shewhomust: (bibendum)
This morning D. announced that he fancied going out to lunch, maybe in Whitby; [ profile] durham_rambler said he has important papers to read, and couldn't possibly; the message from [ profile] valydiarosada was that goingt out to lunch was a fine idea but she wouldn't be leaving her bed anytime soon; and I likewise thought thar 'out' and 'lunch' were good, but a three hour round trip sisn't tempt me in the least. As a result D. headed off alone, and was last heard of at the Lion in Blakey, and the rest of us went out rather later and lunched at the Black Bull in Frosterley.

The sun was below the hills by the time we finished our lunch (around three o' clock) but instead of driving back the way we had gone, along the river valley, we carried on, further west, and then climbed out of the dale and back into the sunshine. The high moors were dusted with snow, and although I don't make new year resolutions, I thought, this year we must come here more often.

Home through the lengthening shadows and the reddening sky, and the sun just setting (again) as we arrived.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
A visit from [ profile] valydiarosada and D. is always an entertainment in itself, of course, and we did all the things with which we habitually amuse ourselves at the New Year: we may have drunk rather less wine than usual, since one of our number was taking painkillers which should not be mixed with alcohol, but we built fires and did crosswords and waited for the New Year to strike, and so on.

Three things in particular:
  • We watched the special 'what if Sherlock were the Victorian Sherlock Holmes?' Sherlock. It's only now, trying to encapsulate that concept, that I realise quite how twisty that concept is. On the other hand, it didn't bother me becaise I wasn't trying to rationalise it. I switched off critical brain, sat back and enjoyed the eye-candy, and the jokes. If you feel that 'switch off brain' is an odd way to approach a Sherlock Holmes story, I wouldn't disagree, but I find it works pretty well for this particular version. On this occasion it carried me all the way through to the spoilers ), at which point my brain switched itself on again and said "You WHAT?!" On reflection, since more spoilers ) perhaps the whole Victorian narrative last one, I promise! ). Which is even more worrying.

  • We were lingering over breakfast on Saturday morning, not quite ready to drive out to visit D.'s sister and brother-in-law, when someone rang up, claiming to be from Windows Online Help calling about a problem with our Windows personal computer. You'd think he'd have spotted the danger signal when [ profile] durham_rambler asked him "Which one?" "Your Windows personal computer!" "Yes, but which one? The notebook, the desktop, the Windows8 machine, the Windows 10..." "All of them, all your Windows personal computer!" Or perhaps when he repeated "I am windows Online Help!", and [ profile] durham_rambler said "No, I am windows Online Help." But he persevered, insisting that we switch on a computer, so we thought 'well, he's asking for it,' and switched on the nearest computer (my little notebook). This must have gone on for the best part of half an hour. Even when I told him that I had no intention of connecting to his server, that I wouldn't dream of doing anything so insecure, he didn't hang up, he just passed me on to his supervisor. I suppose this means that the failure belongs to the supervisor rather than to him.

  • D.'s sister and brother-in-law have recently bought a house in Alston, so we drove up Weardale, up into the cloud and out the other side. The weather was grey and damp, but not too wet to walk to the Angel for lunch. This was the same pub where we had lunched a while ago on a birthday jaunt to Alston, and it served good pub food, but was running out of drink: the landlord explained that the brewery delivers once a week on a Friday, but since we had just had two Bank Holiday Fridays in a row, even filling the cellar to capacity before Christmas had not prevented the barrels running dry. About the only thing in town that was dry, though. We walked back along a circuitous route, and I took the year's first photos. This one gives some idea of the extreme lushness of the moss:


    The drive home in the dark seemed longer and more winding than the drive out. Eastgate was very enthusiastically lit for Christmas, though, and I liked the glimpse, as we passed, of the full-sized nativity scene in the bus shelter, with the star over the door.
shewhomust: (guitars)
Shortly before we went on holiday, I found out that Michelle Shocked would be playing Gateshead's Caedmon Hall the Saturday after our return. I didn't take time out to research it, I just booked the tickets: I've no idea what she's been doing for the last couple of decades (or so), but I have some of her early recordings (some of them in media I can no longer play) and I love Short, Sharp Shocked dearly. With luck she'd play some old favourites in among the new stuff...

Ha! I had no idea. What Michelle Shocked has been doing lately, it seems, is waging war on the internet, because it is the means by which copyright is being destroyed and artists deprived of their livelihood (I'm not disputing this, by the way). And the present tour, which has the title Bootleg This!, is one of her weapons. Its purpose is, at least in part. to promote a book of the same title, and its strategy is the performance, end to end ("soup to nuts" of her album Short, Sharp Shocked.

What could be better? A brilliant live performance of some great songs, with some joining in, and a little gratuitous singalong stuff, and some anecdotes (about learning to drive in East Texas, for example, in a car with a manual gearshift). I (almost) forgave her for turning up late, I forgave her her conviction that she was in Newcastle (Gateshead, damnit!). Next time, I wouldn't mind hearing something new (though I wouldn't insist on it).

To add insult to injury, the reason Michelle Shocked arrived late was the she had travelled up from Manchester via Allendale, where she had stopped by to see Martin Stephenson at his soundcheck. But hang on, if she was going to drop by in Allendale, couldn't she have waited until the following day, when we would be there for the Allen Valleys Folk Festival?

Next morning, we took the scenic route up to Allendale: up Weardale, to Rookhope and across the top down to Allenheads. It's a beautiful drive, but sometimes I just look and think "Pretty!", and sometimes - and this was one of those times - it's more emotionally charged. Perhaps it's because we've hardly been out on the hills at all this summer, or perhaps because the roadsides are coming into their autumn colours, the leaves turning to yellow in the sunshine and the fireweed below all shades of brown and orange, rust and apricot.

We arrived in Allendale town with just enough time to pick up our wristbands at the village hall, and lunch on soup (sweet potato and rosemary, thick and warming and discreetly seasoned) at the café there, then up the hill for some music.

There were two strands of concerts taking place in two venues, and choices had to be made, but we atarted at Deneholm with virtuoso Northumbrian piper Chris Ormston, followed by Stewart Hardy and George Welch. I'm a fan of Stewart Hardy's fiddle playing, but hadn't heard this duo before, and the publicity which stressed their humour and spontaneity (and may have used the word 'shambolic') didn't entirely appeal; we'd try it, we thought, and if we didn't like it we'd go down the hill and see whether we preferred what was on offer there. I could, it turned out, have done with less clowning, which kept threatening to take over, but the music was excellent: George Welch is a delicate guitarist and a competent singer of well-chosen songs (I particularly liked Archie Fisher's Men of Worth) and as a duo... Well, here's George Welch's website and here's what Stewart Hardy has to say on the subject.

We thought we were walking out on them earlier than was strictly necessary, when a break between songs fell at a quarter to the hour and we left, because the length of the preamble meant that the next break would come to late. But in fact we only just had time to walk down to the church for the start of Horizontal Sunday's set - which is to say that we would have caught the start of their set had we not been delayed by a cake stall in the lych gate. As it was, they were in full swing when we came in, and seemed to be enjoying the space and the light and the acoustics of the venue: it was a bright and lively set, and went by much too fast. Next up, after a break which gave me time to go out and find coffee, was guitarist Michael Chapman - and he was a fine guitarist but something about him just didn't click for me, so we left early and came home via Waitrose in Hexham (and beautiful evening light on the hills and the Tyne valley).
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Mad March hareYesterday was bright and fresh, even the occasional dark clouds seemed to shine, and if they threatened rain they didn't deliver. We packed the first picnic of the year and took Sue for a walk up Weardale.

We wanted a route that we knew would work, so we chose a walk we've done before, most recently last August, when the heather was in bloom. There aren't many wild flowers out yet, a few celandines and one unrxpected patch of white violets, but there were daffodils everywhere along the roadsides.

This map shows yesterday's route; the only real difference from last time is that instead of coming back down into the valley through fields, we followed the lane past the farms of High, Middle and Low Fawnlees (hone of this weathervane) and finally the rather splendid Fawnlees Hall - a marginally longer route, but not as taxing.

And home, feeling very pleased with ourselves.
shewhomust: (Default)
Todays walk was a version of one we've done before (and more than once; here's the map that [ profile] durham_rambler made when he was planning it.

Our outward route was the same as last time: we parked at White Kirkley (I love that name) above Frosterley, and followed the Bollihope Burn through the old quarries, then climbed up - and up - following shooting tracks out onto the high heather moorland. There were all the flowers of summer - harebells and tormentil and eyebright, and the heather in purple bloom - but the breeze was cool and sometimes gusty, and the skies were dramatic, grey more often than blue, though it never quite rained, and we did see some sunshine. We lunched where the track makes a hairpin bend and crosses Shaftwell Syke, a pretty stream flowing down between mossy banks, and where an ols bridge provides a wall to sit on.

Then up again and finally out onto what feels like the top of the world, flat uplands with wide views across the moorland to the dales beyond. We left the broad track and followed a narrow path; at first it was a relief to be walking on turf rather than the loose stony surface of the track, but as it grew wetter underfoot, and the need to watch my footing meant that I wasn't really looking around me, this too became tiring. At last we came to the wall that forms a boundary between the moorland and the valley sides, and Weardale opened up on our left. The Elephant trees - the clump of trees which are visible on the skyline from so much of the dale - were ahead of us, but before we reached them we turned through a gate in the wall and walked down the farm road, past the old barn and back to our starting point.

The old barn
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Heather uplands

It wasn't raining yesterday, so we grasped the chance to go out for a walk.

We parked at the eastern end of Wolsingham - the Upper Town, apparently - and climbed up onto the moorland abpve the Tunstall reservoir, then down to the reservoir and back up the other side of the valley to Park Walls, and zigzagged our way down to Wolsingham, roughly following the Waskerley Beck. [ profile] durham_rambler made a map of the route, but he's used the Ordnance Survey website, which requires me to download some software before I can view it; he measures it at just over seven and a half miles.

It's familiar territory, but there were still new things to see: how could I not have seen the 'Holy Well' just above Holywell Farm? There was a heron by the reservoir, and at the picnic site a family of ducks seem to have displaced the chaffinches which used to be quite fearless in their quest for crumbs. We hadn't been up to Park Walls before: it's a tangle of ruined buildings, like so many old farms in Weardale, and we picked our way through the surrounding bog and speculated about whether the name had anything to do with the Bishop's deer park. And we had a fine view of the very visible development at Holywood on the edge of Wolsingham (houses like this one clustered around an older 'Holywood Hall').
shewhomust: (Default)
I don't know when we were last out walking for a whole day in the summer sun: not this year, I suspect. We had some very enjoyable short walks during our week on Lindisfarne - the traditional dawn circuit, the walk from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle and back, my last evening circuit among the orchids and the lapwings, which took me out to the north shore - but these were all about three miles under changeable skies with sprinklings of rain.

This morning we decided to do the circuit from Edmundbyers and back, and it wasn't until we were setting off that we realised quite how the sun was blazing (and how open that walk is). We should probably have thought again, and headed for somewhere with a little shade, but we were stubborn, and stuck with Plan A. It was still a beautiful walk, but also a bit of an endurance test.

Early purple

I've described the route before - and [ profile] durham_rambler has made a map, but it doesn't seem to be working.

What stood out on this occasion was the purple: spikes of foxgloves everywhere along the dry stone walls, and once we were above that, heather coming into bloom much earlier than I had expected. There were shaggy cows with shaggy calves, sharing the fields with sheep who weren't shaggy at all. There were the usual lapwing patrols (and once or twice we saw lapwings quite close to us on the other side of a wall), and plenty of small brown birds, and as we passed the farm just before we came back into the village, a great commotion of swallows.

ETA: [ profile] durham_rambler has fixed the map.
shewhomust: (Default)
Sundays walk had best be described as "promising; needs work". I should, for a start, have known better than to let [ profile] durham_rambler persuade me that I could handle a nine-mile walk, of which we had to complete six miles before we reached the farm shop where we planned to lunch. We could perhaps reduce that a little by taking the road rather than looping through the fields (but it is a very busy road), but if I still felt that was too long, we'd have to think of somewhere else to walk altogether...

Fording the footbridgeThe plan was simple: cross the river on the footbridge out of Wolsingham, follow the Weardale Way up into the forest, then cut back down to cross the river, lunch at Bradley Burn Farm Shop and then pick up the Weardale Way again along the river and back into Wolsingham.

It's a pleasant walk along the river - a bit wet right now, but at first it looked as if this side stream was the biggest obstacle we were going to meet (yes, that's the footbridge under the waterfall - but the footing was good, and it wasn't a problem). The climb through the forest was frustrating, as forest walking often is, because for much of the time all we could see was trees. There's nothing wrong with trees, especially in late autumn, when the last lacy tatters of gold and russet leaves flutter from the tracery of bare twigs. But every now and then a view of the valley would open up before us, and whenever it did, the path would turn its back and plunge back into the woods (and always uphill; I wished we'd thought to bring some water).

We made good time on the uplands, despite all the climbing, but somehow lost it all as we returned to the valley. Farmland is always trickier walking than it should be, and what with mud and cattle and a locked gate and some unclear waymarking around Bradley Hall - which is a moated medieval manor house I had never noticed before and was by now too tired and hungry to nose around as I might otherwise have liked to - it was two o' clock when we reached the farm shop.

Lunch was good. There must have been something wrong with the laws of nature, because I had the all-day breakfast, and [ profile] durham_rambler didn't, but we were both much restored by it. But we now had three miles back into Wolsingham and not much more than an hour of daylight, and although I could have tackled the distance, I was reluctant to do it against the clock. So I stayed where I was, and waited for [ profile] durham_rambler to return to collect me. This was pathetic, but left to himself he walks faster than I do, and when he told me that even so he'd felt pressured to take it faster than he was comfortable with, I felt I'd made the right call.
shewhomust: (Default)
We haven't walked much in Weardale this summer; we've been busy and we've been away and other good reasons, but still, we haven't, and we've missed it. A couple of days ago, [ profile] durham_rambler pointed out that the weather has been dry lately, so this would be a good time to revisit a favourite walk which involves crossing several small streams (not to mention various boggy areas), and passes through the abandoned - and now I think completely vanished - farmhouse at Ayhope Shield.

So that's what we did )

ETA: [ profile] durham_rambler made a Google map - and confesses that the walk is 7 miles, as I'd thought, or 8, as he told me, but 9.12 - substantially longer than anything we've done recently. We need to get out more...
shewhomust: (Default)
Just for my own reference, so that when I want to know when we last went to a certain place, or where we have walked in the last year (it does happen), I will be able to find out.

Back at the beginning of the month, we overnighted after a dinner party with S, and took her walking in the grounds of Cragside. A hot heavy day, after a pariod of rain, so we seemed to spend all our time picking our way through muddy woodland paths, screened from the view and stifling. We can't have walked far at all, though the route twisted so that I really can't be sure. Conclusion: save this one for June, when the rhododendrons are in bloom.

Yesterday, wondering how purple the heather would be on the moors, we devised a walk around the Smiddy Shaw and Waskerley reservoirs. The answer was that the purple was good, but not at its peak and it was also extremely grey. The forecast was for overcast skies, and drizzle in the Lake District, but I think they were confused about which side of the North Pennines was which, but the grey grew gradually wetter and wetter, so when we climbed out onto the railway walk, instead of walking on to Waskerley reservoir, we walked the other way, back to the 'station' where we'd left the car. We drove round to the reservoir and picnicked at the picnic site, but in the car, and then, since it didn't seem to be clearing, came home. Conclusion: a promising route, worth trying again.
shewhomust: (Default)
We had no particular plans for Easter, but in the last seven days, Monday to Monday, we have:

  • been visited by D., and done our best to entertain him by inviting two separate guests to two separate dinners, plus one drive up Weardale, because we felt like an excursion and had no particular plans;

  • seen Ryhope Pumping Engine at work - Victorian heavy engineering, driven by steam, run by volunteers, housed in red brick waterworks gothic;

  • shopped at the Co-op in Houghton - all part of the quest to reduce our reliance on Sainsbury's and Tesco's (the Co-op, alas, is not the answer, but at least it isn't the problem);

  • Heron watching
  • inspired by how beautiful Weardale was looking when we drove that way, returned for a walk, and explored Harehope Quarry (about which we first heard from Vane Women, who put together a book there): willow sculptures and a heron and Frosterley marble, oh, my! Here, have a picture - in fact, have several! The route of the walk needs work: the first part, Harehope to White Kirkley, was new to us, and splendid; the mid-section, along the Bollihope Burn, was familiar and beautiful, but very busy around the caravan park; then there was an awkward bit of road work as far as Hill End, before a pleasant descent through the fields back to Frosterly;

  • and, just when we thought all the holidaying was over and we were back to work, had a surprise visit from [ profile] samarcand and family, which was an ubexpected treat.

Signs of Easter observed: there have been hot cross buns for breakfast. There were lambs gambolling in the fields along the Bollihope Burn; also a surprising number of dead rabbits - some of which had been dead longer than others, so it's not just that someone particularly thorough had been out shooting. This must have set my mind running on macabre lines, because when I started seeing fragments of something white and smooth along the burn, my first thought was that it was something nasty. Then I started seeing shards of shell, and realised I was seeing the aftermath of a massacre of boiled eggs. Even then, it took a moment before I remembered the date - Pace Egg Day - someone had been rolling pace eggs down the sloping riverbanks (as you do, and the winner is the person whose egg rolls furthest before it breaks up). Signs of spring and approaching summer, too: I put on sunscreen for the first time this year.
shewhomust: (Default)
Out walking on Sunday, for the first time in far too long. It was fine enough that we took sandwiches, despite it being November; but changeable enough that our planned route was in Hamsterley Forest (familiar territory, good paths, seats to sit on while eating those sandwiches). [ profile] durham_rambler proposed what he called a "twiddle" to lengthen the route a little, along the Bedburn and then up, to enter the forest from the far end - and, as happens, the twiddle was half the length of the walk. But it was pleasant walking, up the green valley side and out onto the moor, and the paths were good, if a little wet underfoot - in fact the only really difficult stretch came when we were back on known tracks, descending into the forest down great ruts that had been torn open, from the look of them, by tracked vehicles and torrential rain.

ChiaroscuroSunday was fine, though, brilliant sunshine appearing suddenly from behind a cloud and highlighting some detail of the landscape: the red roof of a farm, a group of sheep, the trunks of silver birches in the woods along the field edge. I was thinking about how sundials are not the alone in counting only the sunny hours, how I'm much more likely to take photographs when the sun is shining. Which is foolish, because strong light and shade are so difficult to photograph: a shadow which the eye discounts becomes a sharp divide across a photograph. I know this, I was reflecting on this, and still at the end of the day, when I looked at the pictures I'd taken, the camera had repeatedly failed to see what I'd seen - or rather, had taken what I'd seen and damped down its brightness. The sheep grazing under the trees did not flare bright against the green hillside, the pine forest whose boundary ran parallel to Stanhope Lane was not framed by the muted shades of the dry stone wall but outlined in black by the silhouette of wall and tree. Even the snap I had taken from the footbridge across the Bedburn, where I had remembered the light falling in slices of black and white across the water - even that was toned down.

By the time we returned to the car it was dusk, and we drove home through a dove grey twilight shading to a soft rosy sunset - which would have been delightful except that it was just after four o' clock. How did the days get so short, and the shortest day still a month off? Back in Durham, the Christmas lights had been turned on.
shewhomust: (Default)
Tunstall reservoir

At last, a fine Sunday with no other commitments, and we thought about where we would like to walk. Nowhere that involves fording streams - the summer has been so wet that that would be tricky - but the rain has filled the reservoirs for the first time in years, so maybe somewhere we could enjoy the scenery without the usual muddy margin?

There's a pleasant walk around Tunstall reservoir, which we've done in the past by parking in Wolsingham, and walking up to the reservoir. Today [ profile] durham_rambler suggested parking by the A68 (there's a picnic area at High Houselop which would have been ideal, had it not been closed) and walking down to the reservoir. My spacial awareness is not good - by which I mean that my sense of where places are functions by relating them to other known places - so this was disconcerting, but seemed worth a try.

It turned out to be a splendid walk. If we were to do it again - no, make that: when we do it again - I'd try some fine tuning, because as we did it this morning most of the best parts were on the outward journey, and the return had a lot of hard work. But these are details.

The route: we followed the disused railway round the valley side, overshooting the path down through the woods that we had meant to take, choosing instead a path through fields from which we had lovely views of the reservoir as we approached it. Lunch by the reservoir, watching the anglers and the geese all enjoying the water's edge, the across the dam and up - and up and up - at one point keeping pace with a pheasant who was strutting uphill beside the dry stone wall (eventually his mate flew up, startling me, and he followed, over the wall). There was a fair stretch of heather hillside to cross to regain the railway, and that was hard work: the right of way was not a discernible track, so we followed the line of grouse butts as far as we could, a longer way round but not quite such vigorous heather-bashing, but it might be possible to improve this bit of the route.

It wasn't a long walk, but was energetic enough to make me feel I'd done something with my day. And the threatened showers never materialised, and the sun shone for much of the time, which seems to promise well for our autumn holiday (just as well, since we've stared booking ferries).
shewhomust: (Default)
- or, post-industrial elfland revisited.

Today's walk took us along the Bollihope Burn: you come down the hill by the farm, cross the old railway bridge and a green lane takes you between two walls of rock into the old Fine Burn quarry. Follow the burn along - today we crossed the footbridge, and followed the path until we found ourselves in another disused quarry at the other end:

Quarry with no name

Then we followed above the Howden Burn, a long climb up, with a pause near the top for lunch but the steepest, hardest grind after. A fine view from the top, with the Frosterley mast behind us, and the quarry above Tow Law ahead, and then - since the route we had planned looked likely to bring us back to the car sooner than seemed proper, a certain amount of messing about through heather and across country, cutting round across the burn. This was tiring work, but I was very aware that we were walking through bog vegetation (lush cushions of moss, spiky tufts of marsh grass) yet the going was dry and firm; we were walking through heather, but always either crunching across dry stalks or treading through this year's growth. We got off very lightly, and another year, it could have been much more difficult.

As a route, it has potential. Another time I'd try to improve that descent; and another time, I'd start at the other end of the Bollihope Burn, so that the prettiest, easiest stretch of the walk came at the end.
shewhomust: (Default)
A place called 'Hole'I could become tedious, I suppose, formulating phrases in threes (oh my!); but it generates a pleasing title, and I like the process of deciding which three things need to be listed. More prosaically, then, this was the "Mineral Valleys Walk" (or so it said on the waymarks); it took us up out of Ireshopeburn (near the top of Weardale) and then down to the burn by this ruin (a place called "Hole"), up past the grazing sheep and many fluffy lambs, higher still into the lapwing pastures, past a variety opf industrial remains and then along the Harthope Burn to St John's Chapel. We picnicked - first of the season! - above the burn, snuggled into the valley side and with a thin band of larch forest to shelter us from the wind (and screen the view). The grey sky and the tawny hillsides looked more like winter than spring, but the wind was fresh rather than biting, even on the tops. Still, by the time we reached St John's Chapel, either it was raining very slightly or we were walking in low cloud, and we looped back lower on the slopes. We did make the slight detour to visit Newhouse, a spectacular mansion built about 1700 for the agent of the Moor Master (who administered the lead mines on behalf of the owner). We came down from above the house, past the gazebo where the miners used to buy their candles, and found the owner of one of the three sections into which the house has been divided, standing outside smoking his last cigarette. "I'm giving up again," he daid. "I only started again because I've had a bad back, and I've been stuck in the house for three weeks." He half offered to invite us in and show us his staicase, but hesitated because the house wasn't tidy, and we didn't press him because we were fairly muddy ourselves: but we appreciated the offer.

There will be more photographs in due course.
shewhomust: (Default)
It isn't spring yet up the dale; there are lambs in the fields below Stanhope (some of them wearing striking orange waistcoats), but none higher up, and snowdrops, a little past their best, are still the commonest flower.

Side valleyWe followed the Rookhope Burn up from Eastgate to Rookhope, then followed it down again on the other side. The stream tumbles and rushes over rocks and weirs, and you try to admire it without falling in as you negociate the tricky patches of the path; then you hit a stretch where the path is broad and even, and you can look up from your feet to see that the river, too, is running quietly docile alongside as if butter wouldn't melt in its mouth. The banks are spiked with wild-garlic leaves and dog's mercury, and I saw one primrose in flower, looking very pale and huddled up, as if it regretted its rashness. A bird flew down along the river, small, black, flash of white bib, and was gone - but I think it was a dipper.

We climbed up a side valley, and up and up. I looked back to take this photograph, and a moment later a deer ran down the side stream towards me and up the other side. Then on and up, out of the valley and into curlew country, over the ridge and down into Rookhope by the Weardale Way (which is not, at this point, the scenic route), for lunch at the Rookhope Inn.

The outward route was the less familiar part of the walk; but returning to Eastgate along the path which we normally walk in the opposite direction (as part of a quite different walk) gave it a freshness, an unfamiliarity. I'm still not sure whether we walked part of the way on a different path, nearer to the river, or whether it was just the change of perspective - and perhaps the change of season, too, the views opened up between the leafless trees - that made it seem so. The path picked its way between the burn and the ruined remains of the lead mining that was once the main industry of the dale, fallen stones and fallen trees alike slathered with thick cushions of moss, and then climbed to the more familiar slopes - with a fine open view of Weardale and the ridge where the chimney of the cement works no longer stands - and down past the farm with all the chickens, back to Eastgate.
shewhomust: (Default)
The shooting boxWhat with the need to claim squares for the Use Your Paths challenge, and the cold grey summer, we have not been out of the hills at all this year. And suddenly it's mid-August, and the heather's in bloom, and we woke to a beautiful bright morning - which had clouded over by the time we were ready to go out, but never mind, time to cross off a few squares in Weardale.

Walking through heather sounds very romantic, and it's not too bad if it's this year's growth, still quite soft and low to the ground; tolerable if it's been burnt back, spiky and inclined to leave black smudges on your trousers (which are in any case becoming quite wet around the hems); but the full grown heather is knee high, springy and thick enough to conceal substantial boulders or ditches that I'm liable to fall over (or into), not to mention the grouse who start up from underfoot with a loud clatter. Hard work, and since it's so long since I've done any of this kind of walking, I'm out of practice: by the time we reached the shooting box where we would stop and eat our picnic, I was exhausted.

The afternoon was mostly easier walking, along tracks and grassy paths. There were some interesting moments, obviously: the path that plunged through bracken over a sheer drop, the alleged ford through the Stanhope Burn (it has been a very wet summer). But there were also more opportunities to look around, and enjoy wide views along the flanks of the hills - I've missed this, and it was good to be out.

Also: today is my brother's birthday. We arrived home to find a postcard from him and my sister-in-law: they have been staying with friends in Keighley, visited Saltaire and bought a Moomin postcard at Salt's Mill for us.
shewhomust: (Default)
On the edge of Weardale there is what was once a Prisoner of War camp, rescued and patched up by local history enthusiasts. I had never visited it before this weekend, but had it in mind as somewhere which might interest Jan, who is fascinated by the history of the Home Front; and when we learned that, in the weeks before Christmas there would also be a German Christmas Market there, how could we resist?

Herzlich WilkommenIf a German Christmas Market at a Prisoner of War camp sounded a little incongruous, we didn't know the half of it (and indeed, it was not until I checked the camp's web site before writing this that I discovered that the prisoners held there were in fact Italians).

We arrived at Harperley in a fine grey mist, not quite rain, not quite fog, blurring the sky to white and intensifying the green of the hillsides. The car park perched at the top of the slope, and clinging on the the valley side below it were rows of huts, surrounded by plants and garden ornaments, and festooned with fairy lights: this was Harperley POW camp and Garden Centre. The central roadway led past huts declaring themselves to be gift shops, down to a gateway guarded by a toy soldier and bidding us heartily welcome, in German.

Through the gateway was a courtyard, in the centre of which a few stalls huddled against the damp: but the goods they offered were genuinely German - stollen with a variety of fillings (even, though it had to be fetched from the store when I asked for it, poppyseed), Mozart kugeln (including this rather splendid violin-shaped box, a stall selling nothing but ribbons for the world's most elegant parcels...

Beyond this again, we emerged into open space where one hut had been furnished as if it were a house - rather than a prison - of the period; others looked sad and lonely, as they must have looked to the men detained there.

We loitered and shopped at the stalls, and at the farm shop which lay beyond them (in fact, more of an upmarket grocery store, with a vestibule containing a mini-museum display of wartime goods, displayed as if in the windows of the shop). We decided against lunching in the restaurant, not so much because the vegetarian option was butterbean pie (which gained in authenticity what it lacked in allure) as because the only free table was so heavily decorated for Christmas that we weren't sure it was actually in use for eating.

On our way out we looked into the hut claiming to be the Christmas shop. Jan said that as she neared the door and heard Slade blasting out from within, she knew exactly what kind of Christmas shop it was going to be: maybe, but I'd never seen anything like it. As well as conventional Christmas stars and baubles, there were all kinds of decorations I had not previously associated with Christmas: the tree of owls, for example, which backed onto a tree draped with a pink feather boa. In one of the far corners, an automaton dressed as Santa Claus sat with a teddy bear on his knee, and mimed to the music; in the other - no, words fail me: go and see for yourself.

We made our excuses, and left.
shewhomust: (Default)
Today we did a version of a walk that used to be a favourite of ours, but which we haven't done in a long time: from Stanhope along the river to Eastgate, then up the Rookhope Burn to Rookhope, and on up the incline, along the disused railway and back down into Stanhope.
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