A walk from Bolam Lake to Shaftoe Craggs on the 5th March 2017

 

I can’t believe I missed out on posting the blog for this walk at the time. Probably something to do with moving house a week later I suspect but unforgivable nonetheless.

Like the previous walk from Ponteland, this area is surprisingly un-walked by our group and has much to commend it. We will definitely walk around here again.

Starting out at the popular Bolam Lake we set off through the woodland that skirts the water before crossing sunlit pasture towards Shaftoe Craggs. Bright sunshine left many of us ruing a lack of sunglasses on this walk, not to mention sun hats!

Slicing through the hillside here is the limestone slash of Salters Nick, a long since disused drovers’ track through the Northumberland bad lands. No doubt worn away by generations of packhorse hooves and stout leather boots, this narrow gulley has an eerie atmosphere even on a sunny day.

Moving on from Salters Nick we crossed marshy grassland pasture before climbing up to the spectacular Shaftoe Craffs for lunch at the trig point.

These rugged limestone outcrops shine out against the surrounding greenery and their stark profile has attracted walkers and day trippers for many years. There are also stories of wedding parties celebrating here too with drinks flowing from the Devils Bowl depression in the topmost rocks.

Descending gently back down we traversed farmland, passing an interesting looking walled garden (mostly overgrown) next to a stout and handsome Georgian style house. From here it was back to the start point via Sandyford.

A welcome sit down and a cup of tea was enjoyed at the Bolam Lake café.

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Hexhamshire 2nd April 2017

Well here we are again after a long-ish #walk break due to logistics problems.

Our return to walking saw us in sunny #Hexhamshire – and boy was it sunny! We started out in the car park opposite the lovely Dipton Mill Inn and just about managed to get parked as another walking group were starting off there as well. Quite a coincidence.

The walk took off along the Dipton Burn and through woodlands emerging into an early muddy #Spring with a sprinkling of #primroses and wood anemones along the way. After a mile or so we climbed out of the dene and out onto farm tracks and quiet country lanes. Quite a few of us had to don sunglasses and sun cream as the sun was so warm.

Mind you that sunshine was welcome as we stopped for lunch and enjoyed sandwiches in the first real warmth of the year.

This is a lovely quiet part of #Northumberland and although we had a mile or so of road walking we hardly encountered any traffic. Crossing a stile at a sleepy crossroads near Dotland we walked past hummocky remains of a medieval village before fording a small stream and heading for the outskirts of Juniper. From here we turned North and across two more fields before heading through a farmyard straddling the Letah Burn and on down to Hill Road.

Here we took a slight detour down to Letah Woods to see wild native daffodils in flower. In theory. The lovely walking book we used for directions mentioned this as a highlight of the walk. Sadly there weren’t any to be seen!

Only slightly disheartened we headed back along the muddy track to the car park to complete a good 7 miles.

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A walk around Ponteland; 26th February 2017

Believe it or not we’ve never walked in this part of Northumberland before today. A good day to break our Ponteland duck then.

It was a bright and breezy day at 11:00 when we started out with the threat of rain lurking on the horizon at 3pm. We walked along the main road, almost to the end of the town, before scything between a couple of houses on the left hand side of the curve of the road. This took us out into farm land and open fields and into the strong blustery wind.

This is an unusually flat part of Northumberland and therefore the wind had free rein to tug at our hats and coats as we picked our way along field margins. After the rain of a few days ago it was a bit muddy in places but thankfully not the quagmire we had feared. Nevertheless, the sticky, slimy mud made for quite tricky walking for the first mile or so.

It dried out a bit underfoot and after two miles we reached a nice stone bridge over the river Pont. This bridge carried a railway line north from Newcastle all the way up to Kirkwhelpington near Cambo. It’s now disused and is another one of those lovely railway line footpaths that criss-cross our region.

We didn’t follow that particular route but instead followed the course of the river Pont further upstream, stopping for lunch under a small copse as the wind blew on.

After lunch we looped back towards Ponteland, following footpaths and old railway lines through the up-market Darras Hall estate; the haunt of footballers, banking magnates and hospital consultants. The path was surprisingly peaceful and was well clothed with trees. However, in February they did little to shield some particularly garish examples of local architecture.

Eventually the path brought us back to Ponteland where we had a reviving hot beverage courtesy of Mr Waitrose.

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A walk in Consett; 5th February

Hmmm, I can see you’re thinking ‘A walk in Consett? In February? Good luck with that!’

Well, I can tell you that it was astonishingly rural, full of unexpected views and took in a quiet corner of the North East that was once vibrant and industrial.

We started off at the very handy out of town car park near Consett that serves a multitude of big shops – Morrisons, Tesco and the like. It’s free parking and is handy if you’ve forgotten to pack sandwiches or fancy an egg custard before you set off.

Using the fantastic wagon way network, we were soon striding out into the nearby countryside, passing the stunning Terris Novalis sculptures on the way. Soon we were into woodland, having left the wagon way trails, and for the next few miles picked our way through the muddy paths and between silhouettes of deciduous trees against the bright blue sky. Descending to Allensford, by way of woodland sculptures, we stopped at a handy picnic table for lunch.

We crossed the Allen and struck further into the woodland, passing cottages and long forgotten industrial sites slowly being subsumed into nature. There is still a surprising amount of industrial heritage to be seen in this part of the North East and it is well worth seeking out.

We also spotted our first ‘wild’ snowdrops of the year.

Heading back towards Consett this walk had a sting in its tail – the steep calf-testing ascent of the site of the old steel works. However, once we got to the top we had superb view of the County Durham countryside to enjoy.

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Walking thoughts; a reconnoitre

 

Yesterday we did a reconnoitre for a walk we’re leading in April. Three points spring to mind.

First point. Using the word reconnoitre makes me feel a little quasi-military and I feel I should probably have been making notes on where best to build a pontoon bridge, scout out enemy radar positions or dig down to avoid incoming artillery fire. Therefore, I shall use the standard #Ramblers abbreviation instead as we’re not a militia group. We’re a #walking group.

That leads me to my second point – how do you spell that abbreviation? We all know that it’s pronounced reki but how the devil do you spell that?

Recce?                  Reckie?                Reccy?                  Reqi?                    Reccie?                Wrecky?

It’s something I have wondered about for a while (prior to writing this) and it has stopped many a Tweet and an e-mail as I wasn’t sure how to spell it. According to Wikipedia (and they know everything) it’s spelled recce so let’s stick with that from now on.

The third and final point is that a recce can be an invaluable thing; saving time, saving embarrassment for the walk leader and perhaps most importantly of all, it gives you the chance to scout out a place to stop for lunch.

Our walk was from the excellent Walks in Tynedale and Allendale, a [very practical] spiral bound book of ten excellent walks in the aforementioned area. We have walked in the Hexham area many, many times but this walk, from Dipton Mill, took us to previously unseen corners and this is where a recce came up trumps. Without the pressure of fellow walkers, we were able to make a few mistakes along the way, correct them and continue on the walk. Walk directions can always be potentially subjective and the directions for this walk proved to be just so.

  • ‘Walk over the crest of the hill and head for the stile in the far corner of the field’ That one took us about ¼ mile off track!
  • ‘Continue past the left hand side of the wood, passing through some fields’ Exactly!
  • ‘Head for a small clump of ash trees in the distance’ Quite tricky to spot in February.

Now this is a particularly beautiful walk and by investing in a quality recce we now know the route really well when we do it for real in April we’ll be able to present it beautifully, fully relaxed and in control.

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Going Underground; a tour of the Victoria Tunnel in Newcastle 22nd January 2017

Our first ever underground walk!

A few weeks ago, before Christmas 2016, we walked from Newcastle Quayside to Jesmond Dene park. It was a lovely walk with plenty of urban interest and whilst walking through the Ouseburn Valley we noticed the small office that provides guided tours of the Victoria Tunnel.

Intrigued, we booked a slot for 4pm on the 22nd January 2017. We met up in the superb Hub Cycle Café on the Quayside and had a coffee (and some cake) before walking up to the Ouseburn start point.

We had two fabulous volunteer guides who took us to the tunnel entrance, pointing out various local landmarks and points of interest. After donning hard hats and grasping torches we descended into the tunnel for the tour.

Built to transport coal from collieries over two miles away by the Town Moor, the tunnel was constructed in order to bypass the busy streets of 19th century Newcastle. It is beautifully made and lined with bricks made from the clay that was excavated during its digging.

You can find lots of interesting history on their official website.

During the second world war the tunnel became a rather squalid air raid shelter and we heard all about the rather unpleasant times during the tour. The tour lasts two hours and covers about one mile but it is a fascinating experience and thoroughly recommended.

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A linear walk from Corbridge

15th January 2017

Due to all sorts of complicated group logistics this was our first walk of our new 2017 programme. We have walked this route a couple of times before over the last few years, most memorably when I saw a salmon leaping (like a salmon) from the river #Tyne at Corbridge.

No chance of that in January.

Starting from the lovely free car park in Corbridge, we headed west along the riverside footpath, detouring slightly to visit the remains of the #Roman bridge across the #Tyne. Continuing on, we came to the Devil’s Water tributary spilling energetically into the #Tyne. Following this upstream, we crossed the railway line and headed up to the road. We crossed here and headed up past the Dilston Physic Garden (closed on Sundays in winter) to a lovely wide grassy lane.

This continues west and just gets better and better as you continue along; lovely sweeping views of surrounding fields and with hedges and mature trees to both sides. We stopped for lunch on a mini rural crossroads, between two farms. Great views even on a winter day.

Continuing up a particularly muddy section we enjoyed a section of sunken lane inhabited by all kinds of hedgerow birds serenading our way and staking their early claims for territories. The footpath then joins the dense coniferous woodland of Park Wood and snakes its way through the trees, eventually bringing you out at the Duke’s House. Nothing to do with David #Bowie. The multi-chimneyed silhouette of this handsome manor house is justifiably famous in these parts and is very striking. There are two options from this point – continue on to join a road and head into Hexham that way or take a muddy uneven footpath skirting some trees. We went for option 2.

Eventually this footpath finds its way to the end of the Fellside row of houses overlooking Hexham. From here you have two options  – continue along the road and head into Hexham or take a muddy uneven footpath skirting some trees. Once again we went for option 2.

This brought us into a housing estate and a ½ mile stroll that took us to the main road in Hexham near to the hospital and the bus stop. From here we caught the bus back to Corbridge (an eye watering fare of £2.15) which dropped us off right by the car park.

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