Saturday, 27 September 2014

Seven go off to Russell's Cairn.  Sept 26th.
  The holiday season is just about over, Autumn approaches and it is time for gadgies to resume their normal Friday activities, which means that today we are back in the Cheviots, walking to Windy Gyle from Blindburn in the Coquet Valley.
To get to the start, A1 north, turn left at Morpeth on the A697, follow the diversion signs for Rothbury and stop at Tomlinsons Cafe and Bunkhouse for a fortifying bacon sandwich and tea. Continue through Rothbury, turn right on the minor road for Alwinton and drive past the farm at Barrowburn until you come to a small car park on the right hand side at the point where the Rowhope Burn joins the Coquet.
The map to use is the OS OL 16, "The Cheviot Hills" and the car park is at NT 859114.

There are seven of us out today, the usual crew of Harry, Dave, Brian, Ben and me having been joined by Ray, who has not been seen for a while, and John Clarke, qualified gadgie, who has managed to escape the duties of grandparenting for the day.

                                       Suited and booted in the car park on a beautiful day.
The path starts on the south side of the Rowhope Burn and soon climbs up a grassy hill over Hindside Knowe, goes alongside Swineside Law and over Black Braes. The scenery, as always, is magnificent, especially on a day like this, almost cloudless but with a stiff breeze from the west.

                                           Two views of the Cheviots on a bright late September day.
Just beyond the Black Braes the grassy trail continues but we turned down a path heading east towards the target. However it was agreed that in the first dip, just low enough to be out of the wind, we should declare a Herbie Spot. Close by was a small herd of the  feral Cheviot goats, five of them.
As a treat for the day Dave had weakened and brought along some mini pork pies which went down well with some of us, Ben had ginger biscuits and I had my Czech chocolate.

                                                  Still life with bins, sandwich and pies
                                       Only two Billy goats gruff, maybe the troll had struck
Lunch over we continued the steady climb to Windy Gyle and Russell's Cairn where we stopped to admire the views; north into Scotland East to the sea and south to Simonside, west to more Cheviots.
Russell's cairn is so named because either it was named for Sir John Russell by the king of Scotland in 1252 or it was named for the murdered Francis Russell in 1585.
At the cairn we chatted to a couple from Wales who were enjoying their first trip to Northumberland (or Scotland at this point) and thought it was absolutely awesome and beautiful. How right they are.

                                                A couple of young lads had cycled up,
                                               Harry admires their kit.
                                                      Russell's Cairn and trig point.
We went through the gate south of the cairn and turned left to follow the path that runs alongside the border fence to the gate that could have been a border crossing point if the Scots had voted Yes.
                                              The gateway to Scotland.
Here we followed the path south east before turning south and walking between two plantations on the west side of Hazely Law. The path met the road to Uswayford Farm but we turned right and followed the road  south west to Trows and Rowhope before arriving back at the car park. Unfortunately, somewhere along the road Brian twisted his ankle. Fortunately a soldier was in the area with his Land Rover and very kindly took the hobbling Brian back to the car.
 We changed and headed for our favourite watering hole, the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge. Dawn the manageress saw the hobbling Brian and immediately offered to make up an ice pack from the cubes on the bar. Neatly wrapped in a tea towel they gave some relief. But what service! How many other pubs would offer no more than sympathy. The beers on offer were Speckled Hen, Pedigree or Theakstons Bitter, all well kept of course.
Over re-hydrating we discussed the next AGM, which will be held in the Anglers of course. I remarked that the pub had a good website with lots of information on accommodation, menus etc.. Brian suggested we go instead to the Duck and Spider as that pub had a really great website. Obviously not in too much pain.
A great walk on a beautiful sunny day, give it a try.

The Matrix   MMXIV  P

                                                     steps                                    miles
LIDL 3D                                    24812                                    11.4
ASDA PED                                15652                                     7.35    rubbish
Dave's 3D                                   23780                                   11.63
Dave's USB                                23310                                   11.4
GPS                                                                                          10.96
John Clarks GPS                                                                       11.1
Brian's GPS                                                                               9.75 before he got a lift.

Gadgie distance 330


                                                 The track through Trows Plantation

Contains OS Data, copyright. Crown Copyright and data base right 2014.

An few exras photos from Harry:
                                         The author, having ascended Russell's Cairn
     My wife says I look like a farmer. I don't know whether it is a compliment or not
                           Ray         Brian             John C     Moi     Ben                  Dave
(Photos by kind permission of Harry Nagel who isn't on it because he took it)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Walking with the Gadgette. Volume IV***
  On Friday September 12th, and 19th, I missed out on Gadgie walks to take my wife of 45 years on holiday to the beautiful Atlantic island of Madeira, again. We like it.
The holiday got off to a great start, we loaded on time, fastened belts, listened to the lady, and then   the pilot announced there was a problem with the navigational computer which needed fixing. Fair enough, don't want to end up in the wrong place. An engineer ran up and down steps looking at the underside of the plane and then announced all was well so off we went, an hour late. But we arrived, he knew what he was doing, pointed it in the right direction.

Having written in praise of the beauty of Bohemia, the historic sites of Northumbria and the neolithic tombs of Orkney it is now the turn of Madeira to get a free plug.

Several hundred miles from Africa and four hours flying from Newcastle, Madeira is a gem set in a sometime silver sea. As on the last two visits we stayed at the Pestana Promenade a few miles west of the centre of Funchal, island capital and second largest city in Portugal.
                                                   Pestana Promenade Hotel
                                            Early morning at the pool, not a towel in sight.

The gadgette is not a dedicated walker of hills so mostly our strolls were on fairly level surfaces. Like an elderly couple should, and accompanied by friends John and Evelyn who were in a different hotel, we strolled the promenade west of Funchal, stopping for tea and scones at the Magic Tea Shop. Refreshment over we continued in the same direction, passing the statue of Zarco, discoverer of the island (Although it was known to the Romans), down a slope towards a tunnel cut from the rock at Praia Formosa.
                                                  Is America that way? Zarco looks out.
                                                 Possibly the highest cliffs in Europe,
                                                   if Madeira is in Europe
                                                  Sea cave  near Praia Formosa
                                                                   Yogurt eating lizards                                                                           Inside the tunnel large openings gave a good view of a sea cave.                                                      Exiting the tunnel (how modern!) we continued along a board walk that saved us from ankle breaking pebbles on the beach. I spotted  something on the shingle that appeared to be covered by a blanket and was being watched, nonchalantly, by two policemen. It was a body, badly covered by the blanket so it was possible to see a man's stomach and arm. One of the policemen walked away and returned with a lady wearing a summery dress. She looked at the body, seemed uninterested, muttered something and went away. Maybe she was a doctor, confirming the deceased really was. (Turned out to be a Russian holidaymaker, what a sad way to end your trip) We walked on for a while and then turned for home pausing on the way for a rest and to admire the activities of the local lizards as they went for the remains of a tub of yoghurt.

That night we had little sleep. Not that we were worrying about the body on the beach. The Naval Club were holding a party and their headquarters were nearby. Apparently the yacht race from the Canaries to Madeira had ended that day and awards were being given out. The party continued until 5.30 am.
                                                        Yachts in the offing

As has been mentioned in previous blogs, Madeira is famous for its levadas, irrigation channels built to bring water from the high centre to the lower agricultural area. They are also popular for walks which can be easy as they almost contour, but can be extremely exposed or go through narrow low tunnels. We chose a section of the Levada des Tornos which is easily reached from Funchal. ( Take the bus to Monte or Babosa). It has a rather scary bit on it (See "Walking with the Gadgette") with exposed stretches a good couple of hundred feet above the next bit of ground so I carefully avoided this stretch, not wishing to end up in a divorce court, and we walked for several miles through dappled woodland, admiring a distant Buzzard who was probably out hunting lizards. After about six miles of easy walking we caught a bus back to Funchal.
                                                          Approaching the levada.
                                                           An easy walk
                                                   and very pretty
                                                 Cairns along the way

                                              Tree in the way? Simple solution
A second levada walk from Funchal turned out as a bit of a disaster, a certain member of the party finding the high temperature a bit too much, so we retired to an ice cream shop.

I'm a sucker for questionnaires; as we walked along the promenade one morning we were stopped by three students from the university, studying Travel and Tourism. (Do we need any more?) They asked us about the levadas, did we know of them, did we walk them, what safety precautions did we take and what was the emergency number? 112 I answered, they were surprised but pleased. The gadgette added that I only knew because she had told me last night.

Most evenings about 5pm I entertained myself with a sauna, followed by a steam room followed by the monster back pummelling jacuzzi and a dip in the indoor pool which was warm enough to broil a chicken. Usually the sauna was occupied by Germans, Russians and Boltonians. One afternoon there was a Hungarian who kept saying "Wembley 1953, Hungary 6 England 3, Puskas!" I asked him if Hungary had made it to the World Cup, he muttered something in Hungarian.

One evening we went for a meal in Moynihans Irish pub. (Wherever you go your bound to find an Irish pub).  The other reason for visiting was their pub quiz. As a pub quiz writer myself it was a busman's holiday but we were dreadful, scoring a mere 70 % and coming fifth. We don't know enough about celebrities.

There are several gardens in Funchal open to the public; Monte, the Orchid Garden and The Botanical Gardens. We opted for the latter and caught a bus to the entrance. A word of warning; the buses on Madeira are not for the faint hearted. The streets of Funchal and the rest of the island, are narrow and very steep. The drivers have degrees in negotiating extremely tight bends, missing walls by centimetres and generally causing heart attacks for tourists. The locals are obviously used to it and chatter away without holding on for dear life. As an alternative you can take the cable car to Monte, walk to Babosa and take another cable car to the garden. The gadgette prefers hairy bus journeys to terrifying cars swaying hundreds of feet above the banana trees.
 The gardens are truly beautiful. Plants from all over the world grow in the mild Madeiran climate. There are flowers to admire, patterns laid out to view, cacti to make an Apache feel at home. Here are a few:

You might have noticed the gadgette and I love this little island although on this occasion we did stay around the city.
Back to gadgiedom next week!
Gloria Raven. If you read this rubbish just to let you know:
The Old Bewick you write about is covered in "Troublesome Wind August 2011"
Most of Northumberland's mines were in the south east of the county but there were smaller pits  throughout. Mining near Old Bewick and Edlingham ceased at the back end of the 19th century.
For more information try  which is a mining museum in Ashington and also the county archive is kept there. Another good site for mining is the Durham Mining Museum,   which covers pits all over the north not just County Durham.
Thanks for writing anyway, glad somebody reads it! (Apart from Anonymous and I know who she is)

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Old Men of Orkney...................or five go off to five islands...................................September
 After the success of last years trip to the Orkney Islands we decided to make a return visit. On Saturday August 30th five gadgies (Ben, Dave, Harry, John and me) squeezed into a Ford Mondeo and left Newcastle for Scrabster on the north coast of Scotland. Rather than stay in the YHA at Kirkwall we rented a holiday cottage named Loretto, in Stromness. Leaving home about 9 am we arrived at the ferry sometime after 5pm and after a crossing of one and a half hours docked in Stromness. Limited space in the boot (one rucsac, one small bag and one boot bag each) meant our first call was at the Co op supermarket to load up with essentials for the next few days.
Once settled in to the cottage, which had four bedrooms we headed for the bright lights and enjoyed a couple of pints, one in the Ferry Inn and one in the Royal Hotel.

                                                Loretto, rented from Mary and George, 
                                                  teacher and dry stone waller respectively
                                                 and poker players on Thursday.
Sunday, August 31st.
Although we did not have tickets for the ferry to Rousay we took the chance of getting on without booking and arrived at Tingwall in good time.
Sure beats the jolly jock on Look North
                                                                                 Fortunately there was car space on the small ferry to the pier near Trumland so we took it. From the landing stage we drove to Westness, walked down towards the sea across a few fields on the Heritage trail until we reached the settlements and old church of St. Mary's.

                   Church, information and a ruined broch
A little further on, in what at first appeared to be a farm building, we came to the Burial Mound at Midhowe. Protected by a modern building this is certainly the best burial mound I have ever seen, not that I've seen too many. Sectioned off into stalls it apparently contained a fair number of skeletons when first opened.
Midhowe burial mound, divided into stalls and about 5000 years old. Like the pyramids!
There was a broch too. Sitting by the ancient ruins we declared the day's Herbie Spot. After lunch we returned to the car and drove all the way round the island before visiting two burial mounds, The first at Taversoe Tuick was a special, a double decker, room on both floors for a good number of neoliths who had passed on to the great stone yard in the sky.

Entrance to the lower level at Taversoe Tuick. Of course the ladder is modern, the grave is stone age.

Black Hammer burial mound, with stalls
The Rousay ferry.
Back on the Mainland we headed to the chip shop for a fish supper. 
We had wandered about five miles and not surprisingly the bird watchers had had a good day:
Hen Harrier, Fulmar, Buzzard, Redshank, Gannet, Turnstone, Hooded Crow and Lapwings, plus LBJs.

Monday September 1st.
Breakfasted, healthily I might add, on cereal and fruit, toast and tea, we headed for the island capital, bustling Kirkwall to book ferries for several of the days to come. (Scotland is very generous to gadgies, fares are low for folks and the car was reasonable too.)
Booking complete we headed for the Broch of Gurness, which had been visible across the water from Midhowe. Disappointingly for Yorkshire folk there was a charge to see this one. Had we waited a few minutes we could have sneaked in like an American did because the warden cycled off for his lunch, but gadgies are honest. 
A well preserved broch it was and we got our money's worth, declaring it a Herbie Spot too. dining with the spirits of long gone bronze age warriors.

                                                 Gurness Broch. The stones before the wall
                                             are the remains of houses, similar to Skara Brae.

                                     Neolithic Harry contemplates his domain.
Broching over we drove north to the Earl's Palace at Birsay. Built by an illegitimate son of JamesV of Scotland the ruins are quite impressive.
                                                   The Earl's Palace, impressive but
                                                so is this real tractor.
                                             Somewhere here is a seal
View of distant Marwick Head.
As the tide was in it was not possible to walk the causeway to Brough Head so we walked the cliff tops towards Marwick before turning and returning.    
Adding to yesterday's list the ornitholos watched Tysties(Local for Black Guillemot), Banxies(Arctic Skuas), House Martins Little Ringed Plovers and a Raven.
Back at the ranch we dined well on Harry's pasta.

Tuesday September 2nd.
Ferry from Houton to Lyness. We drove north to Rackwick and followed the well maintained path to see the Old Man of Hoy, that famous stack 450 feet high (137 metres to the rest of the world) first climbed in 1967 and shown live on television. I found it quite frightening just looking at it.
Sadly the walk was ruined by trillions of midges, ( but that's Scotland this time of year).
                                         Thought you might get away with it? No chance.
                                          This is the car park at Rackwick.
 And this is the view looking south from Rackwick, looks like a ship coming round there.
                           And this is the famous Old Man of Hoy, all 450 feet of it.
Herbieing in the car park after a 6 mile walk, but hurrying because of the midges, we then left to see the Dwarfie Stane, a large slab of rock in the middle of nowhere which had at one point 5000 years ago been hollowed out to act as a burial mound. Easier to build one I would have thought.
                                                The Dwarfie Stane of Hoy
The squiggle bottom right was written in the tomb by a pretentious Victorian who found patience here. He wrote his name in Latin too, Biggus Dickus.
Outstaned we headed for Lyraway, a viewpoint overlooking Scapa Flow. The flow was used by the Navy in both world wars,the German fleet was self scuttled in 1919,  HMS Royal Oak was sunk in 1940 by a U-boat that sneaked in before the Churchill Barriers were built.
Having admired the view we went to the Lyness Naval Museum, the remains of the once vast base that serviced ships in both wars. Very interesting but we were short of time, must return.
                                                  One of several guns at Lyness
This memorial is quite recent. Behind it were the flags of the UK and Russia although I thought it should have been the flag of the USSR. I also think there is a spelling mistake in the Russian inscription. Any Russian, or other, who agrees could let me know. We all agreed ours is the luckiest generation.
From the ferry deck on the journey back to the Mainland we saw porpoises, more of the same birds as yesterday, and a heron which, of course, has special significance for gadgie days out. On the way home we stopped in Orphir to see a heritage centre, medieval church and graveyard.
Dinner in the pub.

Wednesday September 3rd.
Another ferry trip, this time to Westray from Kirkwall, a journey that took an hour and a half,and we caught it at 7am.
Westray was closed at 8.30 am and we could have murdered for a cup of tea. We drove to Noltland Castle, built in the late 16th century by Gilbert Balfour, one of Mary Queen of Scots advisers. Great castle too, lots of holes at all levels for shooting anyone coming too close without permission. It also had a fine spiral staircase although a bit of it was concrete.
From the castle we walked to Noltland Links which has a golf course, and a prehistoric site that looks as if it could be bigger than Skara Brae when it is fully excavated. An archaeologist working on the site gave us a tour of what has been recovered so far. I think Dave, our pet archaeologist could have stayed, but we walked on and returned to the castle for a Herbie.
 The heritage centre had a display for WWI and some stone from the Noltland site, plus the Westray Wife, a small piece of carved stone representing a female and considered to be some thousands of years old, also from the Noltland site. (Apparently Noltland refers to cattle in Viking).
To finish the day we went to the Cross Kirk  Medieval Parish Church, ruined of course, followed by a stroll along cliff tops  at the Castle of Burrian. Not a puffin in sight.
                                            Noltland Castle, Balfours are still in the building trade.
                                                   Cross Kirk Parish Church
                                           Near Castle o' Burrian. A whole geography lesson. It is really a stack.

Thursday September 4th.
A day on the mainland. We returned to the Earl's Palace at Birsay and walked across the causeway to Brough Head which has the remains of a Viking settlement, and a lighthouse by the Stevenson family. They built most of the lighthouses in Scotland and produced a good writer too.
                                                            Decorated by Stevensons, now automatic and sun powered.
                                              Brough Head Viking Settlement. 
After walking back across the causeway we drove to Marwick  and walked the cliff tops to the Kitchener Memorial. Lord Kitchener was sailing to Russia in 1916 for tea with Nicholas and hoping to encourage him and his army to try a bit harder when HMS Hampshire hit a mine and sank with the loss of nearly all the crew, and the Earl. The grateful islanders built a large memorial......


                                                        Plaque on the Kitchener Memorial
                                             The Kitchener Memorial, and Ben
                                                    Is this deceased creature the fabled Orkney Vole?
                                                   Answers please.
Back in Stromness we visited the Battery, a wartime base that has been converted to a museum. Unfortunately it was closed!
Back at Loretto we had another of Harry's Pasta dinners, and very good it was too.
Total walking for the day about 7 miles.

Friday September 4th.
Another ferry, this this time to the pretty island of Eday. The journey from Kirkwall took about an hour and a half.  I talked to a young lady on the voyage and discovered she had been to University with a girl I taught some twenty years ago! Small world, and both doctors, good things come from Blyth.
We followed a heritage walk at the north end of the island which, surprisingly, included several burial mounds and a standing stone. One of them, Braeside was a double decker, but without access. But Huntersquoy was big enough for us all to fit in.
                                                               The Stone of Setter on Eday
                                              Shadow over Huntersquoy
                                                       Inside Huntersquoy
 We walked past another Stevenson lighthouse and back to the car which was parked at Mill Loch, a smallish stretch of water which supports red throated divers, but not today.
After visiting another heritage centre (with a WWI display) we drove  to the Bay of Greentoft and walked round War Ness through miles of Lauder Grass before returning to the ferry jetty and sailing home. It was Friday and a number of children were on the ferry from Kirkwall where they board during the week at school and come home to the islands for the weekend.
Back in Stromness we went to the Ferry Inn for fish and chips, and beer.

Saturday September 6th.
We caught the ferry to Scrabster and drove the 370 miles back home after a good week away.
A few more pictures:
                                                       Cut away of the Midhowe Broch
                                                    The Earl's Palace, Birsay
                                                          Figures in a seascape at Marwick
                                            Aboard the ferry
                                          Lyness, the tank holds part of the museum
                                               On the cliffs near the Old Man of Hoy
                                                     Arctic Convoy Memorial
                                                    Anchors Awestray
                                                  Whale skeleton, Westray
                                               There are many cattle on Orkney, mainly for beef

                                                 Is it a bird, is it a plane?

See also, Tomb Raiders, The Orkneying Saga August 2013 for more about Orkney