Simonside Christmas Walk – 8th December 2018

ChristmasWalk - ChristmasWalk_08122018M-11.jpg We met in the traditional Christmas Walk starting point, Cowhaugh Car Park.  This was the last walk of 2018 and the anniversary of the first Strolls with Poles walk.  What a great day to celebrate with a lovely walk up Simonside. Christmas greetings were swapped.  Ruth handed out Pine Cone Elves, as she wasn’t doing Christmas Cards.  Julie handed out the special mulled wine Strolls With Poles lollies.   A quick warm-up was definitely in order, as it was a little chilly.  Off we went.

The first climb

ChristmasWalk - ChristmasWalk_08122018M-10.jpgJust to warm people up we followed the road up towards Whitton.   Not too steep but enough to get the hearts pumping, ready for the next one.  The view from the gate at Whitton is one of my favourite views of Rothbury, on the other side of the valley.

The second climb

ChristmasWalk - ChristmasWalk_08122018M-1.jpgWe followed the road up to Whittondean and the onto the second climb from here to Lordenshaw car park.  This is a grassy slope but arguably the most difficult climb, even harder than Simonside itself.  Everyone made it though and, hopefully, felt better for it.  Kirsty went off to look at the cup and ring markings that are just off the path.

The third climb

The third climb is up from Lordenshaw to Dove Crag, on Simonside.  We stopped at the car park for a group photo before the climb.  This path goes via the Beacon, where some of us took a little shelter from the wind.

Dove Crag

Finally, we arrived at Dove Crag.  Just round the back of the crag was the decorated Christmas tree, the purpose of our walk.  We gathered and got the picnic out on a makeshift rock table.  There was crisps, chocolate gingers, Ruth’s famous lemon drizzle cake, stollen, fudge, and, of course, Martin’s mince pies and mulled wine. We enjoyed the fayre and gathered for a picture around the tree.  After standing and sitting still for over half an hour we were all feeling the cold bite.  Best to get going and out of the wind.  We headed off the side of Dove Crag and towards the woods.

The woods

We descended into the woods.  It was surprising how much warmer it felt out of the wind and several of us had to remove hats and gloves for the first time in the walk. At the picnic area we stopped to meet another Nordic walker, Jude, who couldn’t make the full walk.  She joined us to complete the last two miles of the walk, back into Rothbury.

The way home

ChristmasWalk - ChristmasWalk_08122018M-13.jpgLeaving the picnic area, we took the path towards Whitton Hillhead Farm.  This is the easy part of the walk as it has a relatively shallow gradient all the way back.  It also helps being able to see our destination almost all the way back. Along the way we could see the Cheviot, in the distance.  No snow on it’s top but covered in cloud as it often is.

Tea time

We arrived back at Cowhaugh car park and did our cool down.  Then off to Tomlinson’s Cafe for tea.  Luckily there were just enough chairs for us.  We enjoyed the great cakes, scones, tea and coffee. Thanks for walking with us in 2018.  See you in 2019. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Julie and Martin xx


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Derwent Walk – 1st December 2018

DerwentWalk - DerwentWalk_01122018J-2.jpg The day started out wet at the Derwent Walk.  It would continue in the same vein.  However, we were all determined to be outside regardless. We started the day in the usual way by having breakfast at the Land of Oak and Iron Heritage Centre.  The Centre only recently opened and, as well as providing information about the history and heritage of the area, has a very nice restaurant.

Rainbow Bridge

On leaving the Heritage Centre, we headed towards the River Derwent.  We crossed at the Rainbow Bridge.  One of the best viewpoints of the River. This led us over to Clockburn Lonnen, an ancient track that was once the main highway from the North to Durham.  From here we climbed up onto the old railway line.

Hollinside Manor

Right across the railway line we saw the sign for Hollinside Manor.  This is a 13th Century Manor House and is an Ancient Monument.  The ruins of the house are interesting.  An added bonus is that there is an amazing view of the railway and the Nine Arches Viaduct.  From here it is easy to imagine the railway as it was, with steam engines pulling minerals up the line to Consett.

Rowlands Gill

DerwentWalk - DerwentWalk_01122018M-4.jpegWe returned back down to the railway and followed it up to Rowlands Gill.  This is the end of the first part of the Derwent Walk and as far as we were going.  After a short rest and a look at the information board, we headed back the way we had walked.

Thornley Visitor’s Centre

For a little variation we diverted into Thornley Woods.  There are some interesting wooden sculptures carved out of dead tree stumps.  The most of these impressive is the otter. While we were in the area we decided that refreshments were in order.  The Thornley Woods Visitor Centre was convenient and got us out of the rain for a short period.


DerwentWalk - DerwentWalk_01122018M-12.jpegRefreshed, we followed the path back down to the Rainbow Bridge.  We crossed it for a second time and then joined the railway again.  This time we went North towards Swalwell. We crossed the river again, near the cricket ground.  This path took us to the Dam Head.  Here we were rewarded with a view of a rather large Heron on the far side of the Dam.

The Land of Oak and Iron

It was only a short walk further, back to The Land of Oak and Iron Heritage Centre and a welcome cuppa. A wet but wonderful walk.  See you on the next one. Julie and Martin


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Ponteland – 24th November 2018

PontelandWalk - Ponteland_24112018J-12.jpg The start of the Ponteland walk was changed to the Methodist Church.  This was courtesy of Geoff and Angela. They had arranged for us to enjoy tea and coffee there, after the walk.  Geoff was also our guest walk leader for the day, as he had planned the walk.

The old railway path

PontelandRecce - PontelandRecceM-6.jpeg The walk starts by walking along the old railway path.  It’s a typical railway walk here and a joy to walk along.  We followed this path up past the old ICI site, which is barely visible now, but used to be an explosives storage depot.  This path then leads to the gate by the roundabout outside the entrance to the airport.  A place that everyone has seen but nobody investigates.  This is the entrance to what used to be Prestwick Pit, which has been largely restored back to grassland.

Runway approach

PontelandWalk - Ponteland_24112018M-2.jpegA track leads from the old pit site alongside the A696.  This path rises up into a field and passes the outer reaches of the runway lights.  We stopped here for Geoff to explain how the airport operated (He used to work with Dan Air and then became an air traffic controller).  As a bonus Geoff arranged for the Emirates flight from Dubai to come in as we stood there.  This is a Boeing 777 and is one of the biggest aircraft operating from Newcastle.

The Ouse Burn

PontelandWalk - Ponteland_24112018M-1.jpegContinuing on, we turned a sharp right at a small stream.  This small stream is a tributary of the Ouse Burn, the same one that emerges into the River Tyne about a mile East of Newcastle City centre.  We return to the Ouse Burn proper later. There are no footpaths connecting to the second half of the walk, so the only option is to divert into Woolsington village.  From here we crossed the Metro line, on a track called Black Lane, and then crossed the A696 again, followed by a sharp right.  We then followed the footpath by the road, up to the Ouse Burn.


PontelandWalk - Ponteland_24112018M-4.jpegWe followed a lovely track down to Callerton, where we enjoyed lunch at a conveniently placed picnic table. Continuing on, we followed the road up to Black Callerton, where we took the path through West Farm.  This section is over grassy fields, so very different again from the disused railway and farm tracks we had been on.  The route took us under the Western approach to Newcastle Airport, so we saw plenty more planes coming in for landing.

The return leg

The final section of the walk took us from High Callerton, behind the old opencast workings and back to the disused railway.  We retraced our steps back to Ponteland.

Afternoon Tea

PontelandWalk - Ponteland_24112018J-14.jpgOn our return to Ponteland Methodist Church, we found that Angela had kindly set out tea, with scones and cakes.  She had even made the Victoria Sponge.  Martin made brownies and Chris brought fruit cake.  We were all very grateful and very much enjoyed refreshments after the walk. Another lovely walk.  See you on the next one. Julie and Martin


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St Cuthbert’s Cave – 10th November 2018

StCuthbertsCave - StCuthbertsCave_10112018R-1.jpg We arrived early, as usual, so we visited the shop in Belford for a takeaway cup of tea.  Belford is only about 10 minutes away so we headed off to the St Cuthbert ‘s Cave car park, to enjoy our drinks. StCuthbertsCave - StCuthbertsCave_10112018R-2.jpgWhen everyone arrived we did the customary warm up before setting off up the track towards the Cave.  Very soon we were at the Cave.  Everyone took a bit of time to investigate, taking plenty of photographs.  Martin went to the rocks overlooking the cave entrance and spotted a large inscription on the large rock in front of the Cave.  We’d never noticed this before. From here we continued South.  There are great views of the Cheviots from here, especially Cheviot itself.  Continuing on, we came to more rocks.  Anne decided to repeat her rock climbing feat from the last time we walked here. StCuthbertsCave - StCuthbertsCave_10112018R-4.jpgThe walk took us further South, through fields and along tracks towards a farm, before a sharp turn East.  A little further and we were at our lunch stop, by a lake.  This is a private lake but there is a lovely spot close by, where we could sit down for lunch.  As it was Ruth’s birthday, she had made some of her famous lemon drizzle cake.  We each had at least one piece.  It was very tasty. The lighting was lovely over the lake, so plenty of photos were taken, before we moved on. StCuthbertsCave - StCuthbertsCave_10112018R-6.jpgFurther up the track, we found a bull in the field.  A Ruth Bull that is.  Not nearly as dangerous as a real one and much nicer.  There were some interested cows in this field though.  We walked past them as they stood and watched us. When we reached the junction of St Oswald’s Way and St Cuthbert’s Way, we were rewarded by a great view of the coast and Holy Island.  This must be a very inspiring place for the walkers of both long distance routes. StCuthbertsCave - StCuthbertsCave_10112018R-7.jpg The next leg of the walk was particularly interesting to Ruth.  It was conifer woodland and there were pine cones everywhere.  Apparently these were perfect for making pine cone elves. StCuthbertsCave - StCuthbertsCave_10112018R-8.jpgThe last part of the walk heads back towards St Cuthbert’s Cave, giving us more of the great views of the Cheviots.  As we headed back we could hear some shooting.  Close to the car park we could see a shooting party and could hear the beaters as they tried to get the pheasants into the air. Back in the car park, we cooled down with a much appreciated stretch, before heading off to the Well House Coffee Shop in Belford. Another lovely walk.  See you on the next one. Julie and Martin

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