DISTANCE 5.02 miles
WEATHER Cold wet and very windy
START / FINISH Car park at Simonside
Well I had once again racked up loads of good boy points I decided to push my luck and ask my better half if I could escape the Christmas panic and bugger off into the hills for a small wander, I did explain that due to me feeling a bit poorly for the last week it would do me good to “blow away the cobwebs” but I did know that on Christmas eve I would be pushing my luck a bit , as it was Yvonne gave me her permission ( I think that she wanted me out of the way) however I couldn’t take Bob dog with me as he is just getting over the doggie flu , so it would just be me (Billy No mates ) on my own , I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do anything to big or long as I’m still not feeling right but a nice stroll out in the fresh air , then I remembered Simonside and the Christmas tree , there had been a bit of a stink created when the forestry people had cut down the Christmas tree up on Dove Crag , the locals had stomped there feet and created a right noise with the forestry people admitting that they made a mistake and rather hurriedly planting a new ( but smaller tree)
Each year they (the locals?) would decorate the tree and as far as I know other walkers would add something to it as they passed, who takes the decorations down after the Christmas period I don’t know but it’s been going on for years and speaking for myself I always try to get up to see it on the run up to Christmas or around new year’s so why not get up there and get a look at it and see what all the fuss was about.
New Christmas tree
Gear was sorted, and thrown into the car, of course Bob dog was disappointed not to be going with me and gave me some horrid looks as I explained that he wasn’t allowed, I felt really bad as I know he loves his walks but with the weather forecast for cold strong winds and rain I really didn’t want him to get cold or wet when he is still getting over Doggie flu so it was for his own good (I then went on to explained that I really wanted to take him but it was Yvonne who said No I actually felt quite smug about that ) then I left whilst he went off to argue his case with Yvonne .
On arriving at the car park at Simonside I was surprised at the amount of car that where parked up, yes I expected a few dog walkers but I didn’t expect the amount of cars that were parked up seeing that it was Christmas Eve, maybe there are more folk like me who just want to escape for a few hours, anyway boots and gear was sorted and off I went, my route for the day (see map) was make it up as I went along (aren’t they all) , I did want to get up onto the crags and see the Christmas tree but other than I had no set route. After twenty minutes I left the dog walking brigade behind and quite happy wandered along the well-used paths leading up to the steep climb up onto the crags at Simonside, the first thing that I noticed once I had cleared the tree line was how windy it was, not only windy but very gusty as well, then naturally it started to rain, you know that sort that seems to drench you, so a quick stop and out came the waterproofs , normally I don’t bother as I tend to sweat a lot as soon as I put them on but with the wind and the type of rain (does that even make sense) I knew that I would be soaked to the skin in a matter of minutes if I didn’t .
The climb up onto the top of the crags proved to be err!! Fun with the wind gusting the way it was, but one thing this limbless business has taught me is to pick your moment to take steps and when its gusting be careful, however on reaching the top it was my plan to find some shelter and get the jet boil out but no matter how I mooched around I couldn’t find a sheltered spot, so it was a case of saying “sod it” and carrying on.
Over the last few years the Park rangers have been putting a stone slab path down thus preventing any more soil erosion which leads all the way over the ridge to Dove Crag , now most folk like this path but it’s been a bit of a nightmare for me as the uneven ridges in the stones always send the wrong type of feedback via my old Elite 2 foot causing the old kx06 knee to bend when it shouldn’t or even give in all together when it should be supporting my weight , the result of this is I try to walk just off the edge of the path on the grass / heather of course this totally defeats the whole thing about having the path in the first place but hey I do what I have to do to get by .
However today I would be walking along using my new (well not that new) Orion3 knee, I don’t think that having this knee would make that much difference but I have got a new foot the Echelon which is an Hydraulic foot which in theory should make walking on this type of surface a piece of cake, the theory being that the foot would go down when I take a step and the ankle should allow the foot to go fully flat and full weight bearing via the hydraulics before the knee starts to do anything and should make my life a lot easier , however today would be the first time that I have tested this out and to honest I was looking forward to it , normally walking on this type of stone proved to be a right pain in the arse so it would be interesting to see if the foot lives up to the hype .
However the first thing I discovered was that I wouldn’t be allowed to do any “normal walking” as soon as I took more than a couple of steps a sudden gust of wind would literally blow me to one side and after a couple of really strong gusts I was literally blown off the path , to counter the sudden gust I used my hiking poles to “help keep me upright” which did work but I ruined any natural walking gait that I was hoping to try out on this path , I did manage to get a few steps in walking normally in-between gusts and the foot seemed to work very well and gave me a much better secure feeling but in all honestly I was more concerned with staying upright so I couldn’t say for sure if the foot will make a real difference when used for a longer time on this type of surface , so I binned this test and will try another day when the weather gods aren’t doing their best to knack me , once again I was hoping to get out of the wind when I got to Old Stell crag but once again I couldn’t find a spot that wasn’t exposed to the wind ( I must have really pissed off the weather gods …I mean I must have done a couple of miles by now and still haven’t had a cup of coffee) and so it was head down and carry on along the path towards Dove crag and the way down , yes by this time I had decided that I would cut down off the ridge and get into the trees and get some shelter rather than stay on the exposed ridge all the way to Lordenshaw car park where I would cut down .
On the way I passed the new Christmas tree, it did look a bit wind-blown and forlorn with most of the Christmas baubles where lying on the ground where the wind had blown them off and it was a lot smaller than the original one But hey it our Christmas tree and it stood bravely with its multi coloured flags flapping in the wind, standing there defiantly welcoming all us walkers with its Christmas cheer, I added my little red ribbon which I tried on rather tightly , and as daft as it sounds wished it well and I really hope that the tree grows big and strong and that the tradition of dressing it up for Christmas carry’s on for many many years , like I said earlier I don’t know who looks after this tree but if you ever read this I would like to say thanks it really is a nice touch.
Then it was time to get to Dove Crag and get down off the ridge line, just beating the next rain cloud however there is something almost primeval about looking across the forest when the rain is sheeting down and the visibility drops down giving a dark and almost threating feel to the whole area.
Here come the rain again
However I was in my waterproofs and the rain just bounced off them giving me an almost indestructible feeling and I simply loved it , as I passed “Joes Wood” I finally started to get some shelter from the wind and of course the rain stopped so finally I managed to stop and get the jet boil out to make coffee.
At long last time to get the coffee made
Nothing beats a nice cup of coffee especially when I dug out a chocolate boost bar (my current favourite treat at the moment) and all was well with me and the world in general. The coffee break turned into an extended dinner break and then it was time to head back to the car, I decided that I had got my fix of fresh air for the day and was now ready to get back home and join the rest of the human race getting ready for Christmas.
I had only walked about 5.05 miles with 1085ft of the ups and downs and I was hoping that I would do more today, but somehow that didn’t really matter I had a great time being blown all over the place, yes it threw it down and at one point I thought that I would simply die if I didn’t get my coffee fix but hey I had a great time and I got to meet and say hello to the new Christmas tree what more could you ask for on Christmas eve?
As normal a few (rather poor) photos from today enjoy:
Looking into the trees
Old wall (some old boundary pre haps?)
A break in the trees
Good job Bob dog isn’t with me he would want to mooch around under there
Looking at Church rock (will give this a miss today)
Looking up at the Crags
The start of the path heading up
Looking across to the Cheviots (getting my breath back really)
A bit further up (again another breath stop)
Simonside crags (I will be heading up there soon)
My path up
Part way up (another breather stop)
Looking back down (yes it’s another rest stop)
Nearly made it, it’s getting very windy now
Looking the other way (just for a change)
Made it looking down
I was hoping to get out of the wind here for coffee
The view, not its best today because of the weather
Looking back at the stone cairn
Now at old stell crag and what I think looks a bit like a lion head
Everyone takes a photo from this spot
The stone cairn
Looking out towards Spylaw
Looking at my route
Mooching around trying to get out of the wind
First sighting of the new Christmas tree
A bit windblown
But it’s ours
Starting to head back down now
Will give this route a miss today I think
A couple of photos as I head down and the rain start again
Made it to the trees looking back at the crags
Path heading back to the car park
Day after thoughts.
Home, gear sorted and hung up to dry then hot bubble bath and all was good , I didn’t really get to try out the foot of the stone paths as I would have likes but so what there is always another day , I did some serious grovelling to Bob dog who forgave me for not taking him . the knee and the foot seemed to work well on the stone surface but I need to work on this again before I can say for certain , my real knee didn’t ache any more or less so once again I will write this up as a successful trip out .
ABOUT ME NORTHUMBERLAND WALKS 2017