Monday, 7 May 2018

Food on the Great English Walk

I have been asked about food on this walk. Often on multi-day walks, I have resupplied by posting resupply parcels once a week to camp sites or post offices. Camp sites are best as their opening times are more convenient. These parcels will contain such items as:

Evening meals
Tea and coffee bags
A disposable razor
Loo roll and wet wipes

In all cases, the right quantities of everything to last a week.

The food will be exactly what I want to eat, rather than whatever I can find in village or garage shops which will not always be what I want. Evening meals will often be what I have cooked at home and then I will have dehydrated and packed into individual portions. Nevertheless, a week’s supply of everything can weigh a considerable amount and take up a lot of space in a backpack, although the weight and space taken immediately starts reducing. 

On this walk, I decided to resupply as I went, having ascertained which places I went through had a shop. In this way, I never had to buy food for more than two or three days. It worked because the route of the Great English Walk regularly passed through a village or town. I generally managed to get what I wanted although I struggled at one garage shop (Grindley Brook) and one village shop (Wark) whose stocks were very limited. Overall, though, this strategy worked very well and meant no previous planning except to work out where I would find shops. The drawbacks were mainly choice available and quantities. For instance, it’s not possible to buy fewer than forty teabags and wet wipes could only be bought in packs of eighty or so.  

I started the walk with a 750 gram bag of muesli so that had breakfast sorted for the first couple of weeks. I’d done that before although I was aware that it was probably an excessive weight to be carrying. After the muesli ran out, I’d buy two or three flapjack bars weighing maybe 120 grams each and one of these, providing perhaps 450 calories worked very well for breakfast and I’d certainly do that again. However, if I went back to my own resupply parcels, I’d make my own. There are numerous recipes online for high calorie energy bars and it’s good to start the day with a calorie boost. 

When I did a shop, I would often buy a pint of milk (whole, not semi-skimmed) and down it right away, for the calories. 

On this walk, I didn’t take coffee bags, just tea bags and that was fine. I found, unexpectedly, that I didn’t miss the coffee and just had one occasionally if the opportunity arose. Apart from the milk mentioned above, I carried a ziplock bag of Nido full cream milk powder, so much more appetising than skimmed milk powder.

I often bought Batchelors pasta meals which were very inexpensive. They really need things added to make a filling evening meal. The best I had was the pasta with ham and cheese variety but I added to it a small tin of tuna and a heap of shavings of cheddar. I’d certainly have that again (and again). 

Lunches were, more often than not, cheese and oatcakes. 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Day 35 photos

Royal Border Bridge

The two road bridges

The old bridge 

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Great English Walk Day 35 - 22 April 2018

Fenton to Berwick upon Tweed
Walking 5.20am to 6.00pm
Distance walked today 24 miles
Distance walked so far 541 miles
Distance left 0 miles

While I was lying in my tent in the wood last night, pheasants squawking, I began to think maybe I could finish the walk in one long day. I woke shortly after 4am and the thought was still there so the decision was made. I didn't even make tea. I just packed up and set off in half light.

I largely followed the official GEW route all day although, to save a little time, I road walked between the villages of Ford and Etal. There was absolutely no-one about, just the way I like it and no traffic whatsoever. Both Ford and Etal have ruined castles that will have to wait for another time.

At Etal, I started walking alongside the River Till, the only English tributary of the Tweed, and it was, with the exception of one stretch, my constant companion for a few hours, quite lovely. I walked through the beautifully named Tiptoe Wood, the smell of wild garlic accompanying me much of the way, under an impressive railway viaduct, and then arrived at the confluence of the Till and the Tweed, not so impressive but I took a quick break here. I'd done ten miles by ten o'clock with fourteen to go.

The Way then followed the Tweed the rest of the day, sometimes right next to it, sometimes a way away. Now and then, there was a diversion due to land slip. The quality of the path ranged from excellent to poor, the latter where there had been a land slip and a new path wasn't fully established. I passed through the villages of Norham and Horncliffe, meeting only a couple of dog walkers.

Earlier, at Ford, I went by a sign for a cycle route to Berwick which, if I followed the route, would save me three miles but the GEW guide was effusive about the riverside walking so I opted for that and am so glad I did.

During the day, I took a couple of doses of ibuprofen for a muscle strain at the top of my right leg which has been troubling me the past few days and it helped a little.

The weather having been good (not hot) all day, on crossing the A1 outside Berwick, there was a ten minute shower which I waited out rather than don waterproofs. Then a path past a sewage works. Under the Royal Border Bridge, the main line between England and Scotland, then the modern Royal Tweed Bridge and the Old Berwick Bridge and this carried me into Berwick with the youth hostel only minutes away.

An exhausting day but well worth the effort and it means I have a day to explore Berwick tomorrow. My legs won't know what to do with themselves.

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Saturday, 21 April 2018

Great English Walk Day 34 - 21 April 2018

Threestoneburn Wood to Fenton
Walking 7.35am to 6.20pm
Distance walked today 15 miles
Distance walked so far 517 miles
Distance left 27 miles (in fact, according to the map, 24 miles)

Waking at 5am, there was such a cacophony of noise from the dawn chorus, mainly pigeons competing with one another, and also a cuckoo.

I was able to have a leisurely start so made tea from my "bedside" and read a little, putting off the unpleasant moment when I had to put on my socks, chilly and wet from yesterday's late drenching, followed by wet shoes although, to be honest, it isn't such a big deal now.

Dropping down to Harthope Burn at NT953225, there's reasonable camping by the wooden footbridge and, of course, plenty of water. Having said that, from the other direction, approaching the area from the road, there is a Northumberland National Park sign prohibiting camping.

The way to Wooler, via Broadstruther, involved a long climb to reach open moorland but, with a clear sky and the temperature warming up, it was quite perfect. Further on, where Carey Burn was reached, I took a break for elevenses and dunked my feet in the water for a few cold minutes. At Wooler Common I stopped for a chat to Karen Balmbro who was walking her dog, a colly, I think. I gave her one of my flyers.

Wooler meant the moorland walking was over, now just flatter farm land until Berwick. I did a final resupply in Wooler and pressed on. Being so low, it was getting quite hot which didn't suit me one bit. There was virtually no breeze. Near Doddington, I was taking a break when someone else to talk to came by - Mary Short, walking her retired greyhound, Magic. He was on a very short leash as he would have been off after hares. Marys father has recently died from bone cancer. So many people are affected by cancers, either directly or indirectly. It's amazing how a distraction like meeting someone to talk to gives my legs a new burst of energy and I made quick work of the fields to Fenton. I could have gone further, and intended to, but the other side of Fenton I found a perfect woodland pitch for the night.

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Friday, 20 April 2018

Day 33 photos

On the way down to Uswayford 

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Great English Walk Day 33 - 20 April 2018

Kidland Forest to Threestoneburn Wood
Walking 7.50am to 6.15pm
Distance walked today 12 miles
Distance walked so far 502 miles
Distance left 42 miles

The night's pitch was actually very good. So much of the forest I passed this morning had been felled. There might have been some possibilities a mile or so further on but a good decision was made to stop where I did.

Leaving the forest, the views really opened up as I descended on a good grassy path to Uswayford, said to be one of the most remote farms in England.

Past Uswayford, my guide book and the map indicate a path immediately to the left of Clay Burn. I tried it but it was very difficult so I turned back and used the path just above it through the forest but not shown on the map but there was a stile leading to it. It bisected a good track just east of Davidson's Linn waterfall. The track went east (the right direction) and is shown on the map as Salter's Road, used for transporting salt in times gone by.

Past Nagshead Knowe, I made a possibility bad choice of route. The GEW takes a high level route over High Cantle, eventually dropping down to Linhope. I took a probably easier way past High and Low Bleakhope farms, all very easy and much on a tarmac farm road. It was very scenic and quite lovely but, because the area south of Linhope was off my map, I didn't know that the road didn't go to Linhope. Consequently, I had to walk beyond it and then had a quite rough and wet traverse of a pasture to regain the GEW route below Dunmoor Hill.

I had then been expecting a relatively easy walk through Threestoneburn Wood (a forest) but virtually all of it had been harvested leaving a very forlorn wasteland. The first few hundred yards were almost pathless and, in a wet section, my right leg went in to just below knee level. Not nice. I then found a forest "road" which made for easy walking.

The approach to Threestoneburn House was over a pathless felled area, whereas the guide book, written when the forest was still standing, indicated a clear and easy path. Oh well.

I had been planning to wild camp by Harthope Burn but thought that if it was no good, the country beyond didn't look promising. So I filled up with water from a burn and found a good forest pitch just past the forest road north of Threestoneburn House. I'll report in tomorrow's posting whether Harthope Burn would have been OK.

I heard my first cuckoo of the year this evening.

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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Day 32 photo

River Coquet at Sharperton

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