Saturday, 22 March 2014


Cragside House
So we're in Northumberland for a couple of days, and we're looking about for things to do, places to visit, that sort of thing.  Being members of the National Trust, we checked out what was on offer and found Cragside.  I remembered my day at Gibside and thought that Cragside would be similar, perfect for a 5-6 mile walk with plenty of shelter from any passing shower. As an added point of interest Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, which meant that we may actually have a look round the inside.  But to be honest, we were looking forward to the a wander around the grounds – apparently there are 42 miles of paths. Perfect!

And it was a brilliant day. We parked in the Formal Garden car park and then wandered just as we pleased. Before lunch we managed to spot a couple of deer and have look at the visitor centre before crossing the iron bridge and visiting the house. The house is quite awesome and full of gadgets, such as a hydraulic lift for the staff. Sadly a lot of the rooms are quite dark because the Trust are trying to protect the contents from sun damage. I think Peter’s favourite room was the billiard room. I liked the suite at the top of the house which had been set up for a royal visit. Quite fantastic, and the views across the estate are stunning.
Debdon Burn from the rustic bridge.  This is where we saw the deer
This is the only picture I took inside the house.  This magnificent marble fireplace weighs around 10 tons and is supported by the cliff (it's upstairs).  Just extraordinary!
After our first mooch, we convened back at the campervan for tea and some freshly made tortilla wraps. I had a quick look in the wildlife hide just off the carpark.  Although people were telling me there was a greater spotted woodpecker about, sadly I never got to see it. Plenty of tits, robins and chaffinches around though. 

After lunch we set off up the Crag for the to have a walk around the estate in earnest. We walked around the Nelly Moss Lakes and over to the drained Blackburn Lake with it’s thatched boathouse. From there we made our way back to Cragend, which is actually a quarry and an area I found fascinating.
Nelly's Moss North Lake
Nelly's Moss South Lake
The thatched boathouse, onto Blackburn Lake.  As you can tell, the lake has been drained, 30+ years ago at a guess, but the boathouse remains.  It's even got a boat in it.
On we went to Cockcrow Stone and Slipper Tarn, where  paths in between were wonderful. Surrounded by woodland, we much preferred these wilder area to the gravelled/paved walks lower down.

We wandered all afternoon before eventually making our way back to the house.

All in all a fantastic day. We didn’t get to see a lot of things I’d have liked, such as the Waterwheel and the Powerhouse, but that just means we’ll have to go back, which we’ll do without hesitation as soon as the time is right.

And our fantastic day was finished off with an evening meal in Clennell Hall which I can highly recommend. The food was really good, with the best chips ever, and a very reasonable price too. What more can you ask for?

Tomorrow we will be going home after a little bit of shopping.   But we will be back, Cragside is definitely worth the visit. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Copper Snout and Clennell Street.

So me and Peter have got a long weekend arranged, and then, when we look at the weather forecast, it’s raining! And it’s not only raining in Richmond, it’s gonna rain right across the UK, and it will last all weekend. 

I looked more carefully. Nope. The Lake District was in for a bad couple of days, so was the Peak District, and the Dales, Wales, the Moors............ Nowhere looked inviting, except maybe the North East. And so that was it decided, the area around Rothbury and Alnwick was due to have a dry(ish) three days, so that’s where we were going.

Peter found a caravan park which had a space for us at Clennell Hall, Alwinton, right on the edge of the Northumberland National Park, and so Saturday morning saw us driving north on the A1 to Alnwinton to follow a walk route detailed on the Northumberland National Park Website Northumberland National Park Leaflets and Guides

Our walk took us from Alwinton, up Copper Snout, past Saughy Hill and back along Clennell Street, (brilliant names), which is apparently and ancient drove road.  Here are the pictures:
Looking back after starting up Pass Peth, heading towards The Knocks.
It was very cold and windy to start, we were all wrapped up, against the few, but very cold showers on the as we walked.  The showers turned to rain, and we had to don our waterproof jackets.
Law Knowe is the lump in the middle, and the stream is called Wholehope Burn.  But it might be called Flushey Sike........   There is only so much you can tell from an OS Map
We came across notices about the Otterburn Military Range.  They warned that we might come across soldiers training, but not to worry because they would be firing blanks?

We made our way from up Saugh Rigg to Copper Snout.  The views of the surrounding hills were quite wonderful.  I've know idea which one is which though, if they have names at all.

I liked the grassy landscape, sort of bleak, broken up by the rolls and curves of the hills around us, but not by walls.  There are very few of the stone walls that we are used out here. 

At the top of Copper Snout, we turned towards the managed pine forest covering Peat Law.  Only, as you can see from the devastation in the picture above, there isn't a lot of the forest left in this area.  I don't like these areas of force grown pine woodland.  I think they are characterless, but sadly they are very necessary to meet the demands of our throwaway society.  The scar left behind when they are cut down is ugly, so I suppose it is a good thing is that new trees have already been planted, and that they'll grow quickly to provide shelter to walkers from nithering winds or burning sun.
We are now on Clennell Street, heading back to Alnwinton
It was a lovely peaceful walk, we didn't see another person apart from a farmer putting up a fence up on one of the hills we passed.
Lords Seat on the right, looking quite impressive from where we were walking. 
But we saw hares and heard skylarks.  It had turned into a really beautiful day, despite the bitterly cold wind. And of course there were plenty of sheep to keep us company.
This'll be mens club I think.  I really like those long curly horns.
And then, before you know it, we were back at Alnwinton, feeling very satisfied with our 8 mile walk.  The map and route guide for it is here: Copper Snout and Clennell Street

The end of the day was spent with a meal in the campervan and a quiet drink over at Clennell Hall. A very pleasant end to a lovely day.  Tomorrow it's Cragside...........  Class!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Staithes to Runswick Bay....... and back.

So we are chasing the sun again, and just because we've been wanting to go to the Lakes for ages, it's chucking it down with rain over Cumbria and the sun is shining on the East.  Since I've been hankering after cliffs and beaches n sea, it wasn't so bad, cos I used good ole Google to work out which bit of the North Sea coastline we could get to quickest and from there, we worked out a walk which took us along the coast for a bit, and then back to our starting post through farmland. It looked a good route, and mid morning we set off for Staithes.
I've not been to Staithes before, and I found that motor vehicles are not welcome here. Once you've negotiated your car through the narrow winding roads and down excessively steep hills, you'll find there is nowhere to park it!   So, parking the car at the top, we walked down.  I have to say I was surprised and charmed by the place.  Hidden away in a small bay and sheltered by surrounding cliffs, it is a quaint little town of narrow cobbled streets and winding paths.
After a look around, and despite my desire to stay a little longer, it was time to start our walk.  We took a steep path out of the town and onto the cliff tops to join the Cleveland Way.  We'd definitely made the right decision to come east today, it was a beautiful, bright, sunny and warm day. It almost felt like summer as we walked along.
Breathing that fresh sea air, looking out to the horizon and listening to the wind hushing through the long grasses on the cliffs brings a peace and calmness into busy minds.  As we walked, our thoughts wandered, and a peaceful rhythm settled on us.
Whenever I am out walking, and especially where everything is new,  I try to soak it all up.  I try to force my eyes to take in every detail and capture it to memory, trying hard to take it away with me.  I can't of course, but I keep trying, and my camera clicks away in my bid to make sure I can see it all again whenever I want.

Runswick Bay is as lovely as Staithes, but this time it's the little beach that delights the visitor, and today, there were plenty of them.  We joined them all, walking along the beach, watching dogs chase sticks, children run circles around their parents, and couples paddle happily in the sea.  Yes, it really did feel almost like summer.

Now it was time to turn and start on the route back.  There's a path leading off the beach, up the cliff and on to an old railway line which would start us on our way back to Staithes.  We could see it marked on the map, but we couldn't find it on the ground.   Some of the land at the edge of the beach had been washed away, and we thought this might be the reason we were struggling.  Then Gizmo, the GPS, came to the rescue, by leading us to where the path should be.  It turned out it was hidden behind a bit of wall!
It was also a very wet, very muddy and steep path through woodland.  At times we weren't sure if we were on the path at all.  But once we got to the top and out of the trees, the way ahead was very clear.  And the view was wonderful.

It wasn't long before we reached the disused railway line and followed the local path out across the farmland. Then we found that the OS Map didn't match what was on the ground.  The railway line petered out onto a field, the farmer had obviously cleared away the remains of the enbankment, and the only way we could continue was to cross the field, despite there being no right of way.  We scooted across quickly to the ROW on the other side.  Something to remember for the future.

The next section of the walk along roads and through Hinderwell was uneventful.  Oakrigg Wood on the other hand, with its owl carvings, was very pleasant.

And then, all too soon we were back at the car park, pleasantly tired.  The route measures out a 8.2 miles, with 1200 feet of up. so it's not too difficult, (unless you count the slippery slope upwards).  If we were to do it again though, we'd probably try to find a different way back that didn't include crossing that farmers field.