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.

Creating a walk

Having created a long distance route from a map for a challenge event, I was reminded that following pre-existing routes with signs, guides, waymarks, apps and other hikers for company is reassuring and even soporific at times. However as you may know, once you can absorb the information contained in a  map, it becomes easier to create a route of your own. If you have ever looked at Foul Weather Alternatives or taken a short cut, then you have created your own walk.

OS Maps
OS Maps

My background has involved following a lot of other people’s routes, and a helpful spell of route checking for the Ramblers. Their training covered areas such as safety, legality, accessibility, topography, themes and focal points on routes. There are then two stages involved in the process of creating a route. One involves looking at the route on your map and in satellite view (which can reveal inaccuracies in the map), and the other is to reccy the route on foot with all these issues in mind.

Maps
Harvey Maps

What should a good route involve?

The legality of a route is essential if you are offering it for other people to follow. It is therefore good to familiarise yourself with the symbols which denote what type of track it is; right of way, bridle way etc and any rules and exemptions which apply.

Camping Signs
Route signage

Safety is a crucial issue so it is important to be aware of any potential hazards such as river’s in spate, slippery rocks, eroded tracks or obstructions such as fallen trees. You should then try to incorporate these into your route data. 

tree trunk
Fallen tree

In case of access issues and the use of wheeled vehicles, it is helpful to mention any steps or stiles on the route and a note on the condition of the tracks i.e whether they are full of potholes or overgrown.

Boardwalk
Boardwalk

Focal Points

The received wisdom when I trained was that a good walk should involve a focal point/s. This could be a view, or historic, natural, sacred, architectural or topographic features in the case of a day hike. In the case of a distance hike there is the opportunity to introduce a theme or feature such as the Pennines (Pennine Way), historic landmarks (Hadrian’s Wall), Abbeys (Borders Abbeys Way) or geographical features such as a river (Speyside Way). A walk could also follow a person’s life (John Muir Trail) or encompass a pilgrimage route (Camino di Santiago).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Steps on St Cuthbert’s Way

Questions

When working from the map, the following questions could be considered when creating a day hike:

Are the start and finish accessible?
Is the walk is do-able?
What are the gradients like?
Has it got a gradual start?
Does it have variety?
Does it include suitable rest places and shelter?
Are there any avoidable eyesores?

For a distance hike you could add these questions to your list:

How far apart are the resupply points?
Where are the water supplies?
Is there a variety of accommodation?
Is it possible to backpack the route?
Are refreshments available?

Summary

This is just a sketch of some of the issues and questions to bear in mind when walking somebody else’s route or creating your own. It can be interesting to evaluate the decisions which have been made for you on pre-existing routes, and to try and improve on them on your own walk. This can become the first step towards creating your own.

With thanks to the Ramblers for the experience, opportunities and training.

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🌹

Books, Maps and Digital

I have quirky preferences about books. The world of routes in particular, has become more complex than it used to be. Personally I like to have real, paper route and route reference books rather than ebooks. I also enjoy paperback long distance walk guides, which I tend to read beforehand to save weight. However, I usually read my fiction, adventure and technical books on my e book reader.

Books
Outdoor book and map shelfie

Regarding navigation, books and maps, I prefer to keep my options open and switch from one method to another as and when the need arises, having lost maps and had phone battery run out. I explore maps, route books and apps to get ideas for my walks as well as downloading and recording routes on Viewranger. I have also been known to take photos of relevant pages in route books, so I can read them on my phone as I walk. At times I have relied entirely on digital GPX routes, but personally I am finding that maps and books remain important resources for me. I now try to ensure that I have a map and a digital route back up on all walks, but I am happy with either on it’s own.

It is a strange hybrid world that outdoor users live in now, with proponents of different methods hotly debating which is best. Recent discussion has turned to the unreliability of some downloads by or for inexperienced users.

Berwickshire Coastal Path
Berwickshire Coastal Path route

In acknowledgement of the good use I have put my day route books to, even in this digital age, I thought it would be a timely moment to mention a few of the old school route and route reference books I use as well as the downloads:

Reference Books

  • Townsend, Chris. ‘World Mountain Ranges – Scotland’ Cicerone. 2010
  • ‘The UK Trailwalker’s Handbook’ Eighth Edition. LDWA. 2009

Route Books

Northumberland:

  • Bagshaw, Chris et al. ’50 Walks in Durham and Northumbria’ AA. 2010
  • Baker, Edward. ‘Walking the Cheviots’ Sigma. 1996. Out of print.
  • Baker, Edward. ‘Walks in the Secret Kingdom’ Sigma. 1998. Out of Print
  • Brooks & Conduit. ‘Northumberland, The Borders and Hadrian’s Wall’ Pathfinder. 2000
  • Hall, Alan. ‘Walking in Northumberland’ Cicerone. 2010
  • Hallewell, Richard. ‘Short Walks in Northumbria’ The Ramblers. Collins. 2011

Scotland:

  • Hall, Alan. ‘The Border Country – A Walker’s Guide’ Cicerone. 2010
  • Jackson, Peter. ’25 Walks. The Scottish Borders’ Mercat Press. 2009
  • Turnbull, Ronald. ‘Ben Nevis and Glencoe’ Cicerone. 2007
  • Scotways. ‘Scottish Hill Tracks’ Scottish Mountaineering Trust. 2011.

Cumbria:

  • Goodier, Steve. ‘The Low Fells. Top 10 Walks’. Northern Eye. 2012
  • Marshall, Stuart. ‘Walking the Wainwrights’. Sigma. 2013

Downloads

My go-to sites for digital downloads are:

  • LDWA website (Long Distance Walkers Association) for long distance walks in Britain (downloads only available to members)
  • Walkhighlands.co.uk for long distance walks and day walks throughout Scotland
  • Viewranger navigation site and app on which I upload and download routes.

Rose 🌹 April 2017.

If you would like to recommend any new or interesting route books, sites, apps or maps, please let me know.

Chesters5
Good paths heading north to Ingram