Friday, 28 October 2011

The Last Battle

The Last Battle is a title of one of C. S. Lewis' Narnia books. It is really about the Christian Last Judgement. It evokes a landscape "further up and further in". An enfolding green landscape. One that I have since I was 11 identified with Weardale as seen from the A68 in the few miles between Fir Tree and Tow Law. I have driven that way 100s of times and on each occasion I call to mind Lewis' visualisation and think to myself about The Last Judgement. The Last Judgement has something of a bad reputation nowadays in this society. I can see why. Whilst as an artistic inspiration it has fed creativity of all sorts, it is also an instrument of fear. Centuries of church manipulation warped The Last Judgement to become a means of controlling earthly behaviour and manipulating power. The idea of finite sin meriting infinite punishment in the most awful of sensual forms excites the most frightening emotions (and we all know how attractive to a certain mind set a horror film is (I never got that genre, something missing in me)). I think that a history of The Last Judgement would reveal humans and a church at their worst.

Yet because of our bad behaviour and lack of faith in love should we ignore The Last Judgement? By no means, rather reflect on what Lewis perceived. That The Last Judgement is our own judgement on ourselves. For when we die and are confronted by the light of creating Love, what will we do? Will we bend down in fear seeking repentence? Will we run towards the light, knowing this was always our destiny? Or will we turn away from what is to what is not? Will our anger and pride destroy us? Whatever, it will be our choice. Truly The Last Judgement is the hour of destiny.

A quote from the book illustrates all this. From page 135 "'You see' said Aslan.'They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out'". Look around and you must be able to see this behaviour through human history whether in the great affairs of state or in the matter of marital relationship. Think of World War One. Was there ever such a deadly and un-necessary conflict? One that only the warped ideas of humans created. I reflect on Poincaré and how in World War One Claire Ferchaud was able to confront him personally in the simplicity of Christ. Or how it is that a mother of three children can walk away from them and their father because of "another man"? These are all things that happen, constantly around us. You can provide your own examples. What unites all, men of power or women of infidelity is that whilst Christ wishes to meet them in their sin as Jesus did in First Century Palestine, it is the human who refuses to meet Our Lord. As someone used to say to me in Ayrshire "You choose your bed and lie on it".

Friday, 7 October 2011

Northern's great strengthening.

The information I share has come down a chain of command. It shows how from December 4th Northern will be strengthening its services. There is something called the Government HLOS High Level Output Statement for the rail industry. Depending on how you calculate, this promises Northern 100-150 further carriages to cope with the growth and overcrowding. The franchise was originally let as a stand still one. By December 2011, 42 extra carriages will have arrived and their planned deployment is now worked out. Overall many people will be very relieved.

Sadly I have a pretty clear gripe. Study the detail and only one train north of York comes into it. The 0741 Hexham Middlesbrough will be two Class 142 sets instead of one. Just one additional train has come to Heaton and it is another of the dreaded four wheel Pacer trains. It will spend most of its time as a back up thunderbird. That is not a bad thing but as regular readers of the blog know, my contention for just over a year now, is that the work of Heaton depot (Northumbria local trains) is a complete sideshow for Northern planners and nothing shows this better. My mind says that the only way this will change is if the politicians of the North East work together and insist on some dramatically different arrangements for the new franchise from about 2012. There is evidence that the DfT is listening to this and is inviting local councils to consider what role they could have.

The trains are listed by their current departure time at their point of origin followed by the current booked traction then by the booked traction from December.

AM Peak
06:13 Leeds-Man Vic 144(3), 144(3)+144(2)
06:21 Liverpool LS-Man Vic 156, 142+142
06:29 Huddersfield-Man Vic 142, 150
06:30 Harrogate-Leeds 144(2), 150
06:31 Huddersfield-Leeds 144(3), 144(3)+142
06:32 Rose Hill Marple-Man Picc 142, 150
06:36 New Mills Ctl-Man Picc 142, 142+142
06:36 Wigan Wall-Man Vic 142, 150
06:37 Leeds-Man Vic 158(2), 158(2)+158(2)
06:38 Leeds-Sheffield 142, 144(3)
06:43 Man Vic-Leeds 150+142, 150+150
06:50 Buxton-Blackpool N 150, 156
06:57 Huddersfield-Southport 156, 156+142
07:04 Lincoln Ctl-Sheffield 142, 142+144(2)
07:06 Man Picc-Sheffield 142, 150
07:13 Leeds-Man Vic 144(3), 144(3)+142
07:15 Wigan Wall-Stalybridge 150, 150+142
07:16 Liverpool LS-Huddersfield 150, 156
07:16 Rose Hill Marple-Man Picc 142, 142+142
07:22 Warrington Ctl-Man OR 142, 150
07:24 Buxton-Man Picc 156, 150+150
07:29 Adwick-Sheffield 142, 142+142
07:38 Wigan NW-Liverpool LS 150+142, 150+150
07:39 Man OR-Liverpool LS 156, 142+142
07:39 New Mills Ctl-Man Picc 142, 142+142
07:40 Clitheroe-Man Vic 150, 153+150
07:41 Hexham-Middlesbrough 142, 142+142
07:41 Rose Hill Marple-Man Picc 142, 142+142
07:42 Knaresborough-Leeds 144(3), 144(3)+144(2)
07:44 Todmorden-Wigan Wall 150, 150+142
07:48 York-Leeds 153+144(2), 150+153
07:59 Marple-Man Picc 142, 142+142
08:00 Man Vic-Leeds 144(3), 144(3)+144(2)
08:00 Wigan Wall-Man Vic 150, 142+142
08:06 Sheffield-Leeds 142, 144(3)
08:13 Wigan Wall-Man Vic 142, 150
08:15 Man OR-Liverpool LS 142, 150
08:22 Stalybridge-Liverpool LS 150, 150+142
08:24 New Mills Ctl-Man Picc 142, 142+142
08:24 Southport-Man Air 142, 142+142
08:30 Huddersfield-Man Vic 142, 150
08:32 Blackburn-Man Vic 153, 150
08:44 Liverpool LS-Stalybridge 142, 150
08:45 York-Leeds 144(2), 150
08:48 Marple-Man Picc 142, 142+142
08:59 Rose Hill Marple-Man Picc 142, 142+142

PM Peak
16:00 Southport-Huddersfield 142, 142+142
16:03 Man Air-Southport 150, 142+142
16:06 Man Picc-Rose Hill Marple 142, 142+142
16:10 Man Vic-Kirby 142, 150
16:13 Adwick-Retford 142, 142+142
16:13 Leeds-Man Vic 144(3), 144(3)+144(2)
16:18 Scunthorpe-Lincoln Ctl 142, 142+142
16:23 Man Picc-Marple 142, 142+142
16:27 Man Vic-Huddersfield 150, 156
16:29 Leeds-York 142+142, 142+150
16:30 Buxton-Blackpool N 156, 150+150
16:31 Liverpool LS-Wigan NW 156, 142+142
16:39 Leeds-Lancaster 144(2), 150
16:43 Man OR-Liverpool LS 142, 150
16:45 Man Picc-New Mills Ctl 142, 150
16:48 Wigan Wall-Rochdale 142, 142+142
17:00 Man Vic-Leeds 144(2), 144(2)+142
17:03 Man Picc-Marple 142, 142+142
17:06 Sheffield-Leeds 142, 144(3)
17:09 Clitheroe-Rochdale 153, 150
17:10 Man Vic-Kirkby 142, 142+142
17:13 Leeds-Man Vic 144(3), 144(3)+142
17:13 Man OR-Liverpool LS 142, 150
17:14 Sheffield-Leeds 144(3), 144(2)+144(2)
17:18 Man Picc-Sheffield 142, 142+142
17:27 Man Vic-Huddersfield 142, 150+142
17:48 Man Picc-Chinley 142, 142+142
18:00 Man Vic-Clitheroe 150, 153+150
18:00 Man Vic-Leeds 144(3), 144(3)+144(2)
18:00 Rochdale-Blackburn 142, 142+142
18:22 Man Picc-New Mills Ctl 142, 142+142
18:25 Liverpool LS-Man OR 142, 150
18:27 Man Vic-Huddersfield 150, 156
18:29 Leeds-York 144(2)+150, 150+150
18:31 Liverpool LS-Wigan NW 156, 142+142
18:32 Leeds-Sheffield 142, 144(3)
18:43 Leeds-Huddersfield 144(2), 144(2)+142
18:45 Man Vic-Wigan Wall 142, 150
18:55 Liverpool LS-Warrington 142, 150
18:59 Leeds-Knaresborough 144(3), 144(2)+144(2)

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Shepherds Dene Ramble Retreat

From time to time I find myself participating or helping at Shepherds Dene Riding Mill. Shepherds Dene is a Church of England Retreat House welcoming all. It is jointly administered by the Dioceses of Newcastle and Durham. It is an excellent example of an Arts and Crafts House (think of a smaller Cragside) whose owner gifted it to the church in 1946. It sits on the side of the March Burn Valley 3/4s of a mile up the Slaley Road from Riding Mill. It has prominent resources on the net with its Facebook and website.

On Wednesday 28th September 2011, I joined a one day ramble retreat. A number of photos can be seen here. My summary account there said "Shepherds Dene hosted a ramble retreat led by Reverend Jeremy Chadd on 28th September 2011. 8 miles, 9 persons, three dogs, a welcome from the local landowner Jamie Warde-Aldham at Healey St John, four fords, one bog and six hours passed door to door. Add in breakfast, hearty lunch, afternoon tea and a eucharist for a tenner and Northumbrian Christians know how to offer hospitality and value for money. A series of mini reflections involving Abram, Ruth and Jonah along the line anchored the walkers into the ups and downs of life and faith along a route which cross crossed the March Burn. Two opportunities to repeat are in Shepherd Dene's 2012 programme."

In this blog the opportunity is being taken to describe the route in more detail. The walk is being offered again as part of the Shepherds Dene 2012 programme. It could be undertaken by groups or individuals independently of those opportunities. Shepherds Dene offers an excellent secure start/end for the walk which itself affords a very worthwhile introduction to the valley of the March Barn which is not exactly well known. For those staying at Shepherds Dene, the walk offers a nice day out.

How might it be categorised? If it was part of a county organised programme or a walking festival it would be rated medium. As the crow flies it is about 2 1/2 miles from Shepherds Dene to Healey Church. The walk's strength is its encounters with the valley of the March Burn with four crossings. The walk is not a straight line and this makes it around 8 miles.

The context is that of one of the north running burns/rivers that feed the Tyne between Hexham and Blaydon (Tyneside). The principal five are a group comprising the Devils Water which the A695 crosses at Dilston, that is the largest. The March Burn crossed at Riding Mill. The Guess Burn crossed at Stocksfield with a catchment running up through Apperley Dene to Whittonstall. The Stanley Burn joining the river at Wylam and running behind Prudhoe. The Blaydon Burn. All offer attractive walks and beyond the local area are not well known.

The March Burn catchment extends from Riding Mill (where it is called the Riding Mill Burn) past the policies of Shepherds Dene (where it is the March Burn). It then joined by the Dipton Burn (a glacial meltwater channel) and so drains an area up to the Derwent watershed mostly comprised of Broomhaugh and Riding, Slaley and Healey civil parishes.

The walk is entirely on the OS Landranger 87 Hexham sheet. For the larger scale Explorer sheets, it straddles the boundary of three. You will need 307 Consett, 316 Newcastle and OL43 Hadrian's Wall. If walking in association with Shepherds Dene, the retreat house has a 1:25,000 Explorer sheet printed on demand with the house at the centre. All the walk is on this sheet.

Go well shod. Most of the walking is on sound paths but there are some elements crossing the valley which can be muddy. No fording is necessary, footbridges exist at all four crossings, the fords are optional. But the approach paths can be wet, muddy and quite steep for up to a couple of hundred yards at a time. This write up describes the walk from Shepherds Dene. It is all on public rights of way save for the accesses to Shepherds Dene. The walk could commence in Riding Mill where bus and train services exist. This will add a further 3/4 mile in each direction. The advantage of using Shepherds Dene for any group is that catering, parking and a warm welcome can be assured. At the end of the day a chance to unwind on the patio with a drink from the bar looking across to where one has been is singularly pleasant.

The walk starts from Shepherds Dene's front door and heads north east up the entrance drive (not the exit one) to the Slaley Road. The road is then walked for 1 3/4 miles to NY993595. This is the most sustained public road walking on the route and care should be exercised. Turn left onto the bridleway and descend through Todburn Wood to the first burn crossing. Continue to ascend through woods until a field is reached. A path is indicated at a junction right. Use this along the edge of the field and wood. This will then re-enter the wood, descend and cross the burn again. At this crossing, the road has become a minor access road to a house. Follow it back uphill and along a minor climbing ridge through pasture (livestock). You reach a gated T junction. Turn left and start descending again. As you re-enter the woods note that the public path veers right. This can be missed and the next couple of hundred yards are probably the trickiest bit of the walk. You descend to Healey Mill which is very well preserved and probably seen by only a few hundred passers by a year. From the footbridge here the rock cut gorge heading upstream is dramatic. Across the bridge join the access drive to the mill and turn right, ascend again. Some bends follow but keep to the marked right of way. The alert will realise that Healey Hall is conspiciously in view and that the route will pass this. Do not walk straight to it leaving the right of way. The landowner has welcomed Shepherds Dene personally to this walk and unless permission has been sought users are respectfully requested to stay on the path.

The path is now heading SSW to join a public road from Slaley to Scales Cross at NY992570. Turn left along it. You climb slowly to the summit of the walk at 211 metres. Extensive views north are on offer. Walk the road for just a kilometre to Lane House. A tarmac road turns left and you will use it descending gently. As notices advice, this is a public path and not a public road. Therefore it is a quiet and a pleasant walk. It is the road through the Healey Hall estate. On the approach to Healey Hall, it and the walker should turn right. After just over another kilometre you will reach the few houses and the church that form the nucleus of this most unnucleated village. The church was built in 1860 and despite its apparent lack of potential congregation remains very much in use and in good condition. Please respect it.

If the walk has been arranged through Shepherds Dene, this point about two thirds of the way around, is identified as the major break point. A picnic lunch can (and has been) served, a church service can be arranged, and for those wishing to break their walk, this is a good rendezvous point. So after the refreshment spiritual as well as physical the walk continues by turning right along the minor (now public) road outside the church. In one hundred metres turn left along another public road. Walk 300 metres until a public path is signed heading north through at the moment young woodland. This is called Broomleyfell Plantation. Good views can be had north. After about a kilometre a public road is met at NZ012697. Turn left and within a hundred metres execute a sharp right down a public path using the tarred access road to High Plains. Follow this path which will turn left and make its way straight through the car parking area of High Plains in front of the farmhouse.

Be careful here to follow the path signs. The whole route is well signed but a word of caution, there have been plenty of stiles along the way. The path is signed around the north side of an exercise paddock and so towards Hemmels Fell. The route is basically west now for a kilometre. Two diverging paths are met, keep right downhill. Shepherds Dene will soon come into view about a kilometre north across the valley (see heading photo). As you leave the wood the path is clear running between two field boundaries. The Riding Mill area is notorious for its spring lines. Descending the hill possibly crosses some of these and can be wet underfoot. A gate into a pasture lies obviously ahead and through this gate can be found the worst conditions especially if cattle are in the field.

You are nearly back. The path descends through pasture to the last ford and footbridge. A small notice here advises about permissive paths direct to Riding Mill. To get to Shepherds Dene, there are two choices. Either continue north on the clearly signed path and you will reach the public road where you turn left and so into Shepherds Dene in another 400 metres. Alternatively having passed the gate north of the ford, it is possible without crossing any fences to use a physically present path beside the March Barn and through woodland into the Shepherd Dene property at the bottom of what is called the Woodland Walk. There are no rights of way through Shepherds Dene and this link is not a right of way.

That should help you around the walk armed with appropriate maps. You will see some wonderfully quiet countryside, a surprising amount of rocky cliffs and in season plenty of juicy blackberies. And if you have teamed up with Shepherds Dene a spiritual guide can make all the links to life's ups and downs whilst the catering arm will ensure you enjoy very wholesome "Northumbrian Farmhouse" fare. Your contact at Shepherds Dene is George Hepburn.