Saturday, 28 February 2015

Walking Backwards to Seaham.... Feb 27th
 We first did this walk in August  2014, striding out from Seaham to Crimdon along the Durham Coastal Path. This time we are doing it in reverse, driving to Seaham, catching the bus  (Arriva 23) to Crimdon and wandering back up the coast. The path is well marked and has information boards along the way. A map is not really necessary but should you wish to take one OS Explorer 308 Durham and Sunderland covers nearly every step. Seven gadgies out today, all armed with bus passes; Dave, Harry, Brian, Ray, John C, Ben and me.
Seaham is an interesting place, it has an old church, St. Mary's, which has origins in the late 7th or early 8th century. Seaham Hall's claim to fame is as the venue of Lord Byron's marriage to Anne Milbanke in 1815. Their daughter Ada Lovelace is often considered the first computer programmer as she worked on Charles Babbage's Analytic Engine, a mechanical calculator. The harbour at Seaham was built to export the coal from Lord Londonderry's Durham mines. There are several mines along the walk, not much to see but much to read about.
The walk;
From the seafront carpark at Seaham Hall, next to Tonia's Cafe, which some of us visited for morning tea, we walked up Lord Byron's Walk, past the back end of the hall, to the A1068 where we caught the bus. This makes it a semi proper gadgie walk of course, using the bus pass. We alighted at the Seagull Hotel just before the caravan park at Crimdon. This pub is easily recognised, it is closed, like too many English pubs, and the windows are boarded up.
We walked a few yards back in the direction we had come before turning right under a railway bridge and joining the Durham Coastal Path/England Coastal Path. Turn left, keep the sea on your right and after about 12 miles you are back at the car park. Simple.
Except it isn't quite so simple.The Durham coast in this area is different from the sandy dunes and beaches we often walk in Northumberland. The walk here is along cliff tops, about 150 feet high in places. The cliffs are composed of Magnesian Limestone but are cut by a number of denes or gills which have to be walked round or crossed by steep stepped paths. Until the 1980's there were several coal mines along this stretch of coast. The mines have gone, the waste which was dumped on the beach has been removed and the area is slowly but surely returning to nature.
       Looking north at the start of the walk. At the top centre it is just possible to make out Sunderland 
                                                 Blue House Gill, we walked inland round this one.
Close to this dene was Blackhall Colliery, sunk in 1909. In 1981 the site was reclaimed and landscaped, plants have returned, the area is grassed and newly dug ponds have encouraged wildlife.
The next dene, Castle Eden Dene, is quite wide and we descended the path to sea level and after a mere 3.5 miles called  a Herbie Spot.* There is a fine railway viaduct across the dene, one of several on the walk. Apart from sandwiches and coffee today's feast consisted of individual bramley apple pies, ginger biscuits, almond slices and some of Mrs A's cake, delicious as usual but I'm sorry Margaret, i have forgotten the flavour of this week's offering, Alzeimers perhaps.
                        The viaduct across the Castle Eden Dene.
Once covered with colliery waste this area too has reverted to saltmarsh and is home to several species of butterfly, the Durham Argus in particular.
                                                 One of the information boards on the walk
The next dene, Blackhills Gill is another "walk round" Horden Colliery was once nearby. The gill  is now re grassed and has been planted with wild flowers. The next but one gill, Warren House Gill is a Site of Special Scientific Interest as it has Scandinavian rocks laid down by ice sheets hundreds of thousands of years ago. No wonder Dave, wearing his geologist hat likes this walk.
Continuing on our way we walked inland to go round the deep Foxholes Dene. On the north side we came across works of art.
                                                          Tern, tern, tern. A Byrd
The butterfly wing on the left say "Sanderling Seeking, Butterflies Spreading" and the other  says
    "A wind that carries memories of coal".
                                  A beautifully decorated bench near Easington
The nearby Easington Colliery was one of the last to close. Its workings spread 5 miles under the sea.
Next spot of interest on the walk is Beacon Hill, it is thought the beacon may have been there in Roman times, it is now a National Trust property. From this point the footpath goes alongside the railway line but at Hawthorn Dene walkers have the choice of taking paths on the east or west side of the track. We went west, as all young men should, through the dene which has a magnificent brick viaduct, a variety of deciduous trees  and plants. There are also' nearby, the remains of the private station platform belonging to the Pemberton family  who lived at nearby Hawthorn Towers.
                                          Hawthorn Dene and viaduct.

  Just a few of the thousands of "February Fairmaids" in the dene.
Beyond the dene the path follows the railway again and walkers are separated from the track by the ugliest fence in creation, almost.
                     Living creature proof fence and eyesore. 
                                         Stack near Hawthorn Dene

  North of Hawthorn we passed the site of Dawdon Colliery. The beach below is called Blast Beach, possibly because there had been a blast furnace at nearby Nose's Point, or possibly because it was used as a dump for ballast. In the 19th century there were ironworks and glassworks in the area, chemical factories too.
                                      Nose's Point information Board.
Approaching the town of Seaham we passed the Harbour, created by the third Marquess of Londonderry who hoped to create an industrial empire in the area, based on his coal mines.John Dobson drew some plans for a township but little of it was ever built, although the harbour was a success.
                                                    Seaham Harbour

The rest of the walk is through the main street of the town which has several works of art to celebrate its past.
                                  Sailing and mining, Seaham art

                                    Seaham once had three pits
Once through the town we hit the last leg of our walk and soon made the car park.
                                     St. Mary's Church, late 7th or early 8th century.
                                             The best car park art ever.
                                   Where Byron married, Seaham Hall, from the back

                                                                  Car Park with sea view (frre too!)
                                                     Self explanatory
The walk over we headed north through the Tyne Tunnel to the Cannon Inn in Earsdon which had several beers on offer including two from Cross Bay Brewery, based in Morecambe, Northumbrian Blonde and Jack the Devil. The blonde was very tasty

The Matrix   MMXV I

                                                                 steps                 miles
LIDL3D                                                      28756               12.97
HiGear                                                        19804                8.99
Dave's LIDLUSB                                        25366               13.61
Dave's 3D                                                    25700               13.87
John C                                                                                   12.63
Brian                                                                                     12.2
Ben                                                                                        12.6
Hi gear need talking to.

* I have been asked to explain why lunch is at a Herbie Spot.
 Harry and I started the Friday walks some years ago as we had both retired. As others found the escape tunnel they joined us. One, called Herbie, is a skinny man with an amazing metabolic rate and a huge appetite. He carried several boxes of provisions on a walk and frequently stopped for a snack. Unfortunately Herbie can no longer walk with us, so a lunch break is called a Herbie Spot.

Contains OS Data Copyright. Crown Copyright and Database right 2015
Some photos from Harry, engineer and photographer par excellence

                                           Lunchtime for the gadgie team. Human interest for K from G

Friday, 20 February 2015

Walk the High Cantle..............February 20th
I love westerns, especially classics like The Magnificent Seven. But I could never enjoy the films of Randolph Scott whose acting ability I considered marginally better than that of the wooden Indians seen outside cigar stores in western films, and it is a small margin. But I always think of the film" Ride the High Country" when we do this walk, probably because a cantle is part of the cowboys' saddle.
It's  a while since we walked this walk. There are five of us out; Ray, Dave, John H, Harry, and me. Note the Oxford comma. The walk starts at Hartside Farm in the Ingram Valley and to get there take the A1 North, A697 at Morpeth and turn left beyond Powburn for Ingram. Keep going for about four miles to the farm. It is the end of the road for members of the publics' cars, but you can walk beyond to Linhope and the waterfall and the hills. Take a map OSOL16 The Cheviot Hills and the start is at
NT976126, just a pull in on the side of the road. My favourite weather girl promised us a chilly day with strong winds but no rain.
Hartside farm in the background, shiny car in the foreground, unusual for me.

The walk: We went on the road heading due west past the farm and followed it to the hamlet of Linhope which consists of three or four houses. Just past the farm on the left hand side of the road is a device offering information on walks. It didn't work.
                                                        Great idea, if it works.
The road turns to the left by the big house at Linhope and curves round the side of a wood before turning into a well made farm track. Almost at the end of the tree line we took the grassy track on the left and climbed steadily uphill facing into the cold northwesterly wind. The track has a tendency to meander  and crosses several others made by quadbike riding shepherds but continues westward to Rig Cairn. There has been some snow, now melted and so the track was very soggy, frequently turning into pools which made the going hard, especially with the chill wind in our faces. From the cairn the path continues a little south of west until it reaches the fence line at the top of High Cantle itself. Not so much as a cowboy to be seen but, unusually, two other walkers. It is half term, they were probably teachers out gathering inspiration.

This outcrop is called Great Staindrop although to some of us it is known as the social worker.
£10 and an SAE will get an explanation but it isn't really worth it.
From High Cantle the path is quite steep as it heads down into the Breamish Valley. In the valley bottom there is a large iron sheeted shed  complete with some rather useful upturned tubs which made almost comfortable seats as we called a Herbie Spot and went inside to dine out of the wind.
An unexpected delight; Ray had brought a couple of Quorn "pork" pies. I eat a lot of quorn, living with a vegetarian and having vegetarian daughters. It was really tasty, texture like that of the real thing. We also had mini apple pies, almond slices and flapjacks, sadly as Ben was away, no ginger biscuits. (183 pounds)
                                           Not exactly Gordon Ramsey, but there was no swearing.
 Lunch over we continued the walk towards High Bleakhope, the farm where we were once verbally abused for looking at the building. Now the house looks empty and deserted.

This interesting structure allows quadbikes to cross but keeps sheep out. Providing the gate is closed of course. We have seen several of these bridges. They are called Jackdaws after the man who invented them. He is a Northumbrian farmer/blacksmith and has a workshop near Rothbury.
The farm track heads roughly south east. At one point there is a concrete slab in the road with the inscription "TURN BACK" cut in it. Probably put there by the one time verbal abusers to discourage walkers.
The next farm is Low Bleakhope and it is inhabited.
                                                  Looking back at High Bleakhope.
                                           Looking back at Low Bleakhope on the Salters Road.
At Low Bleakhope the road on the left leads back to Alnhamoor farm but we took the well made track on the right which climbed very steadily but quite steeply up the side of Shill Moor. It is part of the Salters Road. The track continues to Ewartly Shank but near Little Dod on the map we took the path on the left that goes across moorland and eventually arrives at Alnhamoor Farm.

                                                  Some of the locals
                                                      Alnhamoor Farm
                                                         River Breamish near the farm.
                                                       On a warmer day you could swim in the pool.
 From the farm the road leads back to Hartside and the car. Surprisingly we called in at the Anglers Arms for a beer. As driver I stuck to coffee, as did Harry and Ray. As a reward we were presented with some really fat making chocolate cakes by the barman.
The young lady weather forecaster was spot on, a dry day but breezy.

                                                  Three Cheviot views, a few snow patches.
The Matrix MMXV H
                                                                  steps                              miles

3D                                                        22757                                10.33
Hi Gear                                                16834                                  7.642
Dave's 3D                                            20390                                 11.21
Dave's USB                                         20001                                 11.04
OUTDOORGPS                                                                              8.71

A selection of photographs from Harry the camerameister.

 Ray and John H at Hartside
 The road to Linhope
 Track from Linhope to High Cantle
                                                  On Rig Cairn

                                                    High Bleakhope
                                        The team at High Cantle
                                  Ray, John H, me,Dave, Harry.
                                                     Brough law from Hartside