Organised Walk Around Shincliffe!

On Saturday 29th December 2018, my sister in law, Alison, who runs the company ‘Journey to Discovery’ had organised a Christmas ‘Bobble hat’ walk in the Durham area.  She told me a few days before that quite a few people had shown interest and she double checked with me if I was still coming because she had almost 16 people told her they were coming, and she wanted my help.


We all met up at Sunderland Bridge which is near Croxdale on the River Wear.  Most had fulfilled the brief and were sporting Christmas Bobble hats, except me, no way was I gonna wear one.  I’m from the old school that head wear is for practical purposes.  I wore my trusty Berghaus ‘Dut’, which once the winter sun got out was swapped for my peak cap.


Ali gave everyone a briefing and forms that needed to be signed and before long we were on the footpath NE under the A 167 then through the woods to Croxdale Hall.  The route is fairly clear and it continued to Croxdale Woods.

At this point the group also consisted of 6 or 7 dogs so the group was pretty lively and at points were stretched out a good few metres, but that’s why Ali wanted me there, ‘Tail End Charlie’ to pick up any stragglers.

The route swang east around Butterby Woods up to High Butterby Farm where a group photo was taken and Ali’s stash of Christmas cake was consumed.  I had a little look at the path we were about to take down into Shincliffe Wood and it was muddy and there were quite a few twigs and branches poking down into unsuspecting eyes, especially for the taller of the group so warnings were given to watch feet and eyes.


The route drops quite quickly as it joins the Wear at the bottom of the slippery path but even though there were a few slips and near misses but all backsides were clear of mud and no eyes had been popped out, bonus!  I must say, this stretch of the route I have walked a million times and I never get bored of it.  The Wear has a good selection of birds using it and this is where the path stays level so you can look about at the scenery instead of staring at the floor in case you end up on your arse.

Ali had explained in the joining instructions a refreshment break would be taken at the garden centre in Shincliffe which I think was a good place, well, that or The Rose Tree pub and I think it was ideally placed for some of the tired legs and feet at the rear of the group.

Sat in the centre’s café it was quite clear that people were in very good spirits and everyone was getting on fine, even the ones who had just met were talking like they’d known each other for years and a good deal of hilarity could be heard.


After a good break, it was time to make a move for the route back, not before Milo the Cocker-Poo helped out the staff at the garden centre by watering a few of the ornamental plants.  Back on the track we walked in on, we took a left turn east up to West Grange then went on to join Strawberry Lane which is a clear route through the farmland and a great view across the area.


We were a good few miles into the walk at this point and we had regained the height lost in Shincliffe Wood on the route in when we took the steep path back up through the woods to West Grange.  The slower of the group, who had struggled on some of the hills were still laughing and joking, even though I know some had a couple of feet problems and tired legs.

Strawberry Lane took us south for a good distance, passed Pigeon Plantation to a 4 way junction in a small copse.  A turn right west, passed High Croxdale all the way back to Croxdale Hall to re-join the first part of the route back to the start.

This walk was really good craic, I made a few friends and actually spoke to people I didn’t know socially, which is not like me.

Ali showed great form on this walk, she has a great ability to make people feel at ease and can control with out being controlling, if that makes sense.

Another great route not too far from my doorstep!



Lowland Leader Course!

As I storm into retirement, I have slightly more spare time on my hands, well, after I’ve finished all the housework and hack away at the never-ending list of jobs given to me by the other half and my mother in law.


I decided to book myself onto a Lowland Leader Course which are conveniently ran by one of my old mates.  I had to join the Mountain Training Association first to get on the course and register onto the website and commence a Digital Log Book (DLOG).  My mate told me to get a few quality Lowland walks onto the log to put me in good stead for the course.  This wasn’t too difficult as I have numerous walks under my belt so it was just a case of filling in all the drop-down boxes on the DLOG and adding a brief description of the walk.

The course, if I’m successful, would allow me to take small groups out in Lowland areas for walks and also allows me to take out bronze award Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) candidates.


I turned up on the first day of the two-day course early Saturday morning at a local (ish) cricket club.  The instructor was there to greet me and it was great to catch up with my old friend.  There were only 3 (including me) candidates for the course, but this is better for us and it means the instructor can focus more individually.

The first half of the first day was taken up by kit, weather, walking group dynamics and checking the candidate’s navigation knowledge.  This is a very full couple of days as you could imagine so bait was eaten at the table to get everything covered,  which to be fair is fine by me as I’m not one for standing around gossiping, which I find is the norm in one hour’s meal breaks on these sort of things.


Then it was out into the area with a pretty good route to navigate.  The route was broken down into sections which we took turns in leading.  We used 1:25 for this section of the course and we had some pretty tricky routes to lead.  The afternoon went very quick and we returned back to the base in dusk, mentally knackered.  A couple of glasses of wine were needed back at home and an early night.

The next day we met at Hutton Rudby in North Yorkshire for day 2, the weather Gods were our friends today as rain had been forecast but we were met with broken cloud and sun.


Today was a full day of navigation, risk assessing, first aid scenarios, timed pacing and step counting.  We were using a 1:50 map for this day and route, I don’t like 1:50’s!  The first half of the day was using the ‘5 D’s’.  Distance, Direction, Duration, Description and Dangers.  The instructor showed us individually the section of the route he wanted us to lead.  We then had to study and give a full brief of the 5 D’s we expected to encounter.  Stopping mid walk if we wanted to change anything we had predicted.  Mentally draining, plus we had to described features, wildlife and any other points of interest as if we were out with a group, to make it more interesting.


The second half was ‘blind leading’.  This is where the instructor gives you a section of the walk in private, not telling the others in the group.  Making the rest of the candidates navigate (which they should be doing anywhere to be honest) and show the instructor at the end of the section where they believed they were.  Throw in first aid scenario’s again, ending the day in dusk and individual briefings in the pub.

A great couple of days with top lads and a good few laughs.

Next, assessment day in April!