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Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Maid of Hartside..................September 4th.(North Pennines)
  Long ago, shortly after the Romans left Britain (AD 410, approx) a young girl lived in the township of Skirwith. She loved the young man who lived next door but he was the son of a villein and one sad day was sent by his master to live and work on a farm near Hartside. The maid begged the boy's master to take her too but he refused and the young couple were parted. But so strong was the maid's love for the boy that one night when the moon was full she packed her few belongings in a cloth bag and set off to walk to Hartside across the moors. Fortunately the Romans had built a good road across the land from Penrith to the Roman Wall and she knew it passed close to Hartside. It was a warm night, fortunately, or she would have come to a sad end but she followed the well made road north until she came to a footpath she guessed  went west to Hartside and followed that until she came to the farm where her young man lived. His new master was so impressed with her spirit he took her in, the couple married and were allowed to open a small cafe at Hartside summit 1903 feet above sea level. And from that day the Roman Road was called Maiden Way.                                                          The cafe is still there and that's where our walk today starts and ends. To get there from Newcastle go west on the A69, a few miles beyond Hexham turn left on the A686 and drive through Alston and climb the long hill to Hartside. It is a long hill, I've cycled up it but that's another story.
There is a big car park at the cafe (closed in winter) and we tucked our car into a corner out of the way. There are four of us out today, John C, Harry, Dave and me.
Before we started out we went to the front of the cafe and looked out across the Eden Valley towards the Lake District. Many people come to the cafe just to enjoy the view, one of the best in England.
                                                        Hartside cafe and view point.
At the back of the car park a gate leads to a "Land Rover" track. We followed it in a south westerly direction for about a mile when it turned south and headed towards a radio mast. The mast is obviously part of our national defences as it is surrounded by a high wire fence and there  are cameras at each corner. Plus the fact I know an ex soldier who was once sent out to check its security. I hope this doesn't get me into trouble. The most interesting aspect of this part of the walk is the view west over the Eden towards the lakes.
                 Not the best of days for landscapes or even the best of photos, but the lake district hills are in the distance.
                                     Much better
     There seems to be a distinct lack of markers on this part of the walk. Naturally it is not possible to walk through the stockade that protects the aerial, there is a path going round which then continues in a southerly direction across three fields and several walls that need climbing carefully.
   This area is full of shake holes. Donning the leather patched jacket I will explain. A shake hole (or sink hole) is formed when boulder clay is washed into fissures in the limestone beneath. They are invariably conical and some are quite large. They are not to be confused with dolines which occur when the boulder clay forms a depression over a collapsed area of limestone. Cavers often excavate these, hoping there will be a cave system beneath.
                              Shake hole  near Maiden Way
                            Hillside in Yorkshire with Shake Holes (and sheep)
     At mile 3 on the map below we headed east up the side of Knapside Hill. The land here is covered with boulders and is not too easy to cross. After a quarter mile we turned south east and walked along the top of Melmerby Scar.
                   Melmerby Scar, typical Pennines scenery. Miss Myers, my Geography teacher would have explained it well, but she didn't wear the jacket.
 Turning east again, just after mile four, we climbed uphill and soon reached Maiden Way, the Roman Road, where we called a Herbie Spot. As there were only four of us offerings were slight (one gadgie never participates in this ritual). We exchanged Tracker peanut bars, Hobnob Medley bars and PORK PIES, which seem to have made a welcome return. Sandwiches and tea of course.

                      Two views of Maiden Way near our Herbie Spot. It has not been well repaired over the last 1800 years. If it had been like this it would have been tough on the marching legions and would have ruined the suspension on a chariot..
  Lunch over we simply followed the Maiden Way for about three miles. A short section was covered with stones as shown in the photo but later it was grassed over, making the walking easier. It is possible to pick out the line of the road as the grass on it is lighter coloured than the grass and heather on either side.
                          Looking north as we walked on the Maiden Way
Eventually the Roman Road (mile 6) meets a Land Rover track which, much to Dave's annoyance, covers the ancient way with a roughly metalled surface. The track goes downhill to the Aglionby Burn where a goodly area is being reforested with deciduous trees. Once across the burn it goes uphill towards the A686. Close to the road a farm track on the left allows a return to the cafe without walking on the modern road. At one point, by Rowgill Cleugh the track turns right to join the road but we climbed a gate and walked a narrow path back to Hartside.
Having changed we headed towards Newcastle and home, calling in at the famous Carts Bog pub. It was closed so we continued to Hexham and visited the Wetherspoons there which, surprisingly, sold Abbott Ale (and soda and lime and coffee).
Not the best of days for the birders, we saw swallows, martins and several grouse which were taking advantage of the absence of shooting parties and having a game of football.  Coming down the Maiden Way we saw several rows of shooting butts, but nob ody was out, it has been a poor year for grouse. However the bird of the blog was undoubtedly the hen harrier we spotted towards the end.
                                                          Hen Harrier.
The Matrix MMXV  QQ
                                                                           steps                              miles
LIDL3D                                                            30647                              10.76( Little legs me)
Dave's LIDL 3D                                               24571                              10.81
Dave's USB                                                      23067                               10.19
         OUTDORS GPS                                                                              10.05
John C GPS                                                                                               10.4
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