DATE                                   07.01.06

DISTANCE                          5.9 MILES

WEATHER                         DULL AND WET


Allen Banks

Since my last wander out (last year) it’s been a bit of an interesting time for me, I finally got recast for a new leg and what a leg it is, right out of the blue I got a top of the range microprocessor knee unit known as the Adaptive 2 made by endolight, this knee has all the bells and whistles and is way more than I ever expected to get, there is a sort of downside (if that’s the right word) and that is I will be sort of testing it out …………which is fine by me , I wont write a lot about it here and now but will stick a bit in the amputee section of this site .

However I will admit it proving to be fun trying to get used to it, there seems to be a bit of a battle going on between me and the leg, I guess that I am used to having to do every thing and this knee is adjusting to how I walk and trying to second guess me which is causing some fun , other than that the leg is brilliant , the good people at the limb centre have also given me a “elite 2 “ foot that has a lot of spring or energy return in it and again I am having a bit of trouble adjusting to how it all works  .

Naturally the socket fit is totally different and at long last I have got rid of the dreaded Tess belt and now have a “suction system” to hold the leg on and for this to work I have to wear a seal in liner (again I will write a bit about this in the amputee section of this blog) , now this seal in liner is great but ………there is always a but it is busy trying to slowly pull all my leg hair and some pubic hair out as it grips my leg , this is causing some serious discomfort , and I don’t really know how to combat this , shaving etc. is a no no  so I am told by other more experienced amputees as this causes ingrowing hairs and all the fun that goes with that , so at the moment when the hairs start to slowly get plucked out I am simply shoving my hand “down there” and having a quick sharp tug (sounds rude eh?) and pulling everything out including the offending hair , this of course hurts and brings tears to my eyes but I figure sooner or later there will be no hairs left and things should be a bit more comfortable …..Well that’s the plan.

 The one and only other downside to my new leg is there are a lot of moving very delicate parts that aren’t waterproof which might or might not cause problems.

Naturally as soon as I got this leg I have been straight out into the hills testing it and myself out , its completely different from my last leg , I should be able to do so much more , go faster and safer up and down hills etc. but its so different at the moment I am fighting against the leg , I cant surrender control to it and it wants to try to take over , on level ground i.e. roads etc. it is fantastic so smooth and responsive but on rough ground , it doesn’t know what I am going to do so it doesn’t know what its going to respond and so the fight starts . Fun times ahead I think.

Anyway getting back to this walk, once again it was another one taken from our Northumberland booklet. slowly but surly we are working are way through them, I can of course make my own walks up but there are so many different areas that I have never been to and to be honest I wouldn’t even think of so this free booklet has certainly opened up “Northumberland “and got us going to places we wouldn’t have even thought about. Todays walk was one of them: - Allen banks.

The weather didn’t look that good, cold, dull, damp and grey but that didn’t matter, we had brought a new all dancing & singing walking coat and had reproofed one of my older ones which much to my surprise it actually worked this nix tech wash and nik wax waterproofing stuff might be a bit of a faff to do but it works so today the weather gods could do there worse we where ready but of course we where hoping the rain stayed away.

Parking was in the small but well maintain car park (pay and display) normally I would go into a rant about paying but there are picnic tables scattered about, info boards and clean toilets so it’s no so bad at least the money goes towards the upkeep of the facilities.

Gear was sorted and off we went , I hadn’t got a clue what the paths would be like but expected them to be ok as this area is a very busy touristy attraction , however once we got clear of the main area the paths deteriorated some what , that didn’t matter too much as I had been told by my physio girls that for a while I must walk with a hiking pole on my right hand side , not only had the limb centre given me a new arty leg they where providing me with some much needed gait or walking training and the first thing was to get rid of my swaying about like a drunken sailor walk , by simply using a pole stopped this instantly and unlike my old leg I didn’t need to throw my whole body into motion to get the arty leg swing out , even at this early stage I was walking so much better , smoother not swaying or lurching about ………..not normal like a two legged person but so much better than what I was before . And of course I had the second pole on my rucksack should I need it. I still felt that using hiking poles was cheating, but after talking to the physio’s at the limb centre that went into laughing fits about it and assured me just getting out into the hills was something that I should feel proud about I am slowly getting used to the idea that hiking poles is not cheating but at the moment I am still comparing myself with what I was like before my accident which is rather stupid but hey that’s me.

Our route for today (see map) started walking along very wet but good paths as we left the “main” area the paths (as expected) deteriorated , with lots of wet sticky mud , muddy puddles to splash through and some rather steep muddy paths to climb up and climb down , to be honest I found some places hard work and my lungs really had to work , in fact going up one rather wet slippery path I had to stop several times just to get my breath , as the day progressed I found that me and the new arty knee started to understand each other and seemed to get on quite well however there was one exception …………… happened (naturally) where I was walking along side a rather steep drop when the knee went into stumble mode ,,,,,, which makes it lock up to prevent me falling however I hadn’t stumbled and I was in the position where I needed it in the bent position so I could continue with my step  the result was it caused me to lurch suddenly to the right  towards the steep drop , and my better half to comment that arty leg was trying to kill me so I had better behave myself .

Lesson learnt, it seemed that me and arty leg have got a lot of work to do, but for safety reasons I decided to switch the stumble recovery mode off when I was walking on rough ground , this was easily done by simply pressing  the  buttons  in the correct sequence that where built into the knee , straight away I found it so much easer to walk and didn’t feel like I was fighting the leg anymore , it would seem that I didn’t need (or want) all the features of this knee switched on and made a mental note to myself about disarming some of the features as and when I got the time so I could do a trial with them on or off. But that was for another day but as a point of interest I never switched the stumble recovery back on again.

Our rote for today took us along the river Allen, crossing over at Plankey mill then along the river till we came to the steep climb up to Steward Peel , where lunch was had , we should have been treated to some brilliant views but naturally the weather decided to take a turn for the worse and low wet cloud did its best to block out all the views , from there our route took us past Harsondate, Sillywea ,Harlow hill then back to Plankey mill where we re-joined the riverside path only on the opposite side to what we walk up in the morning and back to the car park . it was wet and dull but I loved it, me and arty leg had finally got our act together and I started to appreciate how it worked and now that I had disabled some of its features it preformed brilliantly, I still had some fine tuning to do but I was looking forward to it, my better half Yvonne even commented on how better I was walking and when we got back to the car I didn’t feel tired despite doing * miles with a lot of ups and downs and some difficult terrain.

A few photos:

Taken near the car park the river Allen


Me setting off (note the hiking pole)


A bit further along


Suspension bridge


Yvonne playing around


Starting to get off the main paths


Looking down at the river


The sides of this gorge are quite steep / dramatic in places 


Yvonne having a pose


Arty photo


Flat rock on the river bed


Heading up some slippery steps, me getting my breath back


Looking back down (it was a lot steeper than what it looks)


Still heading up, having to use two poles now


Nearly at the top looking back down


Looking down just as the rain starts


Now at Steward Peel and what should have been some good views


But it not to be


Looking back at the ruin


Looking along the valley

Same again


Last look before we head off


Heading down


Looking back up (it was very slippery)


A slow walk down to the burn


The Harsondale Burn


Me feeling rather pleased that I got down without falling


Dark and scary section


Over I go (without falling this time)


Heading back towards Plankey mill

Day after thoughts, No sore spots but I did suffer from a bit of hair pulling early on in the walk, once I had taken the stumble control setting off the knee, it seemed to work so much better over rough ground, I think that I will leave this setting switched off until I speak to my leg guy next time I am at the limb centre, other than that I am pleased with how things are progressing