Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Oh yes, we have no ospreys.  (Northumberland ) July 30th.
 A second shot at spotting ospreys again for Dave and I, walking Kielder water from the dam to the castle. A map is not essential but OS OL 42 Kielder Water covers the area. 
It is a linear walk so needs a little organisation, either two cars or use the bus as we did. Unfortunately the bus only runs from Kielder village to Hexham on a Tuesday and Friday so choose your days. The bus, run by APT leaves Kielder village at 9am and only takes a quarter of an hour to the dam. There is no longer a shop in Kielder so make sure you have supplies for the day too.
There is a car park beyond Kielder castle but we were a bit cheeky and left our vehicle on the street. The building on the right used to be the village shop but now it is only a post office, open for a few hours each week day.
The track that runs all the way round the lake is almost a marathon, it is very well signposted so easy to follow.
Leaving the dam the two of us walked the track, which is open to walkers and cyclists, to Tower Knowe where there is a visitor centre, car park and display on the dam construction. Strolling along in the sunshine on a path bordered by summer flowers, it was the start of a good day.
Walking on we kept an eye open for one of the birds, there are six nesting sites at the moment, five of them having chicks, so we expected mum and dad to be out finding breakfast for their broods.
                                  Easy to follow, frequent marker posts too.
At Bull Crag Peninsula we opted for the cut off and instead of following the track round the lakeside took the paths through woodland over the peninsula and back down to the water about a mile from Leaplish Waterside Park.
Before the park we settled on a bench with a fine view of the water for lunch, it seemed a good spotting site.
                   Mrs Tiggy Winkle at the Herbie spot
                   Herbie time view. One of the nesting sites is visible through binoculars on the skyline of the picture but I am sworn to secrecy.
A short distance beyond the lunch spot is a bird hide, Squirrel Hide. Through the windows we watched flocks of chaffinches and a few nuthatches tucking in to the peanuts and seeds. A young man told us there were 900 squirrels in Kielder forest, but there were non round here today. He also informed us he had seen an osprey that day.
Moving on to the visitor centre at Leaplish we called in at the Osprey Centre. A small shed has a good information display on the birds and a record of sightings. A small TV dish hinted at the position of the nest used for osprey watching, the camera being attached to the nesting pole. Using this we managed to work out where one nest is, but I'm not telling.
                         Freya's hut, before you reach Leaplish. Across the lake is Robin's shed, the two were lovers who finally found happiness.
              As we left Leaplish the heavens opened, wisely we sheltered under a tree, hoping there was no thunder storm around. After the heavy shower we walked on, going under the road bridge at Matthew's Linn, walking up stream, crossing the award winning footbridge and going back under the road bridge. There were a number of canoes on the water with noisy crews, male and female. A man explained they were soldier cadets out on a week's adventure training. They were obviously enjoying it. There were a number of house martins nests on the bridge, surprising as it is smooth concrete.

                        Footbridge and road bridge at Matthew's Linn
Nearing Kielder we called in at the Butteryhaugh bird hide. The same young man gave us a list of his sightings from this hide. He had had a busy day.
                                     Butteryhaugh hide.
                  View from Butteryhaugh hide
                          Public art or bench? Very well carved though
From the hide we walked on to Butteryhaugh, site of the village school and once the site of a Youth Hostel.

                      Couldn't resist taking this photo!
From Butteryhaugh we walked up to the castle for tea and a look at the osprey nest and its occupants shown on a large TV set. The only time we had seen one of the birds all day. Never mind, it was a good walk.
               We walked the other way round.
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This walk is about 12.5 miles, but easy going.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

From Iona to Lindisfarne, a tale of two abbeys...….(Northumberland) July 25
Last week we were on Iona, small island off Mull where St. Columba had founded a monastery in 563 AD. In 634 AD St.Aidan came from Iona and founded a monastery on Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, off the coast of Northumberland. Its most famous monk was St.Cuthbert, fed by otters and buried in Durham Cathedral.
Today, having an easy walk after the week away we are strolling round the island. Another good reason for taking it easy is that Europe is suffering from a heat wave with temperatures in the UK reaching 36 and a bit C, something we are not used to. High humidity too.                                        Easy to reach from Newcastle, head north on the A1 until you spot a sign post for Holy Island. But be warned it is only accessible at certain times of the day when the tide is out. Consult tide tables or finish up on the refuge as your vehicle fills with salty water and you become a news item on Look North.
There is another way of walking to the island, across the Pilgrims Way. The route is marked with posts and also has a refuge tower or two but again it should not be used when the tide is in.
A person very close to me, with a friend, decided to cross this way without paying attention to the tide. Someway across the tide appeared, the water got deeper but they soldiered on with, as my mother would have said, "Water up to their knickers." Salutary experience.
                                          The Pilgrims Way, covered in this picture
There is a large car park on the left just as you approach the village once across from the mainland.
             Holy Island car park on a sunny day. Costs £5.50 for 24 hours which you might need if you don't watch the tides. Comes complete with an ice cream van and vegetable stall.
You can do this walk in a pair of walking shoes rather than boots. Having paid up we headed back along the road in the direction of the Causeway, not the best part of the walk because of the traffic. At the end of the dunes we left the road and took the track to The Snook, a tower and a house.

                  Snook Tower, a holiday let.
Once past the Snook we were on the beach and turned to walk east on the sand. Before long it was hinted that we stop for lunch, it had been a late start and there had not been the usual breakfast stop.
 Someone is hinting it's time for lunch. We shared chocolate and peanut bars, hobnobs plus chocolate and a delicious chocolate cake from Mrs A which had miraculously survived the heat without melting.
Lunch over we walked on the beach  a little further before climbing up into the dunes, stopping to admire  the remains of a long house and walking on the top of the low cliffs round Snipe Point and Keel Head. There were a number of seals in the water, there are at least eleven collective nouns for them including harem, pod and herd, but my favourite is bob. Fairly descriptive as most of the mammals were in the sea bobbing up and down and listening to the babylike cries of their pups.
We walked over to Emmanuel Head and sat for a short while on the benches round the whitewashed pyramid, possibly a navigation aid.
                                        Emmanuel Head pyramid.
From here we headed south along the good path past Brides Hole, Sheldrake Pool, Broad Stones and Scar Jockey to the castle.

                     Holy Island Castle, built in 1549/50 and used as a garrison until 1819. Later it was used by coastguards but in 1902 it was bought and modernised. It is owned by the National Trust.
Close to the castle are the Holy Island Lime Kilns.
                   Built in 1860 one of the best set of lime kilns in Northumberland. The island had limestone but coal had to be imported the fertiliser exported from a now gone pier close by. The kilns closed in 1896 and, like the castle are now in the hands of the National Trust.
Passing the ice cream van and fish and chip stall we were soon in the village. Today we did not visit the Priory ruins nor the remains of the chapel on a small island just off the island.
              Lindisfarne Priory and castle.
On the way home we stopped at the Cook and Barker in Newton on the Moor. On offer were two ales, Black Sheep and New Balls. We had all heard the advice given by the Chief Medical Officer for England to drink a lot of liquid because of the heat but not alcohol. We ignored her advice. (But not the drivers, coffee or soda and lime for them good boys)

My pedometer said 20962 steps and 7.6 miles. Outdoor GPS said 7.2 miles
        Contains OS data, copyright. Crown copyright and database right 2019.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Mull, the men, the music and the menus July 2019
  Following the success of last year's "Gentlemen's Week" on Aran we are heading off to another Scottish isle this year: Mull, on the west coast. There are eight of us this year, Dave, John C., John H., Brian, Ben, Norman, Paul and me. Three cars, two barrels of beer and a store full of food arrived at Corrieyairack  cottage in Dervaig village on the western side of the island on July 13th, having crossed the water from Oban on a Caledonian Macbrayne ferry.
Great car park for starters,
                 Lining up to board the ferry in Oban
There is an innovation this year. Each of us was invited to produce a list of thirty or so tunes which we sent to Brian who put them all onto a computer to help while away the evening as we enjoyed a few beers. The only restriction was one tune per artist. We had an eclectic mix of approximately 250 songs or pieces of music. And we had a cake.
Having difficulty boiling an egg I bring a suitably decorated cake to share.

Corrieyairack cottage on the left, the oldest inn on Mull at the top of the road, The Bellachroy.
Sticking with tradition and having settled in, sorted rooms, tapped the first beer barrel and sampled it we walked the short distance up the road for an evening meal. A fair selection and the pub was busy, mostly holiday makers. There were too beers  on offer, a local one from the village brewery and Jarl.
Sunday July 14th.
 The forecast looked promising so we kicked off the week's activities with a walk from the cottage to Quinnish Point, as far as you can go in this particular direction. Walking first on a track we were soon in a wood and then across open land, which supported sheep and a standing stone, until we reached the point, a suitable place for a Herbie. 
Apart from seabirds there was little evidence of wild life, apart from an adder which shuffled off before I could get my camera out.
                           Quinnish Standing stone
                          Woodland walk
              View from the point. The distant hills left of centre are on the Isle of Skye.
On the way back we scrambled along the coast for a time before tramping through high bracken and rejoining the woodland walk. Brian and Dave went off sea eagle spotting but saw none.
Quinnish route. About 8.5 miles
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Paul was the chef for the evening. He served a curry, excellent. And of course there was beer and a glass of brandy. Dave brought out a cheese board after a digestive pause.
Monday July 15th.
The highest point on Mull is Ben Mor, a Monroe at just over three thousand feet.  Because of the many inlets on Mull places that are close if you are a crow are a fair distance apart as you drive round the many bays, sea lochs and inlets so from Dervaig to the shore at the foot of the Ben took some time.
                   Starting point for Ben Mor.
We all set off up the mountain, following a stream initially that went through a deep ravine in places and over some falls.
Unfortunately for me, and to my disappointment, my arthritic right knee grew increasingly uncomfortable and the thought of plodding slowly downhill after reaching the top told me to turn back, which I did, wandering slowly back to the car and sitting in the sun until the magnificent seven completed the walk, a distance of about ten miles.
My only consolation being that some 25 years ago I climbed this hill with Harry.

                                                 A disappointing day out for me.
Back at Dervaig Brian prepared a dish of pork chops cooked in a spicy sauce and served with rice, plus a choice of red or white wine. Cheese later

Tuesday July 16th.
Another long drive, this time to Fionnphort at the southwest end of Mull to catch the ferry to Iona.
A short but busy crossing, mostly foot passengers mostly heading for the Abbey.
Iona was once a centre of early Celtic Christianity. Attacked by Vikings, converted to a Benedictine monastery and finally abandoned at the reformation in 1560 it fell into ruin but the non denominational Community of Iona have over the years built up the abbey, opened a museum and turned it into a fascinating attraction. Our group split up and went our separate ways, walking, birding or contemplating.
After walking to the north end of the small island, sitting in the sun for a sandwich, Ben and I visited the Abbey complex, aided by an audio device and a tour by a member of the community.
                                            Iona ferry
                                               Picnic spot
                                  Celtic cross (replica)
Back at base we were served a dish of chicken in sauce  baked potato and green beans by John H. Another excellent dinner.
Wednesday July 17th
It was raining heavily when we got up and it was still raining at lunch time. Four of us decided to go to Tobermory, largest settlement on the island.
We headed straight for the small Tobermory Museum, initially to keep out of the rain, but it turned out to be an attraction. Geography, geology, history, they were all there in a small room. Educated we had tea and cake in a café, walked the short waterfront of Tobermory in the rain and then returned to Dervaig.
                                      Grey day in Tobermory
                                     Tobermory front street.
The evening chef was John C. who treated us to a spaghetti Bolognese with spicy chutney if you wanted. And wine too. And cheese and biscuits.
Thursday July 18th.
The rain had stopped. After another longish drive we parked just off the road in a mini quarry and set off on a walk on the Treshnish coast.
                                                        Cars parked for Treshnish
                            Treshnish farm, well into ecology and protecting the environment
                                       Bug hotel at Trshnish Farm. Not many guests

Leaving the road we followed a track to Treshnish farm and holiday homes before taking a footpath through fields until we eventually came to the shore.. An easy fairly flat path (thank goodness I thought) took us south past the ruins of a fort, so ruined it was difficult to see, before turning east beneath high cliffs. Below one we sat and enjoyed a Herbie before taking the zig zag path up a wide gash in the cliffs to a deserted village.
                              Herbie time again
                         Not the path we took, our route was quite gentle on the knees
                         Crackaig, deserted since the Highland Clearings, probably in this case in the mid 19th century.
Leaving the village we walked across moorland past a farm at Laroch Mhor to the road, turned left and returned to the cars.
Treshnish walk.
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Chef of the day was Ben who had prepared a beef stew served with potatoes and fine wines. For desert we had brandy and pistachio ice cream, also made by Ben. And the remains of the Brandy. Don't we feed well! Cheese later.
In the evening some of us went to the pub to take part in the quiz. Good quiz, forty read out questions and two picture rounds, one on Apollo 11 for the fiftieth anniversary. We were joint winners but lost on the knock out round that followed.
Friday 18th July.
Another fine day and another drive. This time to catch the ferry to the small island of Ulva, a community owned place. The ferry held twelve people and the crossing took less than two minutes. Tickets were bought in the tea room once you had got on the island. There are several walks to follow on the island, all well posted.
Again we split into two groups. John C. and I started out on the Woodland walk which was mostly what it says on the can until we came out on the coast, following a path similar to the Quinnish walk. We stopped for a Herbie, sitting on flat rocks looking over the main part of the island. Lunch over we walked on to Livingstone's Cave. The missionary Dr. David Livingstone's parents came from this area.
                                     How to catch a ferry Ulva style
                                                  Ulva ferry
                                             Tea shop
                             Sheila's cottage. A recreation of the interior of a Crofter's cottage
                         Exterior of Sheila's cottage. It would have probably had a turf roof

                               Livingstone's Cave. Impressive from the outside but inside looked as if it was being excavated.
Having admired the cave we followed the Livingstone Walk back across fields and through woods until we joined the main track that took us back to the boathouse for tea and cake before taking the ferry back to the mainland.
The evening meal of slow cooked chicken and potatoes was prepared by Norman, another class meal, with wine, and cheese later.
                          The Ulva walk, about 6 miles
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Next day we came home! Another highly successful week away, good walking, good company and very good food.