Friday, 29 January 2016

Gertrude blows in, and out......January 29th. (Northumberland)
  When I was in the third year of school (Year 9 in modern parlance) Miss Buck, great English teacher and cricket lover, produced Hamlet for the annual play. The part of Gertrude was taken by a beautiful sixth form girl and we boys fairly drooled and I decided Hamlet was possibly the bard's greatest work. (I do remember the young lady's name but just in case she reads this, doubtful though that is, I will spare her blushes).
 This, as usual, has very little to do with today's gadgie outing except that the latest storm to hit the British Isles has been named Gertrude. It is the remnant of the storm that covered the east coast of the USA in snow but by the time it got here, warmed over the Atlantic, it brought rain, sadly much of it in Cumbria. She was, like a lot of very little girls (and boys) wet and windy.
Seven gadgies are braving Gertrude's gusts; Dave, Harry, Brian, John  C., John H., Ben and me* and we met in Tomlinsons cafe and bunkhouse in Rothbury for tea/coffee/teacake/scone/bacon sandwich. I have recently discovered that Americano means black coffee; why?
The whole walk is covered by OS OL 42 Kielder Forest and Water. Regular readers will know how to get to Rothbury but for new ones, from Newcastle take A1 north, A697 at Morpeth and follow the diversion signs for Rothbury. Tomlinsons is on bridge street, near the bridge.
We left the cars in the street and having booted up and put on waterproofs we set off.
                                                     Tomlinsons, Rothbury.
 Take the road down towards the bridge but turn right on the footpath, walking on the north side of the Coquet. This part is a well made path, popular with dog walkers. At the sign that says "If you need to cross this field do it in 9 seconds as the bull takes 10"  cross the stile and take a short cut over a bull free field to the footbridge over the river. Follow the markers across several muddy fields  before coming to a road. Turn right towards Newtown but then turn left and head for Great Tosson. gadgie Ben has a soft spot for this place and somewhere in the area is a whiskey still (legal) that has been operating over a year. The spirit will be marketed in a few years I'm told. The ruins of Tosson Tower are on the left.
Tosson Tower, a mere 600 years old. Built as protection against the Scots.
There is also a lovely view across the Coquet Valley, bit hazy today, thanks Gertrude.
Walk west and just beyond the farm take the footpath on the left that leads up the appropriately named Windy Crag. This was the first time we came across the strength of Gertrude. Walking uphill into a gale was hard work,  I was not the only one who occasionally lost footing because of the wind. On a finer day and with more time, there is a fort on Burgh Hill to look at. At the top of Windy Crag the footpath goes alongside a plantation as it crosses several fields. One gate has an unusual mechanism.
The weight of the stone pulls the string which moves the wooden bar which closes the gate.

Enter the plantation (the style is well marked) and follow the footpath through the trees, cross one forest track and head uphill until you emerge on another track. Turn right.

  One of Gertrude's victims. Missed me this time! (The weighted gate is on the left edge of the picture)
                  The end of the plantation bit. Much of it has been cut down, if it's replaced it should be with native deciduous trees.
A few hundred yards up the trail find the "Welcome to Simonside " noticeboard on the left.
It warns visitors about the Duergars of Simonside, nasty little dwarf like creatures who abduct innocent walkers and take them away, never to be seen again.
  The board is at the foot of a recently completed "stairway" that takes you up onto the ridge at Bob Pyle's Studdie. Bob was a particularly vicious PE teacher who made the lives of non sporting pupils misery through his mockery and sarcasm. A bit like my music teacher.
 The stairway has made the ascent much easier, previously there were several loose stretches. Purists may not like it but this is a popular walking area and has suffered from erosion.
                       The stairway at Bob Pyle's Studdie, one of the less steep sections.
Once on the ridge we were struck by the full force of Gertrude blowing in from the south west and making walking difficult. Those of us with walking poles found them very useful as we struggled on to Old Stell Crag where we called a Herbie Spot, sheltering in the rocks. ( A stell is a sheepfold, perhaps this was once used as a natural one.
Today's exchange included fudge, Hobnobs, seeded biscuits from Mrs A and flapjacks. We need the energy to battle Gertrude.
                                          Old Stell Herbie Spot.
Break over it was back on your heads as they say, as we struggled on in an easterly direction along the ridge. Some of the locals decorate a Christmas tree on the ridge, there were a couple of glittering streamers left, Gertrude had the lot.
At the end of the ridge  the path joins St. Oswald's Way (again!!!!) and heads downhill, out of the wind, across a road and through a car park. There are many examples of cup and ring markings in this area, a fort and a settlement but not today, Gertrude drove us on. The footpath is well marked and heads north across fields until it joins the Hillhead Road. Turn right and follow the road past Sharpe's Folly. Built by the Rev Sharp in the 1720s to provide work for local masons it's hard to miss at Whitton.
                                                  Sharp's Folly
Follow the road downhill and at the junction near the Whitton Towers turn right and walk down to the car park by the river.

                                             River Coquet, still full
Cross the river by the footbridge, turn right walk along the river bank and take the stairs on the left which bring you out at the Church.

All Saints, Rothbury, dates to 14th century but mostly Victorian
  Turn right and you are back to Tomlinsons. Debooted we headed for the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge which had Tim othy Taylor's Golden Bitter, Bombardier, Blacksheep and the usual warm welcome from the staff who thought we might well be nuts going on Simonside on such a windy day, but we are gadgies.
                                                                 steps                                miles
NAK                                                      24307                                10.74
Dave's LIDL 3D                                    21716                                10.71
 "LIDL USB                                          19526                                8.93
 " NAK                                                  19283                                8.82
etrex                                                                                                8.5
Ben                                                                                                  8.5
John C                                                                                             8.7

Contains OS data, copyright. Crown copyright and databaseright 2016
* Ray has been awarded "wimp of the week "for not turning out because of the weather