Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Hen Hole - a favourite gadgie walk. September 23rd.
    Another pentadgie today but Herbie has been substituted by Ben, Great North Runner.

    This is a 12 mile walk, most of it is quite easy going but there is a scramble and a very steep climb. (You can go round them).
     The walk starts at Hawsen Burn in the Harthope Valley. The directions are the same as those for Carey Burn but instead of parking at the Carey Burn bridge continue for a couple of miles to a polite notice asking you to drive no further. On the left is a grassed area used for parking. It is next to a stream used for cooling your feet after the walk and washing the mud off your boots.  (OL 16 GR 954225)
   On the right hand side of the road take the path on the right hand side of Hawsen Burn  and follow it for about half a mile. At this point the track forks, take the left hand fork and walk on with the burn below you on your left. In spring time we have seen ring ousels in this area and on warm days a basking adder or two, don't wear open toed sandals. Eventually the track  approaches a fence line. It does not matter how hard we gadgies try we never find the path leading directly to the style and have to cross some Lauder grass/heather to reach it. Once over keep on the muddy path until a more substantial forest track is reached. Turn right. The track deteriorates as you approach a small plantation but follow it through the wood until it emerges into fields. Without deviating from the path you will eventually reach Goldscleugh, a small farm. From here a properly surfaced road leads to Dunsdale, another farm but now used as a holiday cottage. For years Harry Nagel has promised we will be met here by a flight of Scandinavian Air Hostesses who will attend to our every need. Hope is fading but it makes a pleasant Herbie Spot. I once shared a taxi in New York with an air hostess. I bet she doesn't remember though. I tell you this so you know I have travelled, a bit. It is similar to the way some columnists like to mention their time at Oxbridge occasionally.Giles Coren of The Times is particularly good at this.
   After a light lunch, for so far the walking has been easy, take the path through the farm yard and across a few fields with an ex-plantation on your right hand side. Along this part of the route you can get a good view down the College Valley,* in my opinion the most beautiful of the Cheviot valleys.   At the end of the plantation  look down on Mounthooly, another ex farmhouse now used as a Youth Hostel. The building is whitewashed and must be one of the most isolated hostels in the country. In the 2009 YHA update it is classified as a bunkhouse but the lady who runs it assured me the full YH service is available. Must make use of it someday. To the left of the hostel is a narrow rectangular plantation and in the adjacent field you can see the outline of an ancient settlement and field system. (Thank you Dave) 

Mounthooly Hostel. On a summers evening, sitting outside with a bottle or two of beer you could write poetry.

Take the path down to the College Burn, cross and follow the track which eventually peters out into a path . At a sheepfold (stell in Northumberland) you have a choice. Either take the path on the right that leads relatively gently up the hill to Red Cribs and the Mountain Refuge before leading on to Auchope Cairn or be a true gadgie and take the left hand rough path that leads into the Hen Hole. **
  The Hen Hole is a narrow, rocky gully where the College Burn tumbles over a series of waterfalls and rocks on its way out of the Cheviot. It is not really dangerous except in icy or very wet conditions when the stream is full, but nevertheless requires some care as it is necessary to cross the stream several times and scramble up some short rock faces.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Waterfall at the bottom of the Hen Hole. Keep left here.

Waterfall near the top of the Hen Hole. Keep to the left at this point

                                                                                                                                           We have found it easier to start on the left hand side of the stream, about one third of the way up cross over and recross some time later before emerging at the top into a natural amphitheatre. You can follow the burn up to Auchope Cairn but it is the test of the true gadgie to take the steep slope directly up to the cairn. There are two cairns in fact and it is a useful place to have a rest and another sandwich after the climb. And the views are terrific!.
   The path from Auchope Cairn to the summit of Cheviot used to be a wearying trudge through peat but the collapse of the Lancashire  and Yorkshire textile industries brought some benefit. The Pennine Way from here to the Cheviot summit and beyond is a good path built of flagstones from mill yards. They might not be pretty but us gadgies remember the old days when you brought enough peat home on your boots to rebuild your garden.
    Follow the path towards the summit. In truth the top of the Cheviot is a rather dull plateau, enhanced by views. As a diversion, at GR 898195 are some remains of a USAAF B17 bomber which crashed here in World War Two.  ***About 50 yards off the path they are quire easy to find.

   From this point the path leads on to Scald Hill and shortly after a path on the right meanders down to the Harthope Valley bottom and a good road back to the car park.

   The Village Inn at Longframlington has its own micro brewery which produces good ale. It is a very friendly pub, highly recommended after a long walk.

* "College Valley" does not refer to a place of  learning. The "lege "part comes from "letch" meaning a place where water flows slowly through a marshy area. I suspect the "Col"it could mean cold. The College Valley is privately owned and access is limited to twelve cars a day. A permit is obtainable at John Sale and Partners, an estate agent in Wooler, at a cost of £10. There is a small free car park at the entrance to the valley at Hethpool.

I hope this doesn't get me into trouble:
My next computer lesson is rotating, clockwise through
90 degrees

** As far as I can make out "Hen " simply means a wild bird. A good name for this area as we saw a peregrine and ravens and the cliffs make excellent nesting sites for these birds.
*** For details of this and other sites see Where the Hills Meet the Sky, a guide to Wartime Crashes in the Cheviot Hills by Peter Clark. There is a memorial stone to the RAF fliers near the Whitehall in College Valley and a map indicating sites of crashes.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Gadgie;   Bill Griffiths A Dictionary of North East Dialect defines gadgie as " bloke, old man, official...........park keeper, odd character................
 The dictionary is a must for anybody interested in the North East of England and there is a companion book by the same author; Pitmatic, The talk of the North East Coalfield.

FTA;   Some years ago, so the story goes, Alan Lauder and Harry Nagel were out on a walk. Harry was some distance ahead of Alan who said words to the effect  "It's alright for you and Mike Emmett, you are a couple of Fat Plodders who can go all day but I'm a Finely Tuned Athlete"   Hence FTA, anyone who runs and isn't overweight. There are some variations: AFTA,  EFTA      (Almost a finely tuned athlete and Ex finely tuned athlete)

FP; See above.

HERBIE STOP Lunch break. Originally a "Mike and Harry's" but as Herbie always seems to eat more than anybody else and stops more often for a snack the name has changed.  It was Herbie who introduced us to the Greggs breakfast of bacon butty and coffee at the start of a bus walk.

HERBIVORE  Someone who eats a lot (Another of Brians dreadful jokes)

SCORCHER BY LUNCHTIME ; a wet morning, usually followed by a wet afternoon.

LAUDER GRASS     Moorland tussocks. Originally called "Dougalls" after the dog in The Magic Roundabout * but renamed after an angry outburst from Alan Lauder as we walked across a moor. To be fair to Alan they are not the easiest of surfaces to cross. Heather can also be classified as Lauder Grass but it does clean your boots. Mind the wife moans trying to get the heather off my socks.

* The Magic Roundabout. Wonderful 60s stop motion  childrens cartoon series. (French?) Narrated by Emma Thompson's dad and  watched by adults. Characters included Dougall, the dog, Dylan the hippy rabbit, Ermintrude  the cow,  Brian the snail, a little girl and a character called Zebedee who ended the programme by saying "Time for bed" and flying off on the spring he had instead of legs.

An Arthur Robinson
Named after a lecturer at North Tyneside College. We took him along Striding Edge some years ago and towards the end where there is a scramble he was struggling a bit. Another walker, obviously from a higher caste than us asked him if he was alright.
Arthur replied that he was but that bhe would not be walking with these "flipping beggars" again. At least that's what In think he said. Since then an Arthur is a walk not to be followed.
This blog will grow
Northumberland Coastal Path. September 16th

       Five gadgies out today; a pentagie?  Herbie has joined us after a few weeks off. Herbie can eat for England but has not got an ounce of spare flesh on him. Life is so unfair.
       Today's walk is along a section of the Northumberland Coastal Path. The beaches in Northumberland are magnificent, miles of golden sand. If the summer was a little warmer the bays would be lined with concrete hotels, the beaches would have neat rows of sunbeds and the local pubs would sell more lager instead of decent ale. The tourist board of Alberta, landlocked Canadian province, once used a photograph of the beach at Bamburgh Northumberland in a promotional leaflet. Now Alberta probably has lakes bigger than Northumberland and there are some pretty fine beaches on them too, but Hey,WOULDN'T YOU THINK THEY WOULD CHECK FIRST?  Alberta also has mountains, and prairies, and oil and tar sands and an amazing place called "Head smashed in" where First Nations  (Very PC!) people drove buffalo herds over a cliff. At least they made full use of their kills, unlike the butchers of the American great plains.
      The walk starts in Seahouses, a small coastal resort and port famous for fish and chips, and deservedly so. It is also possible to take a boat trip out to the Farne Islands and smell the guano, get pecked on the head by terns and admire the seals with their soulful eyes. It's a hard life but it could be worse if they lived in Canada. Leave your car, if that's the way you came, in the car park at  GR 218320  on LR75.
      At the back of the car park a path leads along a long disused railway to a minor road. Turn right and after a few yards cross a style on the left hand side of the road and take the footpath that crosses fields to Shoreston Hall. The Coastal Path is well marked and it is easy to follow  towards Bamburgh. Not surprisingly the huge castle is visible for miles as it is not only huge but built on the Whin Sill which Dave knows all about because he understands Geology as well as archaeology. The castle has starred in several films .(I do not like the use of the Americanism "movie" and don't use it. And why do we suffer so many American voice overs in adverts. Fair enough for Chevrolet cars but I have heard them used for Teeside University and holidays in Wales). There is evidence of occupation as far back as Romano British times and it really deserves a book of it's own. I'm sure there will be several. I stick to Pevsner for information.*
    Bamburgh Castle from the north. It was a cool grey day hence the rather dull picture.

       Nestling beneath the castle is a pretty cricket ground, we made use of the pavilion to have a Herbie stop out of the light rain.
       Rejoin the Coastal Path behind the cricket field and walk along the beach  or cliff top path in the direction of Budle Bay.  We paused near Stag Rock (easily identifiable) to watch the sea birds who were obviously feeding on a shoal of fish quite close to the shore. There were gannets, cormorants, terns, knots, dunlin, redshanks, oystercatchers and even some crows and a house martin and swallow having a last tuck in before the long journey to Africa. There is a small lighthouse with a Trinity House coat of arms. I didn't study Latin very long but common sense tells you it means Three in One.

      Budle Bay looks like a mini version of the Wash on a map. In the South West corner use the gate or scramble over the fence on to the road. Almost immediately take the road going uphill past the Warren House Hotel and pause to admire the Outchester Ducket. This stone tower, now a holiday let, appears to have been a windmill but the small board at the gate maintains it was a food and manure store. Interesting combination. Follow the road going west, take the next right fork then the next left fork. After about half a mile on the road take the footpath on the left that crosses several fields until you come to a disused single track railway that served Easington Quarry. Cross it and proceed to the East Coast mainline. The footpath goes across the railway and there is a phone which connects directly to the main signal box. The signalman will tell you whether it is safe to cross, when you reach the other side call him back to say you made it.
  The final section of the path  goes down the side of grain silos. Watch out for the rat traps and wonder what's in your bread.. Cross the A1 road (Single carriageway, you are after all, in the North and this is the major route to Scotland) and continue on the path into Belford.
   At this pont being a gadgie pass comes into it's own. There are buses to Beadnell and Newcastle, although not many. The bus will take you back to Seahouses for free as a gadgie at the moment  but who knows how deep the cuts will bite. Gadgie passes could well be under threat. Massed ranks of pensioners will storm Whitehall, there will be sit ins on buses and a lot of money will be kept out of the economy.
   An after walk drink at the Ship in Seahouse, lovely pub, quite oldfashioned and with a good selection of ales.
   This walk is about 10 miles. Dave and I wear pedometers, it is quite legal. Mine said 10.046 miles. 
    My Canadian fan says these walks should be described as "incredibly fit gadgie walks". I don't think so.

* The Buildings of England. by Nicholas Pevsner. The Northumberland book has been revised by John Grundy,Grace McCombie, Peter Ryder and Humphrey Welfare.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Reservoir Blog  September 2nd

    Six gadgies out today, the usual crew plus John Lockey who lectures in just about anything to do with electricity. He once changed a light fitting for us, it took four hours. It wasn't as if he had to rewire the house, just take two lamps off the ceiling and put two back. I had looked at it myself but thought there were too many wires. Also a welcome return to Ben, motor mechanic (retd.), wine lover, art lover and FTA.

   This walk starts near Hallington and is a fairly flat 11 miles some of it on road. It is easy to get to Hallington from Newcastle; take the A69, turn north on the A68, turn off for Bingfield, go through Hallington and after a little more than half a mile pull in to the side of the road by a gate. Using OS maps OL43 or LR 87 this point is easy to find at GR 983769 and is conveniently marked with a spot height 176.* Don't park in the gateway, you might get John Deered.
   Go through the gate and walk down the track to Hallington Reservoir, turn left and walk on the paths round the edge of the water, admiring the water birds, the flowers and the trees. It is used by anglers who have some huts for weighing whatever they catch and practising their exaggerations.  I have the suspicion that this reservoir is home to a pair of Ospreys but that the various protection agencies keep quiet. We saw several varieties of ducks and geese and a solitary grebe.
At the North West corner of the reservoir take the track on the left which joins the minor road just north of Colwell. Turn right and after about quarter of a mile cross the stile on the left and follow the path to Little Swinbourne. Through the farm, which has a beautiful walled yard, turn left and follow the path to Little Swinbourne Reservoir . To make it a really good Gadgie Walk it is important that we see a heron. Dave spotted one flying slowly across this pretty little reservoir. Cross the weir and struggle through the Lauder grass** in a North Westerly direction and across an old field system (isn't Dave useful for explaining bumps)  to a point on the wall of Colt Crag Reservoir where there is a rightangled corner and a gate. Through the gate and follow the path round the side of Colt Crag across the strange spillway  to a very minor road. Turn right and the at the sign post for Thockrington turn left.
  In Thockrington there is an old church Norman according to Nicholas Pevsner, possibly built on the site of an earlier Saxon Church.
  In the graveyard there are several Shaftoes and also the grave of Lord William Beveridge, founder of the welfare state, eugenicist and MP for Berwick on Tweed for 282 days.
  Thockrington Church, built on the Whinsill in Norman times.

Lord William Beveridge's gravestone. His wife lies in the plot next to him.


Leaving Thockrington church go through the farm and follow the road, turning right at the next junction. After a few hundred yards on the left side of the road is a small gate in the corner of a field. Go through it and make your way up the hill to the Dovecote at the top.

The Dovecote. We think this ruin is too ornate to be a dovecote. I found a photograph of it on the internet but no explanation of its purpose or date. Possibly it was a bastle house.

Take a bearing a few degrees East of South across the fields and you are back on the track to Hallington Reservoir. Turn left, through the gate and hopefully your car is still there.

* There are some little poppins who find laminating amusing and a suitable pastime for slightly loony elderly parents who are bored playing "I Spy" in the car.
OS maps are expensive and outdoors can billow up like a square rigged ship or get wet. And I failed my NVQ Level II on map folding so I photocopy the section I am using for a walk, laminate it, use it and keep for when I do the walk again.

** Named after Alan Lauder, gadgie and FTA as opposed to FP. He dislikes walking across tussocks or heather.