Saturday, 28 July 2018

In the heat of the day.. (Northumberland ) July 27
  Back home after the Arran adventure, the team is reduced to three, holidays and family commitments. 
Britain has been enduring a heat wave for a couple of weeks, nanny has reminded us gadgies to take care as we are vulnerable, drink plenty, use sun cream, wear a hat, take a siesta and so on. Furthermore the jovial jock on local TV has promised this will be a hot day, ending about 3pm with thunderstorms.  So we three, Brian, Harry and I are having a gentle walk based on the small Northumberland town of Rothbury. (A1 north, A697 at Morpeth, B6341 at Weldon Bridge.) Cross the river in the town and use the free car park.
We went to Tomlinsons Café and Bunkhouse on Bridge Street for breakfast and having booted up in the car park we started our walk from the café.
Nearly all the walk is covered by OS Explorer 332 Alnwick and Amble, the bit not on this map is along the river near the end, you can't get lost.
  Having breakfasted we checked we had obeyed nanny and slapped on the sun cream , made sure we had water or tea for rehydration sessions and were wearing hats or caps to protect the top of our heads.
Today's car park in Rothbury, spacious and free

Tomlinsons café and bunkhouse, Rothbury

The walk:
We went back up Bridge Street to the main road through Rothbury, turned right, crossed the road and took the first street on the left. We past the row of flats built by Lord Armstrong for his estate workers, past some relatively new bungalows and found the sign post on the left that took us across a couple of fields to Hillside Road.
Lord Armstrong made his fortune making guns, battleships and a host of other things, like the Swing Bridge across the Tyne in Newcastle. He built his country home, Cragside, outside Rothbury and lit it with the first hydro-electric system in Britain. Today it is owned by the National Trust.
We followed Hillside Road until it became a track and then found another sign post that crossed a couple of fields until it reached woodland. At this point we turned left and followed the track through the woods, stopping at one view point to look down on the town.
         Rothbury. At this point it started to rain so we followed nanny's instructions and put our waterproof tops on. Then it stopped so after a few minutes we took them off again.
At the end of the track through the wood, just beyond a gate,  we followed a footpath on the right that took us across rough moorland, and almost due north, to another plantation and another fairly good track which eventually emerged onto heather covered moorland. The heather is coming into bloom, looks lovely but there was no wild mountain Thyme. Heading north west we stuck to the track past Crocky's Heugh (marked on Ordnance Survey map) and on to the edge of yet another plantation. Not far into it we turned left at the entrance to Blue Mill:
              The entrance to Blue Mill.
The track climbs, but not too steeply as it was a very hot day and we are vulnerable. If you follow this route watch out for a marker post on the right after about half a mile and follow the footpath across a short stretch of moorland before hitting yet another track, and turn right.
Not far down this track we called a Herbie and sat on an old stone gate post that had been pushed over, making a reasonably comfy seat.

Herbie Spot. Nice dry stone wall, attractive but thirsty tree, no rain for a couple of weeks. 
Gadgie moment: For my contribution to the Herbie I had planned to bring chocolate. As it was a hot day I put one of those plastic bottle full of frozen liquid in my food box to stop the chocolate melting. Sadly I had left the chocolate at home in the fridge. Mrs A had sent some lemon drizzle cake.
Herbie over we continued on the track for a short distance before spotting the entrance on the right to the fascinatingly named Physic Lane.
   The entrance to Physic Lane, which overlooks the village of Thropton

Physic Lane eventually transforms into a tarmac road, passes several houses and joins the B6341 from Rothbury near the Cross Keys pub (opens at 3pm on a Friday)
We crossed the Wreigh Burn by the footbridge which runs next to the road bridge, crossed the road and followed the footpath alongside the burn until we reached another footbridge across the River Coquet.

 Bridge over the Wreigh burn
Footbridge over the Coquet. The river is very low, there has been no rain for several weeks.
We discussed, briefly, which route to take back to Rothbury, via the village of Tosson or the shorter path alongside the river. We chose the latter, mainly because it was a hot day and we had been promised thunder and heavy rain about 3pm.
The footpath alongside the river is very pretty, very flat and could be a useful geography lesson. In places, on bends, the bank has been washed away, the footpath has had to be moved!. Future Ox-Bow lakes. 
This section of the walk is not on OS 332 but it is easy to follow as it follows the river to a footbridge taking us to the north side of the Coquet. We followed the footpath across a field and took the well built walkers/dogsters track back to the car park.

 Cob, pen and cygnets on the river Coquet
               One more footbridge nearing Rothbury
Once changed we headed for The Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge to do as nanny said and rehydrate. There were three hand pulled beers on offer, a Fizzy Blonde, Black Sheep and Another. The Black Sheep was very re hydrating.
Unfortunately I had forgotten my pedometer and Dave, the pedometer man was away so no Matrix this week.
OUTDOOR GPS measured the walk at 8.5 miles and Brian agreed.

The thermometer in the car claimed 26C, with high humidity.
When |I got home the storm started, heavy rain, thunder, lightning. Shame as the cloud blocked out the Blood Moon.

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Saturday, 21 July 2018

The Animals of Arran. July 13-20 (Scotland)
  The island of Arran off the Scottish coast has some interesting inhabitants: deer, sea otters, Eriskay ponies, Soay sheep, goats, squirrels, seals and so on. Birds too; gannets, gulls, guillemots, buzzards, ravens, eagles and a host of lbjs.

   This has nothing to do with the fauna found on the Scottish island of Arran although some of them may get a mention.
Animals, a sobriquet  earned some years ago, given by a wife who claimed that on the annual gentlemen's week we behaved like animals, drinking heavily. This is not true. True we are taking two barrels of beer to the island (144 pints) but this works out to about three pints each per day, hardly excessive and a refreshing drink at the end of a walk is just what a gadgie needs.
Seven of us, Brian, John C., Norman, Ben, Dave,Paul and me, have rented "Smugglers Den", a large cottage north of Brodick for a week's walking, cycling, bird watching and resting. 
Arran is sometimes described as Scotland in miniature, it has mountains, valleys, archaeological sites and, being an island, miles of coast. The usual way of getting there is by ferry from Ardrossan. Book well in advance.

 The only car park this week. Waiting for the ferry at Ardrossan
                           Caledonian Isles sails into Ardrossan. Ro Ro ferry to Brodick
     As soon as we landed we drove to the cottage at Corrie, some miles north of Brodick and unloaded kit. The other car had arrived some hours earlier, the first barrel was already tapped and waiting.

           Smugglers Den, home for the week. We had the ground floor, four bedroom, two ensuite, a bathroom, living room and kitchen. Upstairs seemed to be being renovated.
  The first night on the gentlemen's' week is spent in a pub/restaurant and we went to the Corrie Hotel a few miles north of the house fish and chips for some, and Belhaven beer.
Back at the house we walked on the beach, just across the road. Oyster catcher and very strange rocks, but not then promised playful sea otters.
July 14th
First walk of the week. We drove to the tiny settlement of Sannox and waited for a bus to Lochranza. It arrived, full, and the driver apologised saying we couldn't get on but a group of gadgies and gadgettes realised where they were and got off to start their walk so we took the bus to Lochranza. 
Lochranza is a long, one sided village with a Youth Hostel, a distillery and a ruined castle.
Having looked round the ruin we set off for the walk we had planned, a coastal walk back to Sannox.
A good footpath took us north west before turning in a semicircle. Nice names along the coast, Fairy Dell, Fallen Rocks and Cock of Arran, possibly the most northerly point of the island. Somewhere here is Hutton's Unconformity. Hutton is regarded as the father of geology. Working in the 18th century he realised from some formations on this coast that the earth was much older than the 4000 years calculated by a bishop. Hutton also inspired a young Charles Darwin.
A group of young Americans were playing happily in the sea at the point where we called a Herbie.
                                        Lochranza castle
                               Lunch on the rocks.
Parts of the walk were tricky, scrambling over boulders, watching where you put your feet. We passed a cottage at Laggan which had curtains painted on the windows and was obviously unoccupied.
Also on the coast we passed the ruins of some ancient salt pans, that particular substance being extracted from the sea water by evaporation, using coal from a nearby pit. And the group from the bus were coming the other way!
Later the path improved, we passed several navigation beacons, pre sat nav., and then we were at Sannox and drove home. The walk is about 10 miles.

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The evening meal was from Mrs E., her famous meat balls in a spicy tomato soup, served with rice, which I now know how to cook. Progress.
We finished the meal with slices of cake from
And for a light supper we had a selection of cheese and biscuits from Dave, and some whiskey.

This year's cake. The pork pie is significant and the map is edible.
The Wylam Brewery Gold tankard was in fine form, we all slept well.
July 15th
It rained, all day. We drove round the island, a distance of just under 60 miles, stopping at Pirnmill for lunch in the café there. Soup and a sandwich for most, omelettes for some. Great place, lovely staff. At Lochranza we went to the distillery, looked round and bought a bottle of whiskey between us.
The evening meal of pork steaks in sauce was provided by Brian, cheese by Dave, whiskey by us.

Lochranza distillery, relatively new 

July 16th
It was a sunny day.
Leaving the cars near the  castle in Lochranza we walked up Gleann Easan Biorach on a path that followed a stream initially. Wet after the previous day's rain, it climbed relatively gently to Loch na Davie. Shortly after we turned west beneath Beinn Bhreac and stopped for two reasons; the view and Herbie time.
Following the stream up Gleann Easan Beorach

                                 Lunch with a view
                     Lunch with another view, turning cool too, note the jackets!
After Herbie time we walked down Gleann Diohman which joined Glen Catacol. (Why are some Gleann and some Glen?)
Eventually, having passed another remarkable bank of geological interest which I forgot to photograph, we hit the road and turned right towards the Twelve Disciples at Catacol.
Twelve disciples with thirteen chimneys!
Behind the row of cottages a steep stairway climbs up to the Postman's Path, a narrow footpath through woods that leads to Lochranza. Tricky but better than the road.
The evening meal was prepared by Ben. Couscous with lamb, served with a fine red wine, followed by home made ice cream served with dessert wine.
having loaded the dish washer we settled down to an evening of music requests from iTunes, computers or whatever.
              Contains OS data, copyright. Crown copyright and database right 2018

Paddle ship Waverley, taken from Postman's Path.                                                                                            It was time to open the second barrel. Its contents were so lively we couldn't stop it coming through the pump and had to run round filling glasses and jugs. Couldn't let them go to waste.
July 17th
We had planned to catch the ferry to Holy Island off the south east coast but when we got to Lamlash the ferry man said he would not be sailing for some time, he could only take ten and there were already a number of people waiting.
As an alternative we walked up Glenashdale from Whiting Bay to the Eas A Chrannaig, or Glenashdale waterfall, an easy stroll through woodland.

Glenashdale falls, worthy of Sherlock Holmes
Having admired the cascade we walked on to the Giants' Graves, an ancient burial cairn with some very large piles of stones.

The remains of chambered cairns, used as burial sites.
Back in Whiting Bay we had a Herbie and went back to the ferry for Holy Island. The ferry man allowed us to book for tomorrow.
Most of us then decided to walk from Lamlash back along the coast to Brodick.
We passed the Outdoor Education Centre which was busy with young people off canoeing. At Clauchlands Point we watched either Cormorants or Shags on the tiny Hamilton Isle before turning north west along a rocky shore path. it is part of the Arran Coastal path and is tricky in places, especially if it's wet, although eventually it becomes a grassy track. At Dhunan we followed  gravelled road uphill before crossing some fields and making it to Brodick. This latter part of the path is well marked, better than most sections.
For the evening meal John had prepare a spaghetti bolognaise with spicy garlic pickles, red wine and cake.
July 18th
We arrived at Lamlash in time for the first ferry of the day and as promised the ferryman allowed us to jump the queue, not that it mattered as there are two boats and they were kept busy. The fare for the 15 minute crossing is £12 return, expensive  but worth it.
Holy Island has been bought by a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks who have converted an old farmhouse into their monastery and Centre for World Peace. At the south end of the island is a retreat where monks meditate for up to four years. The Lama has his own escape pod on the hillside. Unless you are visiting for a course on meditation the buildings are out of bounds, as is the whole of the east side of the island, which is a nature reserve. The island has protected herds of Soay sheep, Eriskay ponies and goats.
The Holy Island Monastery. Closed to most.
There is a well marked footpath that leads from near the landing stage quite gently for the most part up to Mullach Beag, the lower of the two peaks on the island. From here the footpath dips down then climbs again to Mullach Mor, the highest point on the small island.We called a Herbieand sat enjoying views over Arran and back to the mainland.
Lunch and a game of pick sticks on Mullach Mor. Kingscross Point in the background, the closest point between Arran and the mainland.
The path down from the summit is very steep, almost from the start, in places it is essential for gadgies to make use of hand holds on the rocks, but eventually we reached a grassy track. Some turned left to look at the Pillar Rock Lighthouse and some turned right past the retreat and walked back to the ferry.
Lama's hillside hideaway?

Sheep, separated from goats, or vice versa

There are several of these Tibetan style paintings on the path

Lone sheep or goat

Back on Arran we drove someway round the island and crossed from west to east on the road called The String. I cycled it once, couldn't do it again.
The evening meal, prepared by Norman, was a fine chicken curry, and we still had some garlic spice. Washed down with red wine, another well earned, well made dinner. For the evening's entertainment we watched two films, Early Man, funny animated film, and The Angels' Share, a Ken Loach film about a group of young Scots who have an interest in expensive whiskey. Well worth watching.
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July 19th
The highest point on Arran is Goat Fell at just under 3000 feet. A popular walk and I have done it but today, suffering from an uncomfortable knee each, John and I decided to have a quiet easy walk as the other five climbed the fell.
John and I drove to Machrie to look at the stone circles and burial cairns there. Impressive but a bit poor as far as information boards go.

Ancient settlements, standing stones and bjurial cairns at Machrie.
The last supper was prepared by Paul, a fine curry washed down with wine .  After dinner we watched several episodes of The Detectorists, a programme well worth watching if you likme gentle English humour with a little strong language. We tried to empty the second barrel but had to waste some unfortunately.
July 20th
Another gentlemen's week comes to an end. Fair to say we were all pretty tired. We had to vacate the house by 10 and went to a café for a second breakfast before catching the ferry back to Ardrossan and driving home.