Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Trampling snow on the edge of the Cheviots

12th February 2008

My trip reports seem to taking longer to appear here than I might like so here’s a report of a visit that I made to Northumberland at the start of the month. The fine weather coaxed me out this past weekend too but there should be more on those activities to follow, hopefully later this week. Anyway, back to that trip up north…

February was beginning with a very promising outlook for snow and I was very tempted by the prospect. Having the whole weekend free for the first time in a while placed things into a sharper focus. However, the weather warnings that abounded might have tempered those thoughts but for a certain degree of cynicism regarding Met Office weather warnings. I shouldn’t be getting the impression that the slightest suggestion of adverse weather results in the issuing of warnings for areas with even the slightest chance of disruption but that’s what has been happening. I don’t doubt that warnings need to be issued but I’d rather it if the precision was a bit better than what seems to be the case at the moment; then you can treat them with the attention that they should command.

Once I make my mind up that I am going away, I then decide on the destination. Thoughts of snow covered slopes put the idea of heading to Fort William on the the Caledonian Sleeper into my mind. Even with my scepticism of weather warnings, thoughts of marching into the face of a blizzard didn’t appeal to me given my lack of experience of snowy conditions. So the Scottish escapade was placed on hold and I cast my eye over the weather map of the U.K. and that turned up Northumberland as an alternative. In particular, the hills near Wooler sounded an enticing proposition. True, I could have hugged the coast and avoided any difficulties but the prospect of trampling the white stuff wasn’t at all discouraging.

With the destination decided, it was then a matter of getting there. Friday night saw Macclesfield getting a dusting of snow so I crunched my way to the train station for the first departure of the day for Manchester; this was the right kind of snow: crunchy, grippy and not icy and/or slushy. A change in Piccadilly got onto the train that was to take me to York and there plenty of sightings of snowy moorland on the way to Leeds. However, there was rather too much time to enjoy what looking outside since my train got stuck behind a late local stopping service and a lady suffered a loss/theft onboard (hope everything worked out OK for her since, any delay that I suffered was a minor problem in comparison). The result was that I missed my connection in a non too snowy York and arrived in Berwick-upon-Tweed an hour later than planned. There was no snow in Berwick either but I was to be satisfied that I still continued to Wooler by bus anyway: the white stuff was there for all to see on the hills, even if it had retreated from the lower ground.

I had been in Wooler once before, in September 2006, and I put my previous trip to use on arrival and avoided any dawdling before getting to the hills. The road to Wooler Common retained its dusting of snow and even was icy in places so rushing was not a good option. I didn’t and still made my way onto St. Cuthbert’s Way in good time to reach the snow after passing through some woodland. The landscape up high was well blanketed so some navigational confusion could be forgiven. However, the presence of good tracks and my having been hereabouts before served me well as I added to my experience of snowy conditions. Like my previous visit, I could only proceed so far before turning back and the turning point this time was further on than the last time. It was something of wrench to tear myself away from the quality Views west towards the Cheviot but I needed to return to civilisation.

A circular walk was in mind but my plans were changed by that late train. For a time, it looked as if my route was about to be an out and back affair until the idea of taking a diversion around by Humbleton came to mind. It was a choice that I was glad to have made as, for some reason, I started to proceed with childish abandon as my boots sank into several inches of powder dry snow. The snow had been dry and hospitable for all of my walk but this episode seems to linger in the memory. It wasn’t as if I didn’t enjoy the outing and I have thoughts of returning, always a good thing. Maybe, a walk from Wooler to Kirk Yetholm might be in order? Sounds good to me.

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