Saturday, 25 August 2012

Canadas, Coots, Greylags and Grebes.....Aug 24

The forecast was for another damp day but three heroes decided to head for the lower hills at least. Dave the vogelmeister, Harry the routemeister and me, with some pies.
We decided on a relatively gentle walk from the visitor centre at Ingram. To get there take that well known route up the A1, turn off north of Morpeth on the A697 and shortly after Powburn turn left at the Ingram sign post. Continue along  the road for about 2.5 miles and after crossing the river turn left to the visitor centre. It is a useful place to start, it has toilets and sells ice cream, sweat shirts and books. It is only open between the beginning of April and the end of October.
 A map is useful on this walk and the one to use is OSLR 81, Alnwick and Morpeth or preferably because of the better scale OL16, The Cheviots and OS Explorer 332 Alnwick and Amble. Regardless the visitor centre is at GR019163.

                                          Ingram visitor centre
Leaving the centre, walk past the church and down the lane past several lovely holiday cottages until you meet the "main"road. Keep left and walk past Ingram Farm, watching out for peacocks, over the cattle grid and on the left is a footpath leading to the hills. Take it and follow it, initially in a souith western direction but slowly swinging towards the south east before making a right -angled turn back to the south west.
Much to Dave's delight as he is an archaeologist when not being a vogelmeister the track follows the line of cultivation terraces, possibly neolithic but on your left is a rather isolated cottage, Ingram Hill.
Ingram valley is rich in ancient settlements, hill forts and terraces and roughly a mile beyond the cottage we wandered off the official track to examine the remains of a settlement. This turned out to be a mistake as we entered an area used for rearing  partridges and there were several hundred of them running loose, plus a polite notice as we left the area asking mus not to enter.
Crossing Middledean Burn we continued following the official path in a south easterly direction over Cochrane Pike before going down a steep slope to cross Rocky Burn. Once through the fairly new gate across the burn you have a choice of paths. On the left the path goes uphill to the top of old Fawdon Hill, the right skirts the hill, easier on the legs but eventually the two come together again.
Also at this point change sheets if you have invested in the two 1;25000  maps.
On the top of Old Fawdon Hill is a trig point, useful to rest against after a short but steep pull up and plainly visible a little east of south is a settlement on a lower hill. The perimeter walls of this bivallate (!) settlement are clearly visible.
  A nameless settlement but even on a grey day you can see the remains of the perimeter walls. The dots are sheep, and very pretty ones too.
 High over the wood we watched a pair of buzzards being teased a bit by a kestrel, or the other way round.
Walking down the hill in a north east direction we stopped at the bottom, near a small wood and made use of a pile of logs for a Herbiespot, checking carefully that there were no snakes, or anything else, in the woodpile. The usual sandwiches and sections of pork pie, fast becoming the gadgie walking diet. Walking along the east side of the wood we joined the footpath that follows the hedgerow across fields to Fawdon Farm. As we approached the farm we saw, thankfully in an adjacent field, an extremely large and fit looking bull, but in the field we crossed, and guarding the gate into the farm yard was the skinniest, scrawniest cow I have ever seen. It moved to let us pass, slowly. On the left hand side of the yard a gate  leads to a track going back to Ingram but we followed a path that is marked on the map but not on the ground, a few yards from the gate, heading initially due north before turning north east. After about a mile a low sign post directs you across a field which had a fine looking crop of barley (or was it rye?)  to a road and the not too obvious entrance to Branton Conservation Ponds. Look for the entrance to the right of a metal gate which is the entrance to some sort of holding area.
Branston was a gravel pit but since the extraction ceased a great effort has been made to fill the pits, landscape them and encourage a variety of birds to make it their home or a calling place as they pass through. It seems to have been successful; there are two ponds each with a bird observation platform or hide. We saw a flock of Greylag Geese which magically turned into a skein as they took off for the skies. There were many Canada Geese too, swans, lapwings, a little grebe, coots and several breeds of duck, plus small birds in the trees and bushes round the ponds. There is a circular walk round the ponds, an interesting place, but watch out for adders.
                                  A skein of Greylag Geese.

               A pair of pylons and part of the Branton Ponds.

                                             Swans in reflective mood
 It has been suggested that whilst in the ponds we witnessed a miracle, the two buzzards and the kestrel were transformed into three para-gliders. However, looking at the map I notice that East Hill, which is to the west of the ponds, is the headquarters or jumping off point for a hang gliding club.
Back at the entrance turn right and walk a matter of yards down the road and cross the River Breamish by the splendid footbridge, or use the ford next to it. The bridge is a new one, replacing one destroyed in a flood some years ago.
Cross the main valley road at Brandon, (not a spelling mistake) and after a few hundred yards an unsigned track on the left leads past a cottage at Heddon and along some fine ancient cultivation terraces before dropping down to Reavely. At the end of the road turn right and walk back to the centre. Just over the bridge a footpath on the left cuts the corner off and brings you back by way of the church wall.
On the way home we stopped to rehydrate at the Anglers Arms, fully resored to a selection of quality beers including Ruddles County, Taylors Golden Bitter and Jennings Cumberland.
Harry wonderecd how President Hollande would feel in Angela's Arms. Ha Ha

The Matrix IV
                                          Steps                          Miles
Dave's ASDACurve         17091                            8.09
Dave's LIDL USB            23707                           10.79
My Higear                        23935                           10.86
 As measured by Dave on his pritsticked map 9.5 miles
OUTDOORS claimed 9.83 miles with a height gain of 3497 feet and height lost 2391 feet. Can somebody explain?
A  good walk any way, with a bit of birding thrown in.


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Go west young man........

A lady living in the Dominion of Canada (Oh bring back the British Empire) has written to me a couple of times saying my writing is a credit to my English teacher* and asking what happened between Sault St. Marie and the return to New York.


It’s a long long time ago, but I can still remember how the journey used to make me smile………….


Returning to meeting sister and her friend Mary in Albany we spent the night in a motel. The most interesting thing about it was the old Morris Minor parked outside. I must go into the loft and find those old photographs that were taken on a camera that may well have been swopped for a packet of cigarettes in Berlin in 1945. It was the first time I had been in a motel, there not being many in Britain, we’re only a little country,  but I had seen them in FILMS so knew what was likely to happen in American motels. I was very careful in the shower, always facing the curtain just in case.                                                                                                                                                                          We were in my sister’s Mercury Meteor which had a cracked muffler (how easy it is to slip into a different language) and a faulty parking brake, by far the biggest car I had driven.

Next day we crossed into Canada (eventually) at Niagara and set off to drive west.

We drove close to Toronto and across the peninsula between lakes Ontario and Huron. The most memorable thing about this region was the fruit. I had my first nectarine, and was it good. Slightly more than halfway between Toronto and Sault St. Marie we drove by Sudbury which I recall was a centre for nickel mining.

And on round the north shore of Lake Superior to what is now called Thunder Bay. I’m sure it had a different name then Port Arthur or maybe Port Sunlight. Anyway you had to change your clocks by an hour, strange thing to do in one country.

 Somewhere in this region another first; a  Drive in Movie. I can’t remember the film, it was one of a series Ma and Pa Kettle and was rubbish. However we drove away forgetting to unhook the speaker from the car window and it was torn off its stand. I suppose today the sound is picked up by a wifi ipad or something in true Dolby surround sound. At some point we picked up a young man who was hitching. He was useful, he took his turn at the wheel so we could press on to Winnipeg. We were however, stopped by a policeman wearing reflective sunglasses. Turned out a young man had escaped from the local jail, it wasn’t  ours, fortunately.

Finally we left the province of Ontario which I think is Canada’s biggest and leaving the endless forests behind drove into the endless prairie, starting with Manitoba. After another motel night  near Winnipeg we left Mary to fly home to Australia to watch cricket and chase kangaroos.

 The province west of Manitoba is Saskatchewan, capital Regina and then into Alberta, only one of two provinces with a British sounding name, and even then he was a German.

We finished up in Lethbridge which has a huge trestle bridge carrying the railway across a valley, and a large brewery. I think in this area we picked up Grace, friend of sisters but I’m not too sure of the details.

From Lethbridge to Calgary, just missing the stampede and then to the Rockies.

 I think I can say without boasting I have done my share of English Lakes walking, a good bit of Scotland, some in the Alps and some in the Polish Tatras, but the Rockies are in a different league. A mountain range stretching the length of the continent, makes you want to be a Geographer. We visited Banff and Jasper .  Another first, we stopped to look at the Athabaska Glacier. Not surprisingly it was cold and I was surprised at how dirty the snout was. (Technical term) Now that I am allowed to don the jacket I know why it was so dirty, I also know that it has retreated considerably, like most glaciers in the world. (One or two are growing, much to the surprise of glaciologists who really can’t explain it. Any expert reading this can let me know.

  At some point we went to a wedding, my sister’s  colleague. The couple belonged to a rather strict branch of the Baptists(?) but the service had borrowed much from the Cof E solemnisation of Marriage ceremony. However, there was no music. The choir were given a single note from a pitch pipe and just sang, beautifully. There was no alcohol either, not allowed. I joined a middle aged couple for the post wedding meal. They told me that the only music they could listen to on a record player was hymns. And this in the sixties, with all that fantastic music coming out of Britain!


 On to Edmonton, capital of Alberta and then north to Fort McMurray.


Fort McMurray is a two hundred miles north of Edmonton, the road was not much more than dirt and the provincial government had promised to keep it open. There had been some heavy rain and we had to be towed at least twice but at last we made it to the town. It might have been a trading post once but it was then the centre of the world for extracting oil from the tar sands. The process involved the use of huge machines like the ones used in Czech mines (See  A Gadgie Abroad) which dug out the oil bearing sand. The oil is then extracted by a heat process. At the time it was an expensive way of producing oil but I think that now it is economically viable. If you look atb the area on Google Earth it isn’t pretty and there are environmental concerns but oil is oil!

In those distant days McMurray was a small town now it has a large population, mostly workers in the tar sands.

My sister had worked as a teacher in McMurray but had resigned to do social work with the First Nations (PC!). We had borrowed a house for a few weeks from an oil worker who came from Wigan, Lancashire. I can’t remember his name but he was very friendly, pretty kind too, to lend his house out.

The town had a few shops, a bar, a cinema and a large cold river, the Athabaska which flows to a lake of the same name.


And what is a young man meant to do, not too far south of the Arctic Circle, surrounded by forests full of bears and wolves and things and with little money ?
Get a job! So with a little help from friends of sisters I was taken on as a labourer by a gas company called Cigas. The local boss was an American from North Dakota. He had been an engineer in the American army in World War II, stationed in Europe and probably finding McMurray a haven of peace.  I can't remember his name, I'll call him Tom. He needed a general labourer and driver. My UK licence caused much amusement. For those of you old enough to remember it was the little red notebook type. Apart from cars I was licensed to drive powered lawn mowers. There were three others working for Tom, a man who reputedly lived with his family in a garage, a man who had just got out of prison and a teenager working for the summer. he taught me the rules of baseball, I beat him at soccer.
 The company was busy piping Liquid Petroleum Gas into a new housing development. The gas arrived by rail (at the depot!) in tanks and was piped to the Cigas yard and stored. Gigas were laying pipes to houses and my job was to dig trenches. Occasionally, if I was good, I got to drive the small trench digger, a tiny "sit on" tractor with a sort of chain saw attachment that dug a narrow trench deep enough for the plastic  coated pipes that went from the main to the houses.  The job of welding the pipes was in the safe hands of a French Canadian, if I was really good I got to hold the torch. I became quite skilled at using the device for bending pipes too. On some days my job was to take the trucks down to a creek (!) and give them a good wash. The trucks were years ahead of their time, burning either petrol or LPG. I think the LPG systems had been installed by Tom.
But Tom's great invention was the gas toilet. The prototype model sat in the office, not connected to waste pipes, but frequently demonstrated. When you put the seat down a blast of flame from an LPG tank burnt, in theory, any waste matter in the bowl. It didn't catch on, but the thought of any accidental ignition still makes me laugh. Do wonders for your piles.
The last summer job I had had in England before going to Canada was driving a small van for a wholesale fruit and vegetable merchant. It was a brilliant job, delivering small quantities of greens to shops in north Lancashire and the south lakes. The pay was 5s an hour in old money.25p in today's terms. In Canada I was paid the equivalent of 12s and 6d an hour (62.5p) so I was pretty well off. I think that today my UK wage would be about £10 an hour for driving a van but a packet of cigarettes was about 20p and I am told that today they cost about £7.50  which equates roughly to $12. Glad I gave up.
Anyway this brings me to slightly  embarrassing tale  no 1. I went to the local store and asked the lady for  ten Players (The good thing about Canada w)as English cigarettes). She said they didn't sell tens. Twenty then please, I asked and was told they didn't sell them either. So what do you sell?. They come in twentyfives! I can't remember the price but I expect they were cheap.
  There was one bar in the town as far as I remember, the barman dipped the rim of the glass in salt before filling it. This is obviously to make you thirsty. If you wanted alcohol for home consumption there was a provincial liquor store. Purchases to be wrapped and kept out of sight in the trunk (!) on your way home. If stopped by the police and foundm to have an open bottle in your car you were thrown to the wolves.
The townspeople I met, friends of sisters, were very kind and hospitable. One family invited me round for lunch. Looking forward to burgers and steaks I turned up. Lunch was a cup of coffee and a slice of cake!
This same family offered to take me bear hunting. First I was allowed to shoot a rifle at a can, cowboy style, and of course I missed. Then next morning we made an early start and went into the forest to find us a bear. You could smell, them, a bit like wet dog, but we never even saw one. Secretly I was glad.  They took me fishing too, I caught some looked a bit like a trout.
There were some First Nations living in the area, I think they were Crees but am not sure. Slightly embarrassing tale no 2.
I was talking to one of the First Nations who was doing some work for Cigas. He asked me when I was going home and I answered in a fortnight. Heeplied that nowadays F. Ns don't talk like that.
Perplexed I repeated I was going home in a fortnight and got a similar reply. It turned out that in this part of the world the word fortnight is not used and he thought I was saying "four nights" White man speak strange words.
Because Fort McMurray was remote radio reception was poor and I do not remember ever watching TV. So every house had a stack of records. My favourite in  Bill's house was Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears, songs of the American Indian (whoops, sorry) It changed my views and led to me reading many seious books on American expansion.
The town cinema was part of the entertainment, I saw severl films there, including The Searchers.
(See The Searchers... June14th).
One evening my sister, in her role of saviour of FN children needed to fly to Lake Chipewyan to rescue a poor young girl who was suffering from appendicitis or something. The plane was a small float plane and as there was a spare seat I went along. Navigation was simple, we followed the river.
Having piocked up the child we set off back in the dusk. The pilot told me he was not really supposed to fly in the dark and when we reached McMurray the night had descended. Hitting the water the left float dipped under the surface and the plane slewed round but remained safely upright and coasted to the dock. Quite exciting.
But all good thingsw come to an end and when my fortnight wqas up I had at least earned the money to fly back to New York. From McMurray to Edmonton on a Dakota! Edmonton to Toronto and then on to New York, London, home. But not all in one day.
Perhaps I should have returned but I didn't. I got married, got a mortgage and got daughters. And even if the first international cricket match was played between the US and Canada in about 1850, they don't play now!
Must go in the loft for  pictures

 * Miss Buck. This lady was my English teacher and form mistress. (Home Room?) She was a brilliant teacher who taught us such useful skills as Clause Analysis and how to compare and contrast. She produced the annual school play usually Shakespeare and she organised the yearly trip to Stratford upon Avon. I won't pretend she was the teacher who inspired me to read Shakespeare though. That person was Marlon Brando. When I was about 10 a film of Julius Caesar had just come out, Mark Anthony was played by Marlon B. My little gang of friends decided we should see the film and although we were told by parents it would be difficult to follow and wasn't all  sword fights and blood spilling we went. When Marlon did the Friends, Romans and Countrymen bit I was hooked. I learned the whole speech, as did Rosemary Varty, the girl I sat next to in class. We recited it to each other, and progressed to other speeches from other plays.Don't know what happened to Rosemary.
In 1995 my class had a school reunion and Miss Buck, now into her nineties turned up. She could not remember us but we had to tell her which play we had been in. Then she remembered! She made us all write down our names, what we did, how many children we had and we all complied like good pupils.
She died shortly after getting the Queen's congratualations for making it to a hundred.
And she loved cricket.  


Friday, 17 August 2012

Walkin' in the rain................August 17th.
was a hit for Johnny "Cry" Ray in 1956, a time before I got interested in pop music. It has an interesting story though as it was written by a group of men on death row in some American prison. They were allowed out, accompanied I suspect by a man wearing reflective sunglasses, carrying a rifle and riding a white horse.They made a recording of it at the famous Sun Studios owned by Sam Phillips in Memphis.
 There are other songs about rain: Raining in my Heart by Buddy Holly and the Crickets; Rain, B side of Paperback Writer by the Beatles and the wonderful ballad of teenage angst Crying in the Rain by the Everly Brothers. And Carol King of course.
The weather man forecast rain today and he got it right. As we drove up the A1 heading for the hills it was agreed that walking in the rain was fine for macho young men it isn't much fun when you are pushing 69 so we headed for the coast, hoping it would be dry, or at least  the rain would not be heavy.  And it stayed dry most of the day.
  It had to happen, this is a repeat of a previous walk but I am committed to recording our efforts, and other things, so here we go again.
 Four gadgies out today, Harry the routemeister, Cornish Johnny the musicmeister, Dave the vogelmeister and me the blogpiemeister. Diverting from the Cheviot massif we drove to Alnmouth on the coast To get there take the A1 north and turn right at Alnwick, go through Lesbury to Hipsburn and on to  Alnmouth. There is some street parking at the far end of the main street or leave your car on the beach car park.
If you need a map, Explorer 332 covers the walk and we left our car at GR246102 and headed north on the beach.
After about three miles of gentle walking on the sand, stopping to watch the seabirds which were out in number, probably fed up of the rain too and having a quiet day on the beach, teaching the kids how to search for sand eels.
 It was a bit misty out at sea but we watched an RAF Sea King helicopter hovering near a boat. We assumed it was a practice, the machine was some distance from the vessel. The helicopter had probably flown from the RAF base at Boulmer which used to bristle with radar aerials facing east.
Not much to see now but I believe that underground is a huge complex housing James Bond style gadgets.
A Herbiespot was declared and we sat on some rocks, putting the world to rights, and eating the pork pie ration. On the beach were curlews, ringed plovers, herons, sanderlings, cormorants, red shanks, green shanks, shelducks,swallows, starlings and seagulls of course. And a dead seal.
 A little north of Boulmer village we climbed off the beach  and followed the footpath alongside some fields. There are several pieces of art work on the wall;

                                   A heron made from discarded  bits of metal......

                                                             and an owl.

Cornish Johnny did an excellent impression of Brian Sewell, an art critic who recently said the Olympic site should be left to rot. He has been known to visit the north of Enland but doesn't think much of it. Pretentious asterisk.
 Continuing north we passed Iron Scars, an interesting rock formation and walked past the site of what is thought to be the oldest house in Britain. Even its replica has collapsed.
 From here we walked on along the cliff tops, which have become dangerously eroded in places, to the village of Craster. Craster is the home of the kipper and the starting point to the ruins of John of Gaunts castle at Dunstanburgh.
He built parts of Lancaster castle too, and he left his horse shoe on the intersection of Penny Street and Market Street in that fair city. And it is still there.

                                   Craster Village and harbour. Picturesque.

At this point decisions had to be made; walk further up the coast and hope we could get to Embleton before the bus back or enjoy a two bus trip back via Alnwick, the seat of the famous Percy family.
We opted for the latter, after all we have gadgie passes and after a couple of bus rides arrived back in Alnmouth and went home, without visiting a pub.
Outdoors GPS said the walk was 7.5 miles long, more interesting considering most of the walk was on the beach was its claim that we had gained 1223 feet in height and lost 1180 feet. I don't understand this.
Good old Higear measured the walk as 7.2 miles, a nice distance on a damp day.
Not much to write about but watch out for CНОВА  B  CССР , coming to a blog near you soon.

Friday, 10 August 2012

They've all come to look for America.
 Almost a line from another Simon and Garfunkel classic.
All gadgies are otherwise engaged today, it is the holiday season so there is nobody out for a walk. I could go alone  but have chosen not too. Instead I went for a ride on my bike, only 25 miles, not exactly Bradley Wiggins but then mine is not the generation that is to be inspired by the London Olympics.
I remain fascinated by the Stats on the blog; today my blog has been read by up to 42 American citizens  and 7 of Her Majesty's  subjects, plus 5 Russians and a Canadian. I like that, I like America.

Technically I have entered the United States 5 times and hope to make it more. So I have not seen very much of it, but liked what I saw.
The first time was many years ago, I invaded the US shortly after the Beatles were welcomed and took the country by storm with their wacky Liverpudlian humour and their pop tunes.
Arriving in New York on what was then called a student charter flight I shared a taxi with several others and found the bus station although I seem to remeber it had a more important sounding name. This was before jargon hit the UK so it was a bus station as far as I was concerned.                        Apart from  the wonderful view of Manhattan we had been given as the old Bristol Brittania propeller driven aircraft circled for landing that was all I saw of New York for a couple of months.  I boarded a Greyhound bus for Albany, which was exciting, people in films were often travelling by Greyhound, they still had an air of romance, they hadn't been taken over by Stagecoach.
In Albany I was met by my sister and her colleague Mary and off we went to drive across the rest of New York state to Niagara and then on across Canada. 
  Naturally we stopped, on the American side, to view the famous falls. A notice invited us to walk to Canada for 5 cents, a bargain, so we paid our nickels and walked across. Somewhere in our loft (no, not one of those;  the area in the roof space that has been boarded out and filled with books, LPs and children's toys) there is a photograph of me with one foot in the US and one in Canada. Can't resist it, I have similar ones on the Italian- Auistrian border, the Polish- Slovakian border, the German- Czech border. It's because we live on an island.
On our return we were met by the man who had sold us the tickets but this time he demanded passports which we had left in the car. He permitted my sister to go to the car and retrieve the documents while Mary and I waited on the bridge thinking we could be left here for ever, stateless and passportless, hungry too.
So we visited a Howard Johnstons. In Britain in the early sixties the only fast food you could get was fish and chips or maybe a Wimpey, Howard Johnstons was in a different league, and the ice cream!
Driving into Canada, with passports we headed west along the Trans Canada Highway and  next ventured into the US at Sault Ste Marie. Ontario to the north, Michigan to the south. We went by bus and I don't reallyb remember much about it, except the driver kept telling us to put the money "in the box". Having been a bus conductor on a bus with a two man crew it took a while to work out what he meant. This then was my third entry to the land of the free.

 Continuing the drive across Canada I tried to be cool, steering with hand, resting my other arm on the open car window as you do. This resulted in my arm getting severely sun/windburnt. It swelled up, the skin dried horribly so I peeled it off from wrist to elbow, folded it up, popped it in an envelope and posted it to my girlfriend in England. She can't have been too shocked or disgusted as we have now been married for 43 years and 5 days, and counting.

 At the end of my stay in Canada I flew back from Edmonton to Toronto and then from Toronto to New York. Flying from Edmonton I was fed, and well fed too. Flying from Toronto, and it's not a long flight to New York, I was offered more food, which I declined. This introduced me to the American obsession with food. The stewardess was concerned I did not want the meal and told another one, who came over to ask if I was ill. I told them no, I just wasn't hungry, I had eaten on the other plane, I didn't want anything thank you, they took some convincing. "Gee honey, there was this weird British guy on the plane today who wouldn't eat. Can you believe that? And he was so skinny, must have weighed all of 150 pounds."

If you have read my blog you may be aware that Harry the routemeister promises that on a difficult walk on bad weather days we will be met by a bevy of Swedish Air Hostesses who will attend to all our needs. We are still waiting.
However as I waited my turn in line (I can speak American if pushed) for a cab to take me down town to my hotel I was approached by a couple of hostesses from Scandinavian Airways who asked if I wouild like to share a taxi. Seemed like a good idea. The taxi driver, who somehow realised we were foreigners tried to persuade us to take a sight seeing tour but we all went off to our seperate hotels. Mine was a bit of a run down place which seemed to specialise in students. The staff were friendly, the roomwas not exactly the Waldorf Astoria but it had a TV! More than you got in a British B and B I can tell you. All it seemed to show was baseball, funny game, rounders for adults, but interesting to watch as I had never seen it before.
  So I had a long week end in New York, and loved it.  I was asked important things like how I wanted my eggs, sunny side up or over easy. Just like the movies! (FILMS) By chance the first day I was there I met the student I had sat next to coming over and together we did all the tourist bits. Statue of Liberty, Empire State, UN, Greenwich Village, Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island too.

And as I stood outside a restaurant on some street (or Avenue) a man came up to me and said, "Buddy, can you spare a dime?"  Honest, he really did!  I could see people in the restaurant looking through the window and shaking heads, advising me n ot to help him. He continued, "I was in the navy, making the world safe for guys like you."
I told him I was British, he said "OK, you don't owe me a penny, the limeys did their bit," and went.
  To be honest I was a bit ashamed, one of the few times in my life I have felt ashamed. One of the others was when, at the age of about 14 I wrote in a history essay that I would have fought for Oliver Cromwell because his army got paid when at heart I knew I was a royalist.

One lunch time my fellow student and I decided to have a beer and walked into the first bar we came to and ordered two pints. (Do Americans serve beer in pint?)
The barman said he wouldn't serve us. After the Niagara incident I carried my passport and showed him I was old enough to drink.
 He said, and I quote, " I don't give an asterisk,  I'm not serving you." I still don't know why.
So we went to the next bar where we were served by a very friendly man who asked us all about England.
And that was my fourth visit to the United States, technically. Apart from the unfortunate incident of the bar in the day time I enjoyed every moment.
Back home I did the usual, married, had children, paid the mortgage, went to the pub and did not return to the US for years.
Trip no 5 was also a short visit; staying with sister in Alberta we drove south and crossed over into Montana. Not having applied for a visa before I left Britain I naturally had to go into the office at the small bordetr crossing somewhere on the 48th parallel between Alberta and Montana to be asked if I was a terrorist. Having persuaded the charming lady behind the desk that I had not committed atrocities between the years 1933 and 1945 and was allowed in.

 I wouild say without hesitation that Montana is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to outside the British Commonwealth. The International Peace Park was a paradise of mountains, lakes and woodlands. We drove to a place called Logan's Pass and walked across high mountain meadows to stand above a beautiful lake surrounded by soaring mountains.
I have pictures! Not very good because I scanned them in and played with the colour, unsuccessfully.

Something went dreadfully wrong with the colour!

No better

 This diner had an awesome selection of amazing desserts.

Just out of shot was a man on a reclining cycle.

I sat on the grass in a meadow, thinking how wonderful this must have been for the first Europeans to see, and for any First Natiomns too who had had the good fortune to live there.
A youing lady walking past said to her husband/partner, "Honey, this is paradise."  It would have been but it lacked a pub.

So really I have not been to America enough, it is such a wonderful country.
As part of my degree I followed a course on the Comparative History of the United States and the British Empire. It was the most enjoyable unit Im followed. I won't say I majored in American studies but possibly captained or lieutenanted (pronounced leftenent).
   I love the philosophy behind the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, I think that had I been in Boston I might have helped with the tea chests. And I continue to read histories of the US, particularly the west, can't get away from cowboys!
And thank you for reading.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Days of Rhyme  and Poesies..................August 3rd

(Not many torists out today)

            I go walking with the gadgies,
                 We walk on hills and dales,
                 This year we went to Scotland,
                 Next year it might be Wales.

  As I was about to leave the house, my wife (of 43 years and 1 day) said, with a hint of sarcasm,
"Look at you, your clothes are coordinated for once, grey trousers, grey T shirt and grey socks. Are you feeling OK?" How have we stayed together so long.  Pure luck, I rarely care about these things.
There are four of us out today, the punmeister, the vogelmeister, the routemeister who has forgotten his map and me.
Today's walk is back on home territory in Northumberland, starting from Wooler and walking  St. Cuthbert's Way to the Newton Tors. (And you thought it was a spelling mistake!)
To get to Wooler take the familiar A1, A697 and turn into the small country town.
We parked the car and headed for the main street to find a cafe for a bacon sandwich and tea. The establishment scored 3.5 flitches: the bacon was fine, the bun was better than usual, the tea was strong but a smile with the service would have been appreciated.
After breakfast we headed up Ramsey's Lane, almost directly opposite the Wheatsheaf  Hotel, following the signpost for Wooler Common. There is, after about a mile, a car park with an information board.
A map is advisable,  OL 16, The Cheviot Hills covers all this walk, and many more, and the starting point is GR 977272. St. Cuthbert's Way is clearly marked on the map, unless you have an old one.
  Cross the stream by the footbridge and take the second footpath on the left which goes through a wood for a short distance before reaching a gate. Follow the footpath across a field to the first junction and take the path labelled St. Cuthbert's Way.
St. Cuthbert's Way is a 62.5 mile  (100km) footpath from Melrose where the Saint started his ministry to Lindisfarne (Holy Island ) where he completed his work and died. It is well signposted with small white squares labelled "St. Cuthbert's Way and an arrow pointing, hopefully, in the right direction.
Visible to the north on this section of the walk is Humbleton Hill which has the stony remains of an Iron Age Hill Fort on the top, built around 300BC. Well worth a visit, but not today.
In 1402 the Percy's (Harry Hotspur) and Douglas's had one of their regular confrontations on Homildin Hill as it was then called. On this occasion Harry's team won. It gets a mention in Henry IV Part 1, a play by the English Bard.
After approximately 2.5 miles following the footpath in a westerly direction the route turns north west by the side of a wood. Today a line of bee hives was outside the wood. The heather is coming into bloom, the bees could be heard from yards away, we stayed clear.

                                                I eat my peas with honey,
                                                I've done it all my life,
                                                It makes the peas taste funny,
                                                But it keeps them on the knife.

                                    Beehives on St. Cuthbert's Way

 Because the moors are used for grouse shoots there are many "unofficial " paths cut in the heather, but about a mile beyond the beehives turn west and walk gently uphill past a line of shooting buts to the first of the tors, Easter Tor.
  A  rather classy stone built shooting butt, offering protection from the drone like birds for the lightly armed grouse shooters. This butt even has a ring for tethering the retriever dogs.

Easter Tor was declared a Herbiespot and the usual lunch of sandwiches and pies was consumed, although the midges were a nuisance.
Looking north east from Easter Tor you can see Yeavering Bell, two small peaks with the remains of a hill fort  enclosing both, and dating from about 500BC. Also well worth a visit, but not today.
North of Yeavering Bell is the site of the Anglo Saxon king's of Northumbria's palace at Gefrin, built about 600AD and abandoned about 100 years later.  The word  Gefrin has evolved to Yeavering, the hill is "The Hill of the Goats, and there are several small flocks of feral animals on the hillsides here.
Yeavering Bell, even on this poor photograph you can see the outline of the remains of the hill fort wall if you look carefully. A bit like listening for the duck at the end of "Peter and the Wolf"
  Tors are usually associated with Devon and Cornwall in Britain, the word comes from the Gaelic torr, meaning rocky hilltop. Geologist, Geographer and  Linguist, all in one.
From Easter Tor a footpath runs south west to Wester Tor, from whose rocky peak you have a good view of Hethpool below. The entrance to the beautiful College Valley and once home to Admiral Lord Collingwood who took over from Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805 when the latter was mortally wounded.

                                       Far below us Heshpool stood,
                                       A lovely house it war,
                                       Once the home of Collingwood,
                                       Who fought at Trafalgar.

                                                 Wester tor, a rocky peak.
 From Wester Tor the footpath runs south, there is a Trig Point on the left. At the fence line there are two gates at least. South West is Hare Law, another rocky peak, but we followed the fence line downhill and just east of south.
We did this walk on August 3rd, nine days before the start of the grouse shooting season. The one advantage of this for walkers is that the organisers of the shooting have managed to cut 12 foot wide paths in the heather to make it easier for the brave hunters to get to their shooting butts. These paths are springy to walk on and should be extended. At the end of the cut path, returning to the more usual footpath cross the fields to Commonburn House and take the track in front of the farm buildings which leads in a south east direction to Broadstruther, another hill farm.
However Broadstruther was left deserted and dilapidated for years until it was rebuilt and refurbished
as an R and R for tired grouse hunters. Closed today, we sat and had a drink and a sandwich.
                                                      Broadstruther, hunters lodge.
 Back on our feet we followed the well made track north east from Broadstruther. Watch out for a footbridge on the left and take it to join a footpath across open land, bracken infested land and eventually to another footbridge across the Carey Burn.
                                Looking upstream at Carey Burn.

                                       We are gadgie walkers,
                                       We walk for miles and miles,
                                       But now that we are older,
                                       We use gates and don't climb stiles.
 Follow the burn and at the first marker turn left up a steep wooded bank. This bank is called the Hell Path because it is towards the end of "The Chevy Chase" an annual walk or RUN of some twenty miles, a last cruel stretch before the end.
At the top of the hill follow the path across fields, take the signed path by the first house you come to and cross fields, go downhill and be back at the car park.
On the information board we spotted this small plaque:
                                                 Look for this on the information board.
 There have been a number of air crashes on and around the Cheviot, most of them in World War II
This plaque commemorates the dog who helped the shepherds rescue the crew of a Boeing B 17 Bomber which crashed in December 1944. Some remains of the aircraft can be seen not too far from the Cheviot summit.
There are several books on the crashes, one being:
Where the Hills Meet the Sky;  By Peter Clark printed and published by Glen Graphics.


PED                   STEPS              MILES
LIDL USB        27120                    12.83
ASDA CURVY23104                     10.94
HIGEAR            27902                    12.667

OUTDOORS GPS                            12.2
MEASURED ON MAP                    12.1

12 and a bit really good miles seems reasonable.

On our way home we stopped to rehydrate at the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge, a favourite watering hole, friendly staff, great pub and dining room too but sadly the beer was a bit disappointing today. Taylors Golden Best. Ruddles Golden Best and Ruddles County. Non of them on top form, 3 barrels only today. Thank goodness I was the driver

                                  Go, walking with the gadgies,
                                  See hills and dales and farms,
                                  And after miles of walking,
                                  Relax in the Anglers Arms.

PS. My audience reads a bit like the Olympic medal table today, USA has most hits, UK second but nothing for China.!

                                             Ambulo, ergo sum

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