Sunday, 24 January 2016

As gadgies went down to the river to play.............. (Northumberland)
It is the Annual General Meeting held in the Anglers Arms, Weldon Bridge, Northumberland. But first a walk.
There is an octet of gadgies out today: John H., John Ha., Brian, Ray, Ben, Harry, Dave and me. Three cars are needed as will be explained later and we met in the car park of the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge, the reason will be obvious later also. To get to this wonderful hostelry take the A1 north and turn off onto the A697, continuing until you spot the sign for Anglers Arms.
Leaving our cars there we caught the X14 bus for Thropton (operated by Arriva) by standing on the roadside and waving it down, there not being a bus stop. We got off the bus at Rothbury but as it was raining decided to take shelter in Tomlinsons cafe and bunkhouse for tea, coffee, scones or bacon sandwiches, all good.
              Well worth a visit, good food, good drink and colouring in books for the middle classes.
The walk, which requires OS Explorer 325 Morpeth and Blyth.

Leaving the cafe we crossed the bridge and turned left, walking along the road past a small industrial estate until we spotted the sign directing us along St. Oswald's Way. (Again!)
                  The River Coquet from the bridge in Rothbury, fairly full after all the recent rain.
The most interesting section of this part of the walk is the graveyard for old tractors.

                                           Once some farmer's pride and joy.
Along Mill Lane there is a choice of paths; go down to the river and scramble through very muddy woods or follow the dismantled railway, 
                             Following the railway is prettier.
At some point the official route leaves the railway but being non readers we continued on the drier route until we came to an old railway cottage converted to a bungalow and a notice saying "Private No Access", but only visible once you had passed it. From here we followed a footpath that took us south of West Raw where we rejoined St. Oswald. 

  At this point, near West Raw it rained again. As Dave wonders what to do Brian solves the problem.
                     In the same area we came across a moleskin trouser factory. (It's done to show the mole catcher has done his job, and also serves as a deterrent to passing moles)
       The footpath went down towards the river  but when we came to the road we turned right, headed uphill for a short distance before crossing a footbridge,walking through soggy woods and soggy fields until we came to Thornyhaugh, where we called a Herbie Spot. Today's treats surpassed expectations; Czech Chocolate Christmas Tree Decorations, oat biscuits, chocolate covered biscuits from Mrs A., Almond slices, chocolate cake, ginger biscuits, and a cheese sandwich.
                           Holiday cottages at Thornyhaugh
                     Picnic table at Thornyhaugh; The lady of the house came out and asked if we needed tea or coffee. I felt a bit guilty declining but we all had flasks. 
Leaving the Herbie Spot we continued in the footsteps of St. Oswald across fields to Middleheugh and then uphill to walk above the river as it flowed past Brinkburn Priory. This 12 century Augustinian priory was a ruin, probably knocked about by the Scots too, but has been  completely restored and is run by  English Heritage and does weddings.

                                       Brinkburn Priory
                        and as seen fro the walk.
 Beyond the priory the footpath crosses more fields, including one that seemed to specialise in the production of turf. It had some unusual looking tractors.
                                        Turf cutter.
   Near the end of the walk the path descended to the river which was swollen after recent rains, before finally approaching home from home for the night, the Anglers Arms.
                                                             The Coquet at Weldon Bridge

                                            The Anglers Arms at dusk, not Dawn
                           The old mill at Weldon Bridge
   All eight of us entered the hostelry which Directors, Taylors and Bombardier on offer, all good ales and all welcome. After a couple of pints, but not for the driver, those not attending the AGM went off home.

The Matrix MMXVI    C
                                                                               steps                        miles
NAK                                                                      20325                       8.66
LIDL3D                                                                18509                       7.1
Dave's LIDL3D                                                    16637                       7.67
"              USB                                                       15720                      7.19
 "              NAK                                                     16816                       7.13
GPS                                                                                                        7.4

Contains OS data copyright. Crown copyright and Database right 2016.
I have added some photographs taken by Harry on the walk. They are exceptional.

                            Winter scenes in Coquetdale., Northumberland. All by Harry Nagel
The AGM.
  A journalist for the Northern Echo (I think) commented on our blog in his paper, describing us as a group of bus pass ramblers who had adventures and shared  jokes. He added that we had an annual  general meeting which consisted of drinking, eating and more drinking. He was right.
  The four of us who were left in the pub after the walk retired to our rooms to shower and snooze before reconvening in the dining area at 7.30pm for dinner.
Having rushed through the business of the meeting in a nano second we got down to the serious side. From the menu I chose the blackpudding, potato and egg starter. But it is so large we ended up sharing two between three of us, Ray choosing soup. For a main course I opted for fish and chips. The waitress placed it before me and said "Good luck". For once in my life I could not finish a meal it was such a large portion. I was pleased to see John H had to leave some too.

 Washed down with more Taylors and finished with a wee dram, the meeting came to a close about 11pm as the bar shut and we went off to bed.
In the morning we all managed to put away a delicious full English breakfast and several pots of tea or coffee.
After breakfast we drove to Rothbury for the second walk of the weekend.

  There is a small bus company called "Spiritbus" that runs several buses a day in the Coquet Valley and then off to Alnwick by way of Edlingham. It advertises itself as being in part a bus for walkers and it deserves support.( From Rothbury we took the bus round the valley through Netherwitton and Alwinton, passing the assembling Coquet Hunt on the way, complete with men in pink, until we got off at Hepple. The driver was friendly and helpful, waved to most people on the roadside as we passed, and pointed out how the river had changed course after the recent rains. The scenery was beautiful, worth the forty minute ride. The company deserves as many walkers as can climb aboard and of course support from the locals who use it too.

We walked from Hepple to Rothbury. If you don't use the bus you need at least two cars, it's a linear walk coverd by two maps OS OL 42 Kielder Water and Forest and OS OL 16 The Cheviot Hills and Hepple is at GR 983006.
                                     Starting point for today, not a car park
                                                Hepple from across the river near Bickerton
Leaving Hepple we walked south west before crossing the river Coquet. Almost immediately we followed the sign on the left that cut across a field to rejoin the road to Bickerton. There is a junction, right goes to Hepplewhite Field, but keep left and stay on the road to Bickerton.
Just beyond Bickerton on the left a signpost directed us to the ponds at Caistron. Once gravel pits these ponds are now a nature reserve of sorts with several hides but few birds on the water, apart from a large family of swans and an even larger family of coots. We made use of hide number 8 for a morning coffee. The hide was dedicated to Billy Gibson and had been, thanks to a broken window, the home for several swallow families. Break over we continued walking alongside the ponds before crossing several fields to Ryehill.
                             One of the hides at Caistron ponds
                                                 And the swans.
At Ryehill the path (signed) goes across several fields before reaching the river almost opposite Thropton where it turns south east but still alongside the river.

                                                    Come in number 125, your time's up
 Several fields later the path crosses the Coquet by a footbridge. Once on the north bank there is a choice, use the well made footpath that leads back to Rothbury or cross  a field that is only a short cut. Take notice of the notice as you rejoin the well made path. "You need to cross this field in 9 seconds as the bull takes 10"
 Once on the footpath we were soon back in Rothbury, crossed the bridge to the car park and, having removed very muddy boots, made our way home after yet another successful and enjoyable AGM. We hope that next year  everybody can make it.

Matrix MMXVI C(2)
                                                           steps                miles 
NAKO                                              16186                 7.16
GPS                                                                             6.5

LIDL3D ran out of battery