Friday, 30 December 2011

A week off

for Christmas. No walk I'm afraid, but treat yourself to a view of our fantastic Christmas cake made by our daughter.
For more amazing cakes and fun reads go to
For non Russian readers it says "Happy Christmas to you"
From Santa Alex

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Great Gadgie (Ou le Gadgei Grande)


It being almost Christmas there is no gadgie walk so to avoid helping with preparations for the holiday I am going to recall a walk we did some four years ago. We were all true gadgies, having bus passes although they were no use in France.
  In early September 2007 three of us, Ben aka halfmarathonmeister, Harry, aka routemeister and I ,aka the blogpiemeister, decided it would be fun to walk part of the cross European long distance walk known as the GR5. The section we chose was from Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) to Chamonix through the Haute Savoie, and this is how we did it.  We chose this time because advice told us that the mountain huts would be quiet, no need to book in advance,  we would complete the walk before the snow came, and more important, many of the huts closed at the end of the month.
  We packed as little as possible for what was planned as a ten day stay, but my rucsac weighed in at 11.3kg, a bit heavier than Ben's or Harry's, it's all the pork pies.
 Ben drove us from Newcastle to Edinburgh Airport, we checked in, searched in vain for a decent English breakfast, and, after coffee and croissants, boarded the plane for Geneva. As the plane took off Ben confided in us that he thought he had left the interior lights on in his car, as if.
 On our arrival we took a bus down town, found the railway station and bought train tickets for the journey round most of the lake to Saint Gingolph, a small lakeside town partly in France and partly in Switzerland. It was possible to walk from one country to the other across a small stream,  and without showing passports, spend Euros or Swiss Francs on either side. For small island dwellers like us, with no international borders, it is a strange thing to be able to do. Somewhere I have a photograph of my feet, one in Austria and one in Italy. I got the same silly thrill standing astride the Greenwich Meridian once, it's the child in all of us.

The train at Saint Gingolph, although Swiss it was not clockwork but it did arrive on time.

 A friendly man in the tourist office directed us towards a small lakeside hotel and we booked in, explored the village, ate an evening meal and went to bed.
  Walking day 1.
  After continental breakfast we found a small store, purchased supplies for lunch and armed with maps and an excellent guide book* set off to walk to Chamonix.
  One of the good points of walking this area, and also of the guide book, sign posts give times rather than distances, and so does the guide book. So having found the first of the route markers in Saint Gingolph, red and white horizontal bars painted on rocks or walls, we began the steady climb (1530m, almost a mile) to the Col de Bise. We reached the pretty village of Novel in an hour, less than the posted time, which was surprising as we kept looking back at the views of Lac Leman.

Looking back at Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) on our climb to Col de Bise.

We walked through forests and meadows, breathtaking views on all sides, past the Chalets de Neuteu and ever upwards until we finally reached the aptly named col itself. Col de Bise translates as Col of the NorthWind but it was not a cold one today, pleasantly warm, ideal for walking. After 45 minutes of walking we reached the Chalets de Bise and stopped for a beer and sandwich. As we enjoyed our snack a herd of goats appeared down the road, followed by a man who had a one legged stool strapped to his backside. Much to our delight, and that of the other people eating at the outdoor restaurant he proceeded to milk his goats.

On a one legged stool sits a lonely goatherd, yodel, yodel, yodel ee.

Although we had only walked ten miles we decided to stay in the chalet for the night instead of moving on to La Chapelle d'Abondance, the original first day target.
The chalet accomodation was basic, a French style toilet, a single cold shower and a bed that slept at least ten. Fortunately we were the only guests so we could spread out.     And we had a filling meal of pasta.

There could have been ten in the bed.

Walking day 2
   Next morning, after a simple breakfast and a cold wash, we set off again, climbing to the Pas de la Bosse, at a mere 1815m., and down to the pretty town of Chapelle d'Abondance. A pause for morning the and on our way, through the town, more beautiful meadows and on to La Torrens, a chalet, to the Col des Mattes, from where we got our first glimpse of Mont Blanc. Continuig through occasional boggy paths we reached our next nights meal and rest, the Col de Bassachaux. It was closed, something to do with a bank holiday. I would expect restaurants and hotels to be open on a bank holiday, but not today!  Harry, practical as ever, found a couple of tarpaulins we thought we could make into a simple tent, but at that moment two of the finest Frenchmen in the whole history of that country appeared. Amazingly both these men had worked for some time at Proctor and Gamble in Newcastle, and naturally they spoke English. They offered to take us down the valley in the direction of Chatel and  look for accomodation. Most gites, refuges and hotels were closed but eventually we found rooms in a hotel run by some Dutch people. We were too late for dinner but the chef, with apologies, rustled up one of the finest salads I have ever eaten, washed down with a couple of beers. And after the cold water of Bise we could luxuriate under a hot shower, sleep in single beds, with proper sheets ! The days walk had been about seventeen long miles.
 We had come about eight miles down the valley from our route and in the morning asked if there was a bus or taxi to take us back to Bassachaux. The young manageress said no, but if we didn't mind squeezing into the back of her van she would run us up there. Wonderful people. I have always liked the Dutch, their Amsterdam cafes have a certain air.
Walking day 3.
  Back at Bassachaux we rejoined the route, reaching via the Col de Chesery, the Refuge de Chesery in less than two hours. It had been open the previous evening, we could have stayed there had we pushed on.
 We had morning the at the refuge and took in the breathtaking scenery, walked round the Lac Vert, back into Switzerland to the Porte du Lac Vert. Here we were presented with spectacular views of the Dents du Midi, Grand Mont-Ruan and the Dents Blanche, the highest point being over 10000 feet, and snowcapped.

Just one of many spectacular views on the GR5 walk.

The next col was the Col de Coux, on the border. There is an ornithology station on the col, fine nets are used to trap migrating birds and insects, but only to study migration patterns, one bird had been caught seven times !  After a chat with locals and twitchers we pressed on to the Minesd'Or for the next nights rest. After dining on rabbit, salad and a delicious chocolate sweet, we slept well, it had been a fourteen mile day.
Walking day 4
After breakfast we bought the makings of a packed lunch, fresh rolls and local cheese and resumed our walk. It was a misty morning, but as predicted, a scorcher by lunchtime, as we progressed to the Col de la Golese, another ornithology centre. The next port of call was the village Les Allemands, named after a Germanic tribe routed by Clovis in the 5th century. This was the first time we had had a walk of any length on road rather than mountain track, it was not interesting! Neither was the small ski resort of Samoens, which with the exception of one cafe, seemed to be closed.

The Mines d'Or, a popular eating place and hotel.

A misty morning on leaving Mines d'Or.
I am nearer the camera, Harry is ahead.
Les vaches sont tres amuseant.

Back off the road and into woodland we past "Sixt -Fer- A -Cheval", six horse town to us  and ascended fixed ladders to get round a waterfall before we reached the next stop, Salvigny. An interesting auberge, my experience with school trips suggested it was used by parties of schoolchildren. We had a stroll round the small town, admiring the outbuildings which were built well away from houses and were heavily padlocked, a later bit of googling told us that they were store houses for grain, honey, brandy and even valuables, kept away from residences in case of fire. ( I hasten to add the googling was done back home, not on an iphone or anything).
Back at the auberge we joined about twenty others in the simply furnished dining room. The master of ceremonies served us with carrot and for the second course we were summoned, table by table, to the head of the room where Bernard doled out plates of a most delicious omelette. We were even allowed seconds, and ice cream. After a beer or two we slept well, 13 miles from Mines d'Or.
 Walking Day 5

  Next day we left Salvigny early. It was Sunday and we found many families out for a walk in the beautiful area around the waterfalls of Le Rouget, La Pleureuse and La Sauffaz.

Waterfall on route for Colletd d'Anterne.

As the number of walkers thinned out we climbed the Collet d'Anterne to 1900m and paused to admire the views. Centre piece itself was the white capped Mont Blanc. Soon we were at the Refuge Alfred Wallis (Chaletsd'Anterne) where we stopped for lunch before walking round the lake and climbing to the top of the Col, the views were even better. Soon we had descended a few hundred metres to the Chalet Refuge De Moede- Anterne, an attractive refuge with the standard large beds, aq very friendly warden, an excellent evening meal with a delightful wine to go with it and views to die for. We had walked 12 beautiful miles.

Mont Blanc appears out of the mist.

The Chalet Refuge De Moede-Anterne.

Walking Day 6
 The last day of the walk, and in some ways the hardest. A walk of two halves as they say. The first half was a steady downhill stroll to the Pont d'Arleve at a height of 1597m, followed by a tough rocky climb to the Col du Brevent at 2368 metres. But the effort was well worth it, directly below was Chamonix, directly ahead across the valley lay Mont Blanc, and yards in front of us a cable car. A sign on the path to Chamonix said it was closed because of a land slide so we invested 10 Euros on a trip down in the car. I enjoyed it, my wife would not have! (See Walking with a Gadgette)
 Mission  accomplished  we considered our options, stay in a Youth Hostel close by or go on to Geneva for a few days rest and culture before we flew home. We chose the latter and caught a coach back to the lakeside city, only to run into problems.
   The Geneva Youth Hostel was full. (Gadgies are allowed in Youth Hostels; in facy most English YHs are kept going by older people and primary school teachers with work sheets)  The UN was holding a conference in Geneva and accommodation was almost impossible to find, at least in our price range. Eventually we found a room at the At Home Hotel, but only fo0r one night and we had three nights before our flight. Nevertheless we took the offer, enjoyed a hot shower, relatively clean clothes and a meal in an Indian Restaurant. On the wall there was a large rectangle with moving pictures. Harry and I could not take our eyes off it, much to Ben's amusement.
 Next morning we went to the airport to see if we could change flights. Easyjet said we could go home at 10am, for an extra charge. We quickly decided to fly rather than spend time searching for a room. Anyway the extra cost was less than a hotel and another curry.
 Som home we went, arriving in Edinburgh at lunch time. Back in the carpark we loaded the car but as you may have guessed if you read carefully, it would not start. Ben had, indeed left the interior lights on! However, canny Scots know we English are prone to do foolish things and have a van that goes round the carparks giving the necessary juice! And at no charge! Brilliant!
We stopped on the way home at Morrisons Supermarket outside Berwick. Should you ever be in the area and hungry, I recommend the all day English breakfast. It doesn't quitem match the famous "Eight Item Breakfast" at Lerwick Coop, but that's another story.

 I am indebted to Ben for most of this. He is far more organised than me. I wrote a full, step by step account of the trip but, idiot that I am, did not make a hard copy or back it up. Ben kindly gave me his notes, we pooled photographs.
Without a doubt this was the best walk I have ever done, I would love to repeat it before I hang my boots up.
*Walking the French Alps; GR5 Lake Geneva to Nice.  byMartin Collins.
Published by Cicerone Books. They produce some excellent guides but we gadgies think we can live without the Northumberland Walks edition.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

To the lighthouse....(or a walk with a Wetherspoons) December 16th

is a novel by Virginia Woolf. Virginia married Leonard Woolf, wrote some novels and had an affair with Vita Sackville-West. But they were members of the Bloomsbury group of intellectuals so that was alright. (Only To the Lighthouse, I don't think she wrote about Wetherspoons)

  This walk is a rural/urban/coastal stroll, ideal for a winter's day when daylight and time are limited. Six of us gadgies met at the routemeister's house in Killingworth (OS Explorer Map 316 GR 281716) A warm welcome was extended to Herbie, who has not been seen for several weeks, some of us exchanged Christmas cards and off we went, turning right out of the routemeister's front garden gate and following a path to Hillheads Garden Centre, egg and potao supplier.
  If you do this walk it would not be right to go through the routemeister's garden of course. Instead leave your car in Morrison's supermarket carpark, nip in for one of their excellent Jumbo Cornish Pasties, leave the carpark, turn right, walk past the primary school, straight across the roundabout and down the steps by the underpass and you are on the path.
 At Hillheads turn right on the dismantled railway line, now a country walk and  after about a mile, turn left on the road, cross the A19 dual carriageway and shortly afterwards turn right into Backworth, retired pit village and quite pretty. In the centre of the village bear left and cross a single track railway and walk to the next corner. Normally we turn right at the cattery and  cross fields to Earsdon *but there was a minor rebellion today, mainly by the punmeister, and we turned left, following a marked footpath towards Holywell.                                                                              Most gadgies like the John Wayne film The Searchers, indeed  an ideal night in has often been declared as The Searchers and The Vikings on DVD, accompanied by a few beers. I was explaining to Brian that a Cree  Native American I had once talked to in Canada told me that he did not understand the word "fortnight", he thought I was saying "four nights", as NA's often do in Westerns, along with "three moons" and naming their children after the first thing mother sees, like "Running Deer," ;the old jokes are the best.**
The punmeister explained that Canadians do not use the word fortnight, they prefer something stronger, a fortnight being two weak.
 Back to the walk; go through the village, passing The Olde Fat Ox on the right and the Milbourne Arms on the left, do not take the road to Earsdon but continue through a small housing estate. Turn left at the end and find in a corner of a cul de sac a small notice pointing towards Holywell Pond Nature Reserve. Take it. There is a hide in the reserve which not only allows you to watch the birds on the water but also makes a good Herbiespot. It being Christmas, mince pies were on offer as a change from the traditional pork pies.. There was little activity on the pond, moorhens, gulls, a few magpies on the edges, but little else. After lunch and one of the funniest jokes** I have heard for a long time we continued on our way, turning right at the end of the field  and after a while entering Holywell Dene.
 The Dene is a pleasant stroll in itself, good for finches, an occasional kingfisher and other small birds. I paused at the footbridge for a moment,some years ago myself and three others scattered a friends ashes at this spot, they will be far out at sea now.
  More trouble in the ranks: normally we walk the length of the dene into Seaton Sluice but today we walked out of the dene onto the B1325 and arrived at the Delaval Arms roundabout.
  Seaton Sluice is an interesting little village, the first sluice was built in the 17th century by Sir Ralph Delaval to make use of river and tide to scour the small harbour used for the loading of coal and salt. The harbour eventually proved inadequate and Sir John Hussey Delaval had a channel cut through the headland, installed locks and thus had a small wet dock 900feet (275m) long. Exports now included glassware, but a mining accident (see below) in 1862 put an end to coal shipments and some years after that the dock fell into disuse
 From the Delaval Arms the walk continues along the cliff top to St. Mary's Island, Lighthouse and Nature Reserve.

St. Mary's Lighthouse, cafe and birdwatching place.

 Continue along the promenade from the lighthouse.  It was a good day for bird spotting: redshanks, ringed plovers, oystercatchers, dunlins, curlews and lapwings.
Keep going across the links, past the white domed Spanish City and head into town. The old fire station is now a pub, one of the Wetherspoons chain, selling not only beer but also good food at relatively low prices. The vogelmeister and I opted for fish and chips and mushy peas for £3.99 ($6.20, $4.75 Euros and approximately 200 Roubles)
And beer at £2.30 a pint. Metro to Newcastle, bus home. A true gadgie walk of approximately 9.5 miles. Enough on a cold day with sleet and rain, and more interesting than it sounds.
* St. Alban's Church in Earsdon. A Chapel was built here in 1250, added too  and replaced in 1836 with the present building.  In the churchyard is a memorial to the victims of the 1862 Hester Pit disaster at nearby Hartley village. A cast iron arm on the pumping machine broke and crashed down the single shaft. The miners below ground were trapped and died of suffocation before any help arrived. In total 204 men and boys
were killed, some as young as ten years old. Following the accident, following lobbying from miners, the government passed legislation requiring all mines to have two shafts.  Hester pit was closed, although some years later another pit broke into the area, finding equipment just as it had been left in 1862.

The memorial to the victims of the Hester Pit Disaster in St. Alban's Church Earsdon.
Quite rightly local schools bring children here as part of their history studies.
The names and ages of all the victims are engraved on the memorial.

** Jokes will be sent upon receipt of a stamped addressed envelope and a donation to the Gadgie Benevolent Society. (Treasurer me)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Brian's Round - a walk in Lauder Country
December 9th

   Long ago the land north of the Humber was an Anglo - Saxon Kingdom. One of the Saxon Earls was blessed with identical twin sons, Egwulf and Eadwulf.  So excited was he that he forgot which of the two boys had actually been born first so when he grew old, knowing that his time was almost up he divided his land between the two boys, rather than have them fight over their inheritance. One son set up in what became Eglingham, a village we walked from two weeks ago (Jenny's Lantern) and the other built his home in Edlingham.  This division of land happened in other parts of Saxon England too. In Lancashire there are the villages of Yealand Redmayne and Yealand Conyers and in Somerset there are Midsomer Norton and Midsomer Murders. Everything was fine, the Saxon villagers of Edlingham began to build a church in the Saxon style: then, in 1066, the Normans came and spoiled everything, but they did add to the church which, after some repair and rebuilding still stands.
   Today's walk starts and finishes in Edlingham; it is called Brian's Round because  the punmeister found it on his ROM, whatever that is and said if it was a poor walk we could blame him.
  To get to Edlingham from Newcastle head north on the A1, turn off on the A697 at Morpeth and follow that road to the B6341, turn right, after a mile or so turn left down a minor road into the village. There is some parking near the church. The three local landmarks are clearly visible; the church, dating in part as far back as 1050, the ruined castle ,built about 1295 by Sir William Felton and the railway viaduct, about 1885, that linked Alnwick with Wooler and beyond. Using OS Explorer Map 332, the church is at GR114091.

The Church of St.  John the Baptist, the castle and the railway viaduct in Edlingham.

Leaving the church walk through the village past the Demesne* and at the finger post turn left and cross a field. Cross a second, diagonally and then a third. You are walking close to, or occasionally on a Roman road, the Devil's Causeway which branches off Dere Street north of Corbridge and goes to Berwick upon Tweed . Romans north of the wall, looking for the lost legion probably.* * Wearing his archaeologist's hat Dave reckoned the stones at the side of the field were probably the remains of the agar, the edge of the road.
 Cross a footbridge (not Roman) and walk up to the road. (B6341) Cross the road, through the gate and follow the path across moorland, or take the easier green path, to the edge of the coniferous forest. Take the track through the wood and emerge at Wellhope.
  There was a time when the family who live at Wellhope lived most of the year in a Teepee, clearly visible from the A697 as you drove to Wooler. I believe the head of the household was a stonemason and his wife taught jewellery at local evening classes. They seem to have moved into the cottage. The footpath from Wellhope  runs along a fence line and then through the wood until it emerges onto moorland. Head approximately South East for Snook Bank, taking the time if you wish to search for "cup and ring marks" on rocks.***

An example of Cup and Ring markings. Not the ones on this walk, but there are quite a few in Northumberland.

   Snook Bank was chosen as a Herbie Spot. Tucked behind a wall to shelter from the chilly breeze, and with a mouse for company, we ate lunch, including the now obligatory pork pies.
 The track from Snook Bank crosses a field and joins a lane which goes to Glantless Farm. Just before the farm take the path across fields to a minor road. Although it was a cold and dry day there had obviously been some heavy rain, the field was muddy. one of the rules for a Lauder walk. It sticks to your boots, slows you down and elicits much cursing, particularly in gateways. Cows have a habit of congregating at gates, churning up the ground so that all grass disappears and all that is left is mud. Walks could be a lot more pleasant without farm animals. However we saw two buzzards in the area, out looking for lunch.
  Turn left on the road and follow it through Shiel Dykes. Just beyond Shiel Dykes on the left is a small pond with platforms for fishing and a large scarecrow to frighten off passing Ospreys. And beyond this, on a south facing slope is a well ordered plantation, possibly raspberries, or even vines. Stay on the track for about a mile from Shiel Dykes before taking a path on the left that leads Phyllis's Plantation. The field consists of muddy ground and tussocks, another ingredient for a Lauder Walk. The path goes through the plantation but it is easier to walk round it and struggle upthe hill to Mare's Rigg. On the way up the slope we disturbed an owl, probably a barn owl.  Through the gate more tussocks and then heather, the final Lauder ingredient, hard work at times but heather cleans your boots. Down the hill to the road, turn right, after about a quarter mile turn left and soon you are back in Edlingham.
 Pedometers were not too well behaved today, the Higear opened at some point and when this happens it does not work properly. The Little Black Number fell off my belt but, having adopted the Dave Kear loop of thread safety system (LOTSS) I didn't lose it. The walk turned out to be about 9.5 miles, relatively easy going in spite of the Lauder conditions. Brian's Round proved to be a good winter walk, worth repeating.
 On the way home we were welcomed as regulars in the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge but I must admit to drinking only tea, my sexuality is now in doubt. But I was driving.

  Castle and viaduct in the evening light.

Five of the ancient monuments in Edlingham.  From the left: Ray, Harry, St. John's church, viaduct and castle.

Brian's Round (Below)

*By request: Demesne is that part of the land exclusively for the use of the lord of the manor. Not that he would go out planting his turnips of course, the peasants would have to do that for him.
** The IX legion. Marched off to Scotland and were never seen again.  The Eagle of the Ninth a children's novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe was filmed a few years ago as The Eagle
*** Cup and ring marks. Probably dating from Neolithic times and found not only in Northumberland but in other areas of Europe and also in Mexico. Nobody is sure of their exact purpose, religious, writing or art work?

  I have been a little worried about the lack of Russian readersthis week. They have probably been too busy, what with voting, counting and protesting, but there have been three hits this week.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Kielder Sanction 1 - the North Shore.
December 2nd
 Kielder water is the largest man made lake in Europe and around it is the largest man made forest. The North Tyne was dammed a little above the village of Falstone to create a reservoir to supply water to industry in the North East. Sadly there was a rapid decline in North Eastern industry and the lake is a tourist attraction with fishing, sailing, cycling and walking. A track has been built all the way round the lake; it is about 27 miles in length, well surfaced and about the right distance for a marathon. Two have been held so far. FTAs of my acquaintance say it is not a good marathon course because of the short ,twisting, steep slopes but it excellent for walking and riding I cycled it in summer, taking our time to enjoy the views it took about four hours.
 But today six gadgies are going to walk the north shore from Kielder Castle to Falstone, a linear walk but gadgie bus passes solve problems. There are  five  regulars plus a guest, "Geordie Bob", an exiled Tynesider and in law of the punmeister. Bob  worked for Swan Hunters* but when they closed he moved to Essex for work. We drove to Falstone and booted up. There is a nice little tea room which probably serves tasty bacon butties and tea but the shop does not open until 10.30 in winter and the bus to Kielder leaves at 10.35. Poor management. The bus is run by Snaiths and operates only on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, so be careful if you fancy following in our footsteps. It is also advisable to ring Snaiths to check it is running. (01830 520 609).
The bus takes about 15 minutes to get to Kielder castle, another tea room and also closed at this time.
  You can easily do this walk without a map but the OS map I have is LR80 and Kielder castle is at GR632935. A more useful map is the one produced by Ashworth Maps called The Kielder Water and Forest Park map, available at visitor centres at the castle, Leaplish and Tower Knowe. You can also download it.
 The castle was built in 1775 as a hunting lodge for the Duke of Northumberland.
Head down the hill past the castle, pub on your right, maze on your left and when you get to the road make a decision. Either turn left over the Butteryhaugh bridge and join the northshore path almost immediately or take the forest path almost directly opposite and after about a quarter of a mile take the steep, railed footpath on your right onto Kielder viaduct. This old railway bridge, a relic of the North Tyne Railway, is of interest to lovers of railway architecture as the arches are not at right angles to the sides of the bridge but at an angle. The walls of the bridge have been decorated with wrought iron work; a train, a bee and others. Nice. Once across the viaduct you join the north shore path and keep on it to the dam. And go to the pub.
BUT. The path follows the lake shore quite closely, initially alongside the original reservoir, Bakethin. On your left is forest.
As a young man I drove a car from Albany in New York State to British Columbia. Once the excitement of being in America for the first time had subsided and we crossed into Canada we hit forest. For about three days, it got rather boring. Then we hit the prairies, for about three days, it got rather boring. Then we got
to the Rockies. I tell you this as a reminder that I have travelled, a bit.
  The Kielder forest can be dull too although the bird life can be interesting. After about two miles you come to the first of a series of art works that have been erected around the lake. This first one is called Silvas Capitalis, forest head or wooden top.

Punmeister Brian cheerfully picks somebody else's nose.

The routemeister keeps an eye on us. He says he was a good pupil.
  Of all the installations on the lakeside this is my favourite. It is beautifully made from wood, a staircase inside leads to the eyes and a space where Herbie could probably live for a few days.
  Moving on, the forest is on your left, but the bird life can be interesting. At a point there is another art work, called viewpoint, based on the Ordnance Survey symbol for viewpoint . It was designed by Tanya Katak, a Hungarian. Brian, a polyglot punster, explained that "Katak" is Hungarian for behind so that the lady would be known in English as "Tanya Behind". Think about it. The path wanders round an inlet, the Plashetts Burn, a photographs shows the Plashetts mine which once supplied the area with fuel and, by means of the North Tyne Railway, sent coals to Newcastle. Next stop, and one made use of as a Herbiespot is "Janus Chairs"
  At this point an RAF plane started making an appearance, flying low over the water and woods it crossed three times. I think it was a Hercules, practising a remake of "The Dambusters"

 The Janus Chairs.
  These huge steel chairs can be rotated, with some effort, so they can face out on the water or toward the forest, or anywhere between. Hence the name. On a fine day they make a comfortable eating place. On the opposite side of the lake is an Osprey nesting site, naturally they have gone to a warmer place for winter.
   The next stop on this cultural odyssey is Robins Hut. A wooden shepherd's bothy which looks across the water to Freya's Cabin. Robin and Freya were lovers, separated by the lake. Those of you old enough to remember "Running Bear" by Johnny Preston, a number 1 hit in February 1960 will be familiar with a similar tale. But Robin didn't drown.
 Continuing on the path, the forest is on your left. By the path is another work of art 
Salmon Scales. Twinkly and musical in the breeze.

Salmon Scales

  And then the Belvedere! Bright and shiny and a good shelter when the rain falls

This side of the Belvedere overlooks the water. Behind is the forest. There are seats inside and windows.

  On the next promontory there is a art work called 55/02 which I suspect is a Latitude/Longitude reference, slightly inaccurate, but we didn't go to this one. Nor, having rounded Belling Burn inlet did we go to the Wave Chamber,  but headed on to the carpark at the north end of the dam and down the old railway, now a footpath to Falstone and the cars. There were three deer feeding on the grassy bank of the dam, seen only by Dave and Ben who took a slightly different path.

 As this area of Northumberland is near the border with Scotland there are many tales of the Border Reivers but my favourite story is that of the Maid of Kielder, an event some years after the border squabbles had been solved.
  Towards the end of the eighteenth century a young maid of Kielder was due to be married but her farmer groom left her waiting at the church door. Full of bitterness the maid wandered the banks of the North Tyne, picking flowers. She either jumped or slipped, Ophelia like in to the cold river and drowned. Full of remorse her former lover fled the area and joined the army, serving in the Napoleonic Wars. When Boney had been dispatched to St. Helena, along with many other surviving soldiers, the farmer returned to the valley, only to be shunned by his neighbours who could not forgive him. He left again, this time for America. Many of the locals claim to have seen the maiden's ghost walk the banks of the Tyne. Now of course the river bed is at the bottom of the lake but some say that on occasion a ghostly light can be seen in the depths.
  For an after walk  drink we went to a pub in Bellingham, I think it was the Cheviot Hotel, anyway it was near Barclays Bank. A really friendly pub with some good beer, a strong draught cider and a selection of snacking nuts, kept in jars and sold by the tumbler. Hot and spicy.
 The pedometers worked well with some agreement. The walk is about 11.5 miles quite easy going.
Coming soon to a blog near you, The Kielder Sanction 2 - The South Shore
* Swan Hunters  a Tyneside shipyard. When I started working in Newcastle they were building huge tankers. They built HMS Ark Royal too an aircraft carrier. I was lucky enough to get on it before it sailed. It was big. Then I went on a Russian carrier used as a theme park in China. The Minsk was gigantic. Swan Hunters no longer builds ships or welds cars.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Женныъс Лантерн
Jenny's Lantern November 24
   In 1959 the Everly Brothers had a hit with a song called "Poor Jenny" written by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. Not one of their greatest hits in the UK, it was the tale of a teenage couple going to a party which ended in "a heck of a fight". Poor Jenny got arrested for being a teenage gang leader and was jailed. Her family, not surprisingly, were hot on the trail of her boyfriend. Great stuff, a ballad of teenage angst, no an operetta. I still think their best song is "Always Drive a Cadillac."
 The Jenny of the title of this weeks blog was a far more sensible woman. Legend has it that Jenny stood on top of a hill at night with a lantern, guiding her husband home from his drinking session in an Eglingham tavern. The hill now bears the name "Jenny's Lantern." Sounds like the sort of wife we gadgies need. An alternative explanation for the name of the hill is that "Jenny's Lantern" is a local name for will o' the wisp, the phospheresccent light seen on marshy ground.
  There are seven gadgies out today, (A heptagadge) last week's crew has been joined by Cornish Johhny, friend of Dave, registered gadgie and keen, knowledgable musician. Proper music that is, Jazz, sixties pop and so on. Henceforth to be known as musicmeister.

Today's walk starts in Eglingham, a pretty linear village in Northumberland. From Newcastle take the A1 to Alnwick, go through the town and shortly after the castle take the B6346 to Eglingham. There is some parking on the lane down to the village church which is dedicated to St. Maurice,* patron saint of English dancers.  It was built in the 12th and 13th centuries, like much of this part of the country was sacked by the Scots, and rebuilt in the 17th century. At the right time of year you can buy home made preserves in the church, an honesty box is provided. Down the village street you can also buy farm vegetables from an open stall, honesty box also provided. Sainsbury's, Morrisons etc. please note! Use OS81. The church is at GR106195.

St. Maurice's church Eglingham.

From the church walk past the village inn, The Tankerville Arms, a lovely friendly pub and restaurant, past the farm vegetable stall until you come to a signpost on the righthand side of the road. Go through the gates, carefully closing them behind you of course, and follow the path on the south side of the Eglingham burn through several fields. Keep Kimmer Lough on your right hand side. On our walk the lough was home to a large flock of geese which took off, circled in a magnificent skein and landed back on the water, becoming a flock again.  Dave thought they were Greylags but was not too sure.
Once across the Titlington Burn turn right and follow the path uphill, turning off to the left to climb to the top of the hill called Jenny's Lantern. On the top is the ruin of a building described as an eyecatcher, a type of folly, possibly built round a shepherd's cottage. It makes a good Herbiespot.

 Although we were not welcomed by a lantern waving wife, nor by Harry's mythical Scandinavian Air Stewardesses, Jenny's Lantern made a welcome Herbiespot, especially as a short sharp squall arrived, forcing us to don waterproofs. I think that's my glove on the left. Forget the blue sky, it rained. Of course I brought pies. I am the pieman.

From Jenny's Lantern the walk continues almost due west to an L shaped plantation. Between the Lantern and the plantation is a small tarn, there were many small ducks on it, either wigeon or teal.  In the crook of the L is stone cairn. at this point turn north west downhill. But take care, do not cross Titlington Burn and walk up the side of the field towards Titlington Mount or you will be hunted down by an irate farmer on a quad bike and ASBOed. Instead turn left down a tree lined farm track south of the burn. Just before Titlington nip across a field which is not a right of way but joins one at the next fence. When this path reaches a road turn left and almost immediately turn right through Titlington Woods. Once through the wood follow a rough path westwards to the Trig Point* *on Titlington Pike.
Shepherd's Law, Hermitage of St. Mary and St. Cuthbert. The chapel is on the right.

  From here you can see Shepherd's Law, an 18th century farm which since 1971 has been slowly rebuilt as the Hermitage of St. Mary and St. Cuthbert. An ecumenical retreat with a beautiful modern chapel completed in 2004.***
Take the path above Shepherd's Law towards Beanley Plantation. Once inside the woods turn left at the first forest trail and then turn right almost immediately. This uphill track is very muddy, the ground having been churned up by a large John Deere machine with half a dozen deeply treaded tyres. The machine strips the conifers of their branches and cuts the tree down. No tartan shirted "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK" chaps round here!
 When you emerge from the wood onto a road climb the bank on the right and cross the fields to have a look at "The Ringses"****. Nothing to do with Tolkein, the Ringses are the remains of a 2000 year old fort and settlement. Dave likes them!
Turn south and walk to a track, turn left and after about half a mile turn left on to a badly signed path that leads over fields and back to Eglingham
 My pedometers worked well today, giving readings of 10.61 and 10.08 miles. Dave had trouble, one pedometer working in kilometres, neither being too close to mine. The Benometer said 10.7 miles, measuring on a map gave just under 10. The walk is easy, little climbing, but at this time of the year it is muddy.
  We finished the walk about 4pm. The Tankerville Arms was closed until 6, winter hours I suppose, which was a shame so we were forced by circumstances to retire to the Anglers Arms a Weldon Bridge to check the quality of the Timothy Taylors Ale. It was excellent as usual, we sat round a real fire and discussed how, as children, it had been our job to bring the coal in, some of us had had the old style ranges which were fires and ovens alongside. Today we all have central heating, and much better it is too. The beer and crack were so good Brian suggested we stay the night, nice idea, should do it sometime, then the drivers can drink too!
* Not really, before you tell me it's spelled "Morris". He was a leader of the 3rd century Roman Theban Legion and patron saint of soldiers, swordsmiths, armies and infantry.

* *Trig point. Before satellites the UK was mapped with incredible accuracy by the Ordnance Survey. Trig points, truncated square pyramids, were erected on hundreds of high points and used in mapping. George Everest did a similar triangulation mapping of India, hence the name of the mountain.
*** It has a web site with history, pictures etc.
****The Ringses, a multivallate hillfort, deep defensive walls and several settlements around it. Not covered inthe Hillforts book mentioned elsewhere, presumably because they are outside the national park. Shame.

привет русcкий  читатели!

And finally, the College of Arms has been pleased to award me a coat of arms. I had it designed by a young cartoonist and writer of a soon to be published children's book. It is a pie couchant with crossed quills. My motto is borrowed from a walking society that is hibernating, The Wobbly Bellies. In case your Latin is not up to scratch it means "Seldom Passed but often inebriated"  It was translated from English by my daughter, so blame her if it is incorrect.


Lord Blogpiemikester

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Tea shops and tea trails November 18th.
    This week my blog has been visited 17 times by people in Russia and 12 times by people in the United States. Why? I can't imagine Russians wanting to know about walks in the North of England, Americans maybe. Let me know, but preferably in English.
    Anyway there are six of us out today, a super selection of sexy sexagenarians wandering the moors around Allendale. We are going to follow part of Isaac Holden's tea trail,*  following in the footsteps of a man who, in the nineteenth century, sold tea to the farmers and miners of this part of Northumberland whilst his wife stayed at home to mind their grocers shop.
  Our part of the walk starts in Allendale. From Newcastle take the A69 to Haydon Bridge, turn left onto the A686 and at Langley turn left onto the B6295, through Catton to Allendale.  On LR 87 the town centre is at GR 838559. In the square there is a tea shop supplying excellent bacon sandwiches and tea.
 This area was once the centre of a thriving lead mining industry. The first record of lead mining is in 1230(AD not GMT or even BST) but it was not until the mid 16th century that the industry really expanded, and it continued well into the 19th. As a result the area could be an industrial  paradise for someone like Dave wearing his archaeologists hat, but not today, we are walking. In spite of the mining that went on here the area retains a certain beauty, the river valleys are deep and wooded, the moorland bleak, you almost expect to see Kathy running across the landscape crying for her Liverpudlian waif.**
I could have been a Geography teacher but I was hopeless at P.E. although I had a jacket. If you look carefully at the picture of the River Allen you can see many sedimentary layers of rock. Out of sight on the right of the river are old flood plains, or haughs. (See St. Oswald's Way)

  The Tea trail from Allendale leads off the square, down a steep road, crosses the River Allen and follows a well marked trail across fields, through woods and farmyards. Sometimes the markers are the yellow Public Footpath signs, occasionally the tea trail markers with a silhouette of Isaac. Between fields there are stiles or kissing gates, ***a lovely walk for a happy couple. At New Shield we left the Tea Trail and followed a mere public footpath to Low Acton where a track led to a minor road. Turn left on the road and after a half mile there is a good track on the right. A large sign says "Private", a smaller one maintains there is no right of way but as we have nearly all been awarded ASBOs ** **by irate land owners at times, and as we are all poor readers, we took the track anyway. On my OS map the track runs alongside a kite shaped plantation, Dave's more up to date and larger scale map also shows a plantation, but it has gone, eaten by Jenkins Forestry Products.  But just beyond  where the North West corner of the plantation would have been if the plantation still existed are two small and securely locked corrugated metal huts. Peering through the window we could see bottles of soft drink, beer and cider, provisions for the brave and noble hunters who come to the moors to defend the nation from grouse. Although we could not get in, not being brave and noble hunters, we made use of them as  an al fresco Herbiespot.

Five gadgies, from left to right;
Vogelmeister, halfmarathonmeister, punmeister, dashing and debauched Ray, routemeister. Photo by blogpiemikester.

  Obviously shamed by last week's failure Dave had brought a supply of pork pies, but so had I. They were welcomed and I acquired the title "blogpiemikester". The college of Heralds are designing my new coat of arms, " a pie rampant, with quill".
  After lunch we continued on the track across Acton Moor. There are some superior shooting butts alongside, sixteen in all and numbered   "16 1",  "15 2"  "14 3" etc. There must be a reason for this, all sensible suggestions will be considered.  Eventually the track runs out and there is a considerable stretch of Lauder grass to cross before reaching a minor road. Turn right and make a decision. It is possible to take a footpath in the direction of Ninebanks and rejoin Isaacs Tea Trail or, as we did, follow the road for about a mile and then take the footpath to two chimneys on the moor. Relics of the days when the area was a centre for lead mining the chimneys are the end point of stone built flues that lead up from the old smelter.  Although now ruined it is possible to follow their line back down to the valley of the Allen and be amazed at their construction. Apparently small boys were employed to work their way up the hillside inside of them collecting any lead (or silver) that had been deposited on the walls. Not surprisingly, life expectancy for the miners of the area was not very high.
 On reaching a road, turn right and wander back into Allendale. Allendale has several nice pubs and some strange traditions. On New Years Eve the locals take to walking round the town square with blazing barrels of tar on their heads, an activity that the Health and Safety people must surely stop soon. Was Oliver Cromwell the first Health and Safety officer, or just plain miserable I ask. We chose the Golden Lion which sold Timothy Taylor's Landlord but I was driving.
  It was a grand day for pedometers: Dave wore two which measured the walk as 8.54 and 8.97 miles. I wore two but lost one, the remaing Higear gave a reading of 9.6 miles. The Outdoor GB App, bought at considerable expense, had used 43% of its battery after 4.5 miles although the young man in the Apple Store told me how to conserve power. The Benometer said 10 miles. Dave measured the walk on a 1:25000 map as 9.8 miles, my attempt on 1;50000 said 9.5. 9.5 seems about right.

* Roger Morris has produced a delightful booklet about Isaac Holden and his tea walk, called  Isaac's Tea Trail. I like to boast my copy is autographed by the author, we met him on his allotment near Birtley once.
** I went to see the latest film version of Wuthering Heights last week. It contains a version of a classic joke which I could not print here, but if anybody knows the story of the young man who took a degree in wit and repartee after being insulted by a clown you know the one. Presumably so did Emily Bronte.
*** For my foreign readers: A kissing gate is a gate that swings inside a V shape, only allowing one person through at a time. Traditionally you kiss your partner as they go through. If my book of Cumbrian gate fastenings ever gets written ther will be a photograph.
**** Again for my foreign readers. An ASBO is an Anti Social Behaviour Order, dreamt up by the last government for minor misdemeanors and worn as a badge of honour by the awardees.

Friday, 11 November 2011

High Cantle      11-11-11

   There are five gadgies out today, four from last week and Ben the halfmarathonmeister.
   The plan for today was to walk up Hedgehope from Hartside in the Breamish Valley but the low cloud changed our minds for us, no point in going where you can't see anything.
   Instead we opted for a gentler walk from Hartside. To get to this farmhouse from Newcastle, shortly to be renamed Sports Direct on Tyne, take the A1 north, A697 just north of Morpeth and a couple of miles north of Powburn take the road on the left signposted Ingram. Drive as far as you can, to the sign that says  "no cars beyond this point, please". This is Hartside, GR 977162 on OL16, The Cheviot Hills.
  From Hartside, especially on a misty day like today, follow your nose along the surfaced road that leads to the tiny but very attractive settlement at Linhope. There are only three or four houses, lovely place to live if you don't like going to the pub. On the right and a little way up the hill is an ancient settlement called Grieves Ash. It is an interesting site  for Dave and has special meaning for me. The next time we walk there all will be revealed, so keep reading! The road becomes a track and  after about half a mile there is a junction. The right fork is signposted "Linhope Spout", a very pretty waterfall and well worth a visit, but not today.  Take the left fork which leads over the moors. Today it was very muddy and low cloud made it difficult to see but thanks to intuition and a magic needle, an improved version of the magic fish used in that terrific film "The Vikings", we wandered westward to Rig Cairn, turned on a bearing of 250 degrees and eventually came to High Cantle. From here a rough path leads down a steep slope to the valley of the Breamish and a farm track. Turn left on the track and soon you come to a barn like structure which makes a good Herbiespot, inside on a damp day or outside on fine days. It was a damp day. The two tups * in the shed looked ready for work.
An attractive Herbie spot on a damp day.

 Last week Dave, the vogelmeister, had not brought his usual offering of mini pork pies, as he is on a low fat kick. I made a mental note to buy some but forgot until the morning of the walk. Fortunately our local Sainsburys** opens at 7am so I was able to get some long before we set off, cut them into correct gadgie halves and add them to my lunch box. I even packed a couple of sachets of HP Sauce***.  They were welcomed by all, Dave was rightly ashamed, guess he will bring some next week.
Joke of the day:
American to Irish diver.  "Why do you fall backwards off the boat ?"
Irish diver. "Because if I fell forward I would still be in the boat."
The other jokes are not fit to print.
After a fond farewell to the tups we continued along the track past High Bleakhope Farm. Be careful, two years ago as Harry and I walked past this farm an irate farmer ran from the house politely asking us not to look through his window. It's the isolation that gets them.
 Further down the track is Low Bleakhope farm. Here you can turn left and follow a track back or you can do as we did and follow the old Salters Road over the moors.  A lot of money has been spent upgrading this track and work is still going on. We suspect there will be a plantation appearing shortly, or shooting butts.
  After about a mile and a half a grassy track leads off to the left, passes several low level grouse shelters and feeders and joins a surfaced road. Turn right, walk past Alnhamoor Farm and stay on the road to Hartside.
  The pedometers have worked well today if a little generously, averaging out at about 8.5 miles, enough on a poor day.
  The Anglers Arms had its usual supply of Timothy Taylor's and I wasn't driving.
* tup  northern word for a ram
**For my increasing number of foreign readers, Sainsburys is a British supermarket chain
*** Again for those of you not familiar with British delicacies HP is a spicy brown sauce named after the Houses of Parliament.
Those of us of more mature years learned our French from the side of the bottle which used to have printed on the label:
"Cette sauce de haute qualite est un melange de fruits orienteaux, des epice................"
Now it is made in Belgium or somewhere and the French has gone.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Saint Oswald's Way November 4th. Haughs and Heughs

In the early days of  Christianity in England  Northumberland seems to have produced its fair share of saints. Cuthbert, Aidan, Hilda, Wilfred and Oswald  to name but five.  Cuthbert is probably the most famous as he was carried round the north east in his coffin before the pallbearers decided Durham was not only a good place to bury him but an imposing site for a cathedral too. Health and Safety would not allow that sort of thing today.  The Venerable Bede didn’t quite make it to sainthood but did write a book on the history of the church of Enland some several hundred years before the Reformation, a great act of foresight.

  Two of these saints also have long distance footpaths named after them, Cuthbert and Oswald, and today  a team of four gadgies are following a section of St. Oswald’s Way from Rothbury to Longframlington.  As well as being a saint Oswald had been a king. When he died his arm was taken up by a raven which flew off to a tree, afterward known as Oswestry (think about it). His head supposedly rests in Durham Cathedral although three other religious houses in Europe also lay claim to owning it.

  We seem to be acquiring nicknames, I am the blogmikester, Harry is the routemeister because he usually plans the walk as nobody else can be bothered, not because he likes London buses, Brian is the punmeister and poor Dave has been unfairly christened the snotmeister because he has had a cold recently. I think I shall call him the vogelmeister because he is good at bird recognition.

 The walk starts in Rothbury, easy to find from Newcastle. Follow the A1 north to its junction with the A697 signposted Wooler and at Weldon Bridge turn on to the B6344 for Rothbury, a pretty little town, ample parking and several cafes for a bacon butty to start you on your way. (Except for Ray but he wasn’t out so it doesn’t matter.

  Because St. Oswald had his arm taken by a raven some of the markers on the route have a silhouette of  a raven, some are just public footpath markers and some are proper finger posts.

  From the main street take the road that crosses the river and turn left. Walk past the road leading to a caravan site and a little further on turn off the road at the “St. Oswald’s Way” finger post. The footpath leads through woodland, there are easily spotted markers and some kind soul has tied plastic yellow ribbons round the trees, even though they are not oaks.

  You may, if you wish make use of the dismantled railway line for a while, it is less muddy and the paths eventually converge. The footpath continues through fields and patches of woodland until you reach the road bridge at Pauperhaugh.* Admire the bridge but do not cross  it.

The bridge at Pauperhaugh.

Turn right and walk up the road a few hundred yards before turning left into a field. After a few hundred yards there is a dilapidated old farm building with a mini hemmel** and a rusting tractor.  We made it a Herbiespot and settled down for lunch. The vogelmeister coyly admitted he had not brought his usual offering of mini pork pies as he was getting concerned about their fat content. A feeble excuse really as they have become one of the traditions of gadgie walks. Next week I shall make sure I bring a supply.  The tractor was carefully examined by Dave who lived in Coventry and knows about these things. It had been red so couldn’t have been a John Deere, I think he said it was an International.

  After a few awful jokes to make up for the lack of pies we continued via Thorneyhaugh and Middleheugh*** to a point on the river across from Brinkburn Priory a 12th century priory famous for escaping destruction by marauding Scots by not ringing bells, used in summer for outdoor concerts of classical music and owned by English Heritage. It was closed anyway, like a lot of England. 

  The path then continues through Brinkheugh and Thistleyhaugh  to Weldon. Pause on the old road bridge and watch the river. We saw several salmon leaping the weir, a dipper and some distant ducks that were difficult to identify.  If you must,  walk past the Anglers Arms, turn right and go under the modern bridge that carries the A697. Take the track through High Weldon, past the gun shop at Low Town and follow the road into Longframlington. A few hundred yards down the road  opposite the Village Inn  (See “The Invisibles”) there is a bus stop and an hourly service that takes you back to Rothbury. A proper gadgie walk, including bus passes!

  There has been a lot written recently about feral English children and their appalling behaviour. The bus we caught was obviously a school bus and the twenty or so teenagers on it were very well behaved. And like children all over the north east they each thanked the driver as they got off the bus.

  Back in Rothbury and after a quick change of footwear we drove back to the Anglers’ Arms at Weldon Bridge. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord or Abbot, and I was driving.

  Not the best of days for the classy HiGear pedometer which sulked but ASDApeds claim  9.2 miles. And quite easy going too.

*Pauperhaugh.  The inhabitants may well have been poor but it comes from Papworthaugh, whoever he was.

** Farm outbuilding, usually with several open arches.

***Haugh and heugh. Not a spelling mistake.

A haugh is a piece of flat land near a river.

A heugh  is a promontory or hill.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Walking with a gadgette October 24 - October 31

   There has been a gadgie walk this week, but not for me as I have been on holiday with my wife Kathleen, who is 65 and qualifies as a gadgette, although she is not too keen on walking.
   We went with our friends Evelyn and John to Madeira, an island we have visited several times. It is an excellent holiday island, far south enough to remain warm all year, high enough for some serious walking and for pleasant easy strolls there are the famous levadas. There are 1335 miles of these irrigation channels on the island. They were built to carry water down from the higher ground to irrigate the rich agricultural areas below, and they are still used for that purpose but they are also popular for walking. Generally speaking they slope very gently down hill, occasionally passing through tunnels, often apparently  stapled to the sides of cliffs with vertiginous drops to the valleys below. Choose with care if you suffer from vertigo.
   For one afternoon's stroll I chose the Levada dos Tornos *which carries water from the north of the island mainly through tunnels but a good starting point is near the Monte Gardens, accessible by bus or cable car from Funchal the island capital.
  We travelled by bus, mainly because we had bought 5day passes from the local bus company but also because  the gadgette is terrified of cable cars ever since an American fighter plane cut through the cable of an Italian cable car some years ago. I did persuade her to ride a cable car up a mountain in Austria, she sat in silence with eyes shut for the whole journey.
   To reach the start of the walk from the bus stop we had first to negotiate a rough path through woodland until we came to the spot where the levada emerges from a tunnel. After an easy start my problems really started. We soon came to a section where the path alongside the levada was about 18 inches (45cm) wide and the drop about 200 feet (60m) and there is no railing.  I knew the gadgette was not too happy when she threatened to smash my head in for bringing me to this place. The problem was solved quite easily. Evelyn and I got a stick about  4feet long  (120cm). I held one end, Evelyn the other and the gadgette, still cursing, walked between us with a movable handrail!  It boosted her confidence and saved my head. Sadly I was unable to take a photograph of the happy scene.
   Eventually of course we passed the hairy bit and the levada  wandered on through woodland, eucalyptus trees, agapanthus plants, brightly coloured finches and a dead rat in the water.

Kathleen, assisted by home made walking poles climbs towards the Levada dos Tornos (right). This is an easy section the side sloping quite gently to the left.

   We walked on for another  4miles (6.4km) where we came to a small settlement and after walking down the road for another mile or so found a bus stop and bus to take us back to Funchal.
   Before you start thinking I am being cruel to my wife I should point out that she has suffered from a very rare form of arthritis for several years and her achievement on this walk demonstrates that the drugs she is taking are having some positive effect and she is determined to overcome the problem.  In my humble opinion, her walk today was, as young people say, AWESOME. ** And I felt proud of her.
  We had several other walks on the island, mainly proper tourist walks with pauses for tea and scones or something more adventurous like Fanta.
  One day we visited the Madeira Story Museum, very interesting and buttons to push for children. The island gets a mention from Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy, which fascinates me. The ancients must have been brave to travel so far across the Atlantic. They refer to it as "The Purple Isle". Modern Europeans found it in when Zarco, a Portugese sailor sailed there in 1420 and claimed it, as you do, for Henry the Navigator. However there is a tale that in 1344 an Englishman on the run with his lover landed on the island but both sadly perished. This man from Bristol was called Machin. Now I have a nephew by marriage called Tim Machin, actor, singer, teacher and general good guy living in Toronto. I think he could possibly have a claim to the island, becoming King Tim or at least president. Tim, if you do, you will need a Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have a calculator.
* A good guide to walks in Madeira is  Walking in Madeira by Paddy Dillon, published by Cicerone.
** Normally I attribute being awesome to God or the universe, but there are exceptions.

Back to proper gadgie walks next week, the days are getting shorter, we could be walking railway lines. And thank you Estonian person for reading my blog! Getting to be quite international.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Hadrian's Muriel: a sad tale of a lost pedometer and disintegrating boot  October 21st.

  For those of you not familiar with our little island history you need to know that the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the construction of a wall across what is now England in the year 122AD. Its purpose was to define the northern frontier of the Roman Empire and to keep a check on people passing through the wall in either direction. The wall was 75 English miles long, 80 Roman miles , and had forts, milecastles and turrets built at regular intervals. Although much of the wall has gone the Hadrian's Wall Path is a popular long distance walk and follows the remains or the line of the wall from Bowness on  Solway to Wallsend on Tyne.*
  Today's gadgie walk is along approximately twelve miles of the wall from Chesters at Chollerford to the wonderfully named Twice Brewed.
  The starting point is the roundabout at Chollerford, a layby on the B6320  (OL 43 GR 919706) road to Bellingham has a convenient  space for several cars and the cafe on the B6318 does an excellent bacon roll breakfast to start you on your way.
 This walk is so easy to follow you could do it without a map but the Ordnance Survey map of the wall is useful for identifying turrets, milecastles and other archaeological features.
 With pedometers zeroed and spirits strengthened by bacon (except for Ray, who, true to his principles made do with a cheese scone) we set out along the B6318, reaching Walwick (the farm on the wall) after about a mile. Turning right down a lane between the houses of the village we walked a few hundred yards to a signpost directing us across fields. The path here follows the wall itself, the walking is easy although in places the ground was muddy, mainly due to the number of cows congregating near gates and churning the field up.

This stretch of wall gives some idea of its construction but not its height. Nearby farms are probably built of stone quarried by Roman legionnaires. Vandalism or recycling, take your pick.

   Just beyond Carrawbrough Farm the path crosses the road to Brocolitia Fort and a diversion takes you to a handy Mithraum nearby.

Mithras was very popular with Roman squaddies who got up to all sorts of things in his temples. This one is near the fort of Brocolitia on the wall.

Crossing back to the north side of the road we continued on the line of the wall until we reached the remains of a turret (possibly 33b) where we decided to stop for lunch. The turret became a herbievorium.** Dave asked me how far we had come and I reached for my pedometer. It had come loose from my belt and was lost. After several expletives I grumpily settled down to eat my sandwich. My pedometer was a quality one, Hi Gear, retailing at about £20 but I had won it in an ebay auction for the princely sum of £1.74, no wonder I was mad. The situation was not helped by the punmeister's quip, "Do you think all the Roman legionnaires were in the Turretorial army?".***
   At this moment Chis and Nigel appeared, walking the wall in the opposite direction to us. As we chatted about bthe pleasures of walking I asked them to look out  for my pedometer on their way to Chollerford. Dave, who, considering he has a phone but has never been known to use it, suggested I give my phone number. I did.
  Moving on we approached what to me is the finest part of the wall, the stretch from Sewingshields (from Sigewine's shields) to Steel Rigg. Along, and beyond, this stretch the wall makes use of the Whinsill and stands high above the surrounding land, giving superb panoramas of Northumberland. At Sewingshields you can look down on the outline of medieval fishponds, Broomlee Lough and the more distant Nature Reserve of Greenlee Lough. Just over a mile from Sewingshields is the fort of Vercovicivm, better known as Housesteads and a must for school trips. The foundations of the fort are clearly visible, the museum and information centre well worth a visit and, as it is a popular site for school trips there were some bored looking sixth form girls waiting over by the fence, taking photographs and texting on their mobile phones.
  Beyond Housesteads the Pennine Way crosses the wall as it winds it's way to Kirk Yetholm in the borders.   And after Hotbanks farm the wall approaches Highshield Crags, a couple of hundred feet above Crag Lough, and my favourite spot on the wall.The crags are home to ravens, peregrines have been see there and far below there is usually a family of swans on the Lough. This spot alone is worth the walk.

           Crag Lough from Hotbanks Farm. The wall is built on the top of the craggs.                                                                                   

Dave points out the arch of a north gateway at one of the milecastles.

Ray, Brian and Dave at Hotbanks farm.
Beyond Crag Lough the wall dips down to Sycamore Gap, made famous by Kevin Costner in "Robin Hood". People who know the area and the film remain mystified as to how Robin got from Dover Beach to Hadrian's Wall in one frame. The magic of the movies !                                                                               

Ye  Olde Sycamoree Treee

From Robin's tree the wall climbs up to Peel Crags and from there the path leads to the car park at Steel Rigg. However, in order to see the crags that are popular with climbers we went round the base of the crags, admired a solitary climber and walked down the road to Twice Brewed. As we walked around the crag Dave exclaimed the sole was coming off his much loved "China Boots", a bargain from Go Outdoors. By the time we made it to Twice Brewed the sole, which was glued to the upper was almost completely off. It could have happened anywhere, if it had to happen we were at least near the end of the walk. My phone rang. It  was either Chris or Nigel, they had found my precious pedometer and would leave it at the car in Chollerford.                                                                                                                                                
This walk is a true gadgie walk as we were able to catch the AD122 bus back to Chollerford. This bus runs along the wall from April, to the end of October. The driver was extremely friendly as Dave asked to be dropped as near the car as possible because of his boot. The driver explained, "Ring the bell 100 yards from where you want to get off and leave the rest to me."                                                                                    
Back in Chollerford there was  no sign of Chris or Nigel. Brian drove a short distance up the road, my phone rang. "Your car has just passed us, no he's stopped, turned round and has offered us a lift for the last half mile. Your pedometer is safe!"                                                                                                                   
We called at the George, a very nice hotel next to the bridge at Chollerford and overlooking the Tyne. After an expensive pint it was decided to move on to The Boathouse at Wylam. Paradise! At least twelve real ales on sale. It was tempting to stay and catch a train back to Newcastle.                                                            
Dave's pedometers gave two readings. (He wears one on each hip, like John Wayne, but so do I) One said 12 miles, the other said 9.9. We both measured the walk as 12.2, so a claim of 12 relatively easy miles is a good one.                                                                                                                                  
* There are legions of books written about the wall. A good one is Hadrian's  Wall  by David Breeze and Brian Dobson.  For the more technical minded who want a stone by stone history of the wall the "Handbook of the Roman Wall" by J. Collingwood Bruce, originally published in 1863 but updated at least thirteen times (Fourteenth edition in 2006) is a must. The Great North Museum in Newcastle dedicates much space to the wall and of course the forts at Vindolanda, Birdoswald and Housesteads are well worth a visit   
** Hebievorium  A Latin phrase for eating place. (See Pliny the Elder et alia)
*** For my foreign readers, the British Army reserve is called "The Territorial Army"      
I   seem to be having alignment problems. Must try harder.