Saturday, 31 January 2015

We have often walked Carey Burn before and an AGM.........................January 30/31st.
 Much of the north has snow but the part of Northumberland we have chosen for today's walk has only a light dusting. The young lady who read the forecast on local TV  said Friday would be bright and breezy. She was right.
Eight gadgies out today, an octogadge; Ben, Brian, Ray John H, John C, Dave, Harry and me and we have decided to walk the Carey Burn. This is my favourite riverside walk in the Cheviots and it also liked by the rest of the gang.
It starts at the Carey Burn Bridge in the Harthope Valley, reached as you should know by now, by going north on the A1, turn onto the A697 at Morpeth, turn into Wooler, turn left onto Cheviot Street, past the YHA, take the right fork, turn right at the signpost saying Langleeford, drive carefully down the hill just past Skirl Naked and pull in on the grassy verge by the bridge. Be warned, there are often cows loose on this stretch of road, John H had his car beautifully decorated  but undamaged on one occasion. The map to use is OS OL42 The Cheviot Hills and the starting point is at NT 976249.
Stop in Wooler for tea, coffee  and bacon at the friendly Terrace Cafe.
                                                 This week's car park, free.
We went through the gate on the right just before the bridge  over the Carey  Burn and followed the footpath on the north side of the stream. The path is not on the OS map but is sign posted. It is close to the water for much of the way and there are a couple of places with a bit of a scramble but it is more like a valley in the Lakes than the Cheviots. With luck you will spot a heron or a dipper and possibly, near the craggy bits a peregrine. But not today.
                             Don't go near the waterfall
                                    A light dusting of snow in the burn valley.
 Some way up the stream the footpath is between the water and a plantation, eventually reaching a footbridge.(on my old map it says ford but it is a bridge.) Once across the bridge we stuck to the footpath across open fields until we reached another footbridge crossing the Broadstruther burn.(Also marked as a ford)
                                               The Carey Burn from the first footbridge
The footpath now joins a quite well made track which curves round to the old farm at Broadstruther. This farm, once derelict is now a hunting lodge used by grouse shooters. We sat outside in the sun and declared a Herbie Spot. Today's exchange of goodies meant we had Ben's ginger biscuits, Cadbury Brunch bar, Czech chocolate, flapjacks and some iced buns from Mrs A. (184 pounds today). I had left my flask on the kitchen bench (Counter in US, apparently) but was offered soup and tea which made up for it, what caring gadgies we are. Lunch over
                                        Ready to move out from Broadstruther
we headed roughly south from the lodge and after a few hundred yards spotted the footpath going across the moorland which eventually joins a good farm track and comes to the fence at the foot of Cold Law.

                                      The path to Cold Law, regardless of which side of the fence you are on.
                                            An old boundary marker at the foot of Cold Law.
                                        Broadstruther is right in the centre
On the Cold Law summit is a trig point. From it we headed south towards a cairn, took the footpath to the right of the cairn and followed it downhill. At the first grassy junction we took the right fork and followed the grassy path down Cockshaw Sike to the valley road. Turning left  we walked along the road for about half a mile before crossing the Private Bridge to Langlee. The footpath goes round the farm and then climbs steeply up a diagonal ramp. The tracks at the top of the ramp are not marked on the map, presumably they are fairly new, but if you do this walk on Brands Hill take the track east of north  and follow it downhill. At a fence go through the stile on the left and follow the muddy footpath  through woodland and above the river until it comes to a footbridge. Cross the bridge turn right and there is the car park. This walk is worthy of a Times "Good Walk", it has magnificent scenery, a bit of a climb and a terrific pub at the end.
Changed we headed for our favourite watering hole, the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge.

Brian heads for the bar.
On offer today, the last of Timothy Taylors Landlord, Speckled Hen and Directors.
The  Matrix MMXV E
                                                           steps                       miles

HiGear                                              19033                        8.64
Dave's LIDL3D                                 19723                       7.2
Dave's USB                                       19164                        7.25
OUTDOORGPS                                                                 8.2
Brian's GPS                                                                         8.3

Contains OS Data, copyright. Crown Copyright and database right 2015

After a couple of pints, or coffee for the driver, four of the team headed home. Brian, Ray,John H and I remained to hold the Annual General Meeting.
It must be said that our ramblings have reached foreign parts. The Northern Echo described us as a collection of bus pass walkers with amusing tales to tell and a penchant for humour. "They have an interest in music," the columnist wrote. "On one walk somebody asked what do you call a person who eats a fried egg sandwich at 6.12 pm? Answer; An 1812 ova chewer" One of Brian's better puns!
As I recounted this in the Anglers Arms, which has a number of stuffed fish decorating the walls, we were reminded of another joke.
"What sort of a fish is that," asked Dave.
"Don't tell him Pike," quipped the punster. (Think Dad's Army)

The four of us decided to have a shower, a brief rest and meet in the restaurant for the AGM at 7pm.
The agenda was pretty similar to last year's, ignoring the reading of minutes we got down to the business in hand.
                               1. Drink
                               2. Another drink
                               3  Eat, with drink
                               4 Drink
The Anglers Arms deserve more than just a mention as a meeting place.It is a cosy pub/resataurant/hotel. The staff are, without exception, friendly, the food is excellent, the vegetarian option was a "sizzler" my steak and ale pie was full of meat and the other two fairly drooled over the liver. And the starter: I had black pudding with potato and egg, almost a meal in itself. The wine went down well and the pub has a selection of whiskies fit for connoisseurs. Look it up at On one wall there is a photograph of Albert Tatlock of Coronation Street fame. There should be a photograph of the gadgies.
We retired about 11pm and rose for breakfast at 8.45. Full English was enjoyed by all, in spite of the evenings alcohol.
Breakfast over we headed for Rothbury, parked near Tomlinson's Cafe and bunkhouse and set off to clear our heads on a walk round the terraces.
To follow this walk, which is on OS Explorer 332 Alnwick and Amble, find the Queens Head pub on the high street of the pretty market town and turn left. Walk uphill past the first school and watch for the signpost that leads across fields  to Hillside Road. Across more fields to the woods near Addycombe and turn left on the track This track wanders vaguely west, past a radio tower before following a curve  south west the northwest, then north before going north east and finally it enters Primrose Wood. After a short stretch down hill turn right  and  after about a half mile take the footpath on the left leading across some very muddy fields before reaching a narrow lane that heads downhill between houses and back into the town. Walk round the church and you are back at Tomlinson's cafe.

                                                         A lonely cairn above Rothbury
                                               Keeps you on the right track
                                              Heading downhill in Primrose Wood
                                                  Distant view of a snow covered Cheviot

Once we had changed from boots to shoes we went to the cafe for early afternoon tea and scones.
Tomlinson's is well worth a visit too. An interesting menu, some beers and a bunkhouse. It also has bikes for hire and can arrange other outdoor activities. Look them up
                                               Tomlinson's cafe, Rothbury

The Matrix MMXV F
                                                                    steps                         miles
HiGear                                                          13047                       5.9
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                           5.8
Brian's GPS                                                                                    5.7
Contains OS data Copyright.Crown Copyright and database right 2015

Friday, 23 January 2015

Salve Romans Ex Epiacum......Jan 23rd.

The fine jock who did the BBC forecast for Friday January 23rd said in the northeast it would be windy and wet. Nevertheless  six of us set out to look at the Roman Fort known as Whitley Castle near Alston in Cumbria, namely; John H, Dave, Ben, Ray, Harry and me.
The planned walk starts at Alston which claims to be the highest market town in England and at approximately 1000 feet it probably is.
 A pretty little town, the centre is unspoiled. It has been used for scenes in a film of Jane Eyre and a TV series of Oliver Twist. It also has a narrow gauge railway which is open in summer for pleasure trips.
To get to Alston from base take the A69 west, beyond Hexham turn left on the A686 and follow  the road past castles, farms and churches, take care on a series of  hairpin bends, watch out for pheasants which have a habit of wandering across the road, go over a few miles of miserable looking moorland and come down to Alston at the confluence of the South Tyne and Nent rivers.
There is a car park by the station, closed in winter but we parked on the roadside. You can also park on the main street of the town which is beyond the station and up the cobbled hill on the left. Mind the parking is full of large farmers and their equally large 4x4s or tractors and muck spreaders.
Take a map; OSOL 31 North Pennines. The station, which is clearly signposted is at NY716467.


                            Parking by the station at Alston

The walk;
 We turned right at the junction by the station and walked along the road past the town, past the entrance to the hospital and the YHA, crossed the bridge over the South Tyne and walked a short distance up the road before spotting the sign post which is for the Pennine Way and the Isaac Tea Trail.
                            The South Tyne at Alston, with a scattering of snow on the banks.
The footpath was muddy and covered lightly with snow. At one point the path is a narrow lane down the side of a farm but mostly it crosses fields to Harbut Lodge.
Alston from the footpath on the west side of the South Tyne, with snow.
Harbut Lodge is guarded by a flock of white geese, descended tradition has it, from the very ones that saved Rome. Today they were quiet.
                                                                 Geese, with snow.
                                          Field barn, farm and sheep, with snow.
Beyond Harbut Lodge we came to a minor road and turned right, after a hundred yards we spotted the finger post  that sent us further uphill across snow covered fields.
                                                     A stile and gate, that should fool the sheep.
 By now the wind had risen and it had the effect of lowering the temperature by several degrees as we bravely walked on, across muddy fields, streams and stiles until we finally reached our target; Whitley Castle Roman Fort.

Apart from the welcome board there is little to offer at Epiacum. In the near future it is to be excavated and have a tea room. There will be interactive displays, the opportunity to dress as a Roman Soldier and a gift shop full of plastic swords. 
Today it was a snowy field. However it is worth recording that it is unusual for a Roman Fort in that it is not the standard "playing card shape." Ony two side are parallel, making it a trapezium to this retired teacher of relatively easy sums. English Heritage describe it as a rhomboid but the sides are not equal. It also has some defensive  embankments, clearly visible. The fort is built near to the Maiden Way, a Roman Road going from Kirby Thore in Yorkshire to Carvoran on Hadrian's Wall. It was possibly built as a resting place for troops or as a centre to control the wild tribes of the area who were led by a couple of chiefs named Red Nubes and Sedentum Taurus, notorious for swift attacks on a passing troop of cavalry. The area was a centre for mining lead, the fort could have offered some protection to the miners who also extracted silver and zinc in the area. The Romans used zinc to coat their poss tubs. (Ask your granny)

 It is thought the fort was built about 200AD, the embankments can still be seen.

An aerial photo of the fort
Having seen as much of the fort as we wanted and suffering from the cold wind that whipped in from the west, driving some sleet before it (Take me on Times, I can give you some good walks) we headed north to Kirkhaugh Bridge. From here we decided, as the sleet got a little heavier, to head back along the South Tyneside Railway footpath to Alston.
                                        The rails lead back to Alston
                            A friendly fellow by the railway
                                                           Trucks left from the mining days. (Not Roman of course)
                                                    A diesel called Hunslet, maybe it's from Leeds
                                                Paul Mooney is the jolly weather man from BBC 
                                                          Look North.
                                                A proper signal box
                                                              Alston Station, with snow.
  Back at the station we changed and sat in cars to eat sandwiches, Snickers flapjacks, Golf biscuits and bramley apple pies. Sadly Brian is away so no offering from Mrs. A. (No Herbie Spot today, too cold)
We headed for the pub with the lovely name of Carts Bog where the A686 turns off to Hexham. They had two Wylam beers, Angel and Gold Tankard. They also did a fine cup of tea.
This walk will be repeated in summer with an extension, but it was a bit chilly today and we are getting on a bit.

The Matrix   MMXV                                
                                                                steps                        miles

LIDL3D                                                 16512                       7.45
Higear                                                    15002                       6.8
Dave's 3D                                               16077                      5.78
Dave's USB                                            15444                      5.6
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                    6.4
Ben's GPS                                                                               7  (He parked in the town centre)

Gadgie distance       29 miles
Contains OS data, copyright. Crown copyright and database right 2015

Friday, 16 January 2015

May the forts be with you.......January 16th
The Ingram Valley is rich in Iron Age relics, many hilltops are crowned with the remains of hillforts dating back to the centuries well before the Roman invasion and occupation. Many have been recycled as field walls and more modern buildings but the boundary walls are still visible. Oddly, one of our group of gadgies has never been to Brough Law, close to the information centre and Muddy Boots Cafe at Ingram so today's walk includes this relatively well preserved fort.
A two car job so we have arranged to meet in tyhe car park at the cafe. Take the A1 north, turn off at Morpeth on the A697 and shortly after Powburn turn left on the road signed Ingram. At Ingram turn left down the lane past the holiday cottages and St. Michael's Church and the car park and cafe are there. The walk is on OS OL 16   Cheviot Hills and the car park is at GR NU020163, right on the edge of the map, which is useful for laminators.
The six out today are; John H, John C, Ben, Harry, Dave and me. The jovial one had promised a bright and breezy day, with low temperatures, most wore an extra layer.
                                             The Muddy Boots Cafe.
Leaving the car park we headed back up the lane past the church and the holiday cottages, turned right at the village hall and were soon back on the valley road, heading west. We past Ingram farm and close to the spot where there is a car park on the right we turned left and headed up a grassy track, icy in places.(1 mile) The path skirted a wood and after a short steep climb we were on the top of Brough Law, site of an Iron Age fort.
          Masonry on the inner wall, still looking good. after 2200 years
It may look like a pile of rubble to you but this hill fort is thought to have been built in the C4th BC. Unique in Northumberland it was built entirely of rubble, possibly ten feet high with inner and outer walls (bivallate!) and with the remains of a building erected in the Roman period, Excavations have found nothing but a blade and most of the stones have been recycled into field walls.

  Having examined the fort (again) we headed south along a grassy track. I have been reading the "Good Walks" in one of the country's quality papers. They are good and the descriptions are more flowery. eg. "The wind whistled gently through the leaves in the hedges, stirring the occasional blackbird from its slumbers" Well the wind today on the tops came roaring in from the north west and was bitter, making even our idle chat difficult to hear and causing eyes to stream, except for Ben and John C who had the good sense to wear goggles.(2)
The track wanders a bit and eventually we turned south west, cutting off a corner, and walking carefully down a steep hillside strewn with dead fern to the corner of a plantation. (3)
Crossing a stream we headed up the side of the wood and emerged into a rough field. A group of men with dogs were coming in the opposite direction. What we took to be guns turned out to be sticks, with flags attached. A mystery. Crossing the marshy field to a gate by the corner of a wood we headed for Chesters, an isolated farm house. It looks well kept but empty, maybe it belongs to an organisation like the scouts
                                                        Chesters front
                                                        and back
                    The view from a point just beyond Chesters, snow covered Cheviot
Walking on we came to a gate (4)t led to a narrow footpath leading diagonally downhill to a small plantation. Once through the plantation we were in the Breamish Valley and after walking through a couple of fields we arrived at the farm at Alnhamoor,an ideal place to lunch, tucked in behind a wall that saved us from the cold wind.

  Two views looking down on the Breamish, meandering through the valley
                                                    Alnhamoor Farm
Lunch at the wall. Today's delights were Mr Kipling's Victoria slices, Bens Ginger Biscuits,Snickers Flapjacks and home made peanut butter fudge  (still 182 pounds)
                              The Breamish at Alnhamoor
Lunch over, and it bwas cold so we didn't hang about we crossed the field  by the farm, walked down the track a short way to the bridge and then turned back on ourselves on the north side of the river. The hillside is planted with several hundred deciduous trees, protected still in their tubes and struggling to grow. We followed the steep path  by the fence and were soon on Hartside Hill, following  a grassy track north east(6).

 Alnhamoor Farm from Hartside Hill. The stripes in the fields are the remains of ancient "ridge and furrow ploughing". They show up well in late afternoon sun

Soon the path went downhill again  into the valley bottom and we walked back to the car park along the road, stopping only to chat to a motorised shepherd. We had admired the white looking sheep in the valley. They had, he said, had a good wash in the heavy rain that had fallen in the night.

 The Ingram Glidders,Brough Law is on the top of this hill, well defended on this side.
Once changed we headed for favourite hostelry number one, The Anglers Arms, which offered Bombardier, Speckled Hen and Timothy Taylor's Landlord, sometime called the nectar of the gadgies.
And the jovial on was right, it was cold, bright and breezy all day, a pleasure to be out. And for the birders we spotted robins, a treecreeper, a dipper and a pair of ravens.

                                                             steps                     miles
Higear                                                  15766                  7.157    (needs attention)
LIDL3D                                               20682                  9.41
Dave's LIDL3D                                   22064                 7.941
Dave's USB                                         21515                  7.47
OUTDOORGPS                                                              8.71
Ben's Bragometer                                                            9
John C                                                                              9

    Gadgie distance for the year 22 miles
Contains os data copyright Crown copyright and data base right 2015

Friday, 9 January 2015

Jennifer, Juniper..................January 9th
  Jennifer Juniper was a hit for Donovan in 1968. The Jennifer of the title being the sister of Patti Boyd who was married to George Harrison and later to Eric Clapton. This has nothing to do with today's walk.
  The jovial weatherman on local TV promised us a day of wind and rain and so the planned walk across the moors of Blanchland was postponed and substituted by a more sheltered ramble around Devil's Water.
  Six brave gadgies out today, Brian,  Ben, Harry, Dave, John H and me. We met in the car park at Hexham,(free as most of Northumberland's now are) and breakfasted in the Wentworth Cafe which supplied Brian with the best bacon sandwich seen for a long time, the tea was good too.
                                     Now that's a car park; Waitrose in Hexham
Fed and/or just watered we headed for the start of the walk, the hamlet of Juniper. Head  west up Hexham main street, turn left at the narrow junction just before the Tap and Spile public house, follow the signs to Juniper, drive through it, cross the bridge and on the right is a space which will hold 4 cars.
                                                  Juniper from the off road parking space.
The walk is on OS OL 43 Hadrian's Wall  (and I would say a map was essential)and the parking space is at NY937585.
We crossed the bridge back towards the village but turned right immediately and followed the footpath alongside the Rowley Burn for a short distance before emerging onto the road. At the junction near Lee Grange  we turned right and followed the track  down towards Peth Ford, headed north east to Pethfoot Bridge and turned through almost  180 degrees to follow the muddy path alongside Devil's Water.
                                                Rowley Burn
                                               and a placid looking Devil's Water.
At some point along the stream we came across the Dukesfield Arches, remains of an old lead smelter currently being restored by a local group and funded by the National Lottery. Lead was mined throughout this area of Northumberland and there is plenty of evidence to be found if you are an industrial archaeologist, or just interested.

At some point in Steelhall Wood we declared a Herbie Spot, set up camp and tucked in to: sandwiches, Mrs A's homemade mince buns, Hobnob flapjacks, Ben's ginger biscuits, Bakewell slices and Almond  and peanut Roca
                                                    Cathy from Goole, you are not forgotten
                                            Dave tries his hand at mole catching.
Lunch over we headed south east across the fields to the farm at Steel Hall, turned south west through more woodland, crossed footbridges at Rawgreen and headed north  towards Moss House.
 Just one of the many ant heaps we walked past in the woods. I think they were all asleep.
 Approaching Whitley Chapel  we stumbled through the Quakers' Hole Wetland. A very boggy short stretch of the walk. None of the creatures on the information board seemed to be at home. It is named Quakers Hole as there was a 17th C Friends Meeting House nearby.

The walk continued past St. Helen's Church (originally a chapel of ease for Hexhamshire built in 1742 although some of the stonework could be from an earlier 13th C building and named for the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine) in the village of Whitley Chapel, along the road past the first school and then we took a footpath  across fields to Mellersteads, turned east  and followed the footpath along Rowley Burn until we emerged from the wood by the car park.
The weatherman had the forecast right, although the rain was never heavy the showers failed to dampen gadgie spirits and the wind was not too strong. Determined to end the day in the usual way we headed for The Dipton Mill pub, which was closed so we drove back to Wylam and called at The Boathouse which boast 14 hand pulled beers, several local brews and some from Orkney.
For the birders it was a good day, fieldfares, buzzards, kestrels, robins and bullfinches but the bird of the blog goes to the turkey who had escaped Christmas and was strutting his stuff at Westerbyers.

The Matrix MMXV B
                                                             steps                               miles
LIDL3D                                               15816                                   7
HiGear                                                  12927                                  5.9
Dave's 3D                                             16705                                  6.51
Dave's USB                                          16049                                   6.33
OUTDOORGPS                                                                                6.8
Brian's GPS                                                                                        6.8
Gadgie distance   13 miles
Contains OS Data copyright. Crown Copyright and Database right 2015