Saturday, 30 April 2016

The day that the rains came down... April 29th.
   The weather recently has been most unspring like and for the gadgies' day out we have been promised rain, snow, hail and cold winds straight from the Arctic. As a result the planned route across fields and through woodland has been changed to a walk along narrow but metalled country roads in the Hadrian's Wall area. Six of us out, me, Harry, Dave, Ben, Brian and only one John (H) we met, in the rain, at the Brockbushes garden centre/farm shop/pick your own (in season of course)/ teashop. It is west of Newcastle on the A69 at the Corbridge roundabout. It was busy, the grey pound holders were out in force and they weren't picking strawberries. Some of us had bacon sandwiches, some toasted teacakes or scones, with coffee or tea. A five flitch sandwich, I thought, partly because of their rarity in my diet.
Breakfast over we returned along the A69 for a short distance to the roundabout and took the exit for Newton, a small village overlooking the Tyne Valley. There is a car park attached to the village hall, visitors are welcome to use it.
                            One of the delights of Brockbushes, an ancient Fergie tractor
                      This week's team and car park in Newton 
The walk; a map is useful and, as with many days out it is covered by two, mostly OS316 Newcastle upon Tyne, and a tiny bit on OS OL 43 Hadrian's Wall. The car park is at GR NZ 036646 approx.
Dressed appropriately, although at the start the rain had ceased, we set off. Leaving the car park we headed up the lane  heading north west which turns through about 90 degrees  and then , at Newton Hall, we took the road heading west of north past heathery Edge, which appears to specialise in horses. It's a very straight road, possibly Roman, they spent a lot of time here.
             Dexter, sinister, dexter sinister, dexter sinister an old joke from my Latin book at school.
At the end of the road we turned right and then almost immediately on another straight bstretch of lane that brought us to the B6318, known as the Military Road, that runs alongside or on top of in places, Hadrian's Wall. We turned west and followed the Hadrian Wall Path, long distance trail across England following the route of Hadrian's masterpiece. The ditch dug to the south of the wall complex, the Vallum, is clearly visible in places.
                             Vallum, complete with chariot tracks.
For part of the way the path crosses fields, there are plenty of stiles to cross. At Onnvm Roman Fort, (site of, not much to see), we turned south through an impressive gateway to Halton.
                              Impressive gateway to Halton.
  At Halton farm there is an impressive tower, dating back to the 14th century and, not surprisingly, built from Roman stones. There is also a beautiful chapel dating back to Norman times and probably also containing recycled Roman stones.
                                         Halton church
                                                       and Halton Tower.
  In the field beyond the buildings was a small herd of black sheep, a whole family of them in fact, possibly looking for the white sheep of the family.

                                                Black sheep, one with a coat too.
By now it had started to rain as we followed the lane down to Aydon Castle.

Aydon Castle, run by English Heritage, free to members, £4.10 to gadgies.
The castle dates back to the 14th century and is really a fortified manor house. Next to the English Heritage office and gift shop are several sheds. We made use of one to have a Herbie Spot out of the sleet.
Mrs. A had donated savoury tarts again and we shared Brunch bars, ginger biscuits, chocolate caramel and almond rocca from (In return for feeding cats.)
As we ate a small group of average sized students with extremely large packs came into the castle courtyard, accompanied by two teachers or instructors.  They were on their Duke of Edinburgh journey. Last night they had pitched their tents in the snow, the temperature dropped below freezing so they had retired to a scout hut, and who can blame them.
Leaving the castle we headed down the Cor Burn before realising our mistake, retraced our steps to the ancient building we had just left and  took the lane heading roughly east, following it until it met the B6321, turned right then left and followed the lane until we spotted the rather old road sign:
                                                A real road sign
                                    Cor Burn, a mistake, but pretty, lots of garlic.
At the sign post we turned south east and followed the same straight road we had started on back to Newton.
Changed we went to the village pub, The Duke of Wellington, named for the inventor of rubber boots and beef pies. A pub restaurant hotel, we were made very welcome and offered a choice of Tyneside Blonde, Shuggy Boat, Old Speckled Hen, Duke of Wellington's special or coffee.
After an hour discussing trivial matters such as the EU referendum and serious matters like why is it always celebrities who make TV shows like "Celebrity Coastal Walks with dogs" or "Celebrity Visits to very small railway stations". (Both currently on TV, honest) Why not a bunch of gadgies wander aimlessly round the Cheviots on a Friday?
Never mind, in spite of the weather it was a good day out, enjoyed by all.

The Matrix MMXVI  O
                                                                steps                                miles
LIDL3D                                                  21904                               9.8
NAK                                                       26652                               10.06
Dave's LIDL3D                                      21792                               10.22
  "        USB                                            21399                                10.46
  "NAK                                                   21289                                10,41
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                               9.97
etrex GPS                                                                                         10.65
Brian                                                                                                 10.05

Walking Time  3 hours 26 minutes. Standing around time 55 minutes

Thursday, 28 April 2016

 A walk from Barnard Castle   April 28th (North Pennines)
This walk was "A good walk" described in the Times Weekend section for April 23rd. The writer is better than me in that he gives a greater description of the scenery, flowers and fauna. White shirt fronted dippers, astonishing displays of red, white and blue flowers flooding the shadows under the trees, Curtseying wagtails and skimming swallows. he didn't go today, it is cold and overcast with the threat of snow showers later in the afternoon. Regardless I am inspired to greater things, having just read Martin Eden by Jack London.
An extra walk for Dave and I, not the official Friday gadgie expedition.
We drove to Barnard Castle from base, A1, A167 to Tudhoe, Spennymore and then the A688 to Barnard Castle. Alternatively; A69 west A68 south just before Corbridge, A688 to Barnard Castle at West Auckland.  A lovely Durham town, once visited by Charles Dickens.  The wide main street has old fashioned looking shops and pubs and a pretty little Market Cross dated 1747. The castle, by the river Tees, is well worth a visit too.
                                  A snip at £1.50
                                The Market Cross, turn right up the main street
It is possible to do this walk without a map as it is so well marked but the route is covered on OS OL 31 North Pennines.
We parked in the long term car park in Barnard Castle. (Down the main street, turn left at the Market Cross and turn left again.) A bargain at  £1.50 for  a full day! And it's not even in Yorkshire.
The walk: we walked back to the high street, turned right and walked  up the left hand side of the wide street until we spotted a sign post taking us near to the castle entrance and towards a footpath that led down to the river bank.
 Watch out for the information board near the start of the walk
                                                Follow the Dipper
                                               Barnard Castle plus weir with salmon ladder                                                                                    For the first two miles or so the path sticks to the river. Narrow in places with a steep drop to the water it goes through old deciduous woodland. The last few days  have been bitterly cold with a wind coming down from the Arctic, we have had thunder, hail, snow and rain but today, at the moment it is calm and dry, not quite spring like but getting there. The floor of the woods has a carpet of spring flowers, slowly emerging, or in the case of the daffodils, slowly fading. Not being up in the flower world I have relied on Dave to point out the anemones,  wood sorrel and dogs mercury, although the bluebells and primroses are easy to spot, so are the celandines.
We stopped to talk to a couple walking in the opposite direction to us. They told us it was possible to catch a bus from Barnard to Middleton in Teesdale and then walk back to the town on the riverside walk. This has been noted for the future.
                                River Tees
  At one point the path turns to the right and climbs steeply into the fields above the river, passing East Holme House, West Holme House and a small waterfall. Lots of lambs, some extremely friendly.
                 For some reason this lamb loved my trousers. 
Just beyond Cotherstone Crag there is a footbridge across the river into God's little acre, aka Yorkshire. Another footbridge crosses a tributary. We called a Herbie Spot on a grassy stretch by the river, a bench faced the water and we watched a mother mallard shepherding her five ducklings on the water and a good number of swallows skimming the surface for food. Then it rained, but only a shower and we continued on our way. On the left a stepped steep path took us above the river.  The walk on this side of the river is a delight. The views of the craggy high northern bank are quite impressive, the short stretches through woodland are full of flowers, and wild garlic which will blossom shortly and fill the air. At one point we passed beneath a building that seemed to have been built in ranch style.  Several people were sitting in a large conservatory that looked like a dining room. Maybe it was some sort of centre. Below it, near the river, a rectangular patch of water and scrub claimed to be a nature conservancy area. On a small island a splendid looking Osprey  scared the two mallards off.

                                               The Ponderosa

                        Carving on the nature conservancy area
We caught up with a couple of ladies out doing the walk. They too had read it up in The Times and decided to follow it. I gave them one of my cards so they could look up a few new walks. Sadly it started to rain so we hurried on.
Soon we arrived at a footbridge across the Tees which we crossed and walked past the crazy golf course into town.
                                 There once was a railway here, all that remains of the viaduct that crossed the river is this magnificent piece of ashlar masonry on the west side and its counterpart on the east.
              Nicest crazy golf course I have seen 

On the wall of a house in the main street. There are a number of plaques around giving information on past worthies or changes to the town. A good idea.
Back at the car park we changed and, believe it or not, headed straight back home in the snow storm. By the time we reached Newcastle it was rain.
The Matrix MMXVI N
                                                                    steps                         miles
LIDL 3D                                                   20215                        9.2
NAK                                                         24894                        9.42
etrex                                                                                           9.34
OUTDOOR                                                                               8.9
Dave's 3D                                                20815                         9.57
"          USB                                             19838                         9.39
  "        NAk                                              19446                        9.2

At least the distances are consistent!
For birders we saw:
Great spotted woodpecker, chiffchaff, willow warbler, pied wagtail, swallow, martin, dipper, song thrush, robin, wren, and heard a nuthatch.
This is a really beautiful walk, not too difficult with much to see and enjoy, particularly in spring. Well done The Times!
                       Contains OS data Copyright. Crown copyright and database right 2016.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Get thee to a nunnery lads...................April 22nd (Northumberland)
 An appropriate quote for today's walk as it is nearly April 23rd, the 400th anniversary of the death of the bard. We are off to start a walk from Holystone in Northumberland. In 1124 the Benedictines founded the nunnery here. It was taken over by the Augustinians in the 13th century and presumably went out of business under Henry. Little survives in the nave of the church and the churchyard wall. The church (St.Mary's) was the nunnery chancel bits are medieval but most is 19th century reconstruction.
                                                St Mary the virgin, Holystone.
To get to Holystone take the A1 north, A697 at Morpeth go through Rothbury, the road has been repaired at last, on the B6341 and turn right on the narrow number free road to Holystone. There is parking by the information centre.
A grand turn out today; Brian, Ben, Harry, three Johns, Dave, Norman and me. We stopped for breakfast at Tomlinsons bunkhouse and cafe for breakfast, always worth a call, friendly service, good tea and bacon sandwiches for those who indulge.
The walk; Through the village and up a track there is a parking area by kind permission of the Forestry Commission. On OS OL 16 The Cheviot Hills the park is at NT949025. And the map is highly recommended for this walk as are gaiters as parts of it are very muddy.

Picnic table and free car park, 
We left the car park and turned right up a forestry track that at some point follows the line of a Roman Road. After  about a mile we turned right into the wood at a sign post pointing towards Rockey's Hall.
                                           Enter the wood at this point.
The track goes through the plantation to Rockey's Hall but we took a diversion along narrow winding and muddy paths to look at Dove Crag, an interesting rocky cliff and almost a cave.

                                 Giant stalagmite at Dove Crag, and Norman, leader for the day.
Having admired Dove Crag we headed along narrow paths to rejoin the trak to Rockey's Hall where we turned left on the road to Harbottle, pretty Northumbrian village we usually drive through on the way to Alwinton. Harbottle has a ruined castle and a very useful car park which was designated a Herbie Spot, it had good views and a low wall to sit on.
                                   Mrs Clennel's memorial in Harbottle.
                                                      Ruined Harbottle Castle

 Old English hyra-botl meaning "hirelings' building" OR here-botl, an "army building"
                        Harking back to the days of the border wars
                            Today's feast included, mini quiche from Mrs A. Birthday cake from Mrs Ha. ginger biscuits from Ben, Czech chocolate, caramel shortcake and caramel with chocolate. We walk it off.            
                      Large stone in the car park. The footpath to the castle was closed in April for lambing.
Lunch over we walked a short distance up the road before following the sign post that took us on a footpath which climbed steadily to the Drake Stone, a large chunk of rock that we would all have climbed in younger days.
                          Looking down on Harbottle

                                           The Drake stone
From the stone we headed for Harbottle Lake and then turned north along a fence line. We were in Ministry of Defence land but there were no red flags and we didn't pick anything up.
We turned east at the Swire , walked down a track and turned left on the road to Alwinton. At Low Alwinton we turned back on ourselves along a familiar track past  St Michael's church, a Lime Kiln and a house that never seems to be occupied.
                       St Michael's, Low Alwinton
                      Lime Kiln at Low Alwinton.
We crossed a footbridge and were back in Harbottle, from where we followed the road to Rockey's Hall.
                                              Rockey's Hall
We took the track at the hall and headed south east along the edge of the wood to North Wood. The path here was closed, a diversion was well marked with yellow ribbons tied to the old trees, some of which were indeed oaks. At he end of the wood we took a path across the field to Lady's Well.

                    A watering hole next to the Roman road and possibly the place where St Paulinus converted 3000 wild Northumbrians to the Christian faith. The cross is 19th century and the statue  18th century. The place is a National Trust property.
 And from the well we walked up the track to the car park.
Surprisingly we stopped at the Anglers Arms in Weldon Bridge on the way home which had the usual three real ales on tap, Taylor's Golden Bitter, Youngs and another. The coffee was excellent too.

The Matrix MMXVI  M
                                                                      steps                               miles
NAK                                                            30861                               11.68
LIDL3D                                                      25642                                11.5
Dave's 3D                                                   24594                                 11.56
  "  LIDL3D                                                23270                                 11.01
  "    NAK                                                    23096                                 10.93
etrex                                                                                                        10.7

Contains OS data copyright. Crown copyright and database right 2016

                                               Or you could live in London