March was an absolute scorcher and I was on days off mid-week. Kel was pounding the beat in the heat and I could tell by texts that she was gutted at being at work in the cracking weather. It seemed like ages since we donned our walking boots together and hit the hills. We’d had a good outing with the Scouts and I wanted more, everyone who hikes will know what I mean. I text her suggesting she put a day’s leave in and we get out in the countryside.
Now, due to some idiots in suits in London telling us that there would be a fuel shortage, I realised the lakes would be out of range so a look closer to home was on the cards. The good thing about the North East, like most places probably, has cracking countryside if you look for it. I’m starting to get my head around the NE (only took me 11 years) I noticed a bit of green on the map without those little squares I generally like to avoid. My finger was pointing towards Beamish! I’ve heard it’s a ‘cracking day out’, but I didn’t want the museum, I wanted the countryside. If you look at OS map 308 there’s quite a few of those trails that have green diamonds one after the other stretching across fields and forests, so I thought I’d have a crack at a couple. Planning a route used to be quite easy in the old days, the days before GEOCACHING!!!! I not only have to plan a route nowadays, I have to think about those little boxes en route. Hey ho, I planned it anyway and hoped for the best when I showed Kel when she returned in from work.
The morning after and the route ‘Geocache approved’ we loaded up the car, when I say loaded up I mean Kel put all her stuff in my daysack and sat in the car hoping I wouldn’t notice. The thing is, I bang on about safety equipment and carrying enough to last the night if needed when we’re in the hills, but Kel reckons we’re close to civilisation on these local walks, there’s no need for her to carry her daysack. Anyway we land in a small car park just outside the museum just off the A693 and we put our kit on. Or should I say, Kel put her boots on and I put the mother of all chocolate and sandwich filled daysack on plus 3 Sig bottles and a camera and two lenses. Kel skipped off into the woods and I followed into the little woodland between the car park and the little village of Beamish. I try to give my blog readers a bit of a walk to maybe try one day, so looking at the map, there’s a few confusing routes out of the car park but there’s a small one that handle bars the Great North Forest Trail. We took a little turn into the village then joined the GNFT near the village. Straight away we turned left onto the Tyne Wear Trail. Immediately we’re met by a ‘diversion sign!?!?’ Road works on the route so we followed and I made a crappy map reading mistake by thinking inside the box. Kel corrected me and after a quick Geocache detour we were plunging into the depths of Ousbrough Wood and have a look at the stream. It was quiet and only the birds to listen to. Kel had locked onto a Geocache and we pulled ourselves up from the stream to settle on a path. Ousbrough Wood is very quiet and there’s a good selection of wildlife. But if you carry on the Tyne Wear Trail it takes you over the top of the forest plantation which is in the middle of being felled, so the route is hidden. Anyway we struggled down the other side and joined the stream and the footbridge to carry on the walk. This is a great place to stop for a break with the sound of the stream trickling past. However, the GPS had locked onto a geocache and Kel was scratting around in the undergrowth and shouting directions for me to follow suit.
Five minutes later we were on our way but without finding the little box. We carried on the little footpath to the small road passed a lovely little collection of cottages called High Forge. The trail then goes through the wooded area on Beamish East Moor then a left on the track towards the pond in Mill Wood. Time for lunch! We sat down on the little beetle carving on the track and I off loaded the burden on my back. Now you may think, if you read my blogs regular, that I exaggerate about Kel’s love for food and the amount she packs on our walks. I sat and unloaded a Tupperware box stuffed with butties. Two bags of crisps, dry roast nuts, Salami sticks and god knows how many chocolate bars. This is accompanied by Sig bottles and my flask. I’ll tell ya, the bag is a lot lighter after lunchtime. I sat taking in the sunny weather while Kel did her normal ritual of walking off into the woods armed with her camera. I sat and enjoyed the peace! Moments later I heard the sound of the ‘Greater pissed off Pit Yacker’. I could her Kel cursing in the trees but I couldn’t see her. This normally means she’s fell over or sank into the mud. I looked down the path and saw her coming out of the trees looking through her camera complaining, “This lens wont Zoom in”, she stood turning the lens and pointing at me shouting, “it’s ****ing broken, it won’t zoom in”. She stood for a few moments more examining the poor little Lumix that was taking the brunt of so much abuse. I watched as she came storming back up the path and with a statement which I would chuckle at for the rest of the day. “I’ve got me fekin wide angle lens on haven’t I!?”
I packed the daysack and we set off up the west side of the pond towards Hedley Hall Farm. There’s a nice little family wooded area running NE of Ridley Gill. We felt good and were enjoying the day, chatting about our up and coming wedding and what take away we were going to get once we were home. We came into a clearing and saw a woman with a small child and a dog. We were about 100 metres away but the dog clocked us and immediately started barking. I thought it would stop once the woman had grabbed its collar and tried to pacify it, but the barking and the snarling continued as we passed. We had a little giggle at the woman struggling hard to control the very angry Pointer, we strolled passed and continued with the dog still snarling in the distance. About 50 metres past them and the barking stopped. Thinking the woman had calmed the Psycho pooch we carried on with our chat. I then heard the woman’s voice screaming the dog’s name, I turned and saw the dog hurtling towards us teeth showing. Before I knew it had gone for my right hand which was holding my map. I felt it grasp the map and I swung around to see its intentions. Unfortunately for the dog, so did my size eleven Merrell walking boots which trapped the ‘poor’ dogs paw. Needless to say it made a hasty retreat yelping and spitting the turf out of its mouth after it hit the deck trying to struggle away. I love dogs but they will get a kick if the owner doesn’t control them properly.
Hearts racing slightly and the woman’s words “Eeee I’m sorry” still ringing in the air we carried on through the woods and onto to Hedley Lane and across up to join the GNFT again on an old rail line. Taking a left towards Tyneside Locomotive Museum and continuing towards Causey. We hadn’t passed many people on this walk but that was to change as we headed towards Causey Arch. I had heard of the popular spot and Kel had said it would be something I’d like. It wasn’t a disappointment either; the crags in the depths of Causey Gill were a very pleasant sight. Plus there were a couple of climbers showing the various routes up to the tree root ridden summit. Then we walked the short distance to the old railway bridge where we climbed back out of the Gill to the edge of the woods. The bridge used to be the largest in the world of its kind and is a great feat of engineering for the time.
Anyway, we still had some distance to go so we passed the sewage works to east Tanfield Station and for a short time joined the small road leading to Tanfield town. We were turned left down the road which is still part of the GNFT then back into the fields shortly after this. From the top of field between the Tanfield Road and the A6076 you get a cracking view of Stanley and the weather was perfect to add to the occasion. We dropped down into Carrickshill wood where the wild garlic was over powering even this early in the year, it was also quite breathe taking the green carpet that lined our route.
Another Geocache found and we entered Hellhole wood and the home stretch back to our car and hopefully a pint somewhere. I was looking forward to the prospect of a nice friendly pub; however Kel’s phone was out and had locked onto more Geocaches. One was a short distance away on the Consett & Sunderland railway Path, well on the map it was a short distance. In reality it was a small scramble up a muddy bank which Kel negotiated like a teenager. If you remember from the start, I was carried everything in my day sack, which had my walking stick attached. I followed suit but failed to get under a small but very bendy branch which managed to lodge itself between by day sack and my stick (you know what’s coming don’t you??) I thought I was safe and sound at the top of the small climb, but as I stood, science took place. The branch which had been stretched to its limit, was deciding to straighten again. I thought Kel had heard my muffled groan followed by exceptional use of the English language directed at the timber terror which had propelled me back down the muddy knoll. But how wrong I could’ve been, I looked over the bank and there she was, marching as if on a bearing towards the little Tupperware box. I managed to struggle up the bank, this time avoiding the branch from hell and managed to catch up with Kel who was oblivious to my woodland treat, not noticing my dishevelled appearance and mossy knees.
“It’s under a fallen Birch” were her first words staring at her iPhone. I was still pulling the twigs out of my hair when she spotted the plastic box hidden under a fallen tree. “What out for ‘Muggles’!” she said. I looked for any members of the public wanting to destroy our new found Cache which was signed and replaced like an SAS trooper.
We enjoyed the last few hundred metres back to the car in the sunny weather which had been a welcome companion on our route. The little red Aygo was there waiting for our return and for me to have a look at my ‘IMap my Hike’ app, which I thought may have crept over the 9 miles I had promised Kel the walk would be. Hmmm slightly over at 12.9 miles!
A lovely pint at the Shepherd and Shepherdess, the end to a lovely walk!!