Friday, 30 May 2014

O sweet and lovely wall...............May 30
                                                       A Midsummer Night's Dream. William Shakespeare
Mikes World War One Walk.
                                        Brian Algar
                   The quote from the bard is spoken by Pyramus, one of the clowns in the play. In our school production I, as a skinny 15 year old played Francis Flute the bellows mender, aka Thisbe. I died well.
After the play Miss Buck our English teacher and play producer told us she had picked out the school eccentrics to play those parts. Was this a compliment I still ask?
   Today four of us, Ben, Brian,John and  I are going for a walk on Hadrian's Wall, that relic of the Roman rule of Britain that was built in 122AD and the following few years. We are starting from the car park at Steel Rigg. To get there from base take the A69 west, at some point turn north to find the B6318 known as the Military Road, continue west to Once Brewed Information Centre, YHA and pub. Turn right and after a half mile find the car park. It cost £4 for the day. A map could prove useful, OL43 Hadrian's Wall covers the walk and the car park is at GR751677. Of course there is a picture.
                                                        Steel Rigg car park, classy. You can 
                                                                  pay with a credit card. 
    Leaving the car park we turned right on the road and went downhill for a few hundred yards before turning right onto the marked footpath. The footpath is well signed, most of the way although at times it vanishes into the mud. The weather for the last few days has been extremely wet, the ruts made by tractors were full of water, the areas around field gates that always get churned up by the animals were worse than usual, definitely a day for gaiters. So much mud Brian decided it was the western front, without the horror and hence the title.
   But the mud fails to detract from the views. North over fields to plantations and gentle hills, Greenlee Lough, a nature reserve, Broomlee Lough, just a lough.  South to the Whin Sill that this section of the wall is built on.. Highfield Crags overlook Crag Lough, Hotbank Crag and the wonderfully named Cuddy's Crags. Just before this crag the footpath crosses the Pennine Way, the longest UK footpath that stretches from Derbyshire to just over the Scottish Border.
                                                      Crag Lough, the wall is on the ridge in the trees
                                       Brownlee Lough
                                    There are more sheep than people in Northumberland.
                                          These lambs are on an old limekiln, not the wall.
   At Sewingshields the path joins a metalled road that climbs for a few hundred yards to join the official, well marked Hadrian's Wall Path. Here we turned and headed east through a Sewingshields Wood behind the farm of the same name. (Sewingshields has nothing to do with stitching it comes from the Old English Sigewine's Shiels,and a shiel is a summer hut or shelter used by shepherds.)
    Through the wood we declared a Herbie Spot, sitting on the stones of the wall.
                                      Herbie Spot. Note that at his point the remains of the wall
                                       sit on a wide base. The wall is built in two widths in different 
                                        places.  I reckon the Romans ran short of cash here.
    Treats today included Cadburys Chocolate, Orange Golf biscuits, Ben's ginger biscuits and Mrs.A's Apple cake. Lunch break also allowed Brian to come out with a good if naughty pun.
"Which Dickens character painted with his willy? The Artful Todger of course"
As we ate we were passed by several groups of people who were doing the full length of the wall, about 86 miles, not in one day of course. Two of these were an American father and son partnership, Little John and Big John. They came from Kansas and, as Ben said, were probably tired of following the yellow brick road. They were impressed with the section of the wall we were on which is, I think, the best stretch.
                                           Big John and Little John from Kansas.
  On the wall again we soon came to Vercovicium Fort, usually called Housesteads and one of the best sites on the wall. We didn't go in, been there, done that.

                                      Two views of the wall
                           A join, where sections built by two gangs join. This is not the
                            real height of the wall, it was more like nine feet.
               Beyond Housesteads the wall follows a roller coaster path as it goes along the ridge of the Whin Sill. My favourite bit is Highshield Crag where the wall is high above Crag Lough.
                               Crag Lough. The path is in the trees above the lough.
Near here we spotted the latest  wheeze from Michael Gough, the Minister of State for Education:
                                        Leave your computers kids, get out there and do something.
And beyond the Lough we came at last to the sacred sycamore that appeared in the film " Robin Hood , Prince of Thieves"
                                                 Kev's tree from the south,,,,,,

                                                        ....and the north.
                                                  I've seen this tree from both sides now,
                                                 From North and South, but still somehow
                                                 I can't see Kevin or Robin anyhow.

                                            The Pennine Way crosses the wall
                                              Remains of a milecastle
                 There are three climbers on this crag Can you spot them?

                           An over designed gate fastening. What's wrong with a chain and hook?
   Not far from this gate we were back at the car park just in time to meet more Americans. I asked one if he was going far and got the direct answer, "Nope" That was it, one word, nothing more, most walkers stop to chat, like the couple who were walking to the tree because they got engaged there 11 years ago! Sweet.
Debooted we headed for Wylam and the Boathouse pub which boasts 14 hand pulled beers and several others too.
                                    The Boathouse.

The Matrix MMXIVR
                                                        steps                                 miles

LIDL3D                                             23015                              10.35
No Dave today
My GPS                                                                                     9.7
Brian's GPS                                                                                9.65
Ben's bragometer                                                                         9.7

Good results.

               Contains OS Data copyright. Crown Copyright database-right 2014

Total gadgie distance 230 miles

Friday, 23 May 2014

A Ramble from Amble..............May 23rd
  We have been promised another wet spring day in the north of England so the five of us who are out today have opted for a real gadgie walk, by bus.
Harry, Ben, Dave, Brian and I met on the Haymarket Bus Station in Newcastle to catch the 10.03 am X18 to Amble, one and a half hours up the coast. This bus station is particularly liked by ladies as it has two doors that lead directly from the bus concourse into Marks and Spencers.
The bus journey is not too painful, it calls in at Morpeth, goes very near to HM Prison Northumberland and should you wish to will take you all the way to Berwick, but we got off at Amble.
                                        No car park this week, you get Morpeth bus station instead.
Amble advertises itself as "Northumberland's Frendliest Port". Its name is an abbreviation of Annabelles Bill, a promontory 0n the south side of the river Coquet which empties into the North Sea here.
  Not stopping for any refreshment in the town we headed for the dunes on the south side of the harbour and started our damp walk.
                                              Eider a duck or a drake, Ben the RSPB member would know.

 Up river from the harbour is Warkworth Castle, one of the Percy's piles

                            Coquet Isle at the mouth of the river has a small colony of Roseate Terns
  Not far from the shore are groups of rocks, Silver Carrs and Bondi Carrs. Carrs in this case means rocks but it can also mean marsh, but obviously not here. On the landward side at this point is Low Hauxley nature reserve. (Hauxley, the place where men nicknamed Hawk live. Sometimes I think they make them up)  Ponds filled from old coal workings have been converted into a bird sanctuary. There are a number of hides so we headed to one for two reasons. It was raining and it was Herbie time. This week's treats included ginger biscuits from Ben, Mr. Kipling's banoffee slices and, a special treat, Eccles Cakes. We shared the hide, but not the food with a couple of professional birders. He was wearing full army camouflage kit and had an expensive looking huge lens on his camera, also camouflaged. They both had powerful scopes; as Brian observed, "Sure puts your pocket binoculars in the shade."
                                                      Part of the reserve
                                           Best my pocket camera could do; Canada Geese.

                                                    One of the hides.
Lunch and rain over we continued on our way south down the coast, calling in at the Druridge Bay Nature Park to watch swifts skimming the water and other birds.
The centre had a high rise bat box colony.

Bat boxes. (The entrance is the slit under the base)
Back on the dunes road we saw a couple of Highland Beasts, a bit out of place, ready salted beef perhaps.
                                           A fine, and not so wee beastie.
                             A rather unhappy looking Jacob's sheep.
We wandered up a lane to another pond, surrounded by reeds, hoping to spot a Marsh Harrier but they were staying in, too wet. Turning right up a lane which had been converted into a 500 yard midden we passed the ruins of Low Chibburn, The Preceptory of St John of Jerusalem, first mentioned in 1313, now a few high walls.

                                                      Chibburn Preceptory, and guardians.
The village of Widdrington is at the top of the lane, we had half an hour to wait for the bus so we popped in to the Plough for a pint of Theakstones Lighthfoot, light in colour and light in taste.  The X18 took us home in the increasingly heavy rain.
A list of birds, but not necessarily all that were seen.
Eider, Sedge warbler, reed warbler, Canada Geese, Greylag geese, Stonechat, Sand Martin, House Martin, Swallow, Swift, Swans, Fulmars,, Blackheaded gulls, Common Tern, Herons, Oyster catchers, Whitethroat, Linnets, Lapwings, Tufted Duck, Sheld Duck and the possibility of a cross between a goose and a swan or maybe even it wqas a swan goose. This bird, native to the far east of Asia has been seen on several occasions in Britain.
                                                           A swan goose

The Matrix  MMXIVQ
                                                                    steps                                          miles
LIDL3D                                                        20883                                       9.4
Dave's 3D                                                     20310                                      10.38
Dave'sUSB                                                    19881                                      9.96

GPS                                                                                                               9.5
Brian's GPS                                                                                                   9.8

Total gadgie distance 220


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

There's a couple of puns...................May16
  I was unable to join the team on Friday as we had my mother staying. An amazing woman, approaching 99 and qualifying almost as a pinball wizard, I felt i had to stay with her for the day. Anyway she doesn't like the Cheviot, too muddy. Several other gadgies were also missing but the remaining three stalwarts did a favourite gadgie walk from Langleeford to Auchape Cairn, Cheviot summit and back, first blogged in September 2011.
Brian sent me his report.....
The Cheviot 2676ft (815m)

Today’s walk is the ever popular route from Langleeford to Dunsdale, into the College Valley, up onto Auchope Cairn, Cheviot and back down to Langleeford.

There are only three gadgies out today – Harry, Ben and Brian – but don’t worry, the others are well but engaged in other activties.  A suggested 8:30 start allowed time to visit the Terrace Café in Wooler (other cafés are available) for early morning refreshments.   As usual we got a  warm welcome, good tea and for some, well one actually, a bacon roll.

We started from Langleeford in warm sunshine but it was a bit breezier than suggested from the weather forecast. The route takes us up Hawsen Burn to cross in the gap between Broadhope Hill and Scald Hill then to drop down to Goldscleugh and on to Dunsdale.  Harry and Ben spotted a small adder sunning itself on the tarmac road.

The wall at Dunsdale has “Herbiespot – Please Use” written on it, so we duly obliged.  As there were only 3 gadgies it was a dieter’s lunch with Ben’s ginger biscuits and Mrs A’s fruit cake (finally eaten after having travelled all the way to Gran Canaria and back).  Harry thought one of the two nearby trees was a pear tree but it was decided that they both were!!

Setting off after lunch we moved into the College valley not far from Mounthooly then south and up onto the ridge close to the mountain refuge hut.  The climb up to the two prominent cairns of Auchope Cairn  is steep but steady and the reward is tremendous views north south and west.

The path beyond Auchope Cairn to Cheviot used to start initially with welcome duckboard but this has been replaced by even more welcome stone slab (apart from 100 metres or so) meaning you can now walk all the way to the summit  without getting your boots dirty, which is what we did.

Cheviot summit (2676ft) boasts a trig point standing proudly on a column of breeze blocks – gale blocks would be a more appropriate name as it is rarely calm at Northumberland’s highest point.

The way down from the summit is steep and very badly eroded.  I’m not sure what the path makers can do about this but I’m certain it would take many thousands of pounds to get to grips with it.  However from Scald Hill it is a very pleasant descent back to the car.

Thoughts then turned to beer and the welcome bosom of the Anglers Arms.  We had the choice of Old Speckled Hen, Bombardier and one other.


The Benometer                                13.0 miles
Brian’s GPS                         12.9 miles

Harry’s Thumb                  12.0 miles*

I love this walk and wish I had been on it but mums are mums and have to be obeyed even when you are 70.
*Harry's thumb is an engineers thumb and is very good at map measuring.

Picture Gallery
The photos of the walk were taken by Harry who is an excellent, prize winning  photographer, not just a snapper like what I am.
                                                       A car park! Thanks Harry
                                                        Hawsen Burn
                                         Brian rests his butt
                                                        Dunsdale, the Herbie Spot
                                                      College Valley
                                                        Auchope Cairn
                                                                           On Cheviot Plateau
                                           The flagged path on Cheviot
                                                                 Goingt down to Langleefored

To increase your enjoyment of the adventures of all the gadgies I have incorporated a blog from my daughter. 

The devil is in the detail

My dad was born 70 years ago to the day, narrowly missing out on having the enviable birthdate of 4/4/44.

I made him a two tier birthday cake of chocolate sponge and fruit cake and modelled him out walking. He goes on a long walk with his fellow gadgies every Friday (gadgie is a north east word for old fella) and writes a very informative blog on each route. If you're looking for a well-mapped walk in the north of England with interesting detail on flora & fauna, archaeological sites, place name derivations, where to get a good bacon butty, a terrible pun and invariably a photo of a carpark, I urge you to visit it. Don't expect to find short, easy walks though - the gadgies are fit as lops.

But look at the detail! This gadgie might colour co-ordinate with the cake, but not in any sartorial sense. You can almost hear my mum saying "Michael! Grey jumper? Green trousers? Brown boots? These don't match". I swear he does it to annoy her. Also I know he is colour blind

Next up - a stile in the middle of a dry stone wall. My dad often photographs unusual stiles and promises to publish a pamphlet entitled "Stiles and Gates of Northumberland and Cumbria". Retirement, eh? I can't wait.

The sheep - there is an ongoing joke about sheep and his fellow gadgie Harry. I don't want to know. The pork pie is the symbol of the Gadgies with the Latin motto "Rarely overtaken, always drunk". The Friday walks are one of the few occasions my poor father gets to eat meat, having lived nearly all his adult life with killjoy vegetarians.

The rabbit. My dad has no interest in rabbits, I just put one on the cake because it's nearly Easter and I think they're cute. One of our habits used to be counting all the rabbits outside the library on the walk into town (record was 13). However they all mysteriously disappeared one night and Newcastle City Council have not responded to my enquiries.

I hope he enjoys his cake - just a few minutes left of 5 April to wish my dad a very happy birthday! xxx