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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Border Walk Day 4 Kielder to Byrness

catcleugh from girdle fell
There’s phrase for today is “A walk on Northumberland County Council’s Comedy Bridleway”
I started well again – in the correct direction (albeit after some urgent replanning) and with happier feet than last night.
I’d originally intended to follow the Border ridge over Peel Fell and Carlin Tooth to Carter Bar and then on to Hungry Law. Reality stepped in somewhere and I realised that, for me, this would be a two day walk, or at least one and a half…
forest drive
Anybody else determined to walk the Border should really go this way and allow the appropriate amount of time. As it was, I wasn’t up to it, I had a bed booked at Byrness and a ticket at Berwick, so I could only take an extra day by forfeiting these things. Look, I’m a Yorkshireman, don’t be so daft.
So a direct bridleway going almost all the way the Byrness in fairly short order looked to be an easy option. How wrong could I be?
The Toll road at the A68 from Kielder leads the innocent innocuously into the inhospitable interior (thats enough of that now…)  At East Kielder the bridleway starts over rough pastures with cows and sheep and a vague air of neglect.
kielderhead bothy door
At Kielderhead bothy, there’s a beck to be paddled, some deep nettles and a barricaded gate all of which would effectively prevent a person on horseback progressing any further. The bothy is locked and bolted and closed due to Neds and their boozy parties and random vandalism and general arseholiness. It adds to the atmosphere but shows that the Forestry Commission can spend money on blocking up this building but bugger-all on the right of way.
border walk 032
I entered tussock land. The tussocks here are deep and green and lush and big. The line of the path is less than obvious.
As it progresses eastwards, it gets no better. Sometimes there’s a thin trod which appears to be more of a sheep trod. Sometimes there is deep and ravenous bracken, well over head height. Within the bracken there are holes for the ankles.
spot the bridleway 1
Eventually, after many an hour of struggle, it gets worse. It started raining very heavily at this point, just to add to the delight, and having just put my foot into a two foot deep hole full of cold, black methane-water, I was rejoicing at being out, I can tell you.
I heaved my way up throught he dep heather and ever deeper bracken to Girdle Fell, using GPS to hit the boundary at just over 520 metres. Here, there was a bit of a path and a noticeboard describing the walk to the waterfall and picnic place. Its a good job I didn;t try to go there. Both the path and the pickernick area are pure figment of Tilshill Forestry’s fevered imagination. maybe they get a grant or something.
spot the bridleway 2
Just as things were getting better (it stopped raining) – it got a lot worse. The bridleway plunges very steeply through seven foot deep bracken down a forest ride. Lower down the ride is competely blocked by large fallen trees. The local black flies add to the sheer fckn enjoyment of this place.
Eventually, I was on the verge of giving up altogether when I noticed, on the opposite side of the beck, a forest road. The bridleway itself was nowhere to be seen More bracken and trees seemed to be in the way. I plunged through the last of the jungle and crossed the beck. The forest ride, which incidentally was supposed to have the picnic area lead easily through a locked gate (how are you supposed to get to the non-existent picnic area?) – through a beef field, of which I was in no mood to have any nonsense from – so they allran away – down to Catcleugh reservoir where it started chucking it down again.
catcleugh reservoir
I eventually arrived, somewhat bedraggled, or at least , more bedraggled than usual at the Forest view Hostel at Byrness where I was gently deprived of my soaking waterproof, boots and nasty socks and had hot tea and cold beer and a bit of sympathy from Colin and Joyce.  Joyce and Colin must be well rehearsed in tending to the needs of the fragged off the Pennine Way and, despite the return of the pain in the foot, it was a good end to a duff day.
About the bridleway – Something Must Be Done. This is an important route. Its not Government Cuts, Northumberland County Council, its years and years of neglect. A few strong words with those foresters would be a start, and maybe a few wooden stakes will yellow paint on the top would help to establish a path that can be followed. You know , the sort of thing they have everywhere else…….
In theory at least, I covered 13 Miles  with 1500 feet of ascent. It felt like a week in the Burmese jungle.
On the plus side, I got the socks washed and the the tent dried and I got fed, showered, watered, beered and cheered up. I will be in contact with Northumberland CC about this.
More of which later…
borders day 4


The Odyssee said...

I'll bet your poor little fingers are worn out as well now, wee all typing thingy.

John J said...

You had a nice day then?


Mike Knipe said...

Ah me poor wee fingies, Alan.
yes martin, it were fab. I'd do it all again. I'll take a pruning saw and some weed killer next time, though. I likes a good whinge, though, so I do.

Mike Knipe said...

John - Ive just called you Martin... dhuhh... I could sense the direction of the message from Timperley, I suppose. Otherwise , just an abberation.

John J said...

I've been called worse!


BTW, word: regoose

The mind boggles. I'm not sure what the goose would make of it though.

Phreerunner said...

I enjoyed this as well. Sounds almost epic. We don't have any forests in Timperley. Probably just as well!

Mike Knipe said...

Yes, loads of trees.... Timperley Forest has a certain ring to it, though...

James Boulter said...

I walked that Bridleway a few years back Mike, it was pretty rubbish back then to. Shame the Bothy was closed as it is a good'n. Sat it front of a roaring fire and listened to the mice.

Mike Knipe said...

I believe they had a lot of trouble at the bothy, James.
The mice must be starving by now....

Judith said...

Ha ha! Sorry I'm a bit late catching up with your blog, Mike, but I'm having a right good chuckle at your misery. It sounds like one of those days you'll look back at fondly (whilst cursing under your breath). Still, clean socks and a glass of beer always turn a bad day into a good 'un.

Mike Knipe said...

"Fondly" is perhaps not the first word that comes to mind when nostalgicating about this particular day, Judith. It will be a tale that gets rougher and wilder with the telling, though....

Is "nostalgicating" a word?

Giulietta said...

I'm attempting this tomorrow in the other direction and am currently sitting in the forest walkers inn dreading what's ahead of me! I will let you know if it's improved at all. Sent you an email after they told me to here at the inn... Giulietta

Mike Knipe said...

Good luck with this Giulietta. I'd be interested to know how you get on.