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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A clockwise walk from Bolam Lake.. Oct 20th. (Northumberland)
  An extra mid week walk again for Dave and I, more or less reversing a walk done a few weeks ago and spending a little more time looking at archaeological sites.
 The local weather forecast lived up to its promise, a sunny day with a light breeze, a late Indian summer, it is after all well through October.
We are walking from Bolam Lake country park, north west of Newcastle. To get to the start negotiate the road works at Cowgate, head up the A696 past the airport and through Ponteland of happy memory. Just beyond Belsay bear right and after a couple of miles find the car park and information centre at Bolam Lake country park. There are two other car parks but since April 1st they have all been free, good Yorkshire Scottish  car parks. A map is useful OS OL42 Kielder Water and Forest covers the walk.
                       This week's car park at Bolam Lake, info centre  top right, but it was closed!

                                          Lake and autumnal woodland.
  We walked down to the footpath by the edge of the lake, disturbing a heron and thus making a real gadgie walk, and turned left, following the path to the corner of the park which is the junction of the roads at Bolam Low House. Choosing the road back to Belsay we walked for a couple of hundred yards before spotting the sign at the " white gate" which directed us across a couple of fields to Shortflat Tower (printed in gothic on the OS map, must be old). At the farm buildings here we took the right hand track, across a footbridge and past a field with what appeared to be cardboard cut out sheep and rabbits, towards Sandyford.
Sandyford is a symmetrical farm:
               Sandyford: is it two farms, maybe squabbling brothers, father's way of sharing his estate?
The road past Sandyford is a metalled farm track, beyond West Tofthill we looked out for and found, the signpost  pointing almost due north to East Shaftoe Hall. (Just after mile 2) This footpath across fields crosses The Devil's Causeway, the course of a Roman road. Although there is nothing much to see it is possible to pick out the line of the road as it crosses the field diagonally. But we did see a flock of redwings.
 East Shaftoe Hall is a grade 1 listed building, the west end is a pele tower dating back to the 13th century. Just as interesting is the magnificent walled garden in front of the hall.
                          East Shaftoe Hall and walled garden. Immediately in front of the hall it is
possible to make out the outlines of a medieval village.
  Turning left at the hall we followed the well made track to Shaftoe Crags, an area of sandstone outcrops topped by the Devil's Punchbowl. Allegedly W Blackett of nearby Wallington Hall had the punch bowl filled with several gallons of wine at his wedding feast.
       Dave on the Devil's Punchbowl, singing I am an island, I am a rock.
                                           The punchbowl on top of the rock.
I have to admit I found it quite difficult climbing to the top of the rock. As we stood admiring the view a group of about a dozen gadgies and gadgettes approached, they were on a guided tour, their guide gave a talk on the formation of sandstone beds and explained why some layers are at angles to others. Retired Geography teacher. Anyway I asked the ladies to disperse so they wouldn't see me make a fool of myself descending, and they did.
Just by the sandstone outcrops there are the remains of an iron age fort, the ramparts and ditches still visible although covered with bracken. A good site for a fort, to the south are cliffs.

                      Ramparts and ditches at the iron age fort.
 Following the track past Shaftoe Grange we same to Salters'Nick, a gap in the sandstone once used by smugglers taking salt to Scotland or smugglers bringing whiskey to England. The cuts made by wagons are still visible.


 Rutted by smugglers of salt and whiskey. deep ruts the wagons made, Both the victors and the losers came by here

                                                       Salters' Nick
Layers of sandstone, washed down and laid in the sea. Note how some layers are at an angle and find out why for this week's assignment.
Once through the nick we scrambled down the low cliffs, watched a young man practise his rock climbing skills and found the "cave" where mesolithic artifacts had been found indicating its use as a flint factory.
It was so warm we settled with backs to the wall for lunch, treats today: tracker bars and brunch bars.
Lunch over we headed back up the cliffs and searched for Victorias Jubilee post in a field off the track. It looks like an unwanted gatepost.
                                                  Erected for Victoria's Jubilee, 1887
(Our wanderings explain the squiggles on the map)
 We walked east down the track before spotting the marker that directed us across a cow (and bull) filled field to the farm at Middleton Bank Top. We turned right on the road  and almost immediately followed the marker on the left and headed almost due east to Bickerton crossing the Devil's Causeway for a second time although again it is not really visible. A combine harvester was cutting down a crop of what looks like beans, shredding them and spewing them out behind to be used as a fertiliser.
John Deere and Massey Ferguson. " I got a brand new combine harvester" as the Worzels sang.
At Bickerton a flock of guinea fowl  dispersed as we approached. The man of the house said they had poor mothering skills!

                    Guinea fowl seeking safety and protection.
We followed the path beyond Bickerton and turned left at the next road and headed for Angerton Station. The station, now a house, is on the dismantled Wansbeck Railway Line and is not a right of way but we are gadgies prepared to risk an ASBO and followed the line for a short way before turning right across fields passing Angerton Steads and following the new route across fields on the north side of Bolam Hall to a fine stile.
                                                 A stile with style

Information by the stile. 
Once over the stile we turned left down the road and took a short short cut through the wood back to the car park. The information centre was still closed. No drink either(Quiz night in the pub)  we went home

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