Monday, 18 September 2017

Nelson's Boyhood Home and Holkham Park

Red Roofs
After the rugged beauty of Northumbria and Cumbria our next destination was a rather different part of England, the flat county of Norfolk.  My wife and I had managed to lose the children for a week at Guide Camp and so we took the opportunity to investigate a county that I haven't really looked at much before.  Our base was just outside Norwich and this gave us the opportunity to investigate the Broads and the coast.

Dust
First up was this walk - one of the more challenging walks from vol 17 of the Pathfinder Guides Norfolk and Suffolk (walk 23).  All things are relative of course - this was far less challenging than some of the intermediate walks from other parts of the country.  It did combine the coast and a place we really wanted to visit though - Holkham Hall.  We began the walk in the village of Burnham Overy Staithe, a small fishing village on the coast.  It wasn't obvious that we were on the coast at the beginning of the walk and our route took us initially away into the hinterland countryside.

Former Railway
We walked along a lae that eventually turned into a farm track and the agricultural nature of this county became immediately apparent from the off.  The rumble of tractors pervaded the air and one in particular off to our left was particularly noisy - when we looked we could see it was muck spreading.  The smell soon hit us too!  The dustiness of the soil behind seemed very surprising considering how much wet weather we had experienced on our travels during the summer and even the day before we started the walk.

Field Fellows
We soon left the smell and noise behind and ahead we could see the countryside opening up.  Norfolk is not really a county for great viewpoints but occasionall you gain enough height to be able to see some miles ahead.  This was the case here and we could certainly trace the first few miles of our walk and the things we were likely to see along the way.  Peeping out of the fields and trees were a number of churches from each of the villages that dot this corner of Norfolk.  It wasn't just churches either - thre were also a couple of windmills.  Norfolk has more windmills than any other county and so this should not have been a surprise.

Burnham Church
Off in the distance we passed by Burnham Overy Town.  Our path did not allow more than a brief glimpse, which was a pity for it looked a most agreeable place when we drove through on the way to park our car.  We crossed a busy road and passed a small group of houses on the edge of the town and headed across some more fields to reach an old railway line.  This was the former Heacham to Wells-Next-The-Sea line, which closed as long ago as 1953.  Judging from the vegetation that now grew on the trackbed this is not a surprise but we could see the earthworks that definitely hinted at its past.  Nearby Burnham Market station is still extant and operates as a small hotel.  We walked a few yards along the old railway before dropping down the embankment and enetered a marshy looking field.

Yellowhammer
In the field was a large group of cattle - we gave them a wide berth as we headed towards the tower of a church in the distance.  Among the herd were a couple of animals that didn't look right and as we got closer we realised that two of the group were in fact donkeys!  They looked pretty as home among their bovine friends and gave us a look as if to query what the fuss was.

Lodge
At the other end of the field was the first proper feature of the walk - the church at Burnham Thorpe where Nelson's father was once the vicar.  It is hard to believe that one of the greatest military men in British history came from such a calm and serene place.  We lingered at the church for a few minutes enjoying the ambience of the place.  We didn't venture inside though as it was a Sunday and the next church service would be starting not too long after.  

Estate Road
The path looped around the village of Burnham Thorpe, past the pub inevitably called Lord Nelson and gave us a glimpse of the manor house.  Sadly the pub wasn't functioning - it would seem even its histrical connections weren't enough to save it.  We also passed a woman who seemed to be travelling in a genuine horse drawn gypsy caravan - she was parked up on a grassy verge and her horse seemed to be having a well earned rest.  The rest of the village was largely deserted - even the children's play area was devoid of customers.
Boating Lake

We headed up the lane away from the village and soon we were in open countryside again among fields of wheat and maize.  The latter didn't look too far away from being harvested and I suppose a lot of it ends up as animal feed or the makings of corn oil.  Not sure it looked quite good enough to be harvested as a vegetable.  Our path took as between two large fields to an old barn and were unbroken apart from an area of what can only be described as animal slurry - it stank to high heaven!  We were pleased to get past there very quickly I can tell you!

Holkham Hall
Eventually we reached a lengthy wall that formed the perimeter of Holkham Park.  It was an impenetrable barrier at this point so we had to turn left and follow it for some distance before reaching one of the main gateways overlooked by a very attractive lodge house and even lovelier garden.  Coincidentally the path alongside the wall was also a Roman Road although I am not sure where it went to and from.

Column
Inside the park we headed along an estate road.  This did not look like it was a tourist entrance for the road was mostly empty save for one vehicle that passed us halfway to the main house.  The estate road seemed to go on forever - it was certainly more than a mile long from the lodge house.  By the time we reached the main house we were so anxious to get there that we managed to missed the walled garden along the way, which was rather disappointing.  Up on a small hill away from the house was the ice house; not especially convenient if you needed a cube or two to go with your Scotch.

Cricket
Holkham Hall is really impressive, especially at the angle of approach on this footpath.  It is widely regarded as one of the country's finest examples of Palladian architecture, constructed by the 1st Earl of Leicester back in the 18th Century.  We certainly couldn't pass by without taking a look around and we also had a very enjoyable lunch in the cafĂ©.  Inside the place is as opulent as you might expect, with lots of sumptuous furnishings, marble and incredible old paintings.  The guides in each of the rooms were very knowledgeable and we chatted to some of them about some of the old stories that a place of this size and history must have had.  The one thing that struck us about Holkham Hall is how well the staff were treated; almost as if they were an extended family rather than employees.  One thing to beware of if you decide to stop is that it is still privately owned (not National Trust) and therefore the opening times are not as often as you might expect.

Holkham Village
Outside the building the view out across the estate was equally impressive.  Off to the right was a large boating lake with plenty of people circling around in their hired boats.  Straight ahead in the distance was a large column, not dissimilar to the ones at Castle Howard and Blenheim.  I guess this must have been the fashion accessory for the well heeled at a certain point in history?  In front of the column a game of cricket was going on.  I'm not sure I would want to be playing cricket in these surroundings - my eyes would be drawn to the scenery rather than the ball!

Stripes and Chimneys
After stopping at Holkham Hall for about three hours we were ready to move on.  We passed the well filled car park and it was obvious then that visitors come in from Holkham village through a rather more impressive gate than the one we passed through earlier.  The village of Holkham was just as busy as the house and is impressively laid out.  Opposite the rather grand looking Victoria Hotel we headed along Lady Anne's Drive.  When I saw this on the map I imagined a rather impressive tree lined grand estate road.  Sadly it is rather spoiled now by the number of parked cars along here as the Drive now acts as a main thoroughfare to the beach.

Site of Holkham Station
Part of the way down we crossed backover the old railway that we had encountered earlier in the day.  You would need to be a really good detective to know it was here though as the only real clue was the fact that it was marked on the map.  Holkham station was once here but any trace of its remains are long gone and only a pillbox marks where it once stood.  It was about half a mile from the village it was supposed to serve and this was a common theme with all the stations along this route which probably explains why it was an early casualty.

Holkham Beach
At the end of the car park the crowds of people formed what can only be described as a conveyor belt of visitors to the beach.  My heart sank as I didn't really want to be dealing with such crowds for the last stretch of the walk.  I needn't have worried.  By the time we got to the beach the tide was out and the expanse of sand was so huge that it swallowed everybody comfortably.  We also had the advantage of turning left when we got to the beach while most people headed straight on to the sea.

Approaching Burnham Overy Staithe
Our onward route was now through some enormous sand dunes.  This got quite difficult and it wasn't easy to see the way ahead at times so large were the dunes.  Eventually I tired of trying to plot a course through the dunes and so I encouraged my wife to follow me down onto the beach.  By now we pretty much had the expanse of sand to ourselves with only the odd wading bird for company.  A combination of light waves, hot feet and soft sand were all too much and soon our boots and socks were off and we waded along the beach for quite a distance.  We felt most indulgent as we did so!

Red Sail
Soon we came to the end of the beach and so reluctantly boots went back on and we plotted the course down to Burnham Overy Staithe and back to our car.  The path was quite easy compared to the dunes and as the tide was now coming in all the boats that had been trapped in port for several hours were now heading out to sea once again.  It wasn't too long before we got into the village and as we did so we were faced with a most picturesque harbour and plenty of activity around it as people scrambled to get out to sea.  By now we were ready for more refreshment but wanted something a little more adult than the mobile tea bar located by the harbourside.  We opted instead for the pub in the village for a lovely cold pint - it was a great choice.

Snack Stop
This was a fairly lengthy but easy going walk in three distinct sections with an agricultural section, one through Holkham Park and then the coastal section.  All were delightful in their own way and there were plenty of interesting features along the way to keep us interested.  We voted this the best walk that we did in Norfolk on this trip.  I'm now tempted to walk more of the coast too!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Borrowdale

Borrowdale
After our sojourn in Northumberland we headed over to see an old friend of mine who lives in Western Cumbria.  This was a rare treat to renew acquaintances and have our children have some company of their own age for a few days before heading home.  As our children are all a little young for the high mountains of the Lakes just yet we wanted them to have the chance to taste Lake District scenery without the conditions putting them off.  We settled on Borrowwdale as being an excellent place to explore and used walk 10 in vol 13 of the Pathfinder Guides Lake District Walks as the basis for our day out.

Stepping Stones
Officially the walk commences in the hamlet of Seatoller, but for convenience we started halfway round at the hamlet of Grange.  As we got underway the heavens opened and we had a very sharp shower to welcome us to the beautiful valley of Borrowdale.  As one of the wettest places in the whole of the British Isles I suppose it was inevitable that we would experience rain at some stage on our walk.  Our little party stomped off along the lane that follows the River Derwent along the edge of Holmcrag Wood.  The sound of the river diminished a little as the lane headed away from it and around the other side of a small hill protecting some campers.  Most looked like the had had enough of the rain for their were several light green patches of grass denoting places where tents had been.  A couple of hardy souls remained but even they looked like they were on the brink...

River Derwent
Just past the campsite and we met the river once again, this time at a junction with another fast flowing stream coming down off the high moors above.  We had to cross by stepping stomes which added a little spice for all the children.  Luckily there wasn't a huge amount of water otherwise we would have had to consider another option.  We all got across without getting feet too wet which was a relief so early on in our walk.

Riverside Path
The path started to climb briefly away from the stream and went round a delightfully rocky path alongside the river.  By now the rain had stopped and we had a brief spell of bright sunshine which lit up the whole scene so that the countryside positively sparkled.  Further on and we saw the remains of mining activity in the rocks.  I'm not an expert on the geology of the Lake District but the rocks looked slate-like and I wonder whether they were quarrying for building materials?  The joints were almost vertical suggesting some serious forces at play when the rocks were formed.  They certainly needed a closer look in any event!

Quarry
Further on and the rest of the valley started opening up as we left the trees behind us.  We could also get a feel for the length of the walk as high above us to the west was the return route.  For now though we followed the river path, keeping it within metres of us almost all the way to Seatoller.  If we had taken the route from the official start this would have made for a pleasant end to the walk indeed.

Arched Bridge
As we headed down the river we passed a set of stepping stones that leads to the village of Rosthwaite.  It was a measure of how much rain there had been recently that the stones weren't usable.  Our friend advised us that they had been across only 3 weeks earlier.  At Longsthwaite we paused briefly at the bridge that could be used as an alternative access to Rosthwaite.  This allowed for the children to catch up.  They were doing pretty well but their pace definitely slowed as the chatter intensified along the way.

Submerged Stepping Stones
The stop at the bridge gave us all the chance to enjoy our surroundings for a bit and get some refreshments inside everyone.  Sitting on the rocks beside the river was very pleasant but I imagine on a hotter day the river would be more enticing!  After our break by the arched bridge we headed through the well appointed looking Youth Hostel alongside.  I haven't stayed in a hostel for a good many years - I understand that they aren't nearly as basic as they used to be.  I was never a huge fan - I am a bit too self conscious of me snoring for that!

Approaching Longthwaite
We had a bit of a scramble up some rocks along the river valley.  I suspect that the path was under water for it did seem a bit more rugged than I would have expected.  Even as we resumed our course on what I took to be the path it still somewhat resembled a river bed with water running down it with more than a trickle.  Elsewhere in the valley the sun was really doing its best now - we hadn't had any more rain and the sun was breaking through quite regularly between the clouds, making for some dramatic skies.  The moors and fells were also benefitting from shafts of light that looked almost theatrical.

Longthwaite View
Soon we reached Seatoller and had high hopes that the pub marked on the  map might still be open.  Sadly this wasn't to be and our hopes of a cold drink and a sit down were dashed.  We had to use a different tactic to get the children motivated to carry on - luckily we had just the thing; more about that later!  There were a couple of longing glances at the bus that had just pulled up - this could have taken us back to Grange but as we pointed out to the kids we wouldn't earn our reward if that was the case!

River Derwent
The climb out of Seatoller was quite modest by Lake District standards but quite tough for little legs.  They did make it though even if slowly.  They did appreciate the reward of the view at the top though - the view out across Borrowdale was quite special and by now we had also the benefit of bluer skies and the best conditions of the entire day.  The next couple of miles along to the distinctive Castle Crag were really enjoyable.  The path was mostly level and the views uninterrupted down to where we had walked earlier.

Scramble
The path passed to the left hand side of Castle Crag - we didn't get to climb it on this walk.  I imagine any suggestion that we might would have been met with mutiny!  The path instead took a downhill course along a quite loose surfaced route.  We had to be very careful with our footing to make sure that we didn't have any accidents on the way down.  It wasn't too much further until we met back with the path that we had headed out of Grange on earlier, just near the stepping stones across the stream.  By now the children realised that their special treat was getting nearer and we had no problem at all getting them moving along the last part of the path.  In fact we all decided to forego the small loop path of the original route here so we could finish more quickly.

Borrowdale View
What was the special treat at the end of the walk?  Ginger cake and ice cream at the cafe in Grange.  It went down a treat with everyone!  Bang on cue it started raining as we got back in our cars at the end of the walk.  We felt pretty smug by now though as we had managed to squeeze our walk into by far the best 3 hours of the day and had enough time for a treat at the end before the weather closed in.

Castle Crag
This walk is a great introduction to the best scenery the Lae District has to offer.  It was pretty quiet all the way round with only a few other walkers in evidence.  Contrast that with some of the more popular routes in the Park and you will know what I mean.  The view from the upper level section between Seatoller and Castle Crag was particularly memorable and I'm pleased my children had the opportunity to do it.

Descending Into Grange

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Lindisfarne

Empty Beach
There is something rather irresistible about circumnavigating an island and when I saw this walk in the Pathfinder Guide vol 35 Northumberland and the Scottish Borders (walk number 12) I just knew we had to do it.  There was something about the idea of being pilgrims that appealed too - the fact that countless people have been over to celebrate the Holy Island and its special spiritual history was too good to miss.  We had saved it until the last day of our sojourn in the County for I knew that it was the optimum time to make sure we had the tides in our favour.  Part of its specialness is the fact that you cannot just come when you want - you can only come when the tides allow you to do so.

Stark Warning
We arrived about 20 minutes before the official safe time and were pleased to see that the tide had already done its thing.  The road across the causeway was freshly washed by the sea and was still mostly wet where the seawater had only just relented.  As we were there before the official time we were actually one of the first visitors of the day and that showed when we got to the car park and had our pick of spaces.  When we had parked up we went in the opposite direction to most of the visitors as we headed away from the only settlement on the island (Lindisfarne) and struck off for the north coast.

Setting Off
Holy Island is mostly a world of dunes.  I am not sure how it came to have the holiest of connections (we have St Cuthbert to thank for that), but I think I could see the inspiration especially today.  We weren't just lucky with the tides but also with the weather - it was by far the best day of the whole week in Northumberland.  The combination of blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds, extensive views and the rolling sand dunes would be enough to inspire anyone I reckon.

Big Clouds In The Dunes
As we entered the sand dune area we saw a big warning sign.  This was about the invasive species called piri-piri burr which emanates from New Zealand and was thought to have been introduced accidentally on wool that came from Down Under and washed in the Tweed.  The seeds came down the river, washed up on the beach and thrived in the sand dunes.  As with a lot of invasive species it crowds out the local plantlife as it thrives.  Part of the warning was about dogs - their fur seems to collect the burrs very easily and helps with the spread.

Piri Piri Burrs
Funnily enough we didn't see any on the first mile or so of our walk and weren't sure what it looked like.  We did see quite a few species other than the standard marram grass - vipers bugloss, daisies and thistles.  All must be pretty hardy to live in such a hostile environment.  Despite the amount of rainfall in these parts most is not avaolable to the plants as it travels quickly down through the porous sand.  Eventually we came to the most magnificent beach after climbing through all the sand dunes.  The view was astonishing - ahead we could see into Scotland and St Abbs Head on the horizon.  A little nearer was the border town of Berwick on Tweed - it looked most invited along a sandy beach that just seemed to go on forever.  Apart from a dog-walking couple who left almost as quickly as we arrived (did we say something?) we had the entire beach to ourselves - it was astonishing!  Elsewhere in the country a beach of this quality would surely be heaving...

Unnamed Bay
As we wandered along the beach we realised very quickly that this would not be an option that would allow us to continue very far as ahead of us the sand quickly turned into rock pools.  We ended up back at the dunes and as we climbed up one quite high one the unmistakable sound of seals could be heard.  It was something that we remembered from our trip to Rathlin Island some years ago.  Sure enough on a rocks some distance out to sea we could see them calling to each other.  It was a sound that would stay with us for some time to come. 

Daymark
The sand dunes were quite difficult to negotiate but at last we came to a  large seemingly unnamed bay.  This was a lovely sandy beach frequented by large numbers of seabirds.  In particular we saw godwits, sand pipers, oystercatchers and black headed gulls.  We stopped here for a while and had a spot of lunch and enjoyed our surroundings.  We weren't alone now - there were a few other people on this beach although to be fair there was plenty of room for all of us!  After having a spot of lunch we were ready to carry on.  Our first port of call was to examine the rather prominent looking daymark on a bluff above the beach.  We weren't alone now - some of the more intrepid visitors to the island had by now now found there way out here too.

Restoration
Once we had got to the daymark it was easy to see why the numbers of people had grown as it was a lot easier to reach it from the south than the direction from which we had come courtesy of a delightful clifftop path.  The scenery changed dramatically here.  The dunes were all behind us now and the southern part of the island is made from the same dolerite that we had encountered at Craster, being part of the Whin Sill intrusion.

Jekyll's Garden
From the daymark we could see the famous castle, sadly under a very large complex of scaffolding and sheeting as it undergoes some much needed restoration.  For the next mile of the walk that was our focus, although it never seemed to get any nearer!  By now the puffy white clouds that had been bobbing across the sky were coalescing to form bigger black clouds and the sky looked more threatening than benign.  Sadly it also meant that there were longer periods between sunny spells.  It could have been worse though as off in the distance were some pretty fierce looking showers and we counted ourselves lucky that none of them tracked over us for there was no protection.

Cosmos
Sadly when we got to the castle we realised that it wasn't open to the public while the restoration work was going on.  I remember as a boy coming here and being disappointed by not going inside even though I was desperate to look round.  I don't even remember the reason but I couldn't help curse my luck that I missed out again.  We had to console ourselves instead by going to the small walled garden across the way.  This little oasis was thronged with visitors, which rather detracted from its serenity but we did sit and enjoy the flowers and insects for a while.

Harbour
The path now led into the village where most of the visitors to the island were to be found.  Before going into the village proper though our route took us around the small harbour and up on to a small ridge where there was a coastguard lookout.  The view from here across the tidal reaches separating the island from the mainland was quite special and the view extended down as far as the mighty fortress of Bamburgh Castle.

This Way To The Castle
The clouds had relented once again and on the other side of the ridge was the remains of Lindisfarne Priory, the main reason for the settlement.  The golden stone that it was built from positively gleamed in the sunshine.  The girls didn't really want to look around - I guess they could see most of it from this lofty perch.  We did take a look around the old lifeboat station at the bottom though.  This area has a proud history of lifeboats from the era of Grace Darling back in Victorian times.  The present day RNLI traces its history back to those days.  The station is no longer used but inside were plenty of memories of the bravery of all the lifeboat men and women that saved life and limb with their daring rescues.

War Memorial
The last place we looked was around the village. It was far busier than I remember it as a boy and there were plenty of shopping opportunities to entice the tourist.  I'll bet that most visitors don't venture far from here so we felt a little smug that we had seen pretty much everything that the island has to offer including the wild north side.  In fact we had done the walk a lot quicker than we anticipated and by now the weather had reverted to the unsettled squally showers that had been a feature of much of the week.  We left long before the tide came in and overwhelmed the causeway.  I wonder what the island is like between tides?  It must be a very different place when all the crowds have gone.

Lindisfarne Priory

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Bolam Lake and Shaftoe Crags

Bolam Lake
Most people thinking about walking in Northumberland would naturally want to explore the coast or Hadrian's Wall.  If you were more intrepid you might consider Kielder Forest or the Cheviots but the area around Morpeth is not natural walking country.  However, this is where we had based ourselves for our week away (deliberately as it happened as we wanted to visit the Wall and the Coast and this was halfway between).  The most local walk in volume 35 of the Pathfinder Guide Northumberland and Scottish Borders was number 15 and after a lengthy spell of heavy rain earlier in the day I was pleased to see a sunny evening open up, which allowed the prospect of a walk.

Preening
Bolam Lake is a country park approximately 8 miles to the west of Morpeth and is a lovely little oasis in among grazing land and low moorland.  Judging from the number and size of the car parks it is quite well used and most of the roads around are parking restricted to make sure cars actually use the parking areas and don't clog up the narrow lanes.  That proved a little bit of a problem for me as the car park gates are closed at 8pm, rather earlier than I needed to complete this walk.  Luckily I found a pull off spot at the western end of the lake where I didn't cause a problem.  It did mean though that I had to start from a different spot and the lake couldn't be visited at the beginning and end of the walk but circumnavigated at the start.
Straight Ahead
The lake was laid out in Victorian times to provide timber and was restored as a country park some time later.  It provides a useful habitat to many species of bird and mammals that are rare elsewhere including weasels and red squirrels (sadly I didn't see either).  I started at the western end of the lake and circumnavigated in a clockwise direction.  The results of the earlier rain were still evident in the shape of dripping trees and puddles although the heat of the sun also showed off some localised mist created as the significant amount of wet evaporated.  I walked round half the lake without getting a glimpse of it so thick were the trees!  I paused briefly at the visitor centre which marks the official start of the walk.  Unfortunately there wasn't anybody there so I had to make do with the signage about the animals and other wildlife I was likely to see on the way round.
Harvest Time
From the visitor centre the path dropped down to the lakeside and on the eastern end I got to walk along some boardwalks that afforded the best views across the lake. It seemed pretty popular with swans and coots but I didn't see a lot of other birdlife.  Maybe other species were fed up with the feisty behaviour of these two!  The path continued along the southern shore and I enjoyed the sunny sparkles from the lake.  Sadly I didn't see enough sunshine in my week in this beautiful county.
Buzzard
At the end of the lake I transferred onto the adjacent road taking a left hand turn at the next lane junction to Harnham.  It didn't really look like a public road to be honest as the centre line had a fairly good crop of grass growing on the surface and not long into the lane I had to cross a cattle grid.  As I did so a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside became evident.  There were sheep and cows as far as the eye could see, unlikely bedfellows but they seemed very happy occupying the same fields.  The farm that I passed looked equally attractive - a rural idyll if ever there was one.

Bridge
At a lane junction I took the right hand turn and passed along the foot of a small hill showing some rather odd looking patterns in the grass.  I later learned that these were a relic of ancient farming practices and they certainly stood out in the low evening sun casting shadows across the surface.  To the right of me the field had recently been harvested and was dotted with shredded wheat style bales at nice neat intervals.  Again the shadows of the evening sun seemed to enhance the prettiness of the scene.

Shaftoe Hall
As I continued down the lane a big black cloud that had been lumbering across the sky finally blotted out the sun and the change in lighting was astonishing.  I went from a glorious sunny evening to a murky overcast one instantly - it was almost as if I had witnessed a solar eclipse!  Luckily this coincided with perhaps the least interesting part of the walk for soon I had left the lane and followed a field boundary towards the far off hill that Shaftoe Crags is housed on.  In the very distance I could see Shaftoe Hall, a pretty good looking house high on the back side of the hill.  I could also see a very busy looking wind generator; not one of the big ones that dominate the skyline but a smaller more homespun looking one.  I was to keep seeing this as I looped around the rest of the walk.

Lonely Tree
Apparently this path was the course of a Roman Road although I am not sure I would have known that if I hadn't been told - there was no remnants of it now, nor of the Roman Station that was buried under the field somewhere.  What I did catch sight of though was a very large buzzard perched on the gatepost ahead.  It stayed for quite a time before eventually flying off.  As I got closer to the large house on the hill I could see quite the growing operation going on in the walled garden to one side of the estate.  On a south facing slope I imagine this is quite productive even in an area like this.

Shaftoe Trig Point
I climbed up and passed the walled garden and headed out onto the 'moor' beyond.  The change of scenery was quite remarkable and by now the sun had reappeared too, which was perfect timing!  I plodded up to the top of the crags and the view out was quite remarkable.  Ahead of me were the Northumberland Fells in the distance and below I could see the Wallington Estate, a largish National Trust property that I thought would make for a good trip in the morning.  This little area of crags reminded me a lot of Dartmoor although the underlying geology of sandstone rather than granite could not have been more different. The official path actually passes below the crags but I couldn't resist climbing up on top for a better view.  Getting down was a bit of a challenge though - I had to find a fairly convoluted route to get off the top.

Crag View
I headed alongside a large dry stone wall before turning right at the next path junction and heading through a gap in the crag.  This very much had the appearance of an ancient trackway and the gap had been further exploited by the numbers of feet and wheels across it over the centuries.  At the top of the crag the slope fell away gently and initially at least the path was actually made of solid rock.  As I descended into a field of cows the landscape got gradually gentler until the sandstone gave way to pasture once again.  As I looked closer at the cows I realised that not all of them were female.  This caused me some alarm but thankfully the bull had other ideas on his mind concerning the cows and didn't seem to be too bothered about me.  I passed through the area as calmly as I could, looking for exits constantly!

Shaftoe Crag
Eventually I got to the end of the field and the wind turbine came back into view as I completed the loop around the farm where it was home to.  The path now entered a delightful tree lined lane qand once again the shadows created by the evening sun created a little extra magic.  The beech trees had an almost silvery look about them, while the puddles sparkled even though up close they were mostly murky water!  At the end of the lane I met the original road once again by a small cluster of houses.  They all looked delightful - I imagine if you like countryside these would be fantastic to live in although they are perhaps a little further from facilities than I would like.  From here it was a short walk back down the road to Bolam Lake and my car once again.

Tree Lined Lane
As an evening walk this really could not be beaten.  I didn't meet a soul all the way round and I appreciated the solitude.  Although perhaps not an area of Northumberland that you may have considered walking it is worth a look.  Well done to the book publishers for including it in the volume as I wouldn't have thought of exploring this area otherwise.

Is Summer Over?