Southern Spotlight

The hard winter seems to have brought about a bumper spring with an abundance of wild flowers and sunny days up here. I have spent most of the first part of this fruitful year exploring and revisiting the southern part of Northumberland, including Amble, Morpeth and Rothbury.

This part of the county is less familiar to me than North Northumberland where I lived for about nine years. However it has been interesting to get to know the area more, revisit older walks and create new ones.

Morpeth

This town is accessible from Ashington, Newcastle and Sunderland. It is therefore well served by public transport and has a good selection of facilities. I wanted to create a new page for walks in and around Morpeth as there weren’t many available from the Tourist Information Office. Morpeth Mooching has resulted in a selection of short and longer walks from around the town centre.

St James the Great
St James the Great Church from Newgate Street, Morpeth
Bothal Castle
Bothal Castle

Amble

Amble is a bit further up the coast on the main bus route from Newcastle to Berwick. It has a reasonable selection of shops, cafes, and facilities, as well as a busy harbour from which there are boat trips to Coquet Island. Amble Ambles features long and short walks and a trip out to Coquet Island.

IMG_6570
Coquet Island, Northumberland seen from the boat.

Neither Morpeth or Amble was very familiar to me so I have felt like an explorer trying to create walks with only the maps and local chat to go on. I am not able to write about these areas as intimately as a local person can but I have enjoyed learning more about them.

Rothbury

Rothbury is the site of some of my earliest walks as a teenager and one of my early Rucksack Rose trips in 2012. I have a soft spot for the town which benefits from good facilities, a regular bus service and a great path network radiating from the town centre. My aims here were to add a new walk to my Rothbury Rambles page, and to improve the existing photos and videos on a better camera. It has been a pleasure to revisit these walks and I am quite pleased with how much better the page looks.

Across Coquet Valley
Rothbury across the Coquet Valley
Cartington Castle
Cartington Castle, Rothbury, Northumberland

Hopefully it won’t be long before I can get further afield to bring you more walking from this season.

Northumberland Routes

As you may know, Northumberland is my main stomping ground, and I have managed to accumulate a large number of posts, trips and routes in this area (listed under the Northumberland tab).

This post is written a bit retrospectively to help signpost readers of my blog to what they can find here, and to fill the gaps in my own admin and post tagging when I began writing Rucksack Rose.

For those just joining me, there are routes arranged geographically by towns and places including Amble, Bamburgh, Morpeth, Rothbury, Wooler, Breamish Valley and the Farne Islands.

There are also routes arranged thematically by their common features such as Roman remains, caves and rock art, waterfalls, castles, coastal and short walks.

I hope you enjoy my blog and all the featured routes. ICYMI GPX files are now available for most of my routes, including all my Northumberland routes, from my ViewRanger profile.

If you or your company enjoy my routes, use them for groups and / or for profit, I would be grateful if you would consider becoming a supporter in order that I can upload more. More information can be found on the Supporting Me page.

Happy Hiking to all. Rose 🏕 ⛰ ❤️ 🌹

A Mosey round Morpeth

Within easy commuting distance of Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and nearby Ashington is the town of Morpeth, the largest town in, and administrative capital of Northumberland.

With the aid of the Tourist Information Office and a map, I explored a selection of varied short and longer day walks around Morpeth town centre and the surrounding areas, including Cottingwood Common, Carlisle Park, Bluebell Woods, Newminster Abbey remains, Lady’s Walk, the Wansbeck Valley, Bothal and Mitford.

Take a look at Morpeth Mooching and download the routes from ViewRanger if you are interested in these walks.

If you or your company enjoy my routes, use them for groups and / or for profit, I would be grateful if you would consider becoming a supporter in order that I can upload more. More information can be found on theSupporting Me page.

Thanks. Rose 🌹🙏🏼

Snaps from The Sill

After a very busy summer at this new centre, I decided to sit it out until things calmed down a bit before taking some pictures. These are a few snaps taken during a quiet term-time November weekday at The Sill Centre and YHA on Hadrian’s Wall. It is within easy reach of Housesteads Roman Fort, Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum, as well as some of the most iconic parts of the wall.

If you are thinking of visiting the centre or staying at the YHA, you can find some suggested day walks with GPX at Roman Roaming, and an account of the whole national trail at Hadrian’s Wall Path.

The Sill Entrance
Entrance to The Sill, Northumberland
The Sill
The Sill Main Entrance, Northumberland
The Sill front face
The front face at The Sill, Northumberland
The Sill canopy
Wooden canopy at The Sill, Northumberland
The Sill Roof
End view of The Sill with terrace, cafe and grassland roof
View from The Sill roof garden
View from The Sill grassland roof
The Sill Museum
Display space, The Sill, Northumberland

Video

3 Roman Romps

With the recent opening of The Sill on Hadrian’s Wall, complete with its shiny new Youth Hostel, I decided to put together a collection of day hikes which incorporate some of the excellent Roman sites, such as Housesteads, Vindolanda, Chesters and the Roman Army Museum, along the Northumbrian section of the wall.

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian’s Wall sites in Northumberland

So, if you enjoy history, archaeology, ancient walls, forts, turrets, milecastles and temples, but don’t have the time to do the complete National Trail, Roman Roaming offers three moderate hikes between 5 and 10 miles long. Together they offer a great introduction to this famous World Heritage Site. The page includes maps, photos, videos and GPX downloads.

Housesteads
Housesteads Roman Fort

Dear Northumberland National Park

I don’t often feel moved to comment on the stewardship of the places I visit, but as I have spent over 15 years walking in this area, I feel entitled to make some comments about Northumberland National Park.

As I still regard myself as a guest in the countryside, I have always tried to be respectful and leave no trace. However I am sometimes confronted by enormous traces left by other parties which leave me feeling that my efforts are a bit one sided. Walkers in Northumberland presently need to work around the management of vast Forestry Commission plantations, a huge man made reservoir which occupies an entire valley, privately owned hunting, shooting and fishing estates, and live firing on the military ranges at Otterburn which occupy 23% of the National Park. Some of these activities leave me wondering about their long term effects on the delicate terrain of the Northumbrian and border uplands.

View of heather burning from the Cheviot
View of heather burning from the Cheviot

Heather burning

Large parts of the Cheviot Hills have been completely given over to the sport of grouse shooting. The management of these enormous private estates involves feeding and protecting the grouse, creating an environment in which they will breed, eliminating predators such as the Hen Harrier, and muirburn (burning heather) to create new growth for the young grouse to feed on. These practices are damaging the whole ecosystem of the upland areas in many areas, leading to flooding in the valleys, the extinction of certain species and the creation of an unsightly landscape which deters the outdoor community from coming to the Cheviot Hills.

Aerial view of heather burning in the Cheviot Hills
Aerial view of heather burning in the Cheviot Hills. Google maps ©

After reading about the movement which lead to the creation of national parks and the opening up of private land for working people to use after the war, I can’t help feeling that Northumberland was somehow left out of this movement. With no burning and grazing, these hills would slowly be overgrown by shrubs like gorse and fast growing trees such as birch. Looking at the present landscape, I find it hard to even imagine what that alternative landscape might look like.

Path erosion between Scald Hill and the Cheviot
Path erosion between Scald Hill and the Cheviot

Erosion

In other national parks, much time and money is devoted to path and landscape maintenance by organisations such as Fix the Fells in the Lake District National Park, and Moors for the Future in the Peak District. This is done precisely because the National Parks are aware that the revenue created by these popular areas is an enormous asset to the region as a whole. As one of the less populated parks, Northumberland sometimes seems to be more focussed on supporting local businesses than with investing in the landscape.

Path damage and erosion on The Cheviot
Path damage and erosion on The Cheviot

Some of the more popular trails around The Cheviot and Simonside, without proper maintenance, have become huge sunken scars. I have tried to point my camera away from some of this, but now I wish I hadn’t, because some footpaths are in a bad state and need urgent maintenance work. If the decision not to invest more in protecting the landscape is a purely economic one, then perhaps the benefits of attracting walkers, runners and cyclists needs to be properly costed out in this potentially attractive area.

My GPX Routes

I have been gradually adding day routes onto Viewranger 👣 for some time. As long as the routes don’t seem to involve any hazards, I have made them public and free for people to download on an ad hoc basis. As I have realised how helpful good quality downloads can be, I decided to start adding GPX files for all my day routes and publishing some routes retrospectively to replace the slightly vague descriptions I had been giving on early YouTube and blog descriptions. I have also been improving and standardising the route information provided with the downloads.

Viewranger
My Viewranger profile

There are now over 40 free, downloadable routes on Viewranger. I am pleased to see that there has been a steady interest in downloading these routes, so I have added links to Viewranger from my blog posts and YouTube. I hope you will find them helpful if you are considering walks in this part of the world, and that they will work well in conjunction with the blog posts and videos.

Salters Road
Hartside to Salter’s Road route map on Viewranger courtesy of Ordnance Survey ©

If you or your company enjoy my routes or use them for groups and / or for profit, I would be really grateful if you would consider supporting me so that I can increase the number of routes which are available to download.

Happy Hiking. Rose🌹

Exploring the coastline

Since I returned to my blog after some time away, I have been trying to improve my videos. To do this I have planned several clusters of walks using my new car club car. A couple of months ago I did 3 walks on the North Northumbrian coast between Holy Island (Lindisfarne) and Berwick upon Tweed in the Northumberland Coast AONB. To be honest it was a disappointing trip because the weather was a mixed bag for the new videos I wanted to make, and the route recording didn’t work well for the routes I wanted to upload. However I did the walks anyway, made the videos and uploaded the routes and put it down to experience.

I have finally written them up because they remain beautiful walks, and that is the most important thing in spite of my bad luck on the day. So do take a look at my new Coastline Collections page and I hope the sun shines for you if you visit this lovely part of the Northumbrian coast.

Coastline
Coastline Collections: Clockwise from top left – Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island North Shore, Cocklawburn Beach, Holy Island dune path.

Also in other news I have finally uploaded my first talkie. I have overcome the urge to delete everything with my voice in it and uploaded my first walk video with a commentary. I hope you enjoy the video if not the commentary.

The Farne Islands revisited

This is the time of year that I start to get restless for a trip offshore to see the seabirds and the grey seals. A quick glance at the weather and the bus timetable, with the bonus of online booking, and I was off on the long bus journey up the coast to revisit the Fabulous Farnes.

The Farne Islands are a group of islands off the coast of Northumberland. There are between 15 and 20 islands depending on the tide. They are scattered between 1½ – 5 miles (2.5–7.5 km) from the mainland and divided into the Inner and the Outer islands.

At this time of year there is thankfully much to see from the bus with the sun shining, the trees greening up, the daffodils at their best, and the colours gradually returning to the sea and the skies.

IMG_4498
St Cuthbert II, Seahouses Harbour. Billy Shiels Boat Trips.

My ticket included a cruise of the islands from Seahouses with a landing on Inner Farne bird reserve for an hour. As well as raising my spirits after northern winters, I used the  opportunity of another trip to re-record a video of the trip which incorporates the best short walk in north eastern England.

Among the birds and animals I saw on this trip were Puffins, Grey Seals, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Shags but it varies at different times of year. The onboard commentary and the NT Ranger’s talk provide plenty of specialised information on what birds are there and the history of the islands.

Inner Farne Circular
Inner Farne Circular walk route. Map by National Trust ©

With thanks to the crew of the St Cuthbert II from Billy Shiels Boat Trips (Other cruises are available) and the National Trust Rangers on Inner Farne for a great day out and a reminder that there is more to the Farne Islands than the puffins.

Caves, carvings and crags

As well as the geographical posts which focus on a particular area or valley, I have been gradually creating themed walk collections from my Northumberland routes which I can add to as and when. Sometimes it is interesting to focus on one aspect or feature of an area, which can then be done as a group. So far there are walk collections in the Northumberland section featuring the coast, castles, waterfalls and short walks.

I’ve always had a soft spot for a sacred site or a cave, so my latest collection Rock Routes features some of my personal favourite geological, historical and archaeological places in Northumberland with links to GPS files.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 11.10.27
Clockwise: Roughting Linn Rock Art, St Cuthbert’s Cave, McCartney’s Cave, Simonside Hills

As well as videos, I am gradually enriching my blog by adding more maps, data sheets and GPS links to all my posts. I hope you will enjoy these moderate walks which are all lovely in different ways.