Saturday, 16 December 2017

Belsay, Bitchfield and Milbourne. (Northumberland) Dec 15th.
 Sounds like another trio of solicitors but they are three places on today's walk, which again is a local one.
Starting at Belsay, the Blacksmith's café near Belsay Hall along the road from Ponteland, three of us are out to enjoy a country stroll on a cold, probably wet, December day. The mini team is Harry, John Ha and me.
The map to use is OS Explorer 316 Newcastle upon Tyne and the café is at GR NZ101785

Although we are not visiting it Belsay Hall is worth a mention. The original castle, built in the 14th century was inhabited by the Middleton family until Charles Monck (real name Middleton too but he changed it to Monck to get an inheritance, who wouldn't) designed and had built the new Belsay Hall between 1807 and 1817. He supposedly designed it on honeymoon in Europe, as you do on honeymoon, design houses. It is now an empty shell, owned by English Heritage but nevertheless it is well worth a visit, along with the castle, the beautiful gardens, formal and informal, the tea shop and of course the gift shop.
           Belsay Hall, supposedly the first stately home in England built in this, Doric style
                       Belsay Castle and the old hall.

  After coffee in the Blacksmith's, a cosy café which offers top ups and sells some local farm produce, we booted up in the car park and began the walk. A new walk, devised by Harry, mostly flat and across farmland. We made a couple of errors and a couple of route changing decisions so on the map I have marked the route we took in a continuous line and the plan in a broken line.
                           Blacksmith's café. We parked round the back.
 No sooner had the three of us headed south along the track to East Beechfield farm than the heavens opened. Expecting rain we were already in waterproofs but still stopped to add covers to rucksacks. And it only rained for a half hour. At the farm we failed to spot the footpath marker and walked round the edges of a couple of fields until we hit the path, left it again and crossed fields to West Newham farm, thus missing out on West Bitchfield which has a great name and a Peel Tower.
                                    West Newham?
The road from the farm is familiar, we have cycled it on many occasion heading for Stamfordham. We opted to follow the road rather than take the footpath across fields. At the end of the farm road we turned left, still on a public highway until we reached the track on our left which took us to Huntlaw, a settlement of pretty cottages and nothing else.
Beyond the cottages we followed a good track north to Newham plantation, then east and south across fields before getting back on the footpath.
At this point we called a Herbie Spot; a poor one I am afraid, mince pies and cookies. Nothing wrong with them, just a lack of goodies!
Herbie time over we walked across fields West Grange and then on to to Milbourne, another pretty little Northumbrian village, complete with church and brick built Wesleyan Chapel. Missing the path again we walked along the road until we found a signpost directing us north to East Newham farm. The footpath crosses a field  planted with turnips but the farmer, wisely and helpfully, has marked out the path across the crop, using an occasional plastic post.

The rusting remains of a wind powered well  East Newham.
At this farm we headed west along the road to Middle Newham Farm and the site of a Medieval Village, not much to see of that but mounds outlining houses. Here we took a footpath across the muddy fields  to East Beechfield, first farm on our journey and then back down the track to the Blacksmith's at Belsay.
Changed, we were about to set off for the Blackbird at Ponteland when Brian appeared. For his own reasons he had started the walk well after us, had gone the opposite way too but we had never crossed paths. I am guessing he kept to the real route and we passed, like ships in the night on the dotted bit near Huntlaw, marked Stony Hill on the map.
The Blackbird had several ales on offer, I chose The Blackbird IPA, very refreshing too.
A grand walk for a winter's day, one to be kept and extended for the future. Thanks Harry. Not having Dave and his four pedometers with us today the matrix is greatly reduced:

                                                                         steps                                     miles
NAK                                                                22750                                    9.33
IPhone                                                             18017                                    8.7
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                                           8.4
Brian                                                                                                              8.25

Friday, 8 December 2017

Hartley, Holywell and the Sluice. (But it is a new walk)(Northumberland) December 8th.
   The forecast is for a cold day, wind chill factor sending us out in
temperatures below zero, so we are staying close to home and enjoying, hopefully, a new walk.
Staring at the Delaval Arms at Hartley, south of Seaton Sluice on the road to Whitley Bay, five of us are on a rectangular walk. Visits and colds have reduced numbers,( the Norton Anti Virus is not working according to Brian) The map to use is OS Explorer 316 Newcastle upon Tyne and the Delaval Arms pub is at GR NZ341758. Down the road towards the sea is a  car park for the one who used a vehicle, most of us came by bus.
                               This week's sun kissed freezing car park.
The walk;
From the car park we went through a gate and followed the footpath across grassy land, part nature reserve, to the road that goes to St. Mary's Lighthouse. The island is only accessible when the tide is out, as it was today, but we didn't cross the causeway. The island has, apart from the lighthouse, a nature reserve, with seals if you are lucky.
                            St. Mary's lighthouse.
After a short walk along the road from the lighthouse we crossed the main Blyth Whitley Bay road and walked up the side of the cemetery and continued to a dismantled railway, easily recognisable because the bridge abutments are still there.
                                      Turn left through the "bridge"
From this point we followed the footpath across fields to Dene Farm where we changed direction and walked northwest to Crow Hall Farm.
From this farm we took the lane almost into Holywell. On the edge of the village we turned right and in a corner between houses found the path for Holywell Pond. At the pond there is a bird hide, beautifully decorated by Year 3 children from the local school. Unfortunately there are no windows in the hide, just open viewing points facing north and the cold wind came right through. Being tough gadgies we declared a Herbie Spot. Not being a large turn out there were slim pickings today, Alpen bars, Yorkshire flapjacks and mince pies for Christmas.
                Holywell Pond, quiet today, all the birds trying to keep warm.
Lunch over we continued down the side of the pond and turned north west when we reached the dismantled railway, now a footpath/cycle path with no evidence of the days of steam, or diesel.
At The Avenue, the road from Seaton Delaval to Seaton Sluice we turned right then left along the road to New Hartley.
There is a memorial garden in the village to the 204 men and boys who were killed in the Hester Pit disaster of 1862. The cast iron beam of the pumping engine broke, fell down the shaft and trapped the men. There is also a memorial to those killed in Earsdon Church Cemetery where most of the victims were buried. After this disaster the government passed legislation ensuring all pits had two  shafts.
Back on the footpath we walked past Seaton Red House Farm and on to Lysdon Farm. Here we followed a path, that had no arrows, across fields to Gloucester Lodge Farm on the coast south of Blyth. It gets its name from Napoleonic times when the Gloucester Regiment were camped here, well out of the way.

Gloucester Lodge Farm.
Here we joined the Eve Black path that crosses the dunes from Blyth to Seaton Sluice. Years and years ago the area round Seaton Sluice was a busy little town with coal exports, glassworks and a remarkable sluice that scoured the river. There is also a cut through high rocks allowing ships to enter the harbour at all times. Some evidence of the sluice remains and the cut is there but the small harbour is now a haven for small boats.                                                                                             
Seaton Sluice. The cut in the centre distance.
From here we walked up the road and along a path back to the car park. And then to The Delaval Arms which had several real ales on draught, including Wainright named for the great Lake District Hill walker.     And Brian joined us, he had started the walk later.                                                                                                                                     
 The Blue Stone outside the Delaval Arms. Thought to be a Saxon boundary marker. In the latter half of the n18th century strong man Willie Carr of Hartley and Blyth, could pick it up as a demonstration of his strength.
The Delaval Arms, good beer and friendly staff.
Contains OS data. Crown copyright and database right 2017

The Matrix MMXVII almost the last
                                                                             steps                            miles

NAK                                                                   24833                                10.19
iPhone                                                                 20660                                9.7
Dave's 3D                                                           20400                                9.99
  "" USB                                                              19923                                10.06
  ""  NAK                                                             19890                               10.84
Sylvia's mother                                                    20757                                10.58

Saturday, 2 December 2017

A seven mile stretch of sand and several nature reserves too. (Northumberland) Dec 1st.
It has been a cold week with winds coming straight from the Arctic, depositing some snow on the east coast of northern England and on the hills. We mice have chickened out (mixed metaphor) of a walk on the Border Ridge to what probably will  be a very Windy Gyle and have opted for a walk down the coast.
It's a linear walk from Amble to Cresswell with some crafty planning  by Brian and use of bus passes.
Leaving cars at Cresswell beach and catching a bus
 to Amble so that we are walking south, wind on our backs. It's another repeat, covered by "How to escape Black Friday" November 2015, but then we walked south to north, must have been a better day.
The maps to use, but not essential are;
OS Explorer 332 Alnwick and Amble and OS Explorer 325 Morpeth and Blyth.
Another good turn out, John C., John Ha., Brian, Ray, Ben, Dave, Harry and me. The bus to catch from Cresswell car park is the no. 1 for Ellington and it connects with the X20 Arriva service from Ellington to Amble. It's that or cars at both ends. There was some confusion about the number 1 bus, my car load catching it going one way and Brian's car catching one the other way but all worked out in the end.
Before we get to the walk it has been pointed out to me that I forgot to mention that Ben, the gatemeister, met his nemesis last week when he failed to unravel the mysteries of one of the gates we needed to pass through. Not exactly a Gordian Knot but he was rescued by Brian, punmeister.
            Although not the starting point for the walk this is the car park at Cresswell. It was a miserable wet start to the day, everybody was dressed in waterproofs, somefelt we should just sit in the car for the day.
We all finally met up at a bus shelter in Amble, opposite a church on the main street, and began the walk.
                            Waiting for the boys at a bus stop in Amble
               Directly opposite this church
From the bus stop we headed down the street towards the harbour and joined the Northumberland Coastal Path.
                  harbour on a grim grey morning

                          You can just about see the harbour light.
From the harbour the footpath goes across the children's play ground, which looked pretty good but a large notice saying it was for under twelves put us off riding the swings and roundabouts.
The footpath, quite narrow, wanders through the dunes southeast. On a clear day there is a clear view of Coquet Island where St. Cuthbert once had a brief sojourn in a hermit's house and met a lady saint whose name I can't remember. The island is now a nature reserve.

                         Coquet Island and information board

The footpath turns south at Low Hauxley and soon we were at Hauxley Nature Reserve. A short detour from the coastal path took us to the visitor centre where we had tea or coffee  and were invited to sample turkey toastie. Very tasty too.
Some years ago the visitor centre at Hauxley Nature Reserve was destroyed by vandals. It has been replaced by a fine building which houses the information centre and café. Large windows down one side look over the pond which is home to a large variety of birds. Fairly quiet today, I blame the weather.
                            The pond at Hauxley nature reserve, taken through the window. The smear left of centre at the bottom is a bird's wing etched onto the glass.
Coffee time over we returned to the coastal path and walked south round the sweep of Druridge Bay finally stopping for a Herbie Spot at another Nature Reserve, Druridge Bay N.R..
                     Herbie Time. Mince pies, ginger biscuits, biscuits, cake and savoury from Mrs A which looked like small Yorkshire Puddings and tasted fine.
Back on the path we continued south but at Druridge we took to the road and stayed on it to Cresswell. On previous occasions we have walked along the beach which is a little more interesting but wet sand is hard work, rather like soft snow.
Changed we headed for the Three Horseshoes Horton near Cramlington. A large pub, it had eight real ales on offer, including a favourite, Abbott. The coffee was real too.
Not one of our better walks but at least we were out, exercised and refreshed. Next time it will hopefully be on the beach for more of the walk.

Matrix MMXVII     nearly the last
                                                                         steps                                        miles
NAK                                                         24442                                               10.02
IPhone                                                       22843                                               10
Dave's 3D                                                 20178                                               9.98
 "" USB                                                     19420                                               9.8
  "" NAK                                                   19376                                               9.78
Sylvia's mother                                          20617                                              10.41
OUTDOOR                                                                                                          9.34
Brian                                                                                                                     9.32
Ben                                                                                                                      10
John C                                                                                                                 18.6!!!!!!!!!!!!!