Journey’s end – Completing the Jurassic Way

A warm summer's evening looking towards Barrowden Church, the starting point for todays walk. (picture taken in 2006 as weather bad on this occasion).

A warm summer’s evening looking towards Barrowden Church, the starting point for today’s walk. (this picture was taken in 2006 as weather bad on the occasion of this walk).

It’s my last day walking the Jurassic Way, long distance path that I had started to walk several years ago and the plan today is to walk from Barrowden to Stamford and catch the mid afternoon bus back to the start. With over fifteen miles to cover I am making an early start and I park in the same spot as on the previous day in the village. After a few days of fine weather, my luck is running out as I set off on this gloomy dull morning with the possibility of rain not too far away. I head down through Barrowden then set off across the water meadows of the River Welland to reach the nearby village of Wakerley. A field path is followed up around and behind the village church before joining a road. Next I continue through Wakerley Great Wood in the morning gloom and beyond I cross fields to reach the A43. On the far side there is an area rough grazing as I skirt around Fineshade Abbey. In medieval times Fineshade Abbey, an Augustinian priory, was established on the site of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle known as Castle Hymel. The priory came to an end with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1545 and a fine country house known as Fineshade Abbey survived until it was demolished in 1956. Only the stable block now remains and was more recently converted into private housing which is still retains the name of Fineshade Abbey.

The path now runs through tall grass but soon I am back on a better field path to reach a lane. This leads to Top Lodge Visitor Centre which I briefly visit. The centre depicts the history of the local area. To get to the next village of Duddington I have a fair bit of woodland walking ahead of me and now the rain starts which seemed to be setting in. It gradually gets heavier so I stop by a seat to don full wet weather gear. This woodland forms part of the area known as Rockingham Forest. The forest once covered around two hundred square miles and stretched from Northampton all the way to Stamford. Created by King William I not long after the Norman Conquest, the area was an important hunting area for several centuries but by the time of King Charles II much of the forest had been sold or given away. Deforestation continued over past centuries to leave only small fragments of this once extensive forest. Today there are only a few forested areas and most of these lie southwest of Stamford and to the south of Corby. Checking the map in the shelter of a sawmills I now turn north but this path proves quite overgrown but thankfully I soon join a better forestry track. The A43 is crossed once more as I enter the attractive village of Duddington where I make for the village church by which time the rain has stopped so it’s time to get out of my wet weather gear in the church porch. It’s also a good time to stop for elevenses.

Duddington is an pleasant village with many old cottages and today the place is fairly peaceful but this has not always been the case. Being at the junction of the busy A43 and A47 trunk roads the village is now by-passed. Its just a pity that the day is so dull and not worthy of any photographs.

Picturesque cottages line the village street in Duddington. (this picutre taken in 2006 as weather was wet when i walked through the village on this occasion).

Picturesque cottages line the village street in Duddington. (this picture was taken in 2006 as weather was wet when I walked through the village on this occasion).

Duddington Mill on the River Welland (as seen on a visit in 2005).

Duddington Mill on the River Welland (as seen on a visit in 2005).

A old parish boundary sign on the border of Duddington, Northamptonshire and Tixover in Rutland (picture from 2005).

A old parish boundary sign on the border of Duddington, Northamptonshire and Tixover in Rutland (picture from 2005).

I leave the village via Mill Street and cross the River Welland once more via the historic fifteenth century bridge. I join a field path to reach Tixover Grange and cut across another ploughed field by which time my boots are clogged with mud. A better field path leads to the edge of Geeston and here I make a right turn along a road and once more cross the River Welland. This river forms the country boundary between Rutland and Northamptonshire and today I will cross it several times. I now have an ascent across fields to Easton on the Hill but most of these fields have been recently ploughed and un-walked. Progress is slow as I pick up so much sticky mud and I have to stop several times to remove a large accumulation of mud off my boots.

Easton on the Hill is a large village with the older more attractive part close to the church. Its claim to fame was that Lancelot Skynner came from the village. His name will probably not be familiar to you but he was the captain of the HMS Lutine which foundered in a storm on the West Frisian Islands off the coast of the Netherlands in 1799. The ship was carrying shipment of gold and the bell from the ship was salvaged. Today the Lutine Bell is housed in Lloyd’s of London and is used for ceremonial purposes at their headquarters.

Before stopping for lunch, I make a small detour to visit the 15th century Priest’s House, a National Trust property which as it turns out is closed. Well its time I’d stopped for lunch so I head for the village church to find a seat. It proves a cold spot on this cloudy damp day and so I am keen to move on. A good path descends northeast from the village and at the foot crosses the railway line then passes beneath the busy A1. Nearby and unmarked is a feature unique in England insomuch it is the meeting point of four counties – Rutland, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and the City of Peterborough, the latter being a unitary authority. A walk through Town Meadows leads me into Stamford where I have plenty of time to explore the place at leisure.

Stamford is an interesting town with a history dating back to Roman times. Ermine Street passes through the town and in its early history served as an inland port. Very little is visible today of the town walls but centre of the town has a plethora of historic churches which I shall have to visit another day when the weather is better and I have more time. Stamford was used as the setting for the television adaptation for the George Eliot novel Middlemarch.

This is the end of my walk along the Jurassic Way and all I need to do now is to catch the bus back to Barrowden on this dreary afternoon before the drive home. I arrive in good time at the bus station and the solitary bus parked at one of the stands is the service I want. I settle down to a good read of the free Metro newspaper before moving off and I am satisfied that I have achieved the completion of yet another long distant path.

The end of the Jurassic Way in Stamford and signs that the weather is improving after a wet and gloomy day. This is the river Welland which flows through the town.

The end of the Jurassic Way in Stamford and signs that the weather is improving after a wet and gloomy day. This is the River Welland which flows through the town.

Filling a gap on the Offa’s Dyke Path

On the Offa's Dyke Path after leaving Knighton one gets a panoramic view along the Teme Valley

On the Offa’s Dyke Path after leaving Knighton one gets a panoramic view along the Teme Valley.

I have a long term ambition to walk the complete length of the Offa’s Dyke Path and over the years I have nibbled away by walking odd sections which now leaves several gaps in the path to complete. One problem is that buses are a bit thin on the ground to say the least and so many walks have to be done as’ circulars’ unless you are back packing. One big gap which still remains to be walked is the section between Knighton and Welshpool which will take around four circular walks and one ‘bus’ walk to complete this section and so on a fine sunny day last September I opted to do a circular walk north from Knighton.

I’m en-route from Portishead to Macclesfield and so it’s an early start for my journey north to Knighton so it was well into the morning before I start out walking. The car park at the Offa’s Dyke Visitor Centre is virtually full and I set off on a fine sunny morning to follow the Offa’s Dyke Path north. The path crosses from Powys into Shropshire shortly after I start and a marker indicates the boundary between England and Wales on a little bridge. Here you can stand with a foot in both countries and get your picture taken if you wish. After crossing the railway then a minor lane I am faced with a steep ascent. A few other people are out walking on this most pleasant day. At the top of the ascent I next follow the path along the ridge with good views over the Teme Valley and beyond. Having passed another group of walkers I decide to stop on the summit of Cwm-sanahan Hill for lunch. It’s a glorious spot to while away the day but it is still early in my walk.

A lunch stop on the summit of Cwm-sanaham Hill with a wonderful view all round.

A lunch stop on the summit of Cwm-sanaham Hill with a wonderful view all round.

Setting off once more, a descent soon follows to the isolated house at Brynorgan and shortly beyond I reach a lane where today I will leave the Offa’s Dyke Path. It is a case now of cutting across country to reach the Glyndwr’s Way so I am half expecting a few path problems on this next section of the walk.

Descending along the Offa's Dyke path towards the isolated house at Brynorgan.

Descending along the Offa’s Dyke path towards the isolated house at Brynorgan.

For nearly a mile, I follow a quiet lane then opt to take a path south as it is signed. After crossing a few fields I reach Lower Trebert which I am expecting to be a deserted farmstead but I am wrong. Loose barking dogs are in the yard of this farm and initially I look for a way to avoid the farm. The farmhouse door is open so I decide to shout to see if anyone is at home. A woman comes out and says that the dogs are alright so I cautiously crossed the yard and exit through a high gate on the far side. Luckily I have my walking pole with me. I am soon at another large farm complex at Graig and despite lanes passing through this farm they look more like tracks. Joining one such lane I descend to the village of Lloyney entering Wales as I reach the settlement. Now being in rural Powys I am now expecting path problems and I have plenty of time and feel that I might be venturous and tackle a few paths.

Walking towards the castellated Knucklas Railway Viaduct.

Walking towards the castellated Knucklas Railway Viaduct.

A green patchwork of fields is so typical of this area around the Teme Valley northwest of Knucklas.

A green patchwork of fields is so typical of this area around the Teme Valley northwest of Knucklas.

Leaving Lloyney my plan is to get over to Heyop and I set off up a minor lane before taking an unsigned path on the left crossing fields which will cut off a corner before returning to the same lane. The path exists to a degree but on both field boundaries the stiles have all but gone and remains of one such stile is well hidden in a hedge. Back on the lane I reach a point above Vineyard Farm and this is where I am expecting problems. I just happen to see a farmer so ask him if the path still exists through the farm and he tells me that it had gone but he wasn’t the owner of the land and I detected that he was sympathetic that I couldn’t go that way. It meant altering my route for the next few miles but as it turned out it would be very pleasant. I set off along a green lane before it drops down towards Knucklas passing on the way the slight remains of Cnwclas Castle on a steep mound. Built around 1220AD by the Mortimers, little remains of this castle other than a few mounds. There were numerous battles in the area and the castle soon fell into a ruinous state not long after it was built. Just below is the impressive castellated Knucklas Viaduct built in 1865. The owner of the land over which it ran had a say in its construction and hence ornate towers were built at either end. I drop down into the sleepy village of Knucklas before taking an uphill lane to the south. On the ascent I decide on taking the path towards Bailey Hill and this path affords some good views. I later join a quiet
road briefly before taking a track to the south and this enables me to take a small detour to reach the trig point on Bailey Hill. I sit awhile on the summit admiring the views on this fine September afternoon. It is so peaceful insomuch I could have sat there for hours. In the end I do draw myself away and set off east now with the Glyndwr’s Way which passes the top end of Downes’s Dingle. It is so nice to be out walking in the late afternoon on this perfect September day with lengthening shadows and no one else is around in this peaceful countryside. A long descent now follows with the grassy track becoming stony and later becoming a narrow lane as I drop down to Little Cwm-gilla. Crossing a lane I leave the Glyndwr’s Way and take a signed path below Garth Hill as my route back into Knighton. Despite it being a bit overgrown, it is a good route to enter the town. The tea shop at the visitor centre is just closing when I got back but time enough to buy an ice cream before making the journey home.

A section of the Glyndwrs Way with the view towards Bailey Hill.

A section of the Glyndwrs Way with the view towards Bailey Hill.

The long track descending towards Knighton on a fine September afternoon.

The long track descending towards Knighton on a fine September afternoon.

A satisfying end to the day with a walk across pastures into Knighton and just in time to get an ice cream at the end of my walk.

A satisfying end to the day with a walk across pastures into Knighton and just in time to get an ice cream at the end of my walk.

On the 29th of April this month I will be leading this walk again for our group but in the opposite direction. Of the couple of path issues, (two stiles) these were reported to Powys County Council and the RA after the walk so hopefully these have been resolved. The start out time will be earlier than when I walked it and so we should be back in good time for those who wish to use the cafe at the Offa’s Dyke Visitor Centre, so lets hope for good weather!

A land where time has stood still

A quiet October morning in Barrowden with the autumn colours beginning to show.

A quiet October morning in Barrowden with the autumn colours beginning to show.

It’s the penultimate day walking the Jurassic Way and today is going to be a much shorter walk than the previous two days and just a mere twelve and a half miles. I reach the attractive Rutland village of Barrowden in good time for the little shuttle bus which plies between Stamford and Uppingham so I am in plenty of time to wander around the village first including visiting the parish church.

Barrowden village green and pond. A lovely peaceful spot to wait for the bus.

Barrowden village green and pond. A lovely peaceful spot to wait for the bus.

The bus journey takes me to Uppingham where I can take another bus to Caldecott to walk across fields to Gretton and hence pick up the Jurassic Way where I left off on the previous day but this would make my walk too short. Well that is my original plan but instead I decide to walk from Uppingham and visit the historic Bede House in Lyddington en-route to Gretton.

Uppingham I find is an interesting small town frozen in history with many old buildings and dominated by its large private school which was founded in 1584.
I set off south and I am soon out of the town and following an undulating field path passing through playing fields before crossing ploughed and recently seeded fields to reach the attractive village of Lyddington. I now make for the interesting Bede House which originally formed the medieval wing of a palace belonging to the Bishops of Lincoln. Sir Thomas Cecil, son of Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister converted it into an almshouse in 1600 for twelve poor ‘bedesmen’ over 30 years old in age and two women over 45 years old in age who were all free of lunacy, leprosy or the French. Today, most of the rooms are unfurnished but a couple are which gives an insight on how conditions were in those days.

The Bede House in Lyddington under the care of English Heritage.

The Bede House in Lyddington under the care of English Heritage.

Continuing south from Lyddington I pass many cottages of attractive warm golden stone and turn left at the end of the village. A roadside seat a short way along this lane and below Bee Hill is a good spot to have an early lunch and today I am in no hurry as I have ample time to complete the walk before nightfall.

Glorious sticky mud which clogs the boots. Thankfully this field wasn't too big to cross as I neared Gretton.

Glorious sticky mud which clogs the boots. Thankfully this field wasn’t too big to cross as I neared Gretton.

With sandwiches eaten I’m heading next towards the hamlet of Thorpe by Water but now the clouds are looking quite angry to the north east and there was no shelter around. I press on to reach the B672 just as the first spots of rain start. There is much open field walking next across the Welland Valley to reach Gretton and it seems likely that I will get caught in a heavy spell of rain. As luck will have it, it is fortunate that I reach a small underpass at the disused railway just as the rain comes on heavy and I couldn’t have wished for a better shelter. This is not marked on the map so it is a real bonus and so for the next half an hour I stay put as there isn’t much point in crossing large open fields and getting wet. When I do set off I cross an impressive new footbridge over the River Welland before striking out across open pasture with cows grazing. I am so glad that I had made the right decision to hold back awhile. Ascending towards Gretton I have to cross some sticky ploughed fields and in this part of the country the mud does really stick to your boots which impedes your walking pace. At long last I join the Jurassic Way which involves initially some road walking through the village of Gretton before taking a field path to the east. I get the impression that this area has been quarried for iron ore in the distant past and has now been landscaped. It’s a lonely section of countryside with large fields and bordering woodland blocks and devoid of any habitation but I later turn north by the isolated Harringworth Lodge. I cross more fields and following field boundaries, some with limestone walls which is like walking through a part of the Cotswolds. A minor road is crossed and I later make a descent to the Wellend Valley. Dominating the valley is the impressive Welland Railway Viaduct which at 1,275 yards long and has 82 arches. It was completed in 1878 and is the longest masonry viaduct across a valley in Britain and is a Grade II listed building. At the foot of my descent is the hamlet of Shotley and now I head west along a road into the village of Harringworth.

The impressive Welland Viaduct which crosses the valley at Harringworth and the longest masonry viaduct over any such valley in Great Britain.

The impressive Welland Viaduct which crosses the valley at Harringworth and the longest masonry viaduct over any such valley in Great Britain.

My route to reach Barrowden is now alongside the River Welland following a field path. Heavy clouds are threatening again and in this part of the world there is little shelter. I reach the unusually named Turtle Bridge as the first spots of rain are felt but have time to photograph this interesting location. I am surprised to find a county sign on the far side welcoming me to Rutland despite being on a green lane.

Now this is unusual - a county boundary sign on a green lane as you pass from Northamptonshire into Rutland.

Now this is unusual – a county boundary sign on a green lane as you pass from Northamptonshire into Rutland.

It now seems likely that I am going to get caught in a shower and so opt to see if there is any shelter at a nearby disused railway bridge. From the farm track I manage to get down the embankment to find some shelter and it isn’t long before the rain goes off. The next mile is just a case of walking along a field boundary before crossing a couple of ploughed fields. The rain is intermittent now and thankfully doesn’t amount to much. I finally join a lane into Barrowden and head up through the village back to the car.

Social and Events Calendar – Update from April 2017 onwards

 

Here are the ECR Events organised for the current Programme, April to June, and also those in planning for our future programmes:-

Saturday 8th April Grand National Sweep and walk organised by Rosie Forth.

Friday 21st April 11-30am a tour of Robinson’s Brewery with the additional option of lunch and a visit to Staircase House. Organised by Brian Griffiths. Fliers have been circulated and I think this is fully booked but please contact Brian to check on availability if you would like to attend.

Friday 21st April  Start of walking for Health programme. These are walks of about 2 miles on flat ground with no stiles. They will run approx. every 2 weeks and a programme will follow.

11th May  start of Evening walks programme

19th-21st May Week end away at Brecon organised by Ann Thompson. A flier has been circulated and more information will follow shortly for those who have expressed an interest.

Saturday 3rd June: 9 miles easy Coastal Ecology walk organised by John Handley from Wirral Country Park Visitors Centre, Heswall. Walking to Little Eye and Hilbre Islands off West Kirby at low tide. Marine landscape, birds, and animals. The number of participants is limited to 20 so booking with John is essential:- john.handley@manchester.ac.uk.

Wednesday 14th June Coach trip to North Wales organised by Andy Davies. This is to Ruthin and more information will follow shortly.

Thursday 22nd June. Walk and a meal at the Old Smithy, Monyash. Organised by Ann Thompson

Advance notice for next programme: July – December 2017

1st July Ramble with a Ranger organised by Jane Gay

Saturday 8th July:  HS2 Walk organised by John Edwards. Walking 7 to 8 miles of the proposed HS2 Route around Ashley with the Landscape Architect, Joanne Philips, who is conducting research on the impact of large scale infrastructure developments upon the landscape and the opportunities for exploring mitigation measures in early consultations with local communities and Groups like ECR.  For more information see: www.jophillips.net and  http://www.miriad.mmu.ac.uk/.  Numbers limited so please book your place with Kathryn Carty by 24 June: cartykathryn@btinternet.com.

Saturday 29th July Picnic walk. Long, medium and short walks are being organised finishing with a shared picnic.

12th August  Coach trip to Anglesey organised by Steve Hull

17th August last of the evening walks followed by Supper

3-8th September Trip to the Manor House Hotel Devon organised by Jane Gay. This trip is now confirmed with 30 attending and others are welcome to join us.

23 September -1st October Bollington walking Festival

23 September Ramble with a Ranger organised by Jane Gay

11th November 2 pm: ECR AGM at Macclesfield Tennis Club.

Friday 17th November 7.30 pm Area AGM hosted by ECR at Kings Arms PH, Alderley Road, Wilmslow SK9 1PZ. All members are welcome to attend.

23rd December -7th January: RA National festival of walks.

 

Early notice for Programme in 2018

15th-24th June 2018. Barnaby Festival, Macclesfield. Leaders are invited and encouraged to plan Walks in, or reasonably close to the Macclesfield area, so that ECR may participate with walks in the Programme of this Festival of our “home” town, and show-case our Group’s activities to potential new members.

 

If you have any ideas for future events please contact jane.gay@icloud.com.

Our Social and Events Programme has expanded considerably over the past few years and is now of the size where the schedule requires close co-ordination to avoid clashes and to try to ensure an even spread of dates across the year. Early consultation with Jane really helps with this and is greatly appreciated by the Committee.

 

 

Ramblers Roadshow 2017

This event was organized by the Ramblers Association held at the Palace Hotel in Buxton on 19th March 2017.

There were about 80+ members attending from all around Greater Manchester and High Peak areas including East Cheshire Ramblers.

There was a morning and afternoon session of workshops:

  1. First aid for walkers and basic navigation
  2. Introduction to walk leading
  3. Getting more people walking
  4. Recruiting and Retaining Members
  5. Basics of Rights of Way
  6. Supporting the volunteer journey
  7. How to run successful short walks
  8. Managing challenges on group walks

There was an introduction from the Membership and Retainment Officer. A couple of videos were shown one featuring June Mabon (ECR member) and her Trafford Footpath team and then we headed to the various workshops.

Steve Osborne wrote “I chose First aid for walkers and we had 3 scenarios with instructions from a trainer from The British Red Cross. The next hour was on Basic Navigation, an introduction to maps given by a young member of staff.  After a hot buffet lunch the afternoon sessions were introduced by the chairman of the ramblers trustees.  Were you aware that the Ramblers have more female members than male but the proportion on the government team is low.  Of the 15 candidates for 7 places in the forthcoming election only 3 are female.

In the afternoon I attended Managing Challenges on group walks.  This was a joint presentation with again young members of staff.  Good to see that there are younger staff members and also some young delegates at the sessions.

Plenty to discuss in this session and hopefully all gained some knowledge and practical advise which will be used on future activities.

There are plenty of useful resources (volunteer toolkits) in the Ramblers website.  Have a look.

There will be future roadshows, have a look and enjoy a day out, meet head office staff and fellow ramblers and improve your knowledge.”

Adrian Flinn wrote “ In the morning I attended the Introduction to walk Leading workshop. This was an interactive session. All the basic information used in this workshop can be found in the Ramblers website www.ramblers.org.uk/volunteer-zone/support-and-development/volunteer-toolkits

The following toolkits are particularly useful and I would recommend that all walk leaders visit the website to refresh our knowledge:

  • Walk leader: key resources to support individual walk leaders
  • Insurance: a guide to the Ramblers Association insurance including incident reporting. During the session it was explained that if you appoint a back marker for your walk (not mandatory but highly recommended) this person must be a current member of the Ramblers otherwise the insurance will be invalidated
  • Ramblers Routes: advice on devising good walking routes and using the Ramblers Route system as a route developer – see in particular the Route Development Manual

In the afternoon I went to the workshop on Recruiting and Retaining Members. Some key information from this session that I picked up:

  • the majority of new members find out about the Ramblers via web searches and recommendations from friends or family. Therefore is important that the groups have a good local on line presence, a website that is regularly updated and informative ideally with links to social media (ECR have an excellent website managed by our webmaster Roger Fielding)
  • the majority of our members join for social reasons (eg. walk with a local group, meet new people and improve their health)
  • why people walk? The 3 top motivators were to exercise followed by for fun and then to enjoy time with friends and family. This information helps to understand what we need to do to keep members interested.
  • Why members leave? Health and age are an important factor. Can we do more with these leavers? (ECR runs a full social and events programme that members of our group have access even if they don’t walk)

The workshop leader will provide in due course an electronic copy of the workshop notes which I will share with our Membership Secretary and Webmaster and the rest of our ECR Committee.”

23 March 2017

A border crossing

If you are on the train, you will probably pass this sign at around 100 mph but if you are walking the coast it is only a small diversion from the path.

If you are on the train, you will probably pass this sign at around 100 mph but if you are walking the coast it is only a small diversion from the path.

It may be only 29 miles long but the Berwickshire Coastal Path is a hidden gem. Running from Berwick upon Tweed along the coast to Cockburnspath it connects up with the Southern Uplands Way at its northern end. Several years ago I walked it from Berwick upon Tweed northwards to St Abbs and caught a bus back. The outstanding section from St Abbs to Cockburnspath is high on my list to do.
As for this walk I am joined by my wife and daughter and we will be walking south from the attractive little fishing town of Eyemouth to Berwick upon Tweed.
There is a fairly good bus service between Berwick upon Tweed and St Abbs via Eyemouth so we are catching a morning bus to Eyemouth.

Eyemouth Harbour on a still fine summer's morning. In the distance is Gunsgreen House famed for its smuggling history.

Eyemouth Harbour on a still fine summer’s morning. In the distance is Gunsgreen House famed for its smuggling history.

It is already mid-morning by the time we reach Eyemouth and the local shops are proving more of an attraction than setting out on the walk. I end up looking around the attractive harbour before meeting up with my wife and daughter outside the Tourist Information Centre by which time it’s time for the customary morning coffee break. We do eventually set off around this picturesque harbour. There is plenty to see but we don’t have the time to visit the prominent Gunsgreen House so this will need to wait until another day. Built in 1753, the house was once owned by John Nesbit, a respected gentleman of the town who led a double life as being a smuggler and the cellars below his house were used to smuggle contraband.

Walking the Berwickshire Coastal Path south of Eyemouth.

Walking the Berwickshire Coastal Path south of Eyemouth.

The cliffs at Blaikie Heugh are the highest on this section of the coast at just over 100 metres.

The cliffs at Blaikie Heugh are the highest on this section of the coast at just over 100 metres.

Leaving Eyemouth, we decide to stick to the coast as there is an obvious path rather than follow the path inland. It does mean dodging the golfers, and asking permission to walk this route they are quite happy for us to go that way. A good and pleasant coast path leads up to Blaikie Heugh which at just over 100 metres is the highest point on the walk. A few people are out walking including a couple of groups doing the ‘Duke of Edinburgh Award’. Along this section we stop several times to admire the good coastal views. My intention is to drop down into Burnmouth for lunch but my wife spots a cliff top seat just prior which is a good spot if a little windy. As it turns out, the small coastal village of Burnmouth didn’t have any decent seats to stop for lunch after all.

To reach the shore at Burnmouth we have to turn inland briefly before taking the steep lane down into the coastal village. The cottages at Partanhill to the north look interesting, huddled in below the cliffs and reached only along a rough track but Burnmouth itself has little to offer other than its attractive setting.

The Berwickshire Coastal Path hemmed in between the railway and the cliffs above Lamberton Beach makes for several miles of good coastal walking.

The Berwickshire Coastal Path hemmed in between the railway and the cliffs above Lamberton Beach makes for several miles of good coastal walking.

The path out of the village at neighbouring Cowdrait is hidden between houses and the ascent is somewhat overgrown until we reached a field at the top of a wooded slope. Heading south next, we stay close to the railway for the remainder of the walk and the peace is only occasionally interrupted by speeding trains. We are hemmed in between the main line railway and the cliffs. Initially we follow a farm track to Lamberton Holdings before continuing on a good path until it enters a nature reserve where it becomes a bit overgrown for this section. There are display boards every so often depicting the local history, flora and fauna and it appeared that this section of isolated coast was once a haunt of smugglers. We make steady progress south with trains passing by at high speed every so often. We pass a few serious walkers and after a few miles we reach the border with England. Here we make a small diversion to view the historic sign by the East Coast main railway line. Even the coastal path has signs but the one welcoming you to Scotland is much more prominent than the England one. It is ironic to think that this is not only the more northerly footpath in England but England’s most northerly point also.

At the border between Scotland and England. A much bigger sign entering Scotland at the most northerly path in England.

At the border between Scotland and England. A much bigger sign entering Scotland at the most northerly path in England.

We soon come to Marshall Meadows with its cluster of mobile homes and caravans which is in complete contrast with the walk so far. There is no access to the bay here as it is ringed with cliffs. My wife is getting tired so accompanied with my daughter I route them inland to the A1 where it is an easy walk to the Travelodge, our base for a few days. Meanwhile I want to see a couple of coastal features at Needles Eye, a rock stack and Brotherston’s Hole, a sandstone inlet a little further beyond. Rounding another golf course I now finally leave the coast and take a path inland before joining residential roads back to Berwick Travelodge.

Needles Eye. One of several coastal features in this area.

Needles Eye. One of several coastal features in this area.

Berwick upon Tweed is a fascinating town and one rich in history. With so many historic wars between Scotland and England it has found itself in both counties but has been in England since 1482. The substantial Elizabethan ramparts make an enjoyable evening walk as so was the case on our visit. Centrepiece in the town is the fine Town Hall which was built between 1754-1760. The suburb of Tweedmouth is separated from the town by the tidal River Tweed. Three bridges cross the Tweed close to this point with the historic fifteen arched Berwick Bridge being the oldest. With a length of over 1,100 feet, construction began in 1608 and took sixteen years to build. It is now a Grade 1 listed structure.
Alongside and upstream is the Royal Tweed Bridge which was built in the 1920’s and until the 1980’s was the main road bridge carrying the A1 but probably the most iconic bridge is the Royal Border Bridge which carries the East Coast main line some 121 feet above the River Tweed and consists of twenty eight arches. It was opened in 1850 having taken three years to build.

Berwick upon Tweed Town Hall dominates the centre of the town.

Berwick upon Tweed Town Hall dominates the centre of the town.

The Elizabethan Town Walls make a lovely evening walk around Berwick upon Tweed.

The Elizabethan Town Walls make a lovely evening walk around Berwick upon Tweed.

The Royal border Bridge carries the East Coast main line railway over the River Tweed seen here at sunset.

The Royal Border Bridge carries the East Coast main line railway over the River Tweed seen here at sunset.

A day when the Singing Ringing Tree didn’t want to perform

Listen really hard and you may hear something. Today we were blessed with bright sunshine and no breeze.

The Singing Ringing Tree sculpture. Listen really hard and you may hear something. Today we were blessed with bright sunshine and no breeze.

Ian Mabon recently led a long walk commencing from Towneley Hall located on the south eastern edge of Burnley. Set in a park of 284 acres the hall is grade I listed and the present building dates from the 14th century and was owned by the Towneley family for many centuries. Today it is owned and managed by Burnley Borough Council.
Consisting of a party of twelve, the group set out by following a section of the Burnley Way to Clow Bridge. The Burnley Way is a forty mile long signposted recreational path which loops to the west and to the east of the town and crosses several moorland areas.
With sunny skies and virtually no breeze there was only one yacht out on Clowbridge Reservoir as we skirted the southern and eastern shores. A gradual ascent took the group to the lunch stop overlooking Burnley and the hills beyond including Pendle Hill, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent, the latter two still snow clad.
A short walk took the group to the Singing Ringing Tree which was the highlight of the walk. This modern sculpture consists of a series of galvanised steel pipes of varying lengths and set at angles in a shape of a tree. The wind blowing through these pipes emits a low ringing sound but today we had picked one of those rare days when there was no breeze and hence no sound.
The return walk was via a long gradual descent to Cliviger Bridge, historic Barcroft Hall famous for its folklore and Newfield Farm. The day was rounded off with afternoon tea and scones at the busy cafe in the grounds of Towneley Hall.

The Jurassic Way – Getting to the end before nightfall

 

Stoke Albany - one of several attractive villages you pass through on this walk where time has stood still.

Stoke Albany – one of several attractive villages you pass through on this walk where time has stood still.

This is going to be an ambitious walk and everything needs to run to plan as my start time will be later than normal. It is day two of my walk along the Jurassic Way and sorting out my outward journey on the bus has been a problem. The question was the uncertainty as to whether bus service number 67 between Gretton and Market Harborough was still running. Having read an article on the internet to say it was being axed was a major stumbling block and my enquiries before setting out on this trip didn’t get very far until I contacted the Post Office in Gretton. Thankfully the villagers had saved the bus service for the meantime.

So I’m driving from Market Harborough to Gretton early and have plenty of time to spare to walk around the village before catching the number 67 bus back to Market Harborough. Villagers waiting for the bus tell me the efforts they have made to save their bus connection.
I’m the only person going as far as Market Harborough and first I want to take a quick look around town. It’s already 11am and I have a twenty mile walk ahead of me and furthermore it’s October and it will be sunset about 6pm. I’m taking a good torch with me today but my main concern is getting to Gretton before it is totally dark. For one thing I could cut a chunk out of the walk but this would mean missing a section of the Jurassic Way.
My outward route from Market Harborough is along the Brampton Valley Way, a former railway track bed which is the same route that I had followed in the opposite direction on the previous day but at a brisk pace today I seem to walk this in no time at all. Leaving the railway path prior to Oxendon Tunnel I re-join the Jurassic Way above the northern portal of the tunnel and head east on field paths. The rain from yesterday showers has turned the ground a bit greasy. The route around Waterloo Lodge, the first farm is a bit confusing due to a lack of signage but I manage partly by luck to follow the correct route. Beyond, I decide to make a short detour to visit a trig point where there is a good view to the south. Back en-route I’m descending to Braybrooke with the plan of having a lunch stop in the churchyard but as it turns out there was no seat or anywhere suitable to sit. Even the village doesn’t offer any suitable stopping point and so leaving the village I enter a field part of which forms the village cricket pitch and fined a solitary seat alongside a hedge. Now this must be the most uneven cricket pitch in the country as it shares the field with a herd of cows and the castle earthworks. Braybrooke Castle is today no more than a series of earthworks but originally consisted as a fortified manor house complete with fish ponds. The original building is believed to have dated from around 1200AD and later served as a farmhouse until it was demolished prior to 1633. A 17th century farmhouse occupied the site until it too was demolished around 1960.
Now it is not my normal habit to take lunch in with a field of cows but these seem to be grazing some distance away and taking no interest in me.
It’s time to press on and I follow a path across several fields some of which are ploughed and unlike the previous days’ walking the mud was now beginning to stick you my boots. I pass next through Park Hill Farm and ascend to cross the A6 over well hidden stiles behind large hawthorn hedges then continue alongside Hermitage Wood. Beyond, the path is ill-defined as not only does it cross large fields but these fields were bounded by areas of set-a-side and are quite overgrown. At field boundaries the path is often poorly signed and I gather that this is not a well walked area. Next I have to keep out of the way of a farmer spreading liquid manure on his field and he is not going to stop for anyone so I wait for a suitable point then make a dash for it without being pelted with the brown stuff. As I near the A427 the walking becomes easier and I join a minor road and head into the attractive village of Stoke Albany by which time it is turning out a pleasant sunny afternoon. I next follow a lane to the nearby village of Wilbarston pausing briefly to look at the church.

The view across the Welland Valley on a fine October afternoon.

The view across the Welland Valley on a fine October afternoon.

Leaving Wilbarston I now follow a very pleasant and well used path as it runs along a low ridge with views to the north over the Welland Valley. I’m maintaining a steady pace with just short stops from time to time to take the odd photograph. There are a few people out walking on this section. I next skirt to the north of the village of East Carlton and take an even better path which forms the northern boundary of East Carlton Country Park to reach the village of Middleton. Here I have a short but steep ascent before taking a woodland path to reach the next village of Cottingham which is almost a continuation of Middleton.

It is now decision time which gives me the choice of a direct rather unattractive route along the B-road to Rockingham or to follow the longer route along the Jurassic Way via the villages of Bringhurst and Great Easton. My calculations mean that I can just about make it via the longer route before nightfall but I can’t afford to wander into village churches anymore today.
Following the Jurassic Way through Cottingham I am almost back-tracking and follow a path where maize is growing right up to the field boundary. Afterwards my route north is along a rough but wide track before crossing into Leicestershire to follow a field path to the little hilltop and attractive village of Bringhurst. It is unfortunate that by the time I get to Bringhurst, an area of cloud has made it turn really dull with bad light. An initially un-defined field path is next taken to larger village of Great Easton. Leaving via the road east of the village I soon branch off onto a track then a field path and this is where the sunshine returns. A combination of strong low sunlight and dark clouds overhead gave a magical feel about the area with a strange but very sharp light so it was out with the camera for numerous photographs. Ahead on the hill is Rockingham Castle which I had visited many years ago. There has been a castle on the site of the present Rockingham Castle since the 11th century and the first wooden motte and bailey castle was soon replaced with a stone keep. The castle through the Norman and Plantagenet periods was used as a retreat and a base for hunting.
During the English Civil War the Parliamentarians used the castle and it later fell into disrepair. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was restored and in more recent years has featured in TV dramas.

Magical light. A contrast of dark overhead clouds and low sunlight made this section of the walk really interesting. Here i was heading across the Welland Valley towards Rockingham Castle.

Magical light. A contrast of dark overhead clouds and low sunlight made this section of the walk really interesting. Here I was heading across the Welland Valley towards Rockingham Castle.

I’m crossing the B670 next and a short field path leads me into the very attractive village of Rockingham. It is a pity that this village has a busy main road running through it.
Time is pressing and the sun is now very low. The question now is do I have enough light to get to Gretton? The Jurassic Way runs east northeast and I find it easier to stick to the field boundaries rather than crossing numerous large ploughed fields. In places the path dives through hedges and although signed it would have been all too easy to miss these gaps in the dark. With the low sunlight and dark clouds overhead I can’t resist stopping time and time again to capture the magical light of the day. This is really walking at its best. Later I walk through a small wooded area then beneath the railway before making an ascent towards Gretton. The sun is down on the horizon as I ascend and beyond I just have one field to cross to reach the village. The moon is out and the shower clouds were beginning to fade away. I reach Gretton just as the sun is setting and it is now only a short walk to the car. I am now ready for a meal at the Wetherspoon pubin Corby which was just a short drive away.

I'm nearing the end of my walk when i passed this tree. On Google Mapping it is shown in full leaf growth so I can only imagine that it has taken a major lightning strike.

I’m nearing the end of my walk when I pass this tree. On Google Mapping it is shown in full leaf growth so I can only imagine that it has taken a major lightning strike.

There is something special about the last hour of daylight. The sun is low to the west and the shadows are lengthening as I follow this track across farmland towards Gretton.

There is something special about the last hour of daylight. The sun is low to the west and the shadows are lengthening as I follow this track across farmland towards Gretton.

After a twenty mile walk I reach Gretton just as the sun is setting at the end of this fine October day.

After a twenty mile walk I reach Gretton just as the sun is setting at the end of this fine October day.

Walking the watershed

The East Cheshire Ramblers pause on the Wrom Stones above Glossop.

The East Cheshire Ramblers pause on the Worm Stones above Glossop.

The rains thankfully held off for thirteen East Cheshire Ramblers on a recent twelve mile walk in the High Peak. Confidently led by one of the group’s newest leaders Gillian Kay the party set off from the lay-by near the former Grouse Inn on Chunal Hill near Glossop. The first port of call was the unusually named hill called Harry Hut which is crowned with a triangulation station. There is no sign of a hut at this location and the origin of the name is a bit of a mystery.
A left turn here took the party via Worm Stones, a series of sandstone outcrops on Shaw Moor where the group paused for some photographs. After a morning break in the lee of a stone wall the group were led via a series of field paths on the south eastern edge of Glossop to reach the A57 Snake Pass Road. Rather than follow this road, a woodland path parallel was followed before joining another path which runs on the course of what was a Roman Road and now called Doctor’s Gate. At a convenient and sheltered spot a break was taken for lunch beside a modern footbridge.
The hardest part of the walk followed the lunch stop with an ascent which was boggy in places to reach the Pennine Way and the Snake Pass which is on the watershed of England. At least the next two and a half miles to Mill Hill was along a good flag stoned path which had been constructed some years ago to stop any further erosion on the thin moorland soils. With the rain just holding off, it was now a steady descent back to the cars via Harry Hut but with one small diversion to view the remains of a World War II air crash site. On the 11th October 1944 a B-24J Liberator crash landed a few hundred metres west of Mill Hill. Thankfully the pilot and flight engineer were only slightly injured and were able to make their way to the main road to the west where they flagged down a passing lorry driver.

Its Clare to the west

At Roonagh Pier awaiting the ferry to go out to Clare Island on a glorious sunny morning.

At Roonagh Pier awaiting the ferry to go out to Clare Island on a glorious sunny morning.

A stepping stone between Connemara and Achill Island and a mere six square miles, Clare Island lies at the entrance to Clew Bay on the west coast of Ireland. Today the population is again on the increase and has risen to 168 on the 2011 census but in 1841 the population was a staggering 1615 but that was just before the Irish potato famine of 1845.
I am based in Westport for the week and high on my list is to visit Clare Island. It is now or never and thankfully the Friday on my week in the area dawns a perfect day. It’s my last full day in the area and I’m setting off with plenty of time to spare to reach Roonagh Pier west of Louisburgh.
The MV Sea Sprinter is the ferry for the island on this fine morning and with a one other tourist and a few workmen, a friendly black Labrador called Oscar and a few perishable groceries we set off under sunny skies for the short crossing to Clare Island.
What a day with hardly a cloud in the sky as I step ashore from the quay and make my way around to the sandy harbour. The harbour is guarded by a now ruinous castle, which was once the stronghold of the pirate Queen Grace O’Malley. Even today the O’Malley surname crops up everywhere on the island. My aim is to walk clockwise around the island and to catch the 4.45pm ferry back to Roonagh Pier and from my calculations I will do the twelve miles comfortably.

The sandy harbour on Clare Island. The main ferry is beached for repairs. Suddenly the pace of life has slowed down.

The sandy harbour on Clare Island. The main ferry is beached for repairs. Suddenly the pace of life has slowed down.

It ‘s not even 10am as I set out west along the almost deserted lane along the southern coast of the island. Of the few vehicles on the island, it’s a place where cars and vans come to die. They have seen better days on the mainland and many vehicles have large dents and or have missing bumpers.

The empty lane west along the southern coast of Clare Island. I see only two vehicles over four miles of walking along this delightful undulating lane overlooking a sparkling sea dotted with little islands.

The empty lane west along the southern coast of Clare Island. I see only two vehicles over four miles of walking along this delightful undulating lane overlooking a sparkling sea dotted with little islands.

Almost two miles west I make a small diversion to visit the ancient church known as St Bridget’s Abbey which is believed to date from the 12th century but unfortunately it is locked although there are some interesting ancient crosses in the churchyard. Nearby the photographic little post office is doing very little trade and during my walk it is the only shop I find on the island. From my observations, there are several new houses on the island and many old properties have fallen into decay.

A peaceful setting for the 12th century St Bridgets Abbey and its graveyard dotted with ancient crosses.

A peaceful setting for the 12th century St Bridgets Abbey and its graveyard dotted with ancient crosses.

The island's only shop with only the likelihood of two hens as possible customers.

The island’s only shop with only the likelihood of two hens as possible customers.

I have a further two miles of lane walking west passing a few scattered houses on the way. A handy seat is a good spot for my morning break on this most pleasant day overlooking a sparkling blue sea towards Connemara. The lane finally runs out at a small cluster of houses and a farm at Loughanaphuca. From here I follow a track for a short distance before heading across the short cropped grass towards the shaky ruins of the Napoleonic Signal Tower built in 1804 as one of several along the Irish coast. The tower was abandoned after the threat of invasion passed and is now very unsafe so I keep my distance. The walking is easy as at this exposed location facing the open Atlantic where very little grows above about an inch or two. To the southwest is Beetle Head, a low promontory where it is said that the Spanish Galleon El Gran Grin met its fate after the Spanish Armada.

Beetle Head on the southwest corner of Clare Island. Just offshore lies a Spanish Galleon which met its fate after the Sapnish Armada in 1588.

Beetle Head on the southwest corner of Clare Island. Just offshore lies a Spanish Galleon which met its fate after the Spanish Armada in 1588.

The western side of clare island few people see as it faces out to the Atlantic and no one lives here. I was now setting out to climb to the summit of Knockmore, by far the island's biggest hill.

The western side of Clare Island few people see as it faces out to the Atlantic and no one lives here. I was now setting out to climb to the summit of Knockmore, by far the island’s biggest hill.

It is now time to change direction and a fine grassy slope with steep broken cliffs on my left leads up to Knockmore which at 462 metres is by far the highest point on the island. After a stiff climb I reach the summit plateau and make my way to the trig point. I have picked the most perfect of days with a very light northerly breeze, good views and unbroken sunshine. In the distance sea mist is rolling over a low ridge on Achill Island like a waterfall. To the east is the hazy outline of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s Holy Mountain. This will make a perfect spot to stop for lunch. I’m making good time and over lunch I plan my route back to the ferry and calculate my intended timings at certain points. For once there was no need to hurry as I will be still in good time. Next on the agenda is to follow a route along the top of the spectacular cliffs to Clare Island Lighthouse. It is undulating route of two and a half glorious miles. Despite no path as such, the going is easy and initially I walk down a steep grassy descent before I divert slightly inland to avoid a few coastal cliffs.

Picnic sites don't come any better than this. I'm 450 metres up overlooking Clew Bay on the west coast of Ireland. There is hardly a breath of air on this perfect sunny day. In the distance, sea mist is rolling over a ridge on Achill Island. Pure magic!

Picnic sites don’t come any better than this. I’m 450 metres up overlooking Clew Bay on the west coast of Ireland. There is hardly a breath of air on this perfect sunny day. In the distance, sea mist is rolling over a ridge on Achill Island. Pure magic!

On the cliff top walk between Knockmore and Clare Island Lighthouse. Two and a half miles of walking at it's best.

On the cliff top walk between Knockmore and Clare Island Lighthouse. Two and a half miles of walking at it’s best.

Other than that there are two only easy fences to cross but a more awkward boggy stream where I have to go to the cliff edge to cross. By 2.30pm I am at the lighthouse. Today the lighthouse is private and a holiday let but I get a good view from the cliffs as I approach. Built in 1806 by the Marquis of Sligo the lighthouse saw seven years service before it caught on fire. Having been restored it was badly damaged during a lightning strike in 1834 and it was finally decommissioned in 1965.

Clare Island Lighthouse lies at the northernmost point on the island. This was the view on the approach.

Clare Island Lighthouse lies at the northernmost point on the island. This was the view on the approach.

The sandy beach by Clare Harbour. Time stands still here and its a magical place to be on a day like today.

The sandy beach by Clare Harbour. Time stands still here and its a magical place to be on a day like today.

I sit on a nearby rocky knoll for a break in the warm afternoon sunshine before moving on. I follow a track south for a mile before it becomes a minor lane leading back to the harbour. With still time to spare I go in search of a drink. A ragged Guinness flag on a pole gives a clue of a pub hidden just around the corner and so it is a quick drink at the Sailor’s Bar before wondering down to the harbour for the return boat trip to Roonagh Pier.

Waiting for the ferry back to the mainland at the end of a perfect day.

Waiting for the ferry back to the mainland at the end of a perfect day.