the sign for Ingram. Cross the bridge and turn into the car park. (If you want the actual centre continue for a hundred yards, turn left and go down the lane. The centre  and its car park are on the right, just past the church. If it's open it sells ice cream and books.
A map is advisable, OL16 and the starting point is at NU018163.
The Walk:
Leave the car park and turn left, walking along the road past Ingram Farm, watching or listening for the peacocks that live here. The farmers are very friendly and often chat about the walking or the lambing. After about half a mile there is a sign post on the left (and a car park on the right). Follow the path uphill, taking the right fork at the first junction and continue up the slope keeping to the edge of the plantation until you arrive at the plateau summit of Brough Law which has an Iron Age fort on it. Built in the late 4th C BC, (although the vm, donning his archaeologists hat claims it to be 3rd C BC) it has rubble walls, is bivallate and has the outlines of dwellings within. It also has a commanding view.
                                                Brough Law Hill Fort walls.
                                          It doesn't look much but it was home to someone

As vm explained its origins the punmeister observed that when he and his wife were both working they lived in the iron age but now that they have retired they don't bother ironing anymore. I suspect Margaret does really. He admitted it wasn't one of his best efforts.
Having scrambled over the walls of the fort, taking care of course, you can't sue an Ancient Brit for busting your ankle on his threshold, head south on a path that meanders over the moor, south, south west, south east southwest again, before taking a short cut off the path and heading for the south corner of a plantation. Go through the gate, cross Chesters Burn and up the side of the plantation before heading west in the direction of Chesters..
This farm appears to be deserted, I think it may be used sometime as a centre for scouts.
Keep the farm on your right and follow the path uphill, past another ancient settlement, and once through a gate follow the path as it goes downhill towards a gate in a plantation. Walk through the plantation which has little to offer but lines of trees.
                                                If you look carefully you may see the orc peeping out from behind a tree  at the far end of the path.
The path emerges from the wood in to the Breamish Valley and after crossing a couple of fields you come to Alnhammoor Farm, Herbie Spot for the day, and for most walks in this area. We sat on stones next to the river and saw a heron, a dipper a pair of oyster catchers and had a distant view of a pair of buzzards. Vm.still refuses to bring pies but we did have ginger biscuits and chocolate to go with the sandwiches and coffee.
                                            Alnhammoor Farm
                                                  River Breamish
                                                      Lunch time

There are several routes back to Ingram from Alnhammoor but we opted for  the walk back via Cobden, Ewe Hill and Lumsden Hill.

From Alnhammoor head south east uphill and follow the track to Cobden, on the corner of a plantation. Once through the gate take the left hand path that takes an easterly route  over Ewe Hill passing three small plantations and several acres of muddy field. At the third plantation, cross the stile and take the path that runs north east below Cochrane Pike and Wether Hill before sloping gently down to Ingram.
                                      The locals are a little shy, but sweet, especially with mint sauce.
Back at Ingram walk past the village hall and church to the Ingram Centre and car park. In the corner of the car park is a footpath that brings you back to the starting point.
                                     St. Michael's Church Ingram, parts date back to the 11thC
 Changed from muddy boots and trousers we forced ourselves to stop at The Anglers Arms for a birthday celebration, a choice of Speckled Hen, Directors or Everards Tiger. I opted for Tiger as it was new to me. And very tasty it was too.
                                                          The exterior
                                                           The barmaids

Some of the gadgies
The Matrix MMMC   ( Needs updating with Dave's readings)
                                                         steps                               miles
ASDAPED                                   22429                               10.3
Higear                                           21738                               10.28
OUTDOORGPS                                                                     9.6
Bird of the Blog;
We have always said that a real gadgie walk needs a heron, which was spotted today so:

                                                               Grey Heron, bird of the blog
 * Been thinking about that one ?
"It's my Party and I'll cry if I want to" Lesley Gore, 1963
                                                                                                DD John, Ben