Geocaching – our first find!

Whilst I was grafting hard on nightshift, Kel was doing her usual and sat with a glass of wine and the iPad on overdrive. She did find, I don’t know how, an activity that includes a couple of our pass times and an element of fun, which we can introduce to our 6 year old son Oliver. It’s called ‘Geocaching’!

To those who don’t know, this is a kind of Orienteering but with a twist. For a start there’s no running involved, unless you want to that is, it can be fun and all the family can get involved.

It involves finding containers with items in which are hidden around our countryside using grid references and location descriptions which are set out on a website specifically designed for Geocaching. Basically, you get a good sized Tupperware container that is one of those ‘clicky shut’ design. Then place in it any amount of items and also a small note book so that anyone who finds it can leave messages. The idea is when you find the container, either take and item and replace it with something of higher or similar value, or just leave a message for future finders. There’s even an iPhone app for it with a half decent GPS on it.

Anyway, we logged in and found a few in our area, so today we thought we’d have a look and see what sort of stuff is being left and what sort responses are being left.  We were a bit strapped for time so we drove to a place where we could park about quarter mile from where the Cache was hidden.  We both have iPhones and the app so I switched on the GPS took us within about 20 square metres of the site. Obviously if we’d had more time and were in a location unknown to us we would be using a map, just for starters we thought we’d use the app.  The app updated almost instantaneously in relation to the satellite image and our position.

The description said it was hidden by twigs and leaves, I was thinking it was a bit vague as we were at the start of the Castle Eden Dene which is a massive expanse of woodland. At this point we both focused around a massive tree and the area around, within 5 minutes I heard Kel shout, “found it!”. Now I’m not gonna give the location away but the container was indeed full of items, and a note pad with a number of entries. There was a CD, DVD and all sorts of stuff and a laminated instructions card inside. We quickly looked through the container, made an entry in the note pad and replaced it with the original covering.

Throughout the ‘find’ the app was asking questions, if we’ve found it etc.

We trundled back to the car and decided that we have found a new hobby.  Not the most adventurous of activities but if you’re stuck for something to do or want a quirky twist to a hike, try it out!

Durham Coastal Path

Sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky and we both had a day off.  Whilst sipping coffee we decided to do a route we’d been threatening to do since the New Year but shifts (again) and weather dictate.  This morning we got out the map (OS 308) and planned a walk along the Durham Coast path, starting at Nose’s Point near Seaham and ending up at Crimdon near the Little Tern nature reserve.  We phoned our taxi service (Kel’s mom) and booked a drop off at the start and a pick up near the site at Crimdon.

We were dropped off at a car park at Nose’s Point and the wind was pretty strong, a low temperature made quite a cold start, but spirits were high and at least the sun was shining.  Kel was giving her new slim line day sack another day out and I had the added weight of her Lumix G2 to add to the waist line of my poor North Face pack.

We set off past the weathered wind socks, of which I still don’t see the point, blowing furiously in the westerly wind which was already nipping my ears.  This part of the coast was heavily mined and the numerous agencies who have tried their best to cover up its battered past have done very well to clear up the legacy of millions of tons of coal which were taken from the area.  The route hugs the coastal edge which is quite some height above the actual beach.  The beach banks, as they’re known in the area, are mainly Limestone and the sea is eating away at the cliffs which range from about 25 meters high to best part of 100m which can give a good view, but give way to a good drop if you venture to close to the ever eroding edges.

The route also handle bars the east coast train line which is as busy as ever.  We made our way to Chourdeon Point and the wind was still quite lively as we took in the excellent view looking from Souter down to the Cleveland hills.  We walked back towards the railway and joined a small copse and followed the path through and headed towards Shippersea bay.

OK this is where the route becomes slightly dodgy.  Shippersea Bay has cut well into the coastline and the viaduct which the railway uses is safely passed over the bay, however, the foot path drops into the bay….with a bang!

The path disappears and the ‘route’ into the bay under the viaduct is not great.  So after spending a lot of the descent on ours arses and Kel swearing at me because it was my fault the path had vanished.  We waded across the beck which joins the beach under the bridge and clawed our way back onto the path, passing 3 suspect looking characters with bags of Carling on route to the beach.  So after a bit of a climb we’re back on the route and back into the sunshine and the wind.

After some time the view to the right makes you think about the coasts history.  There are a couple of old pit shafts which are obviously not in use but have been preserved.  So as you approach Busiers Holes the village of Easington is clear on the right.  Over the brow into the colliery will hold many a memory of miners versus police in the early 80’s miners’ strike.  Even today, tension is still high between the two, which is common place in this area of Durham.  This still doesn’t take your attention from the excellent views which this part of the country holds and the wildlife which is constantly dragging your attention from the route.

So with Fox Hole Dene negotiated we’re back on the banks and if you look out to sea, Horden Point captures your attention and there’s a distinct increase in sea coal which litters the beach with every high tide.

With Warren House Gill and Ash Gill comes the new road offering a short but definite road created by the new water treatment returning to the banks.  This was greeted by my first view of the kestrel which, because I work the area, I know sets out her stall on the beach banks for the variety of rodents and small birds that dot between the blackberry and hawthorn bushes that support the eroding banks.

This is when the black clouds appeared over the mainland.  We looked, then looked at each other, then looked again and said, “nah, we’ll be OK it won’t rain!”  We carried on with a slightly faster pace and a sense of urgency as if we didn’t believe our predictions.  Well, about ten minutes into the next stage the heavens opened, not rain or snow, sleet!  I really hate sleet!  There’s no point in it, and it was freezing and horizontal.  5 minutes, 10 minutes….. it wasn’t letting up.  So, with Limekiln Gill in our sights we got on the blower, taxi for two please!  After a short walk into Horden, which we both patrol as our areas, we wait for Kel’s mom to appear heater blasting with a welcoming smile.

We jumped into the Focus and directed her to the Castle Eden pub where warmth and alcohol awaited.

I liked the walk as it gave me a different perspective of the area where I work and it seemed to brighten up the colliery villages which I only see in a different light.  The only criticism is the path under the lines at Shippersea bay, I can only suggest a slightly different route through the Blue House plantation and Beacon Hill then re-join the route at the viaduct.  Plus Kel needs new boots!

Whirl around Whorlton

I suppose the best thing about working weekends is you have the chance on the week day rest days, to avoid the crowds and shoot off to the hills. Kel got a little AA box of walks in North Yorkshire for Christmas so we chose a walk around the crags where we climb in the summer, Barkers Crags near Swainby.

We parked next to the stream in Swainby and donned our boots and brand new gators, which were Christmas prezzies. We know the lovely little village quite well, the Blacksmiths is our chosen pub for a post climb pint.  The place was quite busy and there was a line of cars all the way up the road and walkers already plodding about.

Kel was trying out her new streamline day sack seeing as we weren’t going to scale any mountains. This day sack is quite unique, it consists of stuffing all her wet weather and warm kit into my day sack so I can carry it all!

So we set off heading south through the village, passed the lovely houses that line the road. As usual the air is full with, “ooooh look at that one” and “Oooh can you imagine living there!” when we pass houses way out of our price range. We reach the right hand bend and carry on straight up a track where at the top join the Cleveland Way.

  I’ve been on the Cleveland Way just a handful of times and I always find it very well kept. This was no exception; the signs look like they’re made by Pinocchio’s dad and the path is so prominent it can be seen from the moon.

We went left and walked through Clain Wood, overlooking Scugdale, the views were awesome. We also got a look at Round Hill and Barker’s Crag looking up the valley.  In the sun it was quite warm (ish) but in the woods the temperature dropped quite a bit.

There was no doubt of the route at this stage as the sign posts hit us with a fanfare saying “Cleveland Way”, we turned left into a field full of sheep and back into the sunshine. Footing became a bit dodgy and I chuckled to myself wondering when Kel’s first fall of the year would be. We re-entered the wood to cross a shallow Scugdale Beck.  Kel spotted a small weir and seeing as we decided not to bring the big camera (something else I’d have to carry) she decided to try out her ‘delayed shutter speed’ app on her iPhone.  The problem being, no tripod!  Now, as it was past lunch time, Kel’s hands would be a bit shaky. That glass of Pinot was hours away so steady hands were hours away too. Needless to say the photo was a bit hazy and we plodded on through the stream. We did notice Snowdrops starting to push their heads through the frosty soil and some buds appearing on the trees.  

We plodded up Hollin Hill towards the main road, which we’ve driven up countless times to Barker’s Crag, we crossed the T junction on another sign post pointing us onto the Cleveland Way that you would never miss. We took in the smell of the freshly cut Pine and pushed up a slight accent around the Live Moor Plantation. We then took a right through the woods onto Knolls End to start up Round Hill.  As we came out of the woods we spotted a really well kept information board regarding the hill, it’s privately owned so respect the hill!


As we rose we had to negotiate the gauntlet of Red Grouse and the view became breath taking. On our right, Roseberry Topping dominated the skyline, however, there’s a slight glitch in the panoramic pleasure, Middlesbrough and Teesport.  These are to the east coast, like dog shit on your golfing green, something you have to put up with.


There’s a big Cairn at the top which, like the Cleveland Way, is well built and I swear symmetrical.

Photos done, we drop back down the other side and re-join the plantation. At this point it’s always good to be behind Kel, the decent is always a tongue in cheek time. Boggy peat and piles of sheep droppings are always prime spots for ‘ bambi on ice’ to hit the deck.  But she kept on her feet, not without a few Jesus impressions with her arms but the slate was clean, and so was her backside.


We made it through the forest and joined a track which took us to Whorl Hill Wood. Again, wepassed houses we could never afford and a radio banging out Spandau Balllet by work women we took a left into the woods. Around the hill and it comes out at Whorl Hill Farm where you take a left up a track to a locked……..yes, locked gate!

We scaled the metal gate and made our way over the fields to another field with some bulls in, luckily I had my walking pole so any bother a cheeky poke will sort any beef related problems.

 We joined the road through Whorlton with the picturesque church on the left with loads of arches when I say loads I mean loads of arches!! That’s Kel sorted for ten minutes while I try and clean my boots. She loves arches!


We carried on down the road and Whorlton Castle was on the right on the top of the hill, just where you’d find a castle.  It’s well-kept and access is easy through the front gate.

Ok, since coming down from the hill, the Blacksmith’s has been in both our thoughts, I fancied a nice pint of the local brew, Kel however had been banging on about the home made chips we like there, so the pace sped up through the east side of Swainby towards the car. Going over the little bridge and the low flying Mallards, we walked to the car where we quick time changed our footwear and jumped in.

With thoughts of food and ale in our minds and looking like we’d slept with coat hangers in our mouths  we pulled into the pub car park……a closed pub …… we left!  Needless to say the air was blue!

Gorgeous walk with good views, I love Yorkshire!

Elephant Trees

A rare weekend off together we decided not to hit the Lakes but to pay a visit to Kel’s sisters newly bought cottage at Frosterley.  It’s surrounded by hills and as we drove to the Weardale village we could see several of them covered with snow which made me smile.

We unpacked the car and after bumping my head a couple of times I got used to the 17th century door frames and we both settled down to look for a route for the next morning.  After searching through numerous routes on and off the peaks we decided on a ten mile stroll taking in the highest peak in the area. Kel had spotted the walk in one of the walking books at the cottage and she was particularly interested in what was described in the book as the ‘Elephant trees’ which were to be found about half way round.

Elephant Trees

As we didn’t have to drive to the start, we just put our kit on at the cottage and set off up the front street of Frosterely. We passed houses of all shapes and sizes, old and new, lived in and just damn right knackered!  Not long before we took a left turn down passed the Black Bull pub which is quite possibly the quaintest pub I’ve seen in the area, unfortunately it wasn’t on the route back. This is where we crossed the Wear and with the recent rain on lower lands and the snow on the peaks, it was raging under the bridge. I liked the Wear at this stage, more natural, unlike the stages before it hits the north sea in Sunderland where is looks more like an estuary with muddy slimy banks than a river.

Now, looking and planning on the map I was lead into a certain degree of misconception. As we normally head to the hills, the map changes to that nice orangey colour as we embark up our latest bag.  The colour of this part on the map is still that white colour you’d expect when you’re on the last stretch with the pub nicely placed near the car park.   But don’t disrespect this part of the route, the contour lines are there but they sneak upon you like a pick pocket, you don’t feel anything until you realise your iPhone has gone, if you know what I mean!?

Anyway, as we snook through a couple of tiny hamlets we started to see little scatterings of snow and the springs that make their way across the road were frozen.  We had to watch our footing.  While glancing at the map I was drawn to the fact that the decent white coverings were above 400m and hoped we encountered some at the top.  It was then Kel said, “Are they the Elephant trees?” She pointed at the skyline and there were what appeared to be a few trees, which looked to have been bent and sculptured by the wind into two elephants one behind the other. Now I was impressed and saw the infamous figures straight away. However, Kel wanted her money back!

“If that’s the elephant trees there’s supposed to be loads of them, that’s not them!”

I suggested maybe they are the trees and the book may have been a little extravagant with its description of the trees. “Nah, they aren’t the trees!!!” she said.

We carried on through Low Bishopley over the bridge into White Kirkley and set our sights on the top. At this point a lot of the walking books and at least one other map show this to be a part of the Weardale Way, however, my map showed the Way to be following the Burn which we crossed at White Kirkley and follows that until Harehope Quarry.

Anyway we made our way through Folly plantation and the wind got up and the temperature dropped quite a bit, plus the rain began to drive in and it was bitterly cold.  Kel was still looking for the ‘Elephant trees’ and was vocal about it. The copse we saw earlier on the horizon was clearly the said trees but because she didn’t think they looked like the giant mammals, they weren’t!

We passed ‘Allotment House’ and I thought that would be a nice place to live, cracking views and not another dwelling around. We joined the fence line at the top and gazed across the heather to Pikeston Fell.  The surrounding fells were sporting winter hats and the camera went on overdrive.

We plodded east along the wall accompanied by the very noisy Red Grouse whose shrill took you by surprise as they took to flight from their deep heather shelters. We passed the the Elephant trees and words “They look nowt like elephants” were uttered a couple of times from Kel but fell on deaf ears as I glanced at the map. We joined the Weardale Way at Sunnyside Edge.  The map says take a left opposite Black Allotment and walk diagonally across the field, DON’T!!  Stick to the track or risk being eaten by a big bull. At this point I would like to share something with you all. Now, when I go shopping for walking kit, I generally choose green stuff. This is so I have a better chance of sneaking up on wildlife etc. Kel, however, spends hours choosing and colour coordinating. But the colours are red, purple and pink!  This is why I stick to the track, I have no desire to be chased into Wolsingham by a ton of beef burger snorting bull snot all over the Weardale Way.

So,we walked through Spence Hill, Towdy Potts then through Ashes House and into Wolsingham for a pint in the Black Bull (not the one at the beginning of the blog).

Here you could just walk back to Frosterley on the A689 but we chose to follow the railway line back to the cottage. Not the most scenic part of the route but better than the main road.

Back at the cottage it was nice to take the boots off and relax, instead of driving back to the tent or caravan.

A really nice walk with great views, recommended if you’re staying in the area. But, and mentioning no names, don’t order a Chinese takeaway from the shop in a nearby village, especially if you like meat with your meal!