The Monthly Newsletter of Chelmsford YHA Local Group
In the tradition of border reivers our bold band set off in search of adventure and perhaps a nice, fat wedder for supper. Two members of the clan were insufficiently motivated for the arduous journey, so it was left to a core group of three to win the day. The trek into the lawless border country started at the promisingly named Wedders Leap car park – a wedder being a castrated male lamb. The sun was out and spirits were high, although it soon became clear we were not the only raiders on the trail that day. We set of briskly in attempt to steal a march on the other group.
The track wound up through the valley, overlooked by green, flat-topped hills on every side. As the road turned to cross the River Coquet, we left its relative safety and started heading upwards. Although steep and grassy, the path is known locally as The Street. Used for centuries as a droving route for legitimate trade as well as the less legitimate kind, we passed the site of the notorious Slimefoot pub – a den of gambling and wild drinking. In need of refreshment ourselves, we paused to crack open a flask of tea. At this point the Hexham horde bowled up and brutally overtook us. Both older and fitter than us (typical ramblers), with this lot on the hill there would be no game left for us. As they paused for their own tea break, we took advantage and ploughed on up to the border ridge proper. Skirting Swineside Law and crossing over Black Braes, we were able to stay ahead of all the horde but one hardy trail blazer until we reached the summit of Windy Gyle. En route we spied some likely game in the form of feral goats at Foul Step, but their massive horns made them too daring a prospect for our weak, southern blood. Perhaps the Hexham ramblers would have more of an appetite?
At Windy Gyle we stopped for lunch with what looked like the whole of Scotland laid at our feet. A glance south and there was nothing but hills, a wild and remote spot indeed. At least until the Hexham horde caught up with us. Many times our number they clearly perceived us as no threat and with nothing worth stealing, so greeted us with a cheery hallo rather than murdering us in cold blood and stealing our rucksacks.
At this point the ridge path coincides with the Pennine Way and as we walked on we saw a couple of hardy types with enormous rucksacks. They lacked the numbers of the ramblers, but they clearly had no sheep or cows for us to liberate. It was beginning to look like our raid would be unsuccessful. We turned back southwards, the Hexham horde baying at our heels. Luckily, as the path descended down into the valley, they were distracted by the chance to paddle in a local beck and we were able to continue unmolested.
Our route back to Wedders Leap took us along a second ancient drove route called Clennel Street. Luckily since tudor times the path has been upgraded. You no longer need to leap with your wedder on the way back to the car park, as there is a handy footbridge, a great relief at the end of a long walk.
But our border reiving had resulted in no new provisions. Nothing. Not even a chicken. John was forced to make do with a handsome salmon, wrestled from the shelves of Sainsburys for our supper.
Bank Holiday Northumbria
Early May Bank Holiday saw us hit the Northumbria-Scotland border, staying at Wallington Hall, the former home of the Trevelyan family. As well as beautiful gardens, complete with a row of griffins’ heads on the lawn, the house has stunning murals of Northumbrian history and treasures from political punchbowls to a stuffed puffer fish. Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan was a keen walker, and from 1929, as president of the "Northumbrian Trampers Guild", he let walkers use the old granary and stables at Wallington as a simple hostel, making it the first youth hostel in Northumberland.
Wallington granary operated as a YHA hostel until 1955. After much alteration and renovation by the National Trust, it is now an NT Bunkhouse. It made an excellent venue for our weekend in Northumberland, and it was especially nice to have out-of-hours access to the Wallington grounds and gardens before the bank holiday crowds arrived.
Escape to the Seaside
A cool, but bright, Sunday morning and what could be better than to take to the Essex coast for a bracing walk along the sea wall to Goldhanger, followed by delicious birthday lunch at the pub. We even got to sit on the beach for a while, sharing party snacks until we were threatened by the incoming tide.
Thank you to Doug for a great walk and making it through another year.
Please send any comments on these pages to Dave Plummer