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!
Photographic equipment errors can blight subsequent results. For instance, this summer saw me using a camera at a different ISO setting to what was intended and I did not notice it for weeks. Given that the setting was 320 rather than the desired 400 and I have often mulled over the idea of using 200, it was not a calamity given that I create raw image files anyway.
What reminds me of the above is that a more obvious mishap beset the photos made on the trip described in this report. That time, I somehow knocked the camera into the wrong daylight balance setting. All the images came out far too red but creating raw image files allowed for a rescue in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Being able to bulk copy the new settings was a real bonus so I could ameliorate any annoyance in the act and leave the lesson on file for future reference.
Given I finally had got to Rothbury after having designs on such a trip for what seemed light an age, the easy fix to those photos probably was just as well. Just like the North York Moors that were featured in an earlier post, this too was a long way to travel for a day trip, though that never stopped me getting to other parts of Northumberland since they are afflicted by the same disadvantage.
Rothbury was reached later in the same week as an icy encounter with Roseberry Topping. The chance of a bright day added to the required motivation input even after an outdoors escapade earlier in the week, especially since an early morning start was needed. It also was good timing for travel by double-decker bus for the last part of the inbound journey.
Though Newcastle was dull while I was passing through the city, Rothbury was bright and sunny with clear blue skies overhead when I arrived there. My intended walking target was Simonside so I soon left by way of St. Oswald’s Way to make the most of the time that I had. The day may have been laden with wintery crispness but I was to pass a harbinger of spring once I passed Whitton: snowdrops.
After passing Sharpe’s Folly on my way towards Hillhead Road, the surrounding views opened as I followed the track with height being gained as I did so. Though looking to my left brought my eyes towards pleasing sights, it was what lay to my right that captivated my attention at various points throughout the day. The white-topped summits of the Cheviots not only acted as a reminder of winter but also contrasted against the otherwise green landscape bedecked with some brown patches.
The track was left to reach Whittondean and going beyond that took me onto open moorland. Handily given that I was crossing soggy bogland, the path was paved. All the age of my map was plain to see so it was just as well that I had the OS Maps app on my phone for adding the extra details. Quite why I had not got around to buying a newer paper map is lost to me but it would have added the route of St. Oswald’s Way for one thing.
At that time, thoughts of depending on a phone app given the vagaries of signal and battery life felt imprudently trusting. Still, it all held together on the day and even showed another public footpath over Simonside that itself came in being after 2005, the publication date of my Explorer map. Since then, I have chosen phones with lengthy battery life and they came into their own during this year’s travails when they allowed me to leave paper maps at home for various local day hikes where I largely know the lie of the land anyway. Still, I am mindful that the phone is doing the locating so I need not lose that ability for myself in case I ever need it again. After all, devices are not that infallible.
A relatively timely arrival at the eastern end of the Simonside ridge added a certain complacency about route timing that soon got dispelled by the false summits that I met along the way. The whole section may have been around three kilometres in length, but the afternoon passed as I pottered from east to west, especially given the arresting views that lay all around me. Winter whitening of various sections and the presence of icy patches added to the need to concentrate on what was at hand. That really applied to the steep western descent from the actual summit itself.
By then, it was late afternoon and I needed to catch a bus at a certain time too. Even with this and with others going the way, I was not going to rush, but any coated patches were left after me soon enough along with any gathering of humanity. Then, it was a matter of descending through forestry to Great Tosson, an act greatly aided by the use of walking poles to speed things though there was ample time to survey the surrounding scenery as well.
From Great Tosson, there was a road descent to Newtown, after which a byway returned me to the banks of the River Coquet. Once across to the other side, I was bound for the bridleway taking me back to Rothbury again. That the sun continued to lower in the sky caused no concern given the progress that I was making. A lost time had been made up again without the need for rushing; it was all a matter of maintaining a steady if unhurried pace while relishing what lay about me.
In fact, there was enough time before my bus came to visit a shop for some provisions and a new map of the area. After that, my journey home began and I could wonder about returning to Coquetdale. Though current circumstances may delay that, I still have spied a possible route taking in Cartington Hill and the Cragside Estate. Having an excuse to revisit a place never is a bad thing to have.
Return train journey between Macclesfield and Newcastle extended by a return bus journey on route X14 between Newcastle and Rothbury.
The previous posting on this blog may have been a sunnier reprise of a walk that I did before, but what I describe here is not of that ilk. Firstly, I decided to stay in Newcastle on a Saturday night. Though my initial explorations along the Tyne were done after dark, I liked enough of what I saw that another visit would not go amiss. On Sunday, I took myself off to Bamburgh to see its famous castle and walk from there to Belford, enjoying bright sunshine for much of the time.
Initial notes on here updated my recollection of this trip. For instance, I never recall having played with the idea of a weekend among the Brecon Beacons or that a delayed start put paid to notions of a walk around Rothbury that took in nearby Simonside. What I remember much more clearly is what actually happened.
For one thing, there was an overnight stay in Newcastle that allowed for a bit of strolling along the banks of the River Tyne. It was then that I got to realise just how near Newcastle and Gateshead actually are and that the former of these is a not unpretty place. It helps that there has been some urban regeneration with a new footbridge across the river and that a tower belonging to the castle giving the place its name still stands in spite of the depredations of railway building.
Much of my wandering took place after dark so I made it my business to see things in the morning light before I headed north the next day. Still, seeing everywhere lit up has its appeal too and there were plenty about the place. It was not only those out for the night on the town, for a cancer charity was holding a night walk and I made it my business to be out of the way before that hoard set off on its way. The repeated booming of the line “Stand up to Cancer” was a little too extrovert for my tastes but it still told me that I had time before the charity stroll was to begin. In the event, I was largely out of the way before things really got going, so my own amble was a pleasant one.
After that quick morning stroll along the Tyne, it was time for me to get to Berwick-upon-Tweed by train. It would have been more complicated if I had been going to Scotland because there were engineering works between Berwick and Edinburgh so it was just as well that my sights were on Northumberland instead.
Before travelling onward from Berwick by bus, I took the chance to potter around the place in the morning sunshine, peering at its bridges as I did so. Then, it was time to continue to Bamburgh where its castle awaited. It did not take long to find once there since Bamburgh is not at all large and it is situated atop a hillock.
Rather than going into see the castle on a wonderful sunny day, I opted to stroll around it instead. First, I headed a little south along the road and crossed to the beach through grassy dunes. Only the faded colours of the grasses gave any hint that this was autumn and not summer. Given where the sun was at the time, this also was the best vantage point for photos with good lighting and I was to find that the usual photos that you see published need to be made at another time of day, more likely morning.
It was when I got onto the beach that I was to discover that last fact, but there were other sights to see. In hindsight, it might have been better to have had a camera with a telephoto lens for some of these. Even capturing views of the Inner Farne would have been helped but it was the more distant ones of a well lit Lindisfarne where the usefulness really would have been seen. Still, it was good to get what I got and to savour what lay about me anyway.
It was around Harkess Rocks where I was to see the classic view of Bamburgh Castle and realise that this was not the time for my own version of such an image. It was no disappointment given what I had got from the day already and I was about to rejoin the Northumberland Coast Path that was set to carry me all the way to Belford.
That conveyed me around the coast as far as Budle Bay while largely avoiding the Bamburgh Castle Golf Club course before I was directed inland towards the B1342. That gave me a chance to look back at the castle where my walk began and it had fallen into cloud shadow. Since I was to head downhill from Galliheugh Bank, this was to be my last sighting for the day.
The sea was not to be seen much as I headed for Spindlestone Heughs by footpath and road. Near Outchester, I got to see more of the sea again, but there also was a curiosity in the form of an old windmill called the Outchester Ducket. The word “ducket” is a local form of dovecot, so that makes the name an unusual one for what is now a building let out as tourist accommodation.
Passing Outchester Farm led me along quiet roads and public rights of way towards the East Coast Mainline that I had to cross to reach Belford. Rather than over a bridge as might be found on the West Coast Mainline, this crossing went straight across the tracks, a striking thought given the chance of an accident. Before making my crossing, I used the provided phone to check if I could cross and did the same on the other side to let them know that I was safely across. The latter was as much for the sake of courtesy as anything else.
After that, Belford was near at hand under cloudy skies with more industrial surroundings for company for much of the last stretch of what had been a pleasing walk with much bright sunshine. It is how Bamburgh Castle and how the nearby coastline looked in the sun that is what I remember. It was a much-needed interlude of brightness in a life with a lot that was happening.
Train journey from Macclesfield to Newcastle with an overnight stop before continuing by train from Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Outbound bus journey from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Bamburgh followed by a return bus journey from Belford to Berwick-upon-Tweed before going from there to Macclesfield.