Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Slipping and sliding along.

-10 on Sunday night left the minor roads hereabouts, like a skating rink.
It really wasn't worth taking the car out, although the main roads were well gritted all of the access roads to Hadrian's Wall are little windy roads, with an incline that water runs down, perfect conditions for black ice and accidents.
A walk from the house was decided upon, and the route was up Wardrew Hill to Temple Mount, ( I wonder if there was a temple there, must check Google earth and see what it looks like from space), across the footpath towards Barron House, along the footpath to Greenhead then returning to Gilsland along the Hadrian's Wall Path.

Gilsland Panorama from Temple Mount

Got my camera ready and set off  up the hill, I'd hardly gone 100yards before I fell the first time, I was well wrapped up and didn't hurt myself but getting up was a chore.
Everywhere was so icy that I couldn't get an purchase to push myself up, had to crawl on hands and knees to the verge, then I got a fit of giggles so it was a while before I was upright again.
Made it to Irthing House Farm but Wardrew Hill was solid ice, I detoured into the adjacent field (I have permission from the farmer) and climbed up to Temple Mount, the untrodden snow had an ice crust so it was easy if strenuous walking.

View over Gilsland from Temple Mount, Lake District mountains on the horizon.

At the top it was so beautiful, you can see for miles, the north Pennine range and even the snow covered  mountains of the Lake District were visible.
No-one had walked this way so I followed animal tracks, obviously this is a busy thoroughfare during the night, unfortunately the way the melt and refreeze distorted the tracks it was impossible to identify what creature left them, unless there really are Yeti's roaming these hills :)
Paul and Christine were out on the quad bike spreading hay for their sheep, they have a beautiful 5 star, holiday house to rent, West Nichold Cottage a converted barn that you can see in the picture. Not a bad place to spend a winter holiday, even being snowed in there would be pleasurable.

West Nichold Cottage, perfect spot for a holiday

The views from the footpath, across to the Thirlwall Nicks (used to be the 9 Nick of Thirlwall but quarrying took at least one of them out!) and Hadrian's Wall at Walltown are lovely, the hills seem much closer than they are and, with a shining white field of fresh snow, they made a nice picture.

Views to Walltown from footpath.

Down the Hill to Barron House Farm, the footpath goes through the farm yard and the farmer Leslie ( happy 60th birthday Leslie) and his young son John were there to greet us.

The footpath down to Barron House

Had a catch up on the news before heading down their farm road, the ice here was so bad and the verge so thin that I had to edge down the hill sideways. The idea of slithering my way to Greenhead, especially as the cafe there is closed now until March, didn't appeal so I carried on down over the railway line to join the B6318 and head back into Gilsland.

A warm coffee and a bit of Christmas cake my reward for all the effort :)
Catch you later,
Click on the photographs to view them at a larger size.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas Day

I've already told you I'm a bit of a grinch when it comes to Christmas, but I love the fact that while people are kept indoors by 'family' obligations, I can get out for a walk.
We set off from home to the sound of church bells ringing and headed through the village of Gilsland and turned up towards Birdoswald, a nice circular walk of about 4 miles.


The road through the village had been well gritted so walking was easy but once we turned onto the B6318 heading up towards the Hill the going wasn't so easy.
We saw the tracks of roe deer in the snow, there are a good number around and they can often be seen early in the morning, heading down to the River Irthing to drink.
One of the bucks had been knocked down, someone had taken the antlers but the carcass was left,
crows, foxes and badgers will probably share what's left.
It was a cold, foggy day and there was very little traffic on the roads so we were able to walk on the tyre tracks with relative ease.
From this road you can look over towards Willowford Farm B&B and follow the line of Hadrian's Wall as it goes from Gilsland to Birdoswald via Willowford Bridge.
Got to Kiln Hill Farm and turned down towards Birdoswald, Eric from Slack House Farm (home of Birdoswald Cheese) snow ploughs this road, a great service and one I much appreciate, it's a steep hill with sharp bends so would be dangerous otherwise.
The buildings of Birdoswald Visitor Centre were just visible though the mist, it's closed now for winter like many of the centres.
Of course Hadrian's Wall itself is 'open' all year, with a lovely stretch of Hadrian's Wall at Birdoswald, easily seen from the road and, one of the most accessible for anyone with a disability.

Hadrian's Wall at Birdoswald, view west

On a clear day you can look east towards Walltown, but that wasn't visible on Christmas Day, the Wall just disappeared into the mists.

Hadrian's wall at Birdoswald

Michael's sheep were on the track down to Harrow Scar, he'd been in with hay for them to feed on, so they weren't the least bit interested in us, as we passed by them.

Down the steep track to Willowford Bridge, looking at the various animal tracks in the snow and  wishing I'd taken my tracks ID book with me, although it was probably a bit too cold to stand around flicking through a book!
The River Irthing is always beautiful, some lovely mature trees down in this dip, I'd like a good hoar frost to coat the trees, but still took lots of photographs of them in the snow.

Willowford Bridge

Willowford Trees

Up the stone steps past the blue tarpaulins, put there to keep the lime mortar repairs to Hadrian's Wall dry.
English Heritage have a policy to use the same amterials that the Roman builders used and spent considerable time getting the exact same 'recipe' for the mortar.
Apparently lime mortar takes longer to set, although leaving the tarps on for months on end seems a bit excessive.
Past Willowford Farm B and B which can truely claim to be right on Hadrian's Wall, along the track and back into Gilsland.
We saw just one other couple in all the time we were out and they were visiting from Japan, brave souls.
Catch you later.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Snowing on the Grinch

I love snow, perhaps because I can choose when I go out in it, unlike people who have to go to work.
It started snowing on Hadrian's Wall on Wednesday, not enough to block the roads but enough to show a covering of white on the Hadrian's Wall Path.

We had relatives visiting from New Zealand, they're staying with their son and daughter-in-law and seem to have spent most of the visit shopping.
Now I'm a self confessed Grinch, I don't like Christmas and I'm not that keen on shopping, especailly when it's crowded so I suggested a trip to see the Wall and maybe a walk.
We tried Vindolanda, I'd been raving about the amazing museum they have there, my brother-in-law is keen on history but when we got there the museum is closed. A lottery grant means the museum and coffee shop area are being rebuilt and will eventually be a mind blowing visitor experience.
The site itself is still open but, on a cold snowy day, the site itself didn't have that much appeal.
I'd kitted them out with decent footwear so we went up to the highest point on the Wall, Winshields Crag, instead.

From there you could see the snow storms rolling in towards us, and strange patches of bright green grass isolated between snow covered fields.
I guess the storm simply missed that bit of land.
Having had a bracing walk we retired to the Twice Brewed for a bowl of their excellent soup followed by a hot beef sandwich.

Today we've had a lot more snow, the roads around Gilsland are very icy, although the gritters have done the main road through the village.

I had a walk out with TT to post the Christmas cards through neighbours letter boxes. We did a circular route, down through the village, up past the stepping stones through Irthing Farm and back down Wardrew Hill home.

Much as I'd like to be out on the Wall with my camera I'm leaving it for a safer, brighter day.

Take care and keep warm.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Winter mists

Gilsland was shrouded in mist on Friday but the webcams along Hadrian's Wall Hadrian's Wall webcams were showing some patches of blue.
I've been wanting to check out the views from Mucklebank Crag (NY681667), to see if a winter sunrise shot would be possible.
As I'm an official 'wrinkly', I have to go out and time how long it's going to get me to 'X marks the spot' especially if I'm clambering around in the pre dawn light.
TT decided to reprise his starring role as 'he who carries the tripod' and came with me.
It's the first time he's been on the new footpath up Mucklebank Crag and was impressed at how much easier, and safer it was to go up and down.
As we climbed the temperature did too and coming up into the sunsine was lovely.
High up on the crags that form part of the Nine Nicks of Thirlwall you get wonderful views all round.
The ground is still very wet, understandable considering all the rain we've had, I'd recommend gaiters and good boots if your venturing out onto the Hadrian's Wall Path.
It was amazing to watch the mist ebb and flow over Walltown Crags and I took loads of shots so instead of writing a long blog I'm uploading extra photographs.
Catch you later.

View over Haltwhistle Common from Allolee Farm

View east from Cockmount on the Hadrian's Wall Path

A fogbow over Walltown

View from Mucklebank Crag, south over Haltwhistle Common

The trees that mark King Arthurs Well in the mist

TT adding a sense of scale to the view across Walltown Crags

Tree on the footpath up to Mucklebank Crag

Walltown Crags from the turret on Mucklebank

Walltown Farm in the Mist

One of the beautiful old trees at Walltown Farm

Panorama from Cockmount on the Hadrian's Wall Path

PS. If you click the photographs they'll enlarge a bit but they are small file sizes for uploading.
The photographs featured in my blogs are available to buy as a print or canvas from a high resolution image.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Sunshine and Showers

I had to meet up with another photographer yesterday, to do a swap of camera equipment.
I was buying his 80-400mm lens for my bird photography and he took a compact camera in part exchange.
We decided it would be civilised to meet in the Twice Brewed Pub (NY751668), near Steel Rigg.

It had been raining on and off all morning and while not frosty, it was cold, so we decided to spend some time enjoying a bowl of the 'Twicey's' best cream of mushroom soup, and very fine it was too.
Their soup is always home made, served with a bit of crusty French bread and butter and alway delicious!

As we were finishing the sun came out, and as we were close by I suggested a climb up Winshields Crag (NY742675) to enjoy the views.

I was doing my tour guide bit and pointing out the best viewpoints and just as if I'd ordered it up a rainbow appeared, lasting long enough for us to get a few shots before the rain made us rush to cover the camera's up.

We continued on up to the trig point, it's the highest point on Hadrian's Wall at 1132 feet and you get lovely views down to Crag Lough and way beyond the last of the crags at Sewingshields.

All that was missing was a person walking the Wall to give a bit of scale to the shot but with in minutes a figure in a bright yellow jacket hove into view.
 Blow me if it wasn't another photographer, Danny Brannigan from Haltwhistle.

We stood around chatting for a while and then another walker came up the hill.
It must be quite disconcerting to be faced with three people behind tripods, especially as we were all waiting until the person reached the point 'on the thirds' to balance the shot when we fired off a barrage of shots.

The walker stopped at the trig point consulting his map before headeing back down the hill again.

By this time the wind was getting up and we were beginning to feel the chill so we headed back down to the car park.

On the way home I saw some nice sun rays coming through the clouds, for a change no-one was coming up fast behind me and there was space to stop the car so I stopped and took a photo.

I'm working on a gallery of photographs showing shots through 12 months of the year so other photographers can see where the sun rises and sets and plan a visit accordingly. I've got three months up so far but it's an ongoing project, if your thinking of coming to Hadrian's Wall it might be worth bookmarking  http://joanthirlaway.jalbum.net/

Friday, 4 December 2009

Steel Rigg

Isn't it funny how people are drawn to certain names?
Steel Rigg seems to be one of them, and as a place it draws me.
Most people mistakenly think that the whole of the Crag from the car park down to Hotbank Farm is Steel Rigg, it's actually just the bit near the car park.

I was there in Steel Rigg car park again this morning before sunrise and certainly it's a fine view from Steel Rigg east but I was heading up onto Peel Crags.

The NNPA have put in large stone slabs to help walkers get through the wet area in the dip before the climb up the steep side of Peel Crag.
This morning they were lethal, black ice coated the surfaces and with running water over the top every step was a challenge.
Fortunately the pal I was with was ahead of me and called out a warning to take care.

I got to the top of the crag without mishap and enjoyed the view while I got my breath back, the youngster went on ahead to set his gear up while I stopped to take a photograph of the moon over Winshields Crag.

I had plenty of time to get to Castle Gap, which was this mornings starting point. We had a clear sky ahead of us and at this time of the year we weren't after a sunrise shot but were waiting for the morning light to catch the Wall.

There's something magical about those first few touches of light coming just minutes after the sun appears over the horizon.

I realised that the sun would also be catching the Sycamore Tree ( note the capital letters to give it due reverence )

Leaving the youngster to catch me up later, I headed onto the next 'gap'.

I know this is December but for some reason in my mind I saw the tree with leaves on and of course they've long gone.
Never mind as I'd hoped the tree was bathed in light, I spent some time looking for a patch of frost to use in my photo, plenty of it around just non in the right place.

Eventually I had exhausted all the photographic posibilities of Sycamore Gap and my companion had another engagement so, while he hurried back to his car, I meandered along the Hadrian's Wall Path enjoying the views.

I love the Wall and it's stones the amount of work cutting and laying the stones never ceases to amaze me, I'd love a time machine to travel back and watch the construction. 

I find myself wondering, did the men sing as they worked.
Even at my slow pace I eventually find myself making the descent and then the climb back up to Steel Rigg, the Hotbank cows - lovely wooly Gallowa's - are on the path, they shake their ears at me and snuffle, rolling their big eyes before getting back to the job of grazing.

On the way home I stop at the Mare and Foal standing stones. Most people would simply think they were abandoned stone gateposts but they're genuine standing stones and with mist in the valley behind them I thought they were worthy of a photograph, which I share with you here.
Hoping the weather holds.
Catch you later.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

December's here

Can you believe it? Where has the year gone to?
Woke up this morning to a frosty landscape and some red light in the sky.

Headed off to Cuddys Crag, I swear that climb up past the restored Lime Kiln gets steeper every time I climb it.

I know I'm a pensioner and carrying a couple of stone extra but I'm always out and about so you'd think I could go up and down these hills like a linty.

Still stopping to catch my breath gives me time to stop and take in the views, something I've noticed many of the groups of ramblers, using the Hadrian's Wall Path, fail to do.

Have you noticed people who walk in big groups just chatter all the time, you could do that over a cup of coffee :)

This morning it was a sheer joy to look south over Beggar Bog and watch the colours in the sky change.

Eventually my breathing got back to normal and I got up onto Cuddys Crag, for some strange reason there looked to be hardly any frost up there.

The sun rose I took some photographs and then the sun went behind the cloud, story of my life.
 Still at least going back it's downhill.

Stopped for a chat to the ewe's from Bradley Farm, I remember Stuart telling me last year that they were getting a different breed, very like the Cheviot sheep to look at but prettier and these sheep were quite bonny.
Home in time for tea and toast and I think I got the best of the day with my early jaunt.
Hope you like the pictures.

Frosty Morning at Housesteads Crag

The view from Cuddys Crag

Rapishaw Gap and Cuddys Crag

Sewingshields Crag
Catch you later.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

An amazing day

Saturday didn't start too well but by 10am it was brightening, I happened to the twitter site and found a posting saying there was mist on the Wall.
Within 15 minutes I was up at Crag Lough, then onto Hotbank Crag with a final stop at Sycamore Gap.
It was very, very muddy after all the rain but along, with several dozen other people out enjoying Hadrian's Wall, I didn't care, it was just great to be out there.
Not going to write much tonight just post up extra photo's so you can see for yourself.
Catch you later.

Crag Lough

Hotbank and Crag Lough

Hotbank panorama looking east

Hotbank to Sewingshields

Hadrians Wall Path passing Hotbank Farm

Mist in the valley looking south from Hotbank

Highshields Crag

Mist  coming through Sycamore Gap

Sycamore Gap in the mist

Walking through the mist