Saturday, 13 December 2014

Back on the road again after a few weeks off because of family commitments I rejoined the team for a gentle walk along the River Wansbeck, a name that possibly comes from Low German for a wagon brushwood causeway (waegn-spic) but this is not certain.
There are six gadgies out today, Brian, Dave, John H, Ben, welcome invitee Geordie Bob and me. The original plan was to catch a bus from Newcastle to Sheepwash (see title, and it means sheepwash) and walk along the river path to Newbiggin (see title and it means new building).
So we met on the Haymarket Bus Station for a change and caught the X22 to Guide Post (yes it means guide post).

                                      Haymarket bus station. A great improvement on the cattle pens that existed                                                when I arrived in Newcastle in 1964
We alighted (apparently Americans do not use this word, they "exit the bus")  from the vehicle at the big roundabout at Guide Post and pondered the route.
Should you want to follow this walk you need OS OL 325 Morpeth and the rounabout is at NZ253848.
We headed west along the A196 road and after about a mile, just past a very imposing 18th C farmhouse on the north side of the road followed the signpost that told us Bothal was 3/4 of a mile away. We walked alongside a field down a wooded lane where Dave spotted a nuthatch, along paths that were declared private yet seemed open to the public, across a narrow suspension footbridge that swayed pleasantly and came to Bothal Castle, a building going back to the fourteenth century. Near to it is St. Andrew's Church, dating back to the 14th century too.
                       Bothal Castle  and belted galloways(bottom right) enjoying the sun before becoming pies and things
Having admired the castle and the animals we walked roughly north through the tiny village and up the hill. By the first bend we found another Private Property WE Co Ltd sign by a gate and fortunately a public footpath sign next to it. We followed the sign through a short stretch of wood and then diagonally across two fields sprouting winter wheat. The footpaths go across the fields rather than round the edges. Ancient routes perhaps safeguarded by the might of English Heritage or someone. Having crossed two fields and skirted a pond we found the track that led downhill to the bridge at Sheepwash, easily recognised because it has traffic lights.
The entrance to Wansbeck Riverside Park is on the left, no need to cross the bridge. The next stretch of the walk follows the river bank for well over two miles and is very pleasant. Wooded at first then opening into a wide flat valley crossed by several road and rail bridges.
Not far into the park, near a childrens' play area and picnic spot we declared a Herbie Spot. Sandwiches, ginger biscuits, mini apple pies, Snickers bars, Galaxy Mistletoe Whispers and Mrs. A's boiled fruit cake.  Still 182 pounds though, or 13 stones as I prefer to say.
                                         Today's Herbie Spot
Along the river walk we spotted a robin, a heron, (making this a proper gadgie walk) a variety of ducks, cormorants and a kingfisher. A man taking wildlife photographs told us there were otters there too.
                                                         A Wansbeck Robin
                                      The river is surprisingly wide.......
                                       ....................and popular for walkers
As the river approached the sea the path became a track through sand dunes before entering and eventually leaving Sandy Bay Caravan Park. I had a good view of Blyth Harbour which always interests me as I worked in the town for nearly 30 years.

                                        These buildings once housed bauxite for the Lynemouth Smelter
                                           which has been closed for some years.
We walked along the sandy Newbiggin Bay; some way out there is a large statue of a couple, staring out to sea.
                                                  Newbiggin art work
                    And a miniature on the promenade.
                               St Bartholemews Church in Newbiggin. It is thought it may have been
                              originally a church connected with the Lindisfarne monks. Certainly dates
                                    back to the 13th century.
We headed for the Cresswell Arms which claims to be the last pub before Norway and seemed to be the only one open. A very friendly pub with a coal fire and chatty locals, we enjoyed some Bombardier Beer before catching a bus back home.
A relatively easy walk but very pleasant on a cold bright winter's day.


                                                                       steps                           miles
Bad day for my peds
Higear, usually reliable                                     9916                       4.5
LIDL 3D                                                           15438                      6.97

Dave's   LIDL 3D                                              19606                     8.03
Dave's   USB                                                     19235                      7.82
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                              9.62
Brian's GPS                                                                                      10.5 (started early)
Ben's GPS                                                                                         9.2
Geordie Bob's GPS                                                                           9.31

And the bird of the blog goes naturally to the Kingfisher: