Route finding

I’ve been coordinating guided walks for the Wolsingham Wayfarers for the last 6 months, and this month we were invited to host a walk as part of the North Pennines Walking Festival. The task was to find a long walk based in Wolsingham to suit experienced walkers for early October 2014.

Our regular walks are fairly moderate, to suit a range of walking abilities, so this is new territory for us. The challenge was on!

We decided straight away that the walk had to take us up to the fells. Wolsingham North Moor or Pikeston Fell? Pikeston Fell is bigger, higher and with more walk options. I was also really keen to make the magical, secret valley (shoosh, don’t tell anyone), the Meeting of the Grains, our official lunch stop, so ‘Pikeston Fell and the Meeting of the Grains’ it is.

Looking towards the Meeting of the Grains and Pikeston Fell

Looking towards the Meeting of the Grains and Pikeston Fell

We know where we’re going, now how to get there? My Taller Half is our walk leader, and he was keen to try some little-used paths taking in several fell-side farms – abandoned Linnew, shiny Sunniside, busy East Biggins, muddy West Biggins – before climbing to the Fell with the Elephant Trees beckoning. I wanted to find a truly circular walk, covering a good chunk of the Fell, the top of Hamsterley Forest, then back through moor, wood, field and river.

Pikeston Fell and the Elephant Trees

Pikeston Fell and the Elephant Trees

Our first route finding mission was educational. The initial circular option was ruled out when we came across a waymarker that pointed downwards into a boiling cauldron of a ‘stream’, and no safe way to cross. Maybe it’s normally a tame trickle, but we didn’t have time to wait the long weeks for our water table to drop to normal levels.

Not sure we want to be crossing that...

Not sure we want to be crossing that…

To compensate for this, we found a route – on map at least – that covered a smaller area but was still broadly circular. Route finding mission number 2 was scuppered when we took the wrong grouse track, and ended up going cross-country over bumpy, soggy, craggy, heathery moor, missing the Meeting of the Grains by a few miles.

Right then, how do we get across this lot?

Right then, how do we get across this lot?

Route finding mission number 3 was to check out how to link the two halves of the walk that we knew we wanted to do. The weather was wild and windy, and walking on the Fell-cum-windtunnel was unbelievably hard, but we were happy that, despite not walking the entire route in one go, it was a good un. Mission accomplished!

A day of wind, but also rainbows. And maybe a pot of gold?

A day of wind, but also rainbows. And maybe a pot of gold?

Until I got home and plotted the route on the computer. Fifteen miles of hard, hard walking. Pushing our brief a little (quite a lot), and on a bad weather day it would be a hard, hard, totally unenjoyable slog.

What to do? We’ve chosen a simpler way to get onto the Fell, and a simpler way to get off it. The final route is still fairly long – thirteen miles – but those miles are much easier, but still interesting, and if we get Weather we’ll be able to cope. Roll on the 5th October!

The final route. Less circular, more triangular

The final route. Less circular, more triangular

Who’d have thought that route finding could be so difficult?

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About Yasmine

After working with horses for many years I came to my senses and got a 'proper job'. I now live in Weardale with My Taller Half, a mad border collie and 5 chickens. Still wishing I could spend all my time in the great outdoors
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2 Responses to Route finding

  1. What a great job you have Yasmine. I love the walk up to and passed the Elephant Trees. Is your venture quite popular? I can imagine your neck of the woods being a great base for loads of routes. Cant wait to get to my sis’s cottage again in Frosterley and have another look around. Might drop you a line for a nice route!

    • Yasmine says:

      If only I got paid 😉
      We tend to get between 10 and 15 walkers a month, a nice steady number. The Wayfarers are about promoting local walking, helping novice walkers find their feet, and encouraging walkers to look out for our footpaths by reporting obstacles. The Elephant Trees are great as they are half way between Wolsingham and Frosterley. We meet every second Saturday if you ever fancy joining us for a walk…

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