Photoblog – Ouseburn and Wallington Hall

This weekend was spent eating and wandering in the sun, it was glorious!

On Saturday, Johan and I went for brunch at Ernest, before wandering along the Ouseburn to the Cycle Hub for some posh drinks on the banks of the river. It was absolutely perfect. The Ouseburn has to be my favourite part of Newcastle; the culture, history, food & drink are amazing. If you can, I seriously encourage you to check it out!

Sunday was spent with my mum, while Johan was working over in Keswick for the day. As a belated Mother’s Day treat, I took my mum for lunch at the Highlander, near Ponteland, followed by a lovely wander around the grounds of Wallington Hall. Perfect!

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The Heaton Harriers

Just a brief post really.

I’ve recently joined the Heaton Harriers – one of the local running clubs in Newcastle – to try to add some structure and consistency to my running training.

I’ve found them to be a welcoming club, with a mixed range of runners from much faster to noticeably slower than myself. Good craic, hard training sessions, and a club meeting point only about a mile from our house adds up to an excellent option for improving my running.

All I can say really is so far, so good. The sessions completed with the Harriers focus on different aspects of running (i.e. speed) than I would naturally train on my own, which can only be beneficial.

Meets are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with members encouraged to race in many races locally and across the North East, even from their first or second attendance.

I’ve unfortunately missed the slot for the first cross-country run of the season, but I’m looking forward to sorting the paperwork and getting my first club colours so that I can get involved with the rest of the season.

1st / 2nd October

This weekend marked the start of October, and properly felt like Autumn was in the air. The sky was bright and blue, and the air was crisp. I love Autumn; the smells, the colours of the leaves, the chance to wear umpteen layers and all of the wool. It was also the last weekend of the Alice in Wonderland Exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery. I love this novel, and have been fascinated by all things Alice since I was a child, and so we made it the aim of the weekend to get ourselves to the exhibition – and it didn’t disappoint. We were treated to an indepth history of Lewis Carroll, and shown how he came to write Alice’s adventures; his influences, techniques and where it all began, as well as what came after the success of Carroll’s publication of his grand work.
And, of course, I bought a mug from the gift shop; depicting the Cheshire Cat, naturally.

This weekend has generally been dedicated to exploring my home city and playing with my cameras (I make no apologies for the amount of cactus spam which will be following this text…) Yesterday, I showed Johan around some of the oldest parts of the city, taking up through Stowell street, to the Chinese Gate, and along the Old City Walls. This was all topped off with a coffee at the fabulous Settle Down Cafe (I can’t understand why it’s taken me so long to visit here!)

Most of today, as I’ve already mentioned, was given to faffing about with my cameras – namely my Canon 450D. I’ve forgotten how much I love this camera, having been using others for a while, and decided to have a proper play with it today. This mainly consisted of documenting a cat turf war (between Vince and the neighbourhood cats) and taking multiple photos of my growing collection of cacti and succulents. I had a mint time faffing about with perspective and focus, taking quite a few shots of the blackberries in our garden. I appreciate that these are probably not the most exciting of subjects, but I thought I’d share my efforts with you anyway. I hope you enjoy!

We ended up paying a visit to Exhibition Park again this afternoon – its quickly becoming one of our favourite places to go for a wander (and an icecream), and we have vowed to start exploring the green places in Newcastle more, especially the Town Moor.

Sunny Sunday Stroll

I’m not sure why it’s taken me all week to put this up…blame it on post-work laziness! But anyway, we had an entirely laid back and slobby couple of days last weekend. After a busy month, it was so nice to have no plans and actually do nothing! It was also lovely to just spend some time together without rushing around. However, but the time Sunday afternoon came around, I was getting itchy feet and so we drove into town and went for a blustery, sunny stroll around Exhibition Park. It’s been ages since I’ve been up there and have been meaning to check out the newly opened Wylam Brewery for aaaaages.

After stopping off at the Cafe in the park for a coffee and a brownie, we wandered round, with me taking photos (for a change) and Johan on the search for Pokemon. After (subtly) mentioning how cool the Brewery looked, Johan suggested popping in for a pint – proper good idea. That place is amazing!

Bank Holiday Monday

Yesterday we enjoyed a very relaxed Bank Holiday Monday together, lopping around in the morning before heading out for a bike ride in the afternoon.

The weather turned glorious later on in the day, and so taking the lazier approach seemed to pay off!

We cycled into town to purchase some much needed bike locks (we can now spend more time on the bikes and use them for commuting more regularly) and headed along the Quayside to The Cycle Hub for some coffee and snacks.

We then followed the cycle routes back up from the Quayside, along to Shield’s Road and back home through Heaton Park – a lovely afternoon pootle.

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Byrness – Windy Gyle – Alwinton

Having been accepted for the Spine Challenger race, and with the year’s first OMM Lite just round the corner, it felt like the time to start putting some serious miles in my legs and begin the conditioning required to pull back-to-back long runs out of the bag when needed. Since my aborted attempt to run from Chollerford back to Newcastle along Hadrian’s Wall a couple of weeks ago, my body had been crying out for rest, but Friday found me feeling twitchy and ready to get running again.

I thoroughly enjoyed walking up the Border Ridge on my birthday, and it seemed like an excellent route to use for training. The scenery is fantastic but varying all the way along, and I was interested to find out just how quickly I could make it up to the camping spot, just out of personal interest.

Friday evening saw Lucy and myself discussing options for Saturday, and I mentioned that I’d like to try a long linear run, as long as Lucy was happy to drop me at Byrness, and pick me back up again at Alwinton; but Alwinton isn’t Kirk Yetholm, I hear those of you with a good memory say. No, it isn’t but the driving required to get to Kirk Yetholm is vastly impractical, and I had already envisioned getting to Windy Gyle, and heading back down to the Coquet Valley.  Fortunately, Lucy agreed, and plans were made for Lucy’s mum to join us on Saturday morning, so that Lucy could have a nice day out as well.

We set off a little later that we’d hoped in the morning, due to the usual faffing and last minute kit checks, finally arriving in Byrness around 11:30. A quick re-arrangement of food and clothing, and we arranged to meet back in Alwinton, with an estimated 6 hours running time.

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Setting off from Byrness

Parting ways, I jogged out of the car park at Byrness, trying to get my body to remember how to move; two weeks don’t sound like a long time, but it doesn’t take long to feel just a little off form. I also knew where I was going this time; the way to the Pennine Way isn’t entirely clear if you don’t know where you’re going. Once I was up the first slog out of Byrness it was time to open up and get shifting.

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The Byrness slog

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I won’t blather on for too long about the scenery and conditions up to Windy Gyle. For once I managed to take a few photos whilst out and about, and to be honest it was all just a bit Pennine. Anyone who has walked/run along any stretch of the Pennines will know what I mean, anyone who hasn’t, words can’t really do it justice. Magnificent, wild, and always, always damp and claggy.

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Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time anybody?

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On the way to Chew Green; long or short route?
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Chew Green
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Chew Green

I made it to my birthday camping spot in about two hours; the time I was roughly aiming for, and took a moment to enjoy the scenery all again. A quick message to Lucy, and one to Phil who had been up there with me previously, and it was sandwich time whilst I slowed the pace slightly on the ascent up to Lamb Hill.

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Looking into Scotland. Border control might be a little tough with fences like this…

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Looking back into England

Sandwich consumed and washed down with “tasty” Camelbak water, I passed The Fingerpost fairly rapidly, and settled in for the final long haul up to the summit of Windy Gyle. Interestingly there were a few snow patches up along the edge of the Border Ridge, and I amused myself for a few minutes considering the existence of Northumberland Glaciers. (Not really glaciers, just long-lasting snow patches.)

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Looking towards Cheviot
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Cheviot in the distance
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And in all its glory

Reaching Windy Gyle in about three hours I took the mandatory Scotland/England/trig point photos, refolded (a bit tricky in all that wind) and checked the map, threw on a windshirt and headed back down into England and towards Alwinton.

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Scotland from Windy Gyle
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England from Windy Gyle
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The trig point

From here on in, it was pretty much all downhill. I went a little off-course on the way off Little Ward Law, but was recompensed with the sight of a deer bounding across the track just in front of me as I descended. Coming up the final bitch of a climb, from the bridge under Hazely Law round the side of Yarnspath Law, I met another pair of runners on their way down, presumably on their way to Windy Gyle. The usual “how’s it going?” ensued, as I struggled my way uphill, blowing out of my arse, to be told “aye, we’re gannin’canny”.

Struggling over the crest of the hill into the forestry tracks, I wolfed down another energy bar (thanks Jim) and pressed on in the knowledge that I was now on Clennell Street, and the end was in sight. Owing to fatigue and slight navigational errors, the leg from Windy Gyle had taken longer than I would have liked, but at about the four hour mark, I was still well in time to hit my six hour estimate.

Jogging down the Street, I passed a group of DofE kids out learning to navigate (good on them) and entered the final forested area. There’s a couple of navigational black spots left; one when leaving the forest ensuring that you head down Clennell Street, and not down the forestry track which would pop you out at Clennell Hall, and then another coming round Uplaw Knowe*.

From here it was just a nice grassy downhill all the way into Alwinton, where I found Lucy and Brenda in the Northumberland National Park car park, having only just arrived, 5 hours and 20 minutes after leaving Byrness. An excellent, but painful run, through some of the best landscape in the country, and to top it all off, done in a shorter time than expected.

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Whisky at the finish
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Dirty legs
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Obligatory victory pint at Clennell Hall

*Checking this section on Bing Maps at home to switch between 1:25000 and 1:50000 quickly, it seems there’s a discrepancy, with the 1:50000 version making much more sense having travelled that section. The Clennell Street track on the 1:25000 doesn’t actually exist; for future reference, take the track running round the northern flank of Uplaw Knowe. OS will be notified shortly.

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Post by Johan