Saturday, 26 January 2013


There are six gadgies out today, route, halfmarathon, vogel, pun, blog and the happy return of smooothmeister who, henceforth, will be known as kittymeister. An explanation is included in the blog.
Today's walk starts and finishes at the well known Anglers Arms Hotel at Weldon Bridge. (A1 north, A697 at Morpeth and turn left at signpost for Rothbury and turn left almost immediately for the hotel.
Two cars to carry us all, we met at Heighley Gate Garden Centre/shoe shop/bookshop, food store and cafe for breakfast. The bacon butty was available only in bread, white or brown. If you added a sausage and egg it came in chibatta. The bacon sandwich was fine and HP sauce was provided but it was rather like eating in an aircraft hanger, not the cosy little tea shops most of us prefer. Marked down by me to 3.5 flitches.
By prior arrangement we were allowed to leave the cars in the Anglers Arms car park.
             At last, the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge................
                                             and its extra dining room
 This walk is best done with the aid of a map, the one I have is OSLandranger 81, Alnwick, Morpeth and surrounding area.
                                Ready to go

Leaving the pub we turned left up the hill, turned right and walked under the A697 and headed for Weldon. Near the Weldon Gun Shop the footpath turns off the road and follows a track a few degrees east of north before turning easterly alongside the River Coquet. We stopped to admire the farmhouse at Elyhaugh, built in 1732. The date and the arms of the Lisle family are above the door.
                                        Elyhaugh Farmhouse, 281 years old, approximately
Beyond this beautiful house , after a short stretch along the river the footpath crosses fields covered in deep snow, and a few minor burns (streams)  to Felton Fence where a track eventually joins a road that leads to Swarland Mill.

                                          One of the Swarland herd of two ponies. They were very friendly.
At Swarland  we had a slight problem. The official footpath crossed, by means of a ford, a shallow stream. However the stream was far from shallow and we we had to turn back, not before calling the place a Herbie Spot and indulging in sandwiches, pork pies, ginger biscuits and mini apple pies. We eat well.
We walked back, crossed the stream (by bridge, we were on a road) and turned right to cross fields and bring us back to the footpath. From here the path went almost due west across fields until it reached Longframlington. The fields were deep in snow and not having tennis rackets on our feet, the going was slow. Fortunately the markers pointed us in the right direction, although there is a new detour at Longframlington.
                                           Pretty, but hard work, most of us had aching legs.
  As we approached the village of Longframlingto we spotted a Barn Owl flying low across the fields, looking for supper. Silent and ghost light he(or she) was declared "BIRD OF THE BLOG", a new feature. Other  birds we saw included Fieldfares, Redwings, Chaffinches and, surprisingly, Crows.
                                                 Barn Owl, the silent crepuscular hunter!
We had to walk through the village, the pavements covered in the snow that had been pushed off the road. Northumberland County Council have done a good job this year keeping roads open.
a large green tractor with a plough on the front passed us reminding Brian that he had once  had a girlfriend who was a tractor driver. She had dumped him after a few months by writing a John Deere letter. Not for nothing is he the punmeister.
Through the village we turned off the A697 and took the side road through Low Town. Another Barn Owl put in a brief appearance as we neared the Anglers Arms.
 Back at the pub some of us entered the bar and some drove home as the snow was beginning to fall heavily. Those of us who stayed sat round a roaring log fire and drank several pints of Timothy Taylor's Golden Bitter. Nicely flavoured and not too strong. Warmed by the fire and the beer we went to the rooms we had booked, showered, snoozed and returned to the dining room for dinner and a little more beer.
Now this is the way for gadgies to go walking, occasionally. A good walk, beer in front of a real fire in a lovely pub with friendly welcoming staff, an evening meal and, amazingly an early night. How civilised, how enjoyable, no worries about driving home.
We were meant to be holding the Annual Gadgies Meeting, Ancient Gadgies Meeting or Annual General Meeting to discuss future projects but with only the three of us we were inquorate so had to be content with idle chat.

                                    Anglers Arms Walk.
The incomplete Matrix MMCXX, I await the vogelmeister's results.

                                                         steps                                miles
Higear                                              21648                               10.004
ASDAPED                                      17840                                8.38
Quite a difference
OUTDOORS GPS                                                                     8.67
Good score from ASDAPED

January 26
Breakfast at 9am in the dining room, the full English, a rare treat for all us healthy living gadgies!
In the bar about 45 local businessmen/rotarians/whatever were having a working breakfast, a weekly event apparently, and what a place to hold it.
Fed and watered the three of us headed for Rothbury, parked on the snowy high street and headed for the Rothbury Terraces.
                             Rothbury is a pretty little Northumbrian town, quite old fashioned in some respects with real shops, like a butchers! No supermarket, several tea shops and pubs. Worth a visit.
Leaving the main street we followed a footpath alongside a field where the local children were sledging. The footpath continued in a plantation for a mile or so. The trees were covered in snow, at one point with a sharp crack, a branch fell off one.

                                    Tough critters, Highland Cattle.
                                      Hard work in the snow, but with scenery like this, worth all the effort.
Leaving the plantation we did a semicircular tour of the moorland above the town. In places the snow was well over a foot deep and soft, making the walking difficult but the punmeister made a noble snow plough, cutting a path across the open terrain. The views were spectacular:

                                                 Simonside in the snow.
.                                         And the distant Cheviots.

                                 Brian and Ray in a deep crevasse.
Not surprisingly we met two people taking advantage of the conditions to do some cross country skiing, more surprising was the jogger and the young man on a mountain bike. He admitted it was hard going.  We also met a Northumbrian Penguin.
Northumbrian Penguins are very shy and consequently not seen often. This one is probably a female, her partner would be walking to the Anglers Arms hoping for some fish.
Speaking of penguins my neice's book Penguin in Peril is now available. Look it up on Amazon, for children of all ages it is terrific, the drawings are beautiful.
 Eventually we turned south and on reaching a plantation turned east through the wood. A signpost pointed us in the direction of Rothbury, only a mile and a quarter, across more soft snow but we took it, followed the markers and eventually walked down a very narrow lane and appeared on the main street, next to the car.
Making straight for Tomlinsons tea room and bunk house we had  some refreshment (non alcoholic). The stay in the pub was declared a success and an event to be repeated next January. It was suggested that if everyone put £1 a week in a kitty the weekend would effectively cost nothing. Ray was appointed kittymeister but I suspect nothing will come of it.

Mini Matrix MMCMXXI
ASDAPED                         11320 steps          5.32 miles.

This was the best gadgie trip for a long time! Can't wait for Scotland in summer!

OUTDOORGPS                                             5.29 miles

Saturday, 19 January 2013

January brings the snow,
Makes your feet and fingers glow, 

                     But we gadgies don't really mind,
We walk in weather of  any kind.                           
 Except very heavy rain.
The first two lines I have pinched from Flanders and Swan, hope they don't mind too much.
The weathermen have promised that today, January 18th, the whole country will be hit by snow coming in from the west and spreading slowly to our part of the country.  It should arrive in the North East of England by 4pm so we have decided  to have another bus pass walk, from Consett in County Durham to as near Gateshead as we can get before the snow starts.
There are six of us out today, pun, route, vogel, music, halfmarathon and blog. This is another walk you can do without a map but if you insist the walk starts on OS Explorer 307, Consett and Derwent Reservoir, cuts across a corner of 308, Durham and Sunderland and finishes on 316, Newcastle upon Tyne.
A word about photographs; I had been using the macro facility to take close ups of Russian Dolls and forgot to go back to Auto so all the pictures are fuzzy. Actually this is an attempt to represent the day as it really was, with all views distorted, disfigured and purposefully put out of focus as the blinding blizzard struck and blurred our minds and vision.

We caught a bus (No. 46) from the now familiar Eldon Square Bus Station to Consett, high on a hill in County Durham and once a producer of iron and steel for the industries of Tyneside and Wearside.
The Atholl cafe near the bus station in Consett may not be at the top of the culinary tree but it is popular, friendly and does a mean bacon butty. A brown bun, nearly as big as the plate, plenty of bacon and pots of tea. My own, and very personal criticism is that my teapot was a bad pourer, splashing the liquid into the saucer. On the plus side this allowed me to practise for old age by slurping out of the saucer. We awarded the Atholl 5 flitches.
Fed and watered  we walked past the town church, wandered up a street in a north west direction and down a hill to the start of  the DERWENT WALK, the disused railway line, converted to footpath and cycle way, that would lead us back home. It was cold, but bright and sunny.

Leaning slightly, this is All Saints Church in Consett,

The walk is a good choice today because it lead gently downhill all the way to Tyneside, it is sheltered by trees on either side and offers vistas across the valley. In spite of going from one old industrial area to another it is nearly all in the country, fields on both sides with wooded stretches offering the chance to spot birds for the vogelmeister.
 Shortly after leaving Consett we passed Shotley Bridge Hospital on one side and the Consett Golf course on the other.and soon we were above Ebchester, the village used as a starting point for a walk a few weeks ago. (See To the Boathouse)
So far we had been walking slightly east of north but after Ebchester the old railway turns to the east as it passes Hamsterley.
Naturally as the walking was easy we made quite good pace and chattered in our usual frivolous way as we headed downhill. Mostly we dragged up "one hit wonders" from the late fifties and early sixties, that period between the first appearance of Rock and Roll and the Beat Boom. Bland American singers like Johnny Tillotson, Bobby Vee,  and Fabian. Nobody could remember who sang "Here comes Summer," but some senior gadgies could give a good rendition.
Looking through a glass darkly, or one needing cleaning.
Not far beyond Hamsterley we stopped at the old Linzford station for lunch. A comfortable Herbie Spot with a platform to sit on and a bridge to offer shelter from the storm, should it arrive.

                         Linzford Station, now a Herbie Spot.
Nothing different about lunch today either, sandwiches, pork pies and Ben's homemade ginger biscuits. Harry and Ben almost missed lunch as they had walked ahead, deeply engrossed in a conversation righting the wrongs of the world. Gadgies are not only blessed with bus passes, they are also telepathic and the pair soon returned.
There are several magnificent viaducts on this old railway line, standing as attribute to those great railway engineers. They provide spectacular views as they cross the River Derwent, even in winter when the trees are bare.

 Fuzzy River Derwent taken from one of the viaducts.
There are four Derwent rivers in England, in Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Durham/Northumberland. The name means "The river with an abundance of Oak Trees..

Several years ago Red Kites were reintroduced to this area and they are thriving. We got a fine view of one as it circled above us at Linzford Station as we lunched. Quite low its markings were clearly visible. It was probably after Harry, he's the smallest but it would have got more pickings off me, or Brian.
Near Rowlands Gill there is a kite observation point overlooking the village. Sure enough  some of them were out, we saw five, looking for tea.
At Rowlands Gill the path follows the road past Maguire's Fish and Chip shop, (tempting)  before rejoining the old line. At this point, about 3pm the snow finally caught up with us. Suddenly I shouted "It was Jerry Keller!" The others agreed, he had been the one hit wonder with "Here Comes Summer". The punmeister claimed JK had also sung about a petrol container, Jerry Can.
  Snow was falling quite heavily and after about a mile we  turned off and walked through the Derwent Walk Country Park until we reached The Red Kite pub at Winlaton. Yards away was a bus stop and minutes later a bus bound for Newcastle appeared.
Back in the city we headed straight for The Five Swans, a Wetherspoons pub on St. Mary's place near the Civic Centre. The Abbot was in excellent condition so we had another, although some had London Pride.  Five barrells today Mr. Wetherspoon.
Refreshed we set off in different directions through the snow, now falling quiye heavily. Another good gadgie day out!

The Matrix MMCCVI
                                                         steps                   miles
ASDAPED                                      22025                   10.35
HiGear                                             21781                   10.1

Dave's Asda curve                            20433                   9.67
Dave's  LIDLUSB                            21107                   9.99
OUTDOORGPS                                                           10.45
Measured by Dave                                                         10.4
Ben's Bragometer                                                          10.8   (But he wandered off at the Herbie Spot)
 Pretty good.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

                       CHOBA B  РОССИЯ 
                             ( Part one)

If you have been paying attention you may remember that my daughter had a pen friend in Moscow.
Misha, and later his mother Tamara kept writing and inviting us over to stay, which we did, twice, and Kate and I had a week of culture in  St. Petersburg as it had then become. After a further visit to Russia  we had a change and spent a great week in Ukraine with a mad group of people attempting to learn Russian and a wonderfully patient Russian teacher.
 I might save the Ukraine trip but for the lady in Canada I will dig into the memory banks and photo albums to tell her all about our stays with a real Russian family. Four for the price of one, Buy one, get three free.
 One spring afternoon Kate and I flew from Heathrow to dear Sheremetava airport just outside Moscow. We flew with Aeroflot. I had tried to book the flights at my local travel agent but it was not possible. The trip had to be paid for, in cash at the Aeroflot office in London. Fortunately I knew someone on a visit to the capital and they got the tickets.
It was a nice flight, on an Airbus, not a Tupelov or Ilyushin or anything, but it was delayed and it took such a long time to get through immigration, filling in the money forms and promising not to take icons or roubles out of the country that it was late when we finally emerged  from the airport, walked through the throng of locals asking if we wanted accommodation or a taxi and were recognised by our host Misha.
Misha had borrowed a rather tatty looking minibus( and a driver) which we were invited to board and were driven through the dark towards Moscow. i did wonder if this was all a scam and we were going to robbed and left on the roadside but after about twenty minutes we drew up outside a large block of flats and  were taken in to be greeted by Misha's mum Tamara. his sister Oxana her husband Alexei and their small son Alyosha.
 A large meal was set out on the table, chicken, salads, dried herring, bread, potato and bottles of vodka. It was my birthday and they knew because we had to submit information to stay privately in Russia.
After introductions and a meal we were shown the flat which was quite large and very warm. Two bedrooms a living room bathroom and kitchen. I wondered where everyone would sleep but the problem wa solved when Oxana and her husband said goodnight and left.Kate had a room, I had the settee in the living room, Misha had a chair.
Next morning demonstrated one of the realities of Russian life. If you didn't eat it last night you got it for breakfast!


The Ivanovs block of flats, guarded by the ubiquitous birch trees, still covered with snow in April.
The flats were in the area called  Kuntsevo. (Кунцево ?  ).  I was led to believe that in this area Stalin had his dacha, long before it was developed as a huge housing estate.  At one time Churchill visited the dacha, another time I have walked in the footsteps of a great man. Figure out for yourself which one it is!
Naturally if you visit Moscow the Kremlin is a must and next day we headed to the local metro station and headed to the city centre. The Kremlin seems endlessly fascinating; a mixture of old palaces and ancient cathedrals with the 1960s Palace of Congress as the communist contribution.
There is  so much to see,inside and out. For example this huge gun,the Tsar's cannon.

 The Tsar's cannon, with Misha and Kate defending it,and a cathedral behind.
Not surprisingly considering the importance of the Kremlin, there are several museums inside the complex. In Russia then and possibly now for all I know, a two tier system existed for museums and galleries, one price for Russians and one for tourists. This always seemed fair to me, my income was considerably higher than a Russians, I could easily afford the entrance fee. However it was fun trying it on and going for the lower price. For the Armoury Museum fwe managed to buy tickets at the lower price, probably about 20p and mainly because Tamara was with us.But as we stood in the queue clutching our tickets a voice shouted "Foreighners!" We were taken out of the line and sent immediately to the Gulag for 20 years. No, we were asked to return to the ticket office and told to pay the higher rate which was about £8. Serves you right for cheating!
The museums are fantastic, hundreds of years of history, coaches owned by Catherine the Great, and several hundred of her dresses, ssilver work from England and this:

      This is Vladimir Lenin's Rolls Royce, and me. I suppose if you are the leader of the proles you must have a good car! The Sunday Times once had a huge quiz and one of the questions was;
"What did Vladimir Lenin and John Lennon have in common?"
It was along time ago and I think only one person got it right. You should have guessed the answer by now; They both owned a Roller. I also suppose that V.I.L wouldn't really own his because all property is theft. Held it in trust like a Phillipe Patek watch.

There are, I think, four cathedrals in the Kremlin, the fifth was removed to make way for the Palace of Congress. They bare not huge like your standard western European cathedrals but are all old. To a well brought up Protestant boy, used to church walls being relatively bare, they are  overdecorated, every space being covered by an icon. Icons are central to the Russian Orthodox church and are venerated themselves. Originally austere and dark in the 17th century Simon Ushakov, famous icon artist, moved towards a more western style of paintin.
Speaking personally I don't particularly like them but I do object strongly to the way the word icon has been taken over in modern English and used to describe a footballer, rock star or furniture design.

The Cathedral of the Assumption in the Kremlin.
                                                   Icon inside a Kremlin Cathedral.

   One evening we went to a performance of Swan Lake in the Palace of Congress.I am not a fan of ballet but it was a terrific performance and all the important people died. We sat on the second row from the front and the performance was ruined by the small party of American ladies sitting in front of us who came out with classics like, "Gee they'll never believe this when we get back to Crumpled Horn Maverick Creek in Wisconsin": I suppose today they would have sat there calling out "Awesome".
I can't remember the tiny amount we paid to see the performance but I do remember the glass of Russian Champagne we had at the interval was more expensive, and very nice too.
Outside the Kremlin is an interesting obelisk which is engraved with the names of the great socialist thinkers.
  Marx and Engels are at the top  (Маркс и  Энгельс) but more interesting for me is the appearance of Gerrard Winstanley, eigth down.( Винщчлей ; this isn't quite right but  the transliteration just won't come up with that y!) Winstanley was the leader of the Diggers who set up a commune in Cromwell's day in Surrey. The Diggers argued that God had given the land to man (and woman) so they took some and got on with it. Cromwell wasn't too keen on the idea and they were driven off. Winstanley went off to Wigan or somewhere and opened a drapers.
Outside the Kremlin is Red Square (Красня Площадь )  with Lenin's Mausoleum next to the walls and the Museum of Russian History at one end and St. Basil's at the other.

The Mausoleum is on the left, behind are memorials to many Soviet leaders, including Stalin and a Scotsman.

On a further visit to the Ivanovs, with the gadgette too this time, we visited the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, the Russian name for World War II. Outside is a huge statue of Nike, goddess of victory and inside is the history of that conflict as the Russians saw it. A number of dioramas of the great sieges and battles in the 1940s, such as Stalingrad and Leningrad The domed ceiling is engraved with the names of the Heroes of the Soviet Union. It is incredibly moving. Britain and the US do get a mention but mostly, and quite rightly, it is about the effort made by the Russians.
Outside an oldman mistook us for Germans and started to shout at us but when it was explained we were British his mood changed immediately, he smiled and shouted "Bomb! Bomb1 Good!" What a sad world we live in.
Another visit was to the Monastery of the New Maiden near to the Lenin Sports Stadium (Now renamed) below the University. It was constructed in the 16th century and served as monastery and part of the Moscow defences.  Nikita Khruschev is buried in the grounds.

The gadgetova disguised as a babushka in the grounds of the Monastery of the new Maiden and outside a cathedral in the Kremlin. Yes it was cold.
                     The Monastery of the New Maiden.

 Russian trains are big. To start with they have a wider gauge with wider carriages. I have travelled between Moscow and St. Petersburg several times and also between Kiev and Yalta. Travelling overnight is a social experience.  In each compartment there are four beds, arranged in pairs of bunks, people usually change into pyjamas or whatever. At the end of the carriage on the first train I travelled on was a samovar, heated by coal and providing tea throughout the journey.
 Kate, Tamara and I decided to have a trip from the capital to St. Petersburg.(Still Leningrad then).
The big stations are named after their final destinations so we went to  the Leningrad Station to buy tickets. I was fascinated to have one sign explained. It listed the priorities for tickets. Top of the list came veterans of the Patriotic War, next Party  Officials, then Party members and so on, down to the plebs as Andrew Mitchell would say. And I have lefty friends who complain about the existence of first class carriages on British trains!
We dozed overnight to Leningrad; we spent the day on a coach tour of the city,  a trip round a museum (more later) a meal in a restaurant, a trip to see an "Art " film that turned out to be an American soft porn film with Czech subtitles and a Russian commentary. Actually you didn't need any dialogue to know what was going on. Then we caught the overnight train back to Moscow. Ever generous I paid; the whole trip cost me $25 for the three of us.
On the way home we caught a "Russians only" train. I was told to sit in silence until we left the station. The man sharing our compartment was wearing a leather coat and reading a book embossed with a hammer and sickle. I was very quiet.
The highlight of the whole holiday for m ehowever was a visit to the Kosmos Museum. I knew it existed and oneday we went to find it. In a huge park there was a pavillion devoted to the glories of each state in the union and one pavillion with KOSMOS (Космос )  in huge letters above its doors.
Outside was a rocket.

                                         Russian space craft launcher.
The building was closed, but moist and determined, I knocked on a door.A man opened it and asked what we wanted as the museum was closed. Realising that two of us were English and were guests of the other three he thought about it for 5 seconds and said we could have a tour for $5!
Inside was a paradise of boys toys, but much of it simply lying around on the ground.
A  US Apollo Space Craft connected to a Russian Soyuz in the Kosmos Museum, guide, Misha and Tamara.
                                                               Russian Space Craft
 I was allowed to sit in Yuri Gagarin's space capsule, granted it might have been a replica or another early craft but it was so thrilling. Having looked at all the exhibits we asked why the museum seemed to be in a poor state. It was closing to become a showroom for American cars. Why?
To complete the visit we were taken to see the boss. I can't remember his name but he was a former cosmonaut, and we all shook hands. And I took the souvenir badge I was offered of course.
 Kate and I were unaware that Tamara had a husband. Sadly he had died some weeks before we arrived. I got the impression that the Russian tradition was for the widow to visit her late husband's grave forty days after his death. So one bitterly cold morning we, along with family and friends caught a bus out to a cemetery.  First we went to an Orthodox Church. It's a long time since I went to a service but it was nothing like this. People appeared to come and go as the priest prayed and the choir sang, beautifully. Congregation members, mostly older women, kissed icons. Some prostrated themselves as the doors behind the altar opened and a bible was walked into the church. A tiny lady thumped me in the back and told me I wasn't doing things properly. There was no way a good protestant boy was going to kiss paintings.
We left the church before the service seemed to be over and went to the grave. Tamara produced bread and vodka. The bread was placed on the grave and alongside it a small glass of vodka. Then as guest I was invited to drink a shot of vodka. I'm not much of a spirits man and vodka hitting the stomach on a cold morning is not my idea of a drink, but I complied, as did every other person. We then returned to the flat where Oxana had prepared a huge Russian meal - with vodka.

Tamara had a friend, known to all as Aunty Panya, who lived in a dacha some miles outside Moscow.
One day Tamara, Kate and I caught a train and after about an hour got off at a halt apparently in the middle of nowhere. It had been snowing and we walked through birch trees for a while. It was like a scene from Dr Zhivago!. Eventually we came to a small village and Panyas dacha.
                                Aunty Panyas dacha.
It was a cosy little house with a novelty toilet - outside down the garden. It took me back to my childhood holidays on my uncle's farm. They also had a banya in the garden. We were tempted but declined. Panya's husband had a good line in home made vodka, probably about 80% and we drank quite a bit. Panya's husband spoke no English but a little German, picked up as a boy in the war. This did not stop the frequent toasts to Anglo- Russian friendship. Fortunately there were enough beds for us all to crash out and catch a train back to Moscow next morning, clutching my souvenir bottle which made it all the way back to the UK.
                               Kate, Tamara and Panya. Russian ladies are well fed.
 Speaking of souvenirs, the best place to buy them was from the stalls on the Arbat. Naturally we bought matrushkas. They came in a variety of designs, one had five Beatles, the seller was stumped when we asked who was number 5. My favourites, apart from the traditional ones were the politicians;
                     Boris           Michael          Leonid           Nikita        Joseph    Vladimir   Nicholas. 
We also liked the glass blocks internally decorated with items like St. Basil's. The gadgetova was extremely good at bartering for these and reduced the price by 50% effortlessly.
Sadly all good things come to an end and we had to fly home. On one occasion as we walked through immigration at Heathrow the young lady  checking passports said "Welcome back to the United Kingdom"," Even though we had had a good time it was nice to be home, hot water, orange juice.......
Having said that I have never felt threatened in Russia except on one occasion at an outdoor market which seemed to specialise in electrical goods. Two young men followed us for a while probably hoping to steal the gadgetovas handbag, but when they realised we were with locals they slipped away. Of course they could really have been with the KGB.
        Tamara Kate, me in the Ivanovas flat
Tamara and Kate at the entrance to the block of flats

         Misha, me in my super Russian sweater, Kate, Oxana.
Tamara had been making a sweater for her husband. She had patiently collected the combed out hair from their dog and spun it into a yarn. Mixed with wool she knitted a short sleeve sweater which she gave to me. (Not the one pictured above). I brought it home and the cat loved it. My mother told me that it was fairly common in her part of the world to do the same thing during the war. And not long after The Times ran an article on dog wool sweaters!


Saturday, 12 January 2013

PICNIC  AT STAG ROCK.....January 11th,

 The plump Scot who does the weather forecast on local TV promised a grey day with the possibility of showers and maybe even snow so we gadgies decided on a coastal walk, one that has already been covered in Northumberland Coastal Path, September 16th 2011.

There are five of us out today, a quintet of gadgies; pun, vogel, route, halfmarathon and blog.
 You can do this walk without a map but it is covered on OSLR75 Berwick upon Tweed and surrounding area.
We started the walk in Seahouses, a small Northumbrian fishing port and holiday town with several fish and chip shops and the possibility of a trip out to the Farne Islands by boat. We drove to Seahouses, north up the A1 until we turned right at the road junction on the B6437, through Christon Bank, close by Beadnell and finally to the town itself. There is a large town centre car park at GR218320, convenient for the tourist information office although it was closed, and just round the corner from Trotters Bakery and Cafe
where we  had breakfast. The bread roll were fresh, and large, but sadly the bacon was already fried, a bit cold and a bit tough, 3.5 flitches. Plenty of tea though.
Kitted up we prepared to start. The last time we did this walk we walked out to the back of the car park and across fields to Bamburgh. Brian the punmeister, very wisely said we could walk through the grassy fields and get wet  or walk on the beach.
 We headed for the sandy beach, but not before Harry the routemeister had bought a new pair of over trousers as the forecast was for rain and he had forgotten his.

This is the sort of vehicle we would have crossed the road to see. An old Citroen used as a mobile patisserie in Seahouses. Not very mobile, it was still there at the end of the day.
Fish and chips! There are two f and c shops in this picture of the centre of Seahouses.

A statue commemorating the Lifeboat men of Seahouses.
The most famous rescue is that carried out by Grace Darling, daughter of the keeper of  the Longstone Light on the Farne Islands, a few miles off the coast at Seahouses. On a stormy night in1838 Grace and her dad rowed to the wreck of The Forfarshire in an attempt to save crew and passengers. Sadly Grace died
of tuberculosis in 1842 at the age of 26. There is a museum devoted to her in Bamburgh village.

The beach at Seahouses is, like many others on the Northumbrian Coast, a sandy stretch with rocky outcrops and small tidal pools. We saw a good variety of sea birds on the walk including, three Brent Geese, a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers,  Purple Sandpipers,Red Shanks, Green Shanks, Dunlins, Eider Ducks and the lovely little clockwork Sanderlings.
I am not very good at bird recognition but having, for once, brought a field guide, I became important, confirming sightings, but we did argue over one gull which looked like a Laughing gull but is very rare in the UK  as it lives mostly in America.
After a couple of sandy miles we past Bamburgh Castle.
Bamburgh Castle. Magnificent. There is evidence of a Stone Age Settlement on the rocky outcrop and also of Roman and Saxon work. The large central keep was started in the 12th century and, like Topsy, the castle just grew and grew.
Not far beyond the castle are some concrete cubes, invasion defences left over from World War 2.
Somebody with a sense of humour has painted them......
Mathematically, or dicically correct, opposite sides add up to 7 but we didn't check the bottom.

About a mile beyond the castle is a spot called Stag Rock with a lighthouse above the beach.
We decided this would make an excellent Herbie Spot, a small lagoon, rocks offering shelter and the castle completing the scene. Marked on the map as Harkess Rocks, the local name is more appropriate.

Stag Rock, really pleasant spot to stop, even in January.
 The views from the rocks that made a table for the Herbie Stop. Magic.

There were no mince pies today, but Dave the vogelmeister did have pork pies. I had brought some chocolate fudge, a Christmas gift from grandson Alex, and of course Ben had his delicious ginger biscuits.
Lunch over we climbed up to the lighthouse. Unfortunately this part of the path was not only steep but it was also very muddy and slippy. Harry fell and his nice new over trousers were suddenly extremely muddy. Of course we laughed. Back to the beach . Normally we would walk round the headland and stroll along the edge of Budle Bay but the tide was coming in. Brian and I decided to run across the sand of a mini bay between waves. Brian made it but I mistimed my run, was caught by an incoming wave and soaked to my calves. Not even HiTec boots would keep the water out. Brian laughed and mused "Why do we laugh at a friends misfortune ?" Of course the Germans have a word for it Schadenfreude, meaning harm and joy. They would have. Bet they don't have much over the fate of countries like Greece as they have to bail them out!
 Three in one, the motto of Trinity House, the organisation that is the lifeboat service in Britain. Run entirely by voluntary contributions and fund raising.

We walked on the edge of Bamburgh Golf course to Heather Cottages, fine looking holiday lets by the look. From there to Newtown and across a field to the B1342 which goes to Bamburgh Village. Turning left we walked a few hundred yards on the road before spotting the Northumberland Coastal Path ( An italic N in blue) sign post that sent us across fields with a small wood on our right and a large quarry in the distance. Soon we came to Warren Caravan Park, not surprisingly very quiet. The path is well marked  and soon we reached Spindlestone Mill, formerly exactly that, now a block of "luxury apartments" or flats.

Spindlestone Mill. Inthe 18th and 19th centuries this mill. with Warren Mill were important grain grinders. The produce was exported through a small jettyy in Budle Bay.
From Spindlestone Mill we followed the road uphill to the wonderful Outchester Ducket. Yes,  Outchester was a Roman camp but not for gay legionnaires, the name means "the camp where owls can be seen."
The Outchester Ducket was built as a Dovecot, ducket being the local way of pronouncing that word.
It was built in the 18th century and was also used to store food and manure, not together hopefully.

Now a luxury holiday let, descibed as being an ideal Honeymoon spot, the Outchester Ducket has one room on each floor and views out to sea,
Walking west from the ducket, which is incorrectly marked as a windmill on the OS map, we turned right at the next junction, took the left fork after a few hundred yards and then followed the signpost on the left which took us in a very straight line across a field and down to what had been Belford Station. We crossed an old line that had originally been used to bring stone from Easington Quarry to the main line and arrived at the main east coast railway from London to Scotland.
A notice advised us to ring the signal box before crossing the tracks. Brian made a grand job of phoning and we were asked to wait until the approaching train had passed. We did and just as well. it appeared very quietly but at high speed.

And the operator said " Forty cents more for the next three minutes............"

Having crossed the line safely we informed the signalman and continued on our way past the huge Belford Grain Store.

 Belford Granary, almost at the end of the walk.
Beyond the grain store we crossed the A1 and headed for Belford Village to catch a bus back to Seahouses. We were late, had no chance of getting there so waited at a point on the road where a bus could pull in. The bus appeared almost immediately and we flagged it down some of us by assuming a position pf prayer. It worked, the driver stopped and some twenty minutes later we were back in Seahouses, changed and heading for the Olde Ship Inn. An excellent, five barrel pub offering Directors and Farne Island beers among others, and coffee too.
On the drive back we were entertained by a compilation CD called Girls, each track having a girls name in it, like Cathy's Clown, Eleanor Rigby and Sylvia's Mother. a real weepie.
Another good day out, and hardly any of the promised rain.
                                                   steps                              miles

Higear                                          19814                            9.193
ASDA PED                                  22243                            10.45
ASDA CURVY                            21168                            10.02
LIDLUSB                                      21660                             9.84
BRAGOMETER                                                                  9.8
Measured on map                                                                 9.5
Not bad!

 Designated driver: me