Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Grand Cunyon...................November 29th
   When I was small my parents had several Burl Ives records on 78s. One of my favourites was "The Grand Canyon Line":
On the Grand Canyon Line I was riding along,
On the grand Canyon Line I was singing no song,
On the Grand Canyon Line I was riding along,
Couldn't go back to Texas 'cos I knew I'd done wrong.
Sitting alone in a box cars four walls,
Because of a breaking the rich man's laws,
I thought of my sweetheart and began to cry,
When I am caught by my neck I shall die.
I think my life long love of corny country and western started here,  the song has everything, a train, a lost love and a death. Mind you I also liked "Froggy went a Courtin'" for the guitar playing.
Then I grew up and discovered Rock n Roll, but how is it I can remember these words after 60 years and have already forgotten the headline story in yesterday's Times?

There are five gadgies on the walk today, Brian, Dave, John, Harry and me and we are walking from the old Ingram info centre car park. To get there: A1 north, A697, turn left at the signpost for Ingram, drive over the bridge across the Breamish, turn left and past the holiday cottages and St.Michael's church and park outside the centre.
 The centre closed two years ago, (Government cuts) but has very recently opened as The Muddy Boots Café  and, not surprisingly, we decided to field test their bacon butties. The café is run by some ladies who live in the valley and they are "getting organised." They were a bit short on the bacon, the delivery man had not yet arrived, so we settled for a bacon and sausage sandwich. It came in a white bun, too soft for my liking, with brown or tomato sauce and a generous helping of tea. John opted for coffee and had a cafetiere made with freshly ground coffee from The Ouseburn Coffee Company. I sampled it, really good. The ladies made us very welcome, service was excellent but only four flitches because of the bun. We wished them success in their venture, it should be a popular place in summer.

                                             Muddy Boots café  sells books of local interest too,
                                          The inevitable car park picture.
The walk. I would recommend a map for this one if you do not know the area

OL Explorer  16. The Cheviot Hills.
The Muddy Boots is at NU 020163.
In the corner of the car park a footpath leads through a small wood to another car park. This was the beginning of our walk. Leaving the second car park we turned right on the valley road and after a few hundred yards turned left towards the farm at Reavely. Just beyond the farm a sign post on the left pointed us in the direction of Threestoneburn Wood.The path across the fields was quite muddy and deeply rutted.
                                                    Deep ruts the wagons made
The path across the fields climbs steadily across several fields before reaching open moorland. Brian and I chose to go in a direct line and the other three took the footpath towards and past Reavely Hill.
                                                       A classic
                                                 Round 'em up, move 'em out.
Reaveley Hill was inhabited until the 1970s when the last family left. It was used a s a shepherds hut until the 1980s, the last shepherd tragically killing himself. Now it seems to be used as a store for animal fodder and a home for owls. Herbie, on past walks, has always climbed in and produced some owl pellets as evidence. Something for the nature table.
                                        Isolated Reaveley Hill.
Continuing in a line slightly north of west we all met up at the south east corner of Threestoneburn Wood and continued up the steep path along the side of the wood to Cunyan Crags where we stopped for lunch.
Cunyan Crags, an excellent Herbie Spot.
From the top of the crag we had panoramic views of the county,east to the sea, south to Simonside,
west to Hedgehope . And, as well as a sandwich, we dined on pork pies supplied today by both Brian and Dave, Mrs. A's home made muesli biscuits with chocolate icing, Ringtons ginger snaps. as Ben was away, and home made peanut butter fudge, courtesy of Well, on a cold day with a bitter wind from the north west you need energy.
Usually from this point we continue westwards to Dunmore Hill and down to Grieves Ash at Linhope. Grieves Ash is an ancient settlement and reminds me of Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, but that's another story. Instead we headed due south down the steep side of the hill towards Hartside. From here we took the road towards Alnhammoor Farm.
At the farm I made an executive decision and chose to follow the path on the north side of the Breamish. After a few  yards along the river bank the path, alongside a fence behind which there is a forest in the making, climbs steeply up to Hartside Hill. Hartside Hill is an archaeologist's paradise. It has Roman-British settlements, homesteads and cairns as well as a fort and evidence of ridge and furrow ploughing on the slopes.
At the east end of hill we waded through dying bracken down a steep path to the river and turned north until we hit the valley road. Turning east on the road we made our way back to the car park, arriving just before dark.
                                                Distant Cunyan Crags from the river Breamish
                                             St. Michael's Church, Ingram
                                                          Church Gate.traditional style.
A good walk for a cold and windy day. We decided to call at the Plough Inn, former coaching inn, at Powburn on the way home, just  for a change, but it was closed so instead we were forced on to the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge which served Black Sheep, Speckled Hen and Ruddles County. Almost heaven Weldon Bridge.
                                                                                  steps                        miles
Higear                                                                        20701                      9.79
LIDL3D                                                                     22448                      10.1
Dave LIDL3D                                                            22609                      10.4
Dave LIDLUSB                                                         21777                       10.31
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                                          9.3
Brian's GPS                                                                                                   9.4
Best day for pedometers for a long time!
Beast of the blog.
Quiet day for birds, probably because of the wind although we saw a kestrel and some finches but the award today hoes to the hare.
                                                        Hare joins the Home Guard.

Total gadgie walk this year  441.4 miles 

Monday, 25 November 2013


Not strictly a gadgie walk although several of us qualify for a bus pass but on Sunday November 24th our little group of Russians, English trying to learn Russian and English who are so hopeless they have given up had a walk in the Ingram Valley. The team of ten is made up of John and Liz, Irina and Jeremy, Susan, Joanne, Irina G, Ruth, Kate and me. An odd collection.
Meeting at the car park just over the bridge at Ingram (A1, A697, signpost Ingram) we were about to set off when a lady on horseback approached to inform us that the old Ingram Information centre, closed for two years, had reopened at last as The Muddy Boots Café.  A shame, we had not planned for morning coffee and wanted to be on our way but this piece of news will be very welcome with the gadgies and no doubt in the very near future the café will be put to the flitch test.
A good starting point for future walks.

The finger post is in the corner of the car park and not only directs to the café but is the beginning of the walk. We followed the path through a small wood and, pretending the café was not there, took the lane past St. Michael's church. St. Michael was the patron saint of Marks and Spencer and this church dates back to the 11th century although much of it was restored and /or rebuilt in the 18th and 19th century.
At the top of the lane, just past the village hall, we turned left through a gate and followed the footpath past Ingram Mill and a few houses across some very muddy fields beneath East Hill, home of a Hang Gliding Club. Across the valley, which is very wide at this point we had a good view of the Cultivation Terraces  and mounds and furrows of yesteryear, although nobody seemed interested.

                                A grey day but the terraces are clearly visible on Heddon Hill
Had archaeologist Dave been with us he would have been able to tell whether they were Romano British or medieval. There is so much ancient stuff in this valley which was once a thriving community. The path is well posted with little yellow markers and eventually they led is downhill  to the road to Branton.
We turned left and after about a hundred yards turned right through the gate into the conservation area. Two former gravel pits have been turned into a nature reserve and there were lots of water birds on the ponds today. A variety of ducks, some swans and a heron. (A proper walk then)
We walked to the far end of the ponds and decided to take a break in the bird hide.
Most of us had brought tea or coffee but John had a flask of Sloe Gin, Liz had some cake and Kate had brought some home made peanut butter fudge. No wonder I am getting fat.
                                            Room for ten inside.

                                              Pen, cob and cygnet
                                                The pond
Snack over we paused for a team picture:

                            John,  me, Ruth, Jeremy, Irina, Joanne, Liz, Irina G, and Susan
                                                      The photographer, Kate
We crossed the flood barrier and left the reserve, crossing the Breamish by the footbridge. The original plan was to walk up the road to Brandon and return across the fields (and the cultivation terraces) to the car park but as time was getting on and we had lunch booked at the Anglers Arms we decided to walk back along the road.
Shame we missed out on the path past Heddon  but it was agreed it had been a lovely little walk.
Plotted on OUTDOORS GPS it was 5.1 miles.
We were welcomed at the Anglers Arms and shown into the dining room. After a good meal (I had fish and chips which were up to Gormans standard followed by sticky toffee pudding and coffee) we went to our separate homes. Thanks to all for an enjoyable day out, looking forward to the next.

                                                                   Two views of the Breamish.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Back in the saddle................November 22nd
  The local TV station has promised fine weather for today, Friday 22nd November so we have opted for a day across in the Lakes. There are five gadgies making up today's team: Dave, Brian, Harry, John and me and we have decided to have a short walk up Blencathra;
Blencathra is also called Saddleback because from the east it looks vaguely like a saddle. I prefer Blencathra, much more interesting and ancient name. There seems to be some dispute over its name, one source says it comes from blain meaning top or points and an element unknown meaning Arthur, hence Arthur's points. Another source  says blaen is Old Celtic for a bare hilltop and cathra means chair (as in cathedral) so it is a bare hilltop looking like a chair. This gets my vote. Regardless it is a high bump for England at 2847 feet or 868m for Europeans. Its geology is similar to its neighbour Skiddaw, quite different from the mountains on the south side of the A66. There are the remains of lead and zinc mines, waiting to be reopened when the price is right. It also boasts a rather frightening arête, Sharp Edge, once called Razor Edge but conditions and age have persuaded us to miss this one out.  It is one of the most northern mountains in the Lake District and the directions from Newcastle are : A69, M6 south, A66 at Penrith and pull off at the side of the road at Scales Farm. The whole of the route is covered on OLO 5, English Lakes North Eastern Area and the lay by on the A66 is at GR NY 339267.
                                          Yes it's a car park again, now to be expected.
We walked back east for about 100 yards past Scales Farm where we chatted to a lady who was walking her dog. She said the weather for the last few days had been cold and bright, just as it was today and most unlike the heavy rain that the north east had suffered.
A finger post pointed us in the direction of the footpath we were to take. Initially the path, which is so well trodden that it is almost a ditch in places, contours in a north easterly direction before turning north west and climbing steeply. At 1 mile in contours again, almost, and climbs gently on the south west side of the Blackhazel Beck (which becomes the River Glenderamackin). Still an easy path, but quite muddy today because of recent rain.
                                               Looking North East on the way up.
When the path reaches Mungrisdale Common there is a cross roads. The route that we took to the summit turns almost back on itself and heads south west up a steep slope. Not only was it steep but it was covered with a thin veneer of frozen snow making it slippy in places. We met a young man making his way down, he had had the sense to bring crampons. He told us he had come up via Sharp Edge and that it was quite tricky, possibly dangerous without his pointy feet. A good reason for our choice  of path! (Plus the fact we want to continue drawing our pensions).

                                             First glimpse of Blencathra top from the route
                                                      up the valley.
Climbing on past Foule Crag, the Blue Screes and Atkinson Pike we soon reached the summit of Blencathra. It had taken just under two hours, a distance of 3 miles. We declared a Herbie Spot. After weeks of denying fatty foods Dave had weakened and brought some pork pies! Went down well with the sandwiches and chocolate.
                                            Snow on the summit, but not beyond
                                                 Skiddaw from Blencathra
                                            Knowe Crag
                                                   Dave and John enjoy sunshine and sandwiches.
The views from our lunch spot made the climb all the more worthwhile. To the north we could see over the Solway Firth to the hills of Galloway, north west to Skiddaw and west to the Coldale round.
The rest of the Lake District spread out to the south, Ullswater and Derwentwater glittering in the sunshine, best views for weeks!
There were several other people out enjoying this brilliant November day. A young lady walking alone from the Blencathra study centre, knowing some geology, a couple of young women who were fell runners. Really depressing people these; you struggle up the mountain only to be overtaken by a lycra clad runner out for a bit of exercise.
Lunch over we headed down, by way of Scales Fell. Like the ascent the path down was slippy in places where the frozen snow remained but the path is a well constructed one, designed to drain and provide an easy downhill zig zag.  Looking down we could see Scales Tarn which was still and reflected Sharp Edge clearly.
                                                   Sharp Edge
                                                  Sharp Edge in the mist.
                                 Last look at Blencathra
                                               Hedge laying at Scales Farm
                                                                                                                                                            Below the snow line (4m) we continued until we re-joined our original upward path and walked back to the parked car at Scales Farm (5m).
At just over 5 miles this was a relatively short walk for gadgies but it had been a good one.
This mountain has been an inspiration to poest as well as gadgies;
                                                   On stern Blencarthas (sic) perilous height

                                                            The winds are tyrannous and strong

                                                         Two lines from a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

                                                      The boy must part from Mosedale's groves
                                                          And leave Blencathra's rugged coves

                                                            And two from William Wordsworth
It was early in the afternoon and still sunny, although a mere 6 degrees C so we decided to visit the Horse and Farrier in Threlkeld and have some ale in the beer garden. Sadly the garden was closed but the pub was open. After a pint we agreed to have another, in the famous BoatHouse in Wylam near Newcastle so off we went. The Boathouse had its usual selection of fourteen beers making choice difficult. Thankfully I was driving ha ha. Discussion over a pint or two ranged over the usual topics, including satire today which was eventually defined as "pricking the pompous". Brian asked how we would define a pricker of pompous Scots. Saltirists I replied.  A good day out all round. And a bit of culture thrown in too.
On the way home the usual bets were made on the queue at Gorman's fish and chip shop n ear Cowgate. Gorman's supposedly serves the best fish and chips in the city. Anyway Harry won the "Gorman's Gourd " award with a guess of 18 customers. Congratulations

The Matrix  MMCCVI   (A bad day)

                                                                            steps                 miles

LIDL3D                                                             17731                 8.0
ASDAPED                                                           3025                 1.42   (junked)
Daves LIDL3D                                                  16579                  7.62
LIDLUSB                                                          15486                  6.84
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                           72,5  (No idea, but on plotting 5.3m
Brians GPS                                                                                    5..2
Measured by Dave                                                                         5.3
Measured by me                                                                             5.1

( I was watching Granada TV's equivalent of Look North, baby sitting my little sister. Can't remember the announcer's surname but he was Mike........)
 Some extra photographs of the walk by kind permission of Harry Nagel, routemeister and excellent photographer.


                                                  Looking west from the summit
                                              Lunchtime on Blencathra
                                                     Brian descending Scales!
Last view of Blencathra
PS. Did you notice that we went without a bacon sandwich and that there is no bird  or beast of the blog. All quiet on the wildlife front, except for a pair of ravens and they have already appeared.
The pies are back!
PPS I have totted up the mileage for my gadgie walks this year and it comes to 432.2 miles with 44 walks, an average of 9.8. Something else to be added in future.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Blowing in the Windy Gyle ........ November 15th

How many times have we walked this walk?
How many times will we walk it again?

Windy Gyle is a popular winter walk because it is not too far away and, more important, it's a good walk in the Cheviots. 

The walk starts at Barrowburn high in the Coquet Valley and it contains a short stretch on the border with Scotland. To get to the start take the A1 north, turn onto the A697 at Morpeth, watch out for diversion signs to Rothbury as the damaged road still has not been repaired, go through the town and continue through Thropton. Turn right for Harbottle and Alwinton, driving through them both and watching out for a herd of alpacas and find the car park at Barrowburn on the left. It has tables for picnics or sitting at as you put your boots on.
A map is advisable, OS OL 16, The Cheviot Hills, and the car park is at NT866103.
Naturally we stopped in Rothbury at Tomlinson's Café and Bunkhouse, enjoying a bacon butty or toasted teacake, washed down with the contents of a ginormous teapot. Five flitches again. (

The walk:
As we put our gear on we disturbed a lone roe deer which bounced up the hill.
 We left the car park and turned left, walking up the road past the track leading to Barrowburn Farm where there is an excellent tea shop, and continued  for a while before turning very sharp right at a gate and soon afterwards, at the sign post, turning left to head for the hills.
                                            You expect a car park now, here it is.
This path climbs quite steeply  with Barrow Law on the left. (1mile) It continues over open moorland before reaching a plantation at Murder Cleugh (2m) A stone records that Robert Lumsden killed Isabella Sudden here in 1610!

                                                 Poor Isabella, murdered in tough times on
                                                the border, even with JamesI and VI on the thrones.
Leaving the plantation we turned right on the farm road for a short distance before turning left on the path leading to Little Ward Law (3m) dipping down to the muddy Scotchman's Ford and then following the path to the border fence. We went through the gate and settled down in the large cairn by the trig point (and Russell's Cairn) for a Herbie Spot. (4m) Dave had brought an item which I think he called Yorkshire Cake, which was sweet and sticky, and we had Ben's ginger biscuits and some chocolate from Tescos. No wonder some of us put weight on.
It was too misty to enjoy thye views, either south to England and north to Scotland but Brian ,punmeister, did remind us of the old days when the border reivers fought and pillaged in the area. The travelling Scots built small piles of stones on which to prepare their meals. What were they called A Dinner Cairn!. (think about it.)

                                                   Russell's Cairn in the mist.
 Lunch over we headed north east along the border fence to the point where there is a sign post pointing towards Cocklaw Foot in Scotland and Alwinton in England. (5m)
                                              Cross the border in stile
                                                         Carrefour or croisee  des chemins!
At this point we headed southeast in a generally downhill direction, Hazely Law (6m) on the left until we reached the track that goes to Uswayford. But we kept heading south across the moors above Usway Burn (7m) until we came to a plantation. Following the track through the wood we came to Fairhaugh, an isolated farmhouse that is a holiday let. We have never seen it occupied, the windows are always shuttered, maybe we always come at the wrong time.
                                                       Fairhaugh farmstead.
We took the track  on the west side of the burn(8m) across more open moorland  and past the bunkhouse at the old school below lounges Knowe.
                                                 The old school house, rented out!
Not far from the school house we turned right across  a field to Wedderleap, site of a tragedy when a sheep rustler, trying to evade capture attempted to leap the stream but was weighed down by his haul and drowned. In the field on the right were some orange sheep. It is done to make them highly visible in the snow. Presumably the non orange ones all get lost.
                                                       Too much time under the sun lamp.
 And then we were back at the car park.(9m)

Changed we headed home, calling as usual for a warm welcome and liquid refreshment at the Anglers Arms, Weldon Bridge. Timothy Taylor's Landlord, Speckled Hen and Directors.

The Matrix MMCMV
                                                         steps                          miles
LIDL3D                                         21359                         9.61
ASDAPED                                     12167                         5.71  ridiculous
Dave's LIDL3D                              20585                         9.46
LIDL3D                                          20381                         9.00
OUTDOORS GPS                                                             9.24
Ben's bragometer                                                               9.4
Brian;s GPS ran out of battery.

Ripley's Believe it or not.
Driving back on the road from Barrowburn Dave observed that it was a long time since we had seen a stoat. Five minutes later one ran across the road.  So this little creature gets  Beast of the Blog. How did we know it was a stoat. It's because a weasel is easily recognised but a stoat is totally different.
                                                 Stoat. It turns white in winter and becomes an ermine.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

One over the eight      November 7th.

  The jolly jock who shares the local weather forecast on the BBC with Hannah B assured us that any rain in the north east would fall late in the afternoon so we headed off to do a walk from Barrowburn in the Coquet Valley to Windy Gyle on the border with Scotland.
On the way we stopped at Tomlinsons Café and Bunkhouse in Rothbury for breakfast. An excellent eating place, bacon served in a brown bap with a small side salad and a generous pot of tea. As you enter Rothbury turn left off the main street down to the bridge and there is the café.
 We finished and headed for Barrowburn but by the time we got to Thropton it was raining, heavily. After a brief discussion b etween the occupants of the two cars, difficult in the rain, we decided to abandon the walk in the hills and head for the coast, namely Howick a few miles south of Craster.
This is a slight variation on previous walks in the area and it is a relatively gentle stroll partly along the coast and partly through fields.  There are six gadgies out today, Ben, Brian, John, Harry, Dave and me.
The walk is covered on OSExplorer 332 Alnwick and Amble although you could follow the route without the help of the Ordnance Survey. However the start is at NU258173 on a bit of car parking near the farm marked Seahouses on the map.
                                                          Ready to go from the car park.
                                                         Long shadows already, possibly
                                                         the latest start to a walk at noon!
  Close to the parking area a footpath runs down to the cliff top track that leads north to Craster. There is an attractive house overlooking the North Sea that I think is a holiday let perhaps it started life as a coastguard's cottage, must try to find out.
                                                   Ideal place for writing that novel!
This part of the walk is along the Northumberland Coastal Path and is easy to follow. Mile number 1 is midway between the cottage and  Cullernose Point where there is a small bay with the intriguing name of Swine Den. If you have the map look at the other names given to points on the coast between Cullernose and Craster; Black Hole, Hole o' the Dike, God knows what Americans will think of us.
                                                  Swine Den, the cliffs are home to
                                                     Kittiwakes in summer.
And on to Craster (2m)  The name of this tiny fishing village comes from crowe ceastre, the old fort where the crows live. To my surprise, Dave did not know this. Craster is famous for smoking kippers and being the starting point for the short walk north to Dunstanburgh Castle.(3m)
                                              Craster harbour. The rectangular arch was built
                                            to help in the loading of stone from local quarries.
                                                      Fishing boats of Old Craster.
 It isn't so long since we walked past the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, started by Thomas Earl of Lancaster in 1314 on a site used in iron age  and  Romano- British times as a fort. It has been a spectacular ruin for centuries.
                                                 Dunstanburgh gatehouse
                                                                Lilburn Tower.
  Just north of the castle we settled down on the rocky beach for a Herbie Spot. Today's treats included bakewell tart, ginger biscuits and chocolate. No wonder it is getting increasingly difficult to squeeze through some of the many "kissing gates" on this walk.
Close by there is a fine example of an anticline,frequently visited by Geography students with clipboards.
                                                 Rocks bent by heat and pressure to form an anticline.
Not far from the Herbie Spot there is a footpath on the left (it would have to be really) that took us along side the golf course (4m) with its flying balls to Dunstan Steads, a collection of smart looking stone built cottages and houses. (5m) Here the path turns south east along a straight concrete roadway. It has been suggested that the road was built for the movement of tanks in WWII, something else to investigate one day. At one point there are two pillboxes of unusual construction. They are built from what appear to be concrete sandbags!
 There is also a fine example of a Lime Kiln to admire, just one of many in the county.
                                                                 Lime Kiln near Dunstan Steads.
                                         This pill box is defending the sea.
 At the end of the concrete road, at Dunstan Square, we turned left across the fields towards the Heughs.(6m) These are part of the great Whin Sill which stretches across much of the north of England. It is an igneous rock intrusion in the limestone and has proved extremely useful as a foundation for castles and Roman walls.
The footpath beneath the Heughs leads back to Craster and emerges on the road by the information centre.  Behind the centre a footpath leads to the nature reserve (7m) and across fields to Craster South Farm.
                                                 Information board at the Craster Centre.
                                          The footpath to the nature reserve is just to the left of it.
 Turning south across more fields, some of us made the very steep ascent of Hip Heugh (8m) to admire the Trig point on its summit before heading down again and across a footpath that bisects a field which is often muddy but not today, and emerges at the Howick Hall car park.
                                                  Trig point on Hip Heugh
Howick Hall is famous for its gardens and for being the home of Earl Grey, the man who was Prime Minister  from 1830 to 1834 and whose government was responsible for the Great Reform Bill of 1832, an act that led Britain on the road to a form of democracy. He was also responsible for adding bergamot to his tea to cover the lime taste of the local water and thus introducing Earl Grey tea to the world. I can live without it.
                                                             The monument to Earl Grey in
                                                                     Newcastle. Sometimes you can
                                                             go to the top
At Howick the road leads east back to the car park (9m)
After the walk we headed back to Alnwick and across the moors to The Anglers Arms, a favourite watering hole, which had Timothy Taylor's Landlord, Black Sheep and Hobgoblin on offer. The AGM, held in this hostelry was discussed  but no decision made.
The two pedometers I was wearing behaved very badly, one claiming a distance of 0.06 km for the day and the other 3.7 miles. However, according to Dave:
                                                   steps              miles
LIDL3D                                     18925              8.74
LIDL USB                                  19874             8.29
which is pretty good.
OUTDOORS GPS claimed 9 miles and Brian's GPS gave the walk as 8.9 miles.
Although we were on the coast we did not see many birds but the bird of the blog goes to:
                                                Oyster Catchers