Sunday, 26 May 2013

Saturday Club...................May 25th
The good people of Upper Weardale have a bus service that runs two or three days a week bringing them to Newcastle for a few hours shopping, eating and wondering at the sights of the city. It is possible to catch this bus on a Saturday as it returns to Stanhope at, giving the driver a few hours break before he returns to the city to collect the passengers.  The X21 leaves the bus stop on Newgate Street and is often used by gadgies and the like so they can walk in Weardale.
So four of us, making use of our bus passes and thus making this a real gadgie walk, caught the bus but only as far as Wolsingham. (The settlement of Wulfsighe's people)
Strictly speaking three gadgies and Brian the punmeister's wife Margaret who qualifies as a gadgette.
                                                     Almost a car park, inspite of the yellow line.
                                                  Wolsingham. Number 10 is at the far end
                                                  of the street on the right.

 One of the glories of England is that we have weather, not a climate. Yesterday on Helvellyn we were wrapped up and protected from the wind. Today we are lightly dressed, likely to suffer sunburn and there is hardly a breath of breeze.
One of the glories of Wolsingham is the Number 10 café which is large and airy and serves good bacon sandwiches except they come only in bread. Nice though the wholemeal was, we prefer buns, four flitches only even though the service was first class.
The walk;
You could get away without a map but the walk is covered by OL31 North Pennines and Explorer 307, Consett and Derwent Reservoir. Number 10 is at GR 076372.
 Leaving the café we walked down the street towards the Bay Horse pub but turned left before reaching it.
On the right hand side of the road is a Holy Well and yards beyond it is a metal kissing gate that led us into fields.
                                              The Holy Well of Wolsingham.

 From the gate the path took us across several fields full of friendly lambs, curious cows and at least one totally disinterested bull. Eventually we saw Tunstall Reservoir and followed the path down towards the weir  at its southern end. Here the path, on the east bank of the reservoir took us through woods, wearing their fresh spring green coats, to a bridge at the north end which separated the reservoir from a small nature reserve. Although early it was such a pleasant spot we made a Herbie Spot there. No pies, no chocolate, no ginger biscuits, but some amazing sights. On the lake we saw a pair of Crested Grebes, one of them carrying two chicks on his or her back. Then an armada of Greylag Geese and their goslings paddled into view. A wonderful sight, adults shepherding the young, if that's the right word, perhaps it should be goosing. Several adults rode point, some rode at the front and some at the back. They went under the bridge and headed for a small spit of mud where all the birds scrambled ashore. I should send a photograph to the BBC Look North studio for the jolly Scot.
                                       The woodland walk alongside Tunstall Reservoir
                                                       The reservoir from the Herbie Spot
                                                       Come on kids, stick together
                                                       Tunstall Reservoir

Leaving the reservoir and the geese we took the footpath across several boggy fields to the north of Quarry Wood until we came to the track built on the old railway line. We turned left and walked along a good track  to Saltersgate Plantation. The plantation on the left, Drypry , has been recently cut down and is an expanse of stumps. On the right hand side is the site of what was probably a WWII ammunition dump, still surrounded by those ugly concrete posts familiar from childhood. A notice said Private Woodland Keep Out but we can't read. The dump appears now to be used as a cemetery for old coaches and trucks, it really could do with being tidied up. Eventually we came to the spot where two old railway lines meet. One the Waskerley Way which we have walked before. (See The Magical Waskerley Way)  We took the right fork and followed the track in the direction of Consett. This is a popular track for walkers and cyclists, it was my task to count the latter, Dave the former and Margaret was left counting dogs. There are problems with this. What if a cyclist passes and returns later. Is he counted twice? What about the man walking his bike, is he counted on both lists. And what about the one who was pushing his bike and had a dog on a lead? Life is difficult for philosophical gadgies.
We stopped for a brief rest near a place with the lovely name of Charlton Howl, had a snack and admired the view over to the equally well named Muggleswick. Shades of Harry Potter.
At Rowley the track crosses a road but it is well worth pointing out that the old Rowley Station was dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt at Beamish Outdoor Museum of Northern Life. Well worth a visit but take my advice and don't go in the first two weeks of July as it is crawling with school children out on a trip, complete with worksheets and  worried teachers. Not far from Rowley is a farm which has a small pond that is home to at least four black swans.
                                                    Poor picture, they are hiding in the shadow.
Continuing on our way the next point of interest is the viaduct over Hown's Gill. It is quite high and has been given a protective fence to deter would be jumpers.

                                          A view from Hownsgill viaduct.
    Soon we reached the spot where the Waskerley Way meets the railway walk from Lanchester.
The now familiar reminder of the days when Consett was an iron and steel town still stands rusting a short distance from a shiny work of art, a telescope.

                                                                        New, look at the feet
The walk really ends here as we were almost in Consett itself. Naturally we headed for the Wetherspoons pub which had some excellent Abbott at a mere £1.99 a pint. Nice glasses too.
 Refreshed we caught a bus to Newcastle and made our separate ways home.
Bird of the blog.
It was a good day for birds:Swallows, House Martins, Whitethroats, Chiff Chaffs, Willow Warblers, Moorhens, Heron,  Grebes, Chaffinches, Lapwings, Thrushes and Magpies. One gentleman we talked to had heard and seen a cuckoo but the birds of the blog must be the armada of Greylags and their goslings.

Matrix MMVI
                                                  steps                                        miles
Higear                                       18002                                       8.57                      poor
LIDL3D has been shot
Dave's LIDLUSB                      24210                                       12,22
LIDL3D                                     24649                                       11.35
OUTDOORGPS                                                                          11.2
Measured on map as                                                                     11








What a difference a year makes.....May 24th
A year ago, on May 23 2012 four of us walked the Lairig Ghru from the Linn of Dee to Coylumbridge on a hot dry day with a gentle breeze to keep us cool and an abundance of streams to keep us from dehydration, (See Three men and a lady). Today it is cold, wet and very windy.
There are seven gadgies out today; pm., vm., rm., hm.,mm., dm., and bm. .
The original plan was to walk up Helvellyn  (Old Celtic for "yellow Moor") from Glenridding, taking in Striding Edge and Swirral Edge but the collective wisdom of a septet of gadgies reasoned that, because of the weather, this could be a little dangerous and decided to attack the third highest point in England ( a massive 3113 feet or 950m if you must) by way of Grisdale.
To get to the start from Newcastle take the A69 west, M6 south to Penrith, follow the A66 for a short distance and turn south on the A592 along Ullswater until you reach Glenridding. As an alternative you can go via Alston and Hartside calling as we did at the Village Bakery in Melmerby where some of us indulged in A* bacon butties and some in healthy toast and honey, which they will return for.                                                                                                                                                      There is a large and well organised car park in Glenridding costing £7 (How much?) for a whole day but it does have toilets and an information office.

                                            The car park at Glenridding, it is classier than
                                         most and will appear in the chapter on Quality Car
                                         Parking in my forthcoming book.
The walk:
The walk is covered byOL 5, The English Lakes , North Eastern Area and the car park is at NY385169.

We left the car park past the information centre and turned right, crossing the Glenridding Beck and then turning right again past a row of small shops before leaving the village. The track becomes a footpath that leads uphill to Lanty's Tarn. This is not one of the many natural tarns in Lakeland but one created, presumably for Lanty, whoever he was. It was the home to three sad looking male Mallard ducks. Presumably the Mrs. Mallards were sitting on nests somewhere, or just sheltering from the rain and wind.

                                                                      Lanty's Tarn                                                                  After a stretch of woodland the path came out into Grisdale, one of those wide Lakeland valleys that supports small farms and tourists. At the fork in the path we took the left one to continue up Grisedale. The right one goes up to "The Hole in the Wall" which is at the eastern end of Striding Edge. This is a narrow ridge with steep drops on both sides. On a dry day it is quite safe, even for ageing  gadgies, you can stride the pinnacles or take the path a few yards below them. In icy, wet or windy conditions it can be dangerous, we stayed off it.

                                                     Small farm in Grisedale.

                                       Looking up Grisedale
                                           There were no stiles on this walk but this is a Kissing Gate
                                        They will have their own chapter in my book on stiles of northern England

                                       A Grisedale mini waterfall.

The wind was strong, even in the sheltered part of the valley and we made a Herbie Stop at Ruthwaite Lodge, a mountain hut maintained by the Outward Bound School. We sat on the leeward side and consumed the usual. The pork pie business is getting serious. it was suggested that Dave could quite easily knock a couple of days off  his life for our benefit, and anyway he has put  weight on since giving up the pie habit. So, sandwiches and chocolate, and Ben's delicious ginger biscuits.

                                                      Ruthwaite Lodge, a Herbie Spot

                                             Looking back down Grisedale.
Lunch over and back on our heads, we continued upwards against an increasingly strong wind until we reached Grisedale Tarn, a real one.

                                                       Grisedale Tarn, the wind whipped up a spray
                                          that was fascinating to watch.
At the tarn we turned north up the steep path to Dollywagon Pike. This path is well built with large stones and zig zags up the side of the hill. It is steep and the wind was no help, it was hard going, but near the summit the path levelled out, dipped and climbed again to Nethermost Pike before finally leading us to the shelter near the summit of Helvellyn. On the way we passed a small memorial to two men who had landed a plane on the mountain in December 1926, eaten pork pies probably and then taken off again for Essex.
There are normally sheep around the cross shaped shelter on the top of Helvellyn, begging for sandwiches and fruit, perhaps it was too windy even for them. As Dave remarked, watching seven men walking crablike against the wind must be quite a sight.

                                                      Striding Edge on a quiet day. It normally
                                                   has a steady stream of walkers of all ages.
                                                   Should you ever meet the routemeister, ask about
                                                   yellow shorts.

                                          Helvellyn shelter, all gadgies well wrapped up
Leaving the shelter and still battling like crabs against a strong wind we continued walking north until we came to Whiteside Bank where we took the path to the right which led downhill.
               Look carefully and you can just see a bit of Thirlmere in the centre about two thirds from the bottom, or one third from the top.
This path is a well made and maintained track, zigzagging down hill to the valley of the Glenridding Beck. It passes the what is now Greenside Youth Hostel and some other buildings which are centres for Arnold School in Blackpool. When I was a second row in the under sixteen's rugby team at school we played them. They won, the score was something like 56 to 3..

                                These buildings were part of the mines that extracted several
                              metals in the area during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
                              They are now outdoor centres and a Youth Hostel.
                                           More converted mine builldings.
Not far beyond the mines the path passes rows of what presumably were miners; cottages but are now rather smart looking holiday lets. More modern buildings and then back to the car park
One cottage had this brilliant Bill and Ben ornament in the garden. Not exactly Chelsea, better.
Rather than visit the local pub we decided to drive most of the way homebefore seeking refreshment and called at the Boathouse in Wylam, choosing from its range of fourteen beers. This pub is very popular for some reason and, not having a seat in the bar we went to the next room which was fine apart from the loud music. Having said that, Eddie Cochran was welcomed.

The Matrix MMDCVI
                                               steps                            miles

Higear                                   25611                             12.1
LIDL3D                                 15916                             7.16   it's going

Dave's LIDL3D                    17204                               7.9     a bit like mine
LIDLUSB                              27633                              11.77
OUTDOOR GPS                                                            11.4
Bragometer                                                                    11.4

Bird of the blog.
Not much out today, keeping out of the wind but we did see several ravens on the tops.
Photo Gallery:
I have added these two photographs taken by Harry the routemeister. He is an excellent photographer, not a snapper like me

                                          Approaching the summit of Helvellyn. Six gadgies
                                                   struggling against the wind

Striding Edge, looks harmless but can be tricky.
Photographs by kind permission of Harry Nagel

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Up on Skid Row..........May 17th.

The weatherman on the local TV station got it right, the west would be fine, the east could be wet, so we opted to drive over to the Lake District for a gadgie walk, specifically Skiddaw. (The name comes from Old Scandinavian and means the "overhanging hill".
 Skiddaw is geologically different from the rest of the Lakeland mountains because it is to the north of the A66. Geographers and geologers will also tell you that south of the A66 the mountains are volcanic but on the north side of the road Skiddaw and Blencathra are sedimentary layers of shales and slates.
To get to the start of the walk go west from Newcastle on the A69. For a bit of variety we turned off on the A686 just beyond Hexham and went on what is considered by many to be one of the finest scenic drives in Britain, through Alston, over Hartside (well worth stopping at the café on a clear day to admire the spectacular view) and through Melmerby to Penrith where we joined the A66 to Keswick. If you follow this route do not go into the town but continue to the roundabout, turn right on the road to Carlisle and watch out for the sign for Ormathwaite. Follow the road through the village and continue up a track until you reach a grassy parking area.
Actually we stopped in the village of Melmerby and went to the Café B in the Village Bakery where some of us were served with bacon sandwiches, some had toast and honey and one just tea. The bacon butties were of such high standard, as was the service, they were awarded  5 flitches +T and an A*  to boot. Very highly recommended.
There are five gadgies on parade today, pm., vm., rm., hm., and bm.. and we all squeezed into one car.

The walk;
It is an easy walk to follow but  OL4, The English Lakes North Western Area covers almost all the walk. The car park is at NY280254

                                        Appearing shortly in the "Ian Allen Car Park Spotters Book"
priced at 17/6 from all good bookshops this is the car park at the start of the walk. Note the number of tadpoles in the ditch on the north side, if it's tadpole season.

                                               Skiddaw, target for the day.
We went through the gate at the far end of the car park and turned left. Before us was the track that would lead us to the summit.   It is a well worn track, known as the Tourist Route, and was favoured in the nineteenth century when even ladies, attired in full skirts no doubt, would ascend the mountain on horseback, led by their man servant who also carried hampers of cold ham and refreshing lemonade.
It is a long steady and quite steep climb, initially up to Jenkin Hill and then on and up to Little Man, although before starting the climb to the latter there is an alternative route leading off to the right and signposted Skiddaw Summit. It doesn't cut much off. From Little Man the path goes downhill for a while before rising again to the plateau that is Skiddaw. The summit plateau itself is a little dull, there being little grass but plenty of shale and slate, but the views are superb.
                                 On the path to Little Man
                                                 Keswick and Derwentwater from Little Man
 To the south almost the whole of Lakeland is laid out before you, to the west the glow of Sellafield  and Bassenthwaite and on a clear day the Isle of Man, to the north the sweep of the Solway Firth and the hills of Galloway and  to the east is Blencathra.
                                       Bassenthwaite is home to a family of Ospreys
We stopped at the summit cairn for a Herbie Spot. Strictly speaking the cairn is just below the summit which, at 3054 feet is marked by a trig point. As an additional treat to the usual ginger biscuits and chocolate we had some of Mrs. A's delicious muesli biscuits, although Brian admitted they had had to leave out the cranberries
Lunch over we resumed our walk, heading north from the trig point, and downhill too until we found and followed a fence line, except we made a slight detour north and back to a cairn over looking the Solway Plain. Back to fence we descended to a pretty waterfall with a pretty name, Whitewater Dash.

                                              Whitewater Dash, not exactly Niagara, but nice.
From here there is another good track to follow over moorland to Skiddaw House, the highest and one of the more isolated Youth Hostels  in England (1555 feet). As members we considered having a cup of tea but decided against it. I think the sign saying "For a bed ring Carol" put us off, she didn't leave a number.
                                    Skiddaw House YH, a former shepherds  bothy. Only accessible by foot.
Leaving the hostel we continued along what is part of the Cumbrian Way. high above the Glenderaterra Beck. At one point there is a choice, take the left fork and the path leads to Threlkeld, turn right and the path goes back to the car park and this was the one we followed.
                                             Looking north above Glenderaterra Beck

The path turns west and crosses the Whit Beck before turning south again and leading back to the car park.

                                               Whit Beck, almost back at the car park.

Changed we headed for Threlkeld and called at the Horse and Farrier. This is a very popular pub but  caters mostly for diners late in the afternoon and early in the evening. There is no room to sit and enjoy your pint of Jennings Cumberland or English Pale Ale, but the service is excellent, friendly bar staff too. So friendly she said that for a quiet drink with a seat we should try the Sally across the road!
Another great Gadgie walk though, well fed and watered.

The Matrix MCMVIII

                                                                          steps                   miles

Reliable ASDAped                                          24017                    11.04
LIDL3D                                                                  16.. something wrong here
Dave's LIDL3D                                               24860                    11.43
Dave's LIDLUSB                                             24041                    10.24
OUTDOORS GPS                                                                          10.3
Brian's GPS                                                                                     10.4
Ben's bragometer                                                                             10.4
Not bad, apart from my LIDL3D.

                                   It's a map of two halves, Brian. I plotted the route on OUTDOORGPS before the walk the only change being the short black cut off north of Skiddaw.

Bird of the blog.
Not a lot to see, a raven or two, finches, sparrows warblers and the bird of the blog, the Wheatear. A summer visitor to Britain, its name mean White Arse, because of the patch on its rump. Great people the Saxons.

Friday, 10 May 2013

This time we made it, didn't we boys.  May10th

Today's gadgie walk is almost a repeat of  Almost the Bizzle September 28th 2012.
The fearless four who are out today, encouraged by a good weather report by the young lady on local TV are pm., vm., hm., and bm. and we are going to walk the Bizzle from Langleeford. A familiar starting point but to get there, A1 turn onto the A697 at Morpeth, drive into Wooler but take the first left (Cheviot Street, how appropriate), turn right at the first fork and continue to the sign saying "Langleeford 4", turn right , up the hill, down the hill and go as far as it is possible for the public. There is a grassy area on the left used as a car park.
A map is useful for this walk, and a compass.  OL16 The Cheviot Hills covers it all and the car park is at NT952223.

The walk:

Of course we stopped for breakfast; the Terrace Café  in Wooler, where we welcomed as old friends and as usual some ordered bacon butties and tea, some just tea. The butties were excellent as usual, copious amounts of tea, great value too. Five flitches +T.

                                          Yes, another car park, a future book perhaps?
Across the road from the car park is Hawson Burn, the start of the walk and we set off in fine weather up the side of this pretty valley. On previous walks we have seen Ring Ouzels, a member of the thrush family, and Adders warming themselves in the sun. Although fine it wasn't particularly sunny so we saw neither. The adders had obviously stayed in rather than go forth to multiply. I know a good mathematical joke about this, £5 and an SAE and it's yours. The path  is a good one for part of the way but then peters out to moorland. We crossed the stile at the fence line and followed a slightly muddy path downhill, through a short stretch of plantation  until we met a forest track and turned right. The track came to an end so we continued across fields high above the Lambden Burn until we came to Goldscleugh. (Probably Golda's settlement on a ravine). The path across the fields provides another Geography lesson; meanders slowly forming Ox Bow Lakes.
                                                   The Cheviot
                                                 College Valley, I think it is the most beautiful of the
                                                Cheviot Valleys.

                                                             Meandering stream.

                                       The farm at Goldscleugh.
At Goldscleugh farm we followed the tarmac road to the next settlement in the valley, Dunsdale.
This farmhouse is now a holiday let, a very peaceful place to stay I would think, and a good centre for walks. The outbuildings are still used by farmers and we made use of one as a Herbie Spot, the steadily increasing rain helped persuade us.

                    Farm building, erected as long ago as 2004 which provided shelter from the rain and a Herbie Spot.
 Dave still refuses to bring pork pies so we had to make do with the usual sandwiches, coffee, Ben's brilliant ginger biscuits and some ALDI chocolate.

                                        Still a few snow patches  at the head of the Bizzle in May.
Lunch over we set off for the hardest part of the walk, up the Bizzle, an elongated glacial corridor on the north side of the Cheviot. It was the last area to be covered by ice in England, some 11000 years ago the last of the glaciers melted, having carved out this steep valley and left rocky deposits in its path.
Brian, (pm) asked when the ice age ended, Dave, donning his geologist's hat told us again it would have been some 11000 years ago.
"Would that be the day that morraines came down?2 asked Brian. (You need to be a gadgie for that one)
The Bizzle is a narrow and very steep climb. The side og the stream that Ben, Brian and  I chose to follow, was grassy in places and quite slippy. It was hard work, constantly watching our feet, occasionally scrambling, but eventually we made our exit at the top. Dave chose the other side of the stream and had similar problems.
Looking up the Bizzle
 Almost at the top
                                                  Looking down
                                          The last snow in England 2013.
The photographs do not really show how steep this climb is but if you plan to follow the walk, prepare for a tiring day out. I was last to complete the ascent and very happy to join the other s at Bellyside Crag for a rest.
                                                Bellyside Crag, out of the wind, feet up, recovering.

 Having recovered somewhat we set a bearing of South South East for the Cheviot summit. The Cheviot Plateau is  covered with peat hags and Dougalls*, the summit is not visible from the Crag and the hags need to be crossed with care, they can be extremely boggy.
Soon the uninspiring summit marker came into view and we gratefully hit the flagstone path that has made this stretch of the Pennine Way passable turning left.
 Rising out of the peat hags, the summit trig point.

                                               Another one for the book
At the end of the flagged path we crossed the stile and headed downhill along a path that changes from moorland to scree for some way. At one point Dave and I spotted a line of shooting butts and decided to follow them downhill to the valley floor. Brian and Ben continued along to Scald Hill and down to the car park.
It was a steep descent along the line of butts and we joined the track just south west of a plantation at Langleeford Hope, another holiday let and the last building in the valley.

Langleeford Hope.

From here the track is strait forward, passing the farm at Langleeford  and arriving back at the car park.

                                          Langleeford farm
                                                      House Crags, high above the farm and looking
                                                   like a volcano.

 Changed we headed for the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge where we welcomed loke old friends, which we have become.
On offer were Timothy Taylor's Landlord, Directors and Bombardier. I chose Timothy Taylors, it was like nectar sipped as my father in law used to say.

The Matrix MMMCCVI

                                                                  steps                           miles
ASDAped                                                  23218                        10.67
LIDL3D                                                     28106                         12.77 ridiculous
Dave's LIDLUSB                                       22890                         10.1
LIDL3D                                                      17533                          8.09
Those LIDL 3Ds are going to have to go.
Sadly I had forgotten to charge mu OUTDOOR GPS so it died, as did Brians's GPS but Ben's said 10.1 and I measured it as 10 miles. But 10 very tough miles.

*Dougalls. Big tufts of grass named aftyer Dougall in The Magic Roundabout.


Bird of the blog
We saw wheatears and meadow pipits, a wren some chaffinches  and we also heard a cuckoo. But the bird of the blog, spotted very early on is a Red Legged Partridge.
                                                                Red Legged Partridge.

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