|Total distance:||18.5 km||11.5 miles|
|Average speed:||3.2 km/h||2.0 m.p.h.|
|Height gained:||273 m||890 feet|
|Maximum altitude||243 m||790 feet|
|Total time:||5 hours and 50 mins|
Saturday and the Phoenix are off the Weldon Bridge, near Rothbury. I am Leader of the Day (he who must be obeyed!) which is always easier on a Saturday as there is only one coach to worry about. Saturday walks have a different feel to them. Partly because it’s a slightly different group of people but also because there seems less emphasis on longer walks. So I’ve planned a walk of 11 miles, rather than my usual 15.
We get off along with two other walks and once we’ve sorted ourselves out I have a group of 10 people. After making sure they know to tell me if I’m walking too fast we set off towards our first goal, the Wingates windfarm.
Now windfarms can be quite a divisive subject. Some people resent them, considering them to be a blot on th landscape. I think they are rather graceful. More to the point they are a damn sight less unsightly than the long-term effects of climate change. We have just experienced the warmest February on record and the publication of a report about the dramatic decline in insect populations (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature ) . What more will it take to wake people up to the catastrophic impact that global warming is going to have if we don’t take drastic action now? Certainly the schoolchildren who recently went on strike recognise the vital importance of this issue (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47250424 ). Unfortunately the response of our politicians is to dismiss their concerns. Fiddling while Rome burns has never been a more apposite metaphor. (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-climate-change-school-pupils-protest-lesson-time-teachers-a8781046.html )
Anyway, back to the walk. We walked through the windfarm underneath the massive turbines swooshing overhead, disturbing a female red deer and a hare in the process. Shortly after a our coffee stop we got the first hint that maybe things were not going to go as smoothly as I might have hoped. Our path took us down a narrow defile with a poor path through an area of cleared fell followed by a somewhat tricky stream crossing, with no footbridge or stepping stones which had some members of the group rather anxious.. This was quickly followed by a short diversion when I took us in the wrong direction. An encounter with a Northumbrian gentleman in tweed jacket and deerstalker hat put us back on the right path which led to the Lee Planation.
Now on the map there is a clear right of way through the Lee Plantation. On the ground, things were rather different. The path was indistinct and kept crossing over the, by now, quite large stream. Two crossings were negotiated relatively successfully but a third was one too many and with no obvious route ahead I decided to abandon the wood and escaped out of the side. A short trespass and a bunch of confused looking sheep brought us to a road and some straightforward walking to eventually re-join our planned route along St Oswald’s Way.
St. Oswald’s Way supposedly links some of the places associated with St. Oswald, the King of Northumbria in the early 7th Century, who played a major part in bringing Christianity to his people. Medieval saints seem to have been a peripatetic lot, traversing the British countryside both alive and dead, at least if we are to judge by the number of ’Saints’ ways that now exist. I don’t suppose though that he had a go on the swing.
Despite our diversion we arrived at the Angler’s Arms in plenty of time to get refreshments before the coaches left. The chips were excellent. Thanks to Richard and the staff for looking after us.