Langoustine and Tomato Tagliatelle!

The allotment is knocking out some great produce at the moment, especially tomatoes. So I thought I’d try a Marcus Wareing recipe. Langoustine from our local fish monger, well I say local, 7ish miles away, can you believe we live on the east coast of Durham and there’s one fish monger of I know. Anyway I digress, tomatoes, shallots, basil, chili and garlic from our allotment. Tell ya what, it was bluming gorgeous!

Chop a good handful of cherry (sized) tomatoes in half.

Chop up a couple cloves of garlic.

Chop a chilli into small pieces, leave in seeds if you want a bit of heat.

Chop a shallot up into small bits.

Finely slice 2 Basil leaves.

Ok, drop a couple of nests of Tagliatelle into boiling water. Fry the garlic and shallots in a frying pan with a splash olive oil. After a couple of minutes put in the tomatoes for a few minutes while you cook your Langoustines separately. Add the cooked Langoustine, then the basil and chilli. When Tagliatelle is al-dente, drain off water and add to the sauce. Mix in the pasta and serve.

Route recce around Embleton, Co. Durham.

Thought I’d turn over a new leaf and bring my blog back to life, it’s been some time since I posted a walk and had not been motivated enough to write about anything, but after writing a few Trip Advisor reviews I thought I’d show my blog some attention.
My sister in law owns Journey To Discovery, a guided walks venture, and she asked me if I’d recce a route with her in the area, so I said I would have a look out with her on my day off.
We met at the car park on the A689 on the north side near the bridge where the walkway from Hurworth Burn Reservoir crosses. It had been raining the whole journey to the spot but seemed to ease off as I pulled into the ‘free’ car park and met up with Ali.
We had a quick chat as I donned my day sack and I greeted my old mate Bruce, the enormous German Shepherd. As we chatted the rain started again so we made tracks and headed north east along a track towards Low Swainston and walked through the farm , heading north up to Embleton.
There’s a few buildings in Embleton but it is apparently a medieval village, like Swainston we’d just passed. After turning right and checking out the derelict church, the track drops down into a dip that someone has built a great, hidden house in fantastic grounds. The path goes straight up through a gate and across a large field called Embleton Moor. The path goes up to ’11 oclock’ and drops down into a beck and over a wooden foot bridge.
By this time it had been raining horizontal and the waterproofs had been put to the test. We laughed about the first time we went out walking about 8 years ago, the weather was exactly the same and it cost me a mobile phone due to getting so soaked.
The path circumnavigates

a large field and then heads north towards Embleton Old Hall. The path then goes around the house and grounds initially but cuts through the rear of the garden onto the track out of the grounds, west on another track towards the Castle Eden Walkway. We decided we’d stay on the small track running parallel ish with the walkway to Green Lane Cottages. Here we joined the walkway south down to the a car park and 4.9 miles later, back at the car.
A good short range route sorted for future use by Ali’s clients, hopefully the weather will be better next time.

Good dog walk near Shildon

We’ve been saving the walks for Country Walking magazine for ages now and today seemed a good day to have a flick through the little pile of cut out pages and find a nice little local walk.  We settled for a nice 7 1/2 miler around the Shildon area!IMG_6945

Great parking at the Railway Museum and free to boot.  Into the museum area and right down the lines towards the Welcome Centre further down the track.  Passed the playground and into a quiet part of Shildon through a small housing estate and a bit of industrial estate then out into the countryside.


The route follows the old railway lines passed some old engine rooms and old railway sleepers which look like they’ve been well preserved.  From the route, great views of Bishop Auckland can be seen and the surrounding farm land.  And the KFC sign, which Kel pointed out, at least twice.


As the route ascends up into Brusselton Woods where the path needs some concentration and easily to lose the ‘scent’, trick is try and follow previous boot marks and not to get fooled by heavily used deer tracks.  Plus, the shoulder high Ferns don’t help, luckily Alfie, our trusty Springer is a great pathfinder so we have an advantage.  Once we were out of the woods the route hit the road a bit but it’s not so busy and very pleasant.


The route back towards Shildon was through scenic farm land and was well trodden, even through the farmers fields that were 99% cattle/sheep free, yay! Back into Shildon and back to the museum and a few pics for some of my spotter friends, not me, honestly!


Nice little walk with no dramas.  Only advice i’d pass on is use your head in the woods otherwise you might get a bit ‘temporarily displaced’ and the midges are hungry.


Great day out, great local walk, recommended!


There aren’t many bits of kit that you carry or wear that doesn’t serve a practical purpose, in fact apart from little mascots and good luck charms I can’t think of anything on my body or in my daysack that isn’t important and is possibly lifesaving.  When I can, I like to spend a bit more money when replacing gear as I am a great believer in the saying, ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ and after all the difference of £30 on a pair of waterproof trousers may save you years of soaking wet legs.

Recently I have decided that one of the most important items of walking kit I own needs replacing. They have served me well and we’ve been on many adventures together I feel almost sad to have to replace my boots! old ksb

I remember the day like yesterday when I ordered my trusty Merrell’s, 15 years ago I was sat at in my flat in Osnabruck, Germany looking at my Karrimor KSB’s thinking they looked knackered and sick of endlessly having to treat them.  To be fair they too had served me well, many a time they’ve been battered and bruised up and down Pen y Fan and Snowdon.  They had survived hiking around places like Oman, Norway, Italy and a 3 week expedition to the Rockies.  But the time had come to replace them and as I had the extra 20% off when ordering from abroad and being in the forces I thought now was the best time.  I decided to come away from my normal fabric boot and try the leather, so browsing through my latest Cotswold catalogue I studied hard.  Many friends had leather boots and swore by them, and when we’d been out together wading through the streams of south Wales and falling through frozen becks they seemed to come out with feet nice and dry, I used to say my feet were ok too but in all honesty there were sometimes my socks were less then dry and toasty.  Scarpa had, and still does, a great reputation I was swaying towards them as they had a few leather boots that looked the part.  But tucked away at the bottom of a page was a nice looking pair of Merrell’s.  I’d heard of Merrell but all the talk was ‘Scarpa’ and did I dare go off the beaten track and order these lovely looking boots.  Now you have to remember the internet wasn’t as popular as it is now so I’d have to send off the order form and wait ages for the delivery, about 3 weeks!!  So I decided to phone in the order cutting down the wait to 2 weeks, it’s a week less that’s all I was bothered about.

Less than a fortnight passed before I went to BFPO 36 to collect a boot box shaped parcel and the start of a great relationship.  I couldn’t wait so I sat in my silver Ford Puma (also tax free) and unwrapped the paper and gazed on my new boots.  “Jesus Christ how f**kin big are they?!” I seem to remember thinking as I held the massive leather structures up and stared.  The tread looked like a land rover tyre and they weighed a ton.  But, after a bit and after feeling inside I grew to love them and they were to take me through thousands of miles of walking.

They’re first outing I can remember was a steady 12 mile blast around the forests near Osnabruck, a regular low level haunt for squaddies training for P company and SAS selection, not too many hills but lots of fallen trees and mud…. lots of mud! Even though they felt heavy in the hand, they didn’t feel much different weight wise to my KSB’s, and the good thing was, my feet were dry.

Year 2000 saw me back in the UK and pounding the Yorkshire moors and miles and miles of hills and heather.  And all these boots needed were a good clean and a polish with boot polish to keep them in good working order, no need for ‘spray from 12 inches away and leave to dry for 2 hours blah blah blah’.  The uppers kept that lovely brown battered look and the tread, which initially shocked me, was still deep and going

So back to present day and the last few fells in the lakes, as well as completing the Teesdale Way and the Weardale Way, have been testing, the tread has started to disappear and the slips have become far too often and when you’re trying to scurry across edges and coming down spiky rocky crags, you can’t take chances.  So from the first walk in the lakes up Skiddaw, and completing 73 Wainwrights, the Fairfield horse shoe saw the last outing for my trusty Merrell’s who can now rest.

I’ve had a good time over the last 15 years with my old boots; they’ve seen ice, rain and sun.  They’ve had to wade through all manner of faeces and have seen peat from a couple of feet below the surface on a number of times.  They’ve out lived countless lace changes but I’ve never had to repair the body.  Let’s hope the ones I replace them with are just as trustworthy.

Now, time to do some shopping!

Hart to Haswell Walkway Part 1….

Start at South Hetton
Information board at South Hetton

June last year seems an age away, but its legacy is still living strong in our lives into 2013.  Kel and I still cannot believe an injury acquired by simply stepping off a bunk bed ladder can be so painful and so life changing.  I mean, we’ve spent hour after hour falling off rocks, slipping down slopes and jumping off rock faces with only scratches and a few bruises as a result.  We have, in the past, just brushed ourselves off and laughed.  But this has totally altered the way we live for over half a year and the doctors still cannot put their finger on what’s causing Kel so much pain in her ankle.  As you can imagine, walking has been a ‘no no’ since that day at Ennerdale Scout camp.  I have done a few local walks but I can’t imagine what is going through Kel’s mind, especially as it now is having a detrimental effect on work life.

Nice straight route heading to Haswell
Nice straight route heading to Haswell

However, Kel was going to work today and I was going to be at a loose end.  There are plenty of walks in this area of Durham but I decided to have a leg stretch at one of the more famous designated routes in the county, ‘The Haswell to Hart Walkway’!  This flat, fairly easy walk stretches from (officially) Haswell village to Hart Station near the border between Durham and Cleveland.  It’s the route the old railway took which fed the neighbouring collieries throughout the coal era.  It passes through Shotton, Wingate, Castle Eden and Hesleden.  However, if you want to add an extra mile to the 9 mile walkway you can start it at a little village called South Hetton and walk to Haswell where the official route starts.

I planned to start the route fairly late in the day, as I wanted a much needed lie in and Kel wasn’t going to work till after lunch and I needed her to drop me off at South Hetton.  Another problem associated with linear routes, logistics are a pain when it comes to transport.  So I packed and repacked my day sack, taking only water proofs and basics, and as I put on my old faithful walking boots, I saw Kel putting on her Magnums wishing she was putting her Scarpa’s on and joining me.

We arrived in South Hetton and I jumped out and got my kit out of the boot, a peck for Kel and she drove off to work.  I crossed the road and saw her pull to a halt about 50 metres up the road, she jumped out of the car and slammed the boot shut, she gave me that look…. that “you dickhead” look!  I gave her a feeble wave as if to say I was sorry.  She drove off and I set off on the first unofficial section of the Haswell to Hart Walkway.  The wind had not let up and it was blowing like ‘a good un’ as I strode along the well-used track, which is also a national cycle route.  This initial section is fairly exposed with farm fields on both sides and its only protection is a variety of bushes and small trees.

Information board at the Haswell crossing.

The view is quite good and the wildlife plentiful with a good few birds ranging from kestrel, which was struggling in the wind, to Thrushes, Blackbirds and a few smaller Tits and Finches.  It climbs ever so slightly but nothing that’s going to get your heart pounding.  It has a good all round view and with South Hetton in the distance I plodded on towards the road crossing and the official start/finish (whichever way you do it).  At this point there is one of the numerous sign posts that furnish the route, but like all the others, it is in bad repair.  It gives a brief history of Haswell, which is approximately quarter of a mile further down the road crossing.  But due to half-wits that use this part of the walk as a drinking spot occasionally, the once very well set out sign is now hardly readable.

Signs of old railway still present

The start of this section is pretty much similar to the South Hetton section, it is lined with farmland and wildlife is plentiful.  On a good day a good clear view of Durham city is possible and the acres of wheat fields that act as a foreground to the great city.  To the left the disused quarry dwarfs the surrounding landscape, there’s still a few clues to the past of this little route if you look carefully, odd cuts leading to nowhere.  Stacks of old railway sleepers that seem to have escaped the sticky fingers of passing white vans and their occupants.  The path dips ever so slightly with Pesspool farm very prominent to the right and another crossing of a farm track leading to its 19th century out houses and the old farm house.  There is a right turn here onto a footpath leading through the farm into Haswell, but it is a path seldom  used as it goes bang smack in the middle of the farm houses and a couple of awaiting farm dogs that have teeth!!

The path is best avoided and carry straight on, the farmer ploughing his field can be seen at this time of the year, a late plough probably due to the weather.  The said dogs chasing the seagulls that follow the tractor as they scrape for the unearthed insects.  Ive walked this route before and at this point you can sense you have company everytime.  As you stride back up the small incline there is a presence, a small black Patterdale Terrier  follows but keeps a safe distance yapping as if to say, “YEAH YEAH keep walking, this is my land!!”  He’s a lovable little dog and it adds to the character of the walk.  As long as his mates don’t join him you’re fine!!

The wooden boardwalk approaching Shotton
The wooden boardwalk approaching Shotton

Along the route there are a few strategically places boulders along the side, ideal for plonking your backside down and enjoying the view which is very nice and if youre not too offended by ‘KEEP OUT’ signs that Farmer Brown has placed to stop hikers from deviating from the given route.  The path surface is very well kept which gives you a false sense of security for the up and coming section of the walkway that is not for the faint hearted.  I small dip takes you into the wooded part of this ‘picturesque’ where a junction states you can now deviate towards and the less ‘dog patrolled’ path into Haswell.  This wooded section is sheltered by steep banks lined by trees and with this the wind stops dramatically and leaves you with an almost ‘blowing brushwood’ kind of feeling as you enter a darker, colder corridor as you start the entrance to the Shotton stretch.  Initially you are greeted by a lovely boardwalk which the council have painstakingly provided to help you through this year round, flooded section of the route.  It is the home of much wildlife in the warmer seasons;  frogs, toads, newts and wagtails plus the usual critters.  Old remnants of a another rail crossing bridge (I think) and what looks like an old station again make you think this is another twist to this stretch of an old artery that fed this part of the North east.

Then it happens, just as you enter Shotton (which you can’t see) there’s a bridge that goes under a main road running through the old pit village.  It should be white and introduce you to an area that, by the older villagers, is considered a great old pit village.  This is where the legacy of Maggie hits home!  If you do take the time to read this, and past blogs you know I’m not a Tory by heart, but I did think Thatcher was a good leader (bosh, there goes a few followers on Twitter).

One of many vandalised signs
One of many vandalised signs

She was strong and kicked arse, something a certain someone should be like, but that’s by the by!  Anyway, this bridge is a monument to the death of someone who crashed his off road bike at this particular spot fatally injuring him and the council are too scared to cover up the ‘graffiti’ In case it offends I guess.  However, this is just the start of about ½ mile of, what I can only describe as the most disgusting, litter ridden part of the North East I’ve ever seen.  The path is an assault course of burnt mattresses, plastic bags full of rubbish and drug paraphernalia.  It is bloody disgusting!!  The banks that line the route are the end of resident’s gardens, and it looks like some of the occupants have decided to throw their rubbish over the back fence to blight this supposedly picturesque walkway instead of putting it in their bin!  The walk emerges briefly to cross the main road running through the village then drops back down to more rubbish and graffiti.  At this part you are able to see the wonderful countryside on the left hand side of the path.  But looking right only depresses and reminds you that not all people appreciate the lovely countryside that surrounds their village.

It’s a shame this part of the walkway spoils what is generally a very good leg stretch.  It doesn’t clear up either for a good half of mile.  The ‘Thornley Crossings’ industrial estate now takes the place of the squalor on the right hand side of the walk.  Graffiti is the name of the game here as the industrial estates towering walls sport various daubing’s and again ‘crap’ thrown over the walls tarnishing the route.  The estate walls disappear and trees take charge of the scenery as you come to a junction where you could, if you wanted, walk to Wheatley Hill by taking a right turn.  This junction would be an ideal rest stop, as the previous mile or so was a little bit too disgusting to have a break.

Rubbish litterung this part of the route
Rubbish litterung this part of the route

The council must have thought this at one stage as they had erected what I believe to have been a bench on a nice grassed area.  However, whatever once stood at this location is now a pile of ashes and all that’s left is the charred wooden post that I think supported an information board.

At this point there is some good news, the bird song has increased and the rubbish has cleared.  We are now, I think, entering Forestry Commission land and very well kept.  For the next half a mile, there is a marked difference and you really have to look for any litter.  The track is surrounded with huge coniferous trees and the wind is greatly cut.  It’s a very straight section and you can see other walkers and cyclists coming a mile off.  The trees give way to farm land and the sound of the A181 and a steep bank upon to the very busy main road, which you cross with care as the traffic is treacherous.

Back on the walkway and it’s clear that recent maintenance is an attempt to improvement the surface of the route, but yet again, it’s the signs and the occasional graffiti that needs the attention.  There are information boards scattered along the way which have been vandalised.  There’s a small plaque which displays a proud collection of agencies that manage the route, but it’s the little things that spoil your walk that these agencies appear to be overlooking.  The drug paraphernalia, the litter and the damage to the information boards all need some attention, but the council seem to have paid more attention to the surface, which was perfectly acceptable before the work.

In my job it is true that I would inevitably see the bad in everything and I’m probably pointing out things that would annoy me on a personal level.  But if I can go a full week walking in the Lakes or the full length of the Weardale way without finding any faults, maybe I have a good point about the walkway……

Castle Eden Dene and beyond…..

There are many walks around my home but like most things, you have to go out and look. Amongst these are the Castle Eden Dene walk, this Dene is quite a depth and cuts right into the Limestone which surrounds the area. The map I have shows the Dene and a mish mash of routes which are hard to see on the map, never mind follow.  I’ve been in the Dene before but just a short route, I decided to start at the top and make my way down to the coast.

The start, luckily, is a stones throw from my doorstep.  If you have to drive to the start, the best think is to come off the A19 at the A181 turning and take a right down the old A19 road and park somewhere on this track, then walk down passed the metal barrier and at the bottom turn right through a tunnel under the A19.

However, I put my boots on sat on the stairs and warmth, I knew I’d only need basic kit so my day sack was emptied and just bare minimum went it.  I decided to leave the map as I knew the route (ish) and I know I love maps, I thought I’d leave it at home.  Like most of my walks from home I walked through my estate to join a little lane called Moore Lane and headed east passed a misty pond and as usual in this part of the country, more horses you can shake a stick at.  The sun was beating down on my neck and I was glad I hadn’t put too many layers on.  Then, I had a flash back, my mind went back to the bag of crisps I’d eyed up in the cupboard which I was going to pack……..which were still in the cupboard! ‘Damn blast’ I quietly bollocked myself.  This would never have happened if Kel had been with me, she was at work today teaching the local kids about the dangers of weapons, it was too far to go back so I cracked on.

I dropped on the the Haswell to Hart walkway and headed north west for a short while and then crossed the A181 to sneak past the VOSA guys at the weigh-bridge who were ripping some poor truckers wagon apart to drop down past the metal barrier (mentioned above) to the start of the walk.  As I skated down the short track the snow had not met the sun yet and I was doing a cracking impression of Michael Flately until I reached the bottom and the tunnel under the A19.

Right, this tunnel!  It’s big, dark and long and echoey. Don’t let it put you off, once through its like entering Narnia. At the other side I was met by a winter wonderland and the sound of a chorus of bird song. I went through the  gate with all the info about the Dene on a post and down a fairly steep path. I carried on with my enactment of ‘Riverdance’ and even my trusty walking pole wasn’t enough to steady me.  Time for the boot spikes! Not used them yet and they were quite a struggle to stretch when over my size eleven boots, but once on I was away with a spring in my step.  Not long down the path I sensed I had a follower rustling around in the partially snow covered under growth, at first I thought a little Robin or Wren wanted to join me on my stroll. Then, on closer examination into the leaves I saw my stalker, a small mouse was peaking up at me.  I carried on wondering if the minute rodent would accompany me to the coast, but after a few more metres it had stopped following and I was just left with the chirping Blue and Great Tits for company.

The path is well maintained and easy to follow, even with a good covering of snow, making the route easy and interesting as my face wasn’t stuck in a map,even though I love them dearly. As I got deeper and deeper into the carved out Limestone, the bird chatter silenced and I was left with just the ever so subtle trickle of the partially frozen stream which was broken every now and then by a small rapid. The sun was still peaking through the trees and the temperature was comfortable enough to leave my gloves in my pocket.  There are a few off shoots from the route but the idea is to stay with the stream, the path takes you over a few bridges which give you a pleasant rest to gaze up the stream, which today was carrying a mist to add to its magical appearance. 

The path climbs slightly which takes you away from the stream, this is frustrating as the noise of the trickle is quite relaxing.  But then after a couple of hundred metres you realise the reason for the paths untimely deviation from stream, a right turn back towards the stream brought me to Gunners Pool Bridge. Wow!  A shockingly painted red metal structure reaching over the stream.  At this point you may be forgiven for thinking, what’s this heavy duty feat of engineering doing crossing over a small stream that was previously negotiated by quaint little wooden bridges, until you cross and look down.  The stream has become a gushing mini river which has cut its way through the Limestone, which has dropped the best part of hundred foot.  I peaked over the side and had the courage snap a quick piccy than ran across to Terra Firma. I then looked at the route and realised the path I wanted was back over the other side, I steadily walked back across but could not resist another peak over the side…then I ran off again!

Back on track and heading back to the bottom, the path becomes covered by trees which canopy the route quite a bit.  Now I’m 6′ 3″ tall and I was just about on my hands and knees negotiating about 25 metres as the path dropped back to another bridge and a surprisingly once again babbling brook rather than the fast running pace I nervously looked down on on Gunners Pool Bridge.  The temperature had dropped and the silence was eerie, the Limestone was up close and personal and I couldn’t help looking for Bouldering problems on the numerous lumps of rock in front of me.  It was strange, there were Ferns growing out of the stone, but icicles right next to the vivid green of the foliage.

Maybe just me, anyway, I knew I was approaching the A1086 which connects Horden and Blackhall as the noise of the traffic was becoming louder and I know this area of the Dene, professional reasons.  The path climbs up left to the road, but there’s a cheeky right turn that takes me under the busy road through a culvert.  But by taking this turn you leave yourself open to a view which may, or may not spoil the whole walk.  The culvert is graffiti ridden and as you enter, the path is thin and visibility is poor, very poor.  A torch is needed or you may end up in the, now concrete lined, stream for about 25 metres.

But, once the obstacle is gone (and forgotten) I re enter the Dene and a short climb to a Tarmac road laid by the water authority to the treatment works at the bottom.  Further on you can smell the sea air and the North Sea is in your sights. The route opens itself out into a beautiful nature reserve which, in the summer, is the sight for the elusive Durham Argus Butterfly.

That is the end of the Castle Eden Dene walk for all tense and purposes. At this point you can turn back and take in the sights with a slightly uphill climb and if wanted a slightly different route.  The walk furnished me with a variety of wildlife, Jays, Coal Tits, two squirrels fighting very high up and the usual bird life that is usual in a wooded undergrowth. It’s a cracking walk and it’s a walk that is essential if you live in the North East.  I loved it and will do it again!

For those who care to read on, I finished the walk by joining the English Heritage Coastal route that blazes down the east coast.  I had a good few mile left in me so I carried on towards Blackhall.  The Kestrel that patrols this part of the beach banks was as ever, hovering and swooping awaiting the return of the Little Tern and it’s annual battle with the adult Terns for the chick reward.

I turned right and passed a decent gathering of Oystercatchers competing with the Starlings for God knows what in one of the coastal meadows.  I crossed the coastal road and made my way up Fillpoke Lane towards High Heselden and Heselden hoping to catch site of my Hen Harrier.  But he, or she, must have been elsewhere, however the sky’s were littered with more Oystercatchers and a Lapwings as I sped up towards Castle Eden.  As I normally do, I was keeping a firm eye on my phone, I had set of ‘Map my walk’ at the start and realised, my battery was on its last legs and had to turn the App off at 9.81 miles.  I got Kel to pick me up at Castle Eden when she finished work taking me to a total of just short of 13 miles.  And a cheerful, but cold ridden snotty face greeted me. 

It was a cracking walk and I got into the depths of Castle Eden Dene, which is a very well publicised walk,  and if anyone in the N East is at a loose end one day, it’s a good leg stretcher.