I am so glad I joined a hiking group of friends! I was still sceptical when I first joined the 'Hiking Honeys', as we're called, because I wasn't sure how consistent these hikes would be, nor if I would enjoy them. I knew they'd be every Sunday, but since right before I went on my very first hike, the experience was postponed....twice, you can understand why I had my doubts about this.
However, for the second Sunday in a row, we went on a fantastic hike of a total of 12 miles / 14 km!
As per usual, I woke up pretty early, had a shower, got dressed and prepared my backpack with lots of water and snacks to eat throughout the day. I packed vegan cheese sandwiches, cereal bars, three bottles of water, dried mango slices and some cashew nuts. I knew I was going to burn lots of calories, so I needed to pack snacks that would fuel me up properly for a challenging hike. That being said, not-so-healthy foods were totally allowed!
I left the house at 7 am and drove to Sandra's house, where she kindly offered me a flask as a gift - drinking hot cups of tea and coffee while on a hike is the best feeling ever - and she also made me a cup of tea for the way, as a gift for joining this amazing hiking group.
We got in Sandra's car at around 7:45, and we headed towards Northumberland. I was beyond excited!
On our way to Northumberland, we dropped the car off on a public car park, where we met with the rest of the hiking gang. We all jumped in one car, and drove the rest of the way to the starting point, which was at Old Bewick. Old Bewick is a village in the civil parish of Berwick, in the county of Northumberland, notable for its lot of Bronze Age stone fortress from the Iron Age, and rock art displaying the characteristic cup and ring marks, a form of prehistoric art found mainly in the Atlantic seaboard of England. Similar to the ring marks I've photographed when I visited the Lake District earlier in the Summer, these consist of a concave depression, no more than a few centimetres across, pecked into a rock surface and often surrounded by circles also etched into the stone.
Once we reached Old Bewick, we parked the car, grabbed our backpacks, and it was go time!
As we started walking, I took a deep breath to take it all in. I was excited. It was a brisk morning, the clouds were coming but the sun was still trying to peak through the darkness. I could smell the grass and dirt, and the smell of a fireplace coming from one of the cottages travelled through my nostrils bringing me a sense of peace and extreme happiness. It's hard to beat the smell of wet grass and a fireplace. Two of my favourite smells.
I was ready!
The first miles of the hike were quite challenging. Lots of steep tracks and mud, but also a combination of different sceneries and landscapes. From tiny roads in the middle of the trees to wide-open fields with horses and sheep, the first half of the hike was full of diversity!
We found a local who actually helped us with the trails, and she guided us towards a better path that lead us through the trees rather than along a road. This meant that the boring part of the journey which lead us through a road was replaced with nature. And I was all up for that!
We followed the track, as it lead us towards Little Hill Wood and to the cup and ring marked rocks. This was, by far, the most challenging part of this hike. The incline was absurd, and we had to climb all the way to the top, before continuing the journey. I had to stop to catch my breath a few times during this hill.
Unfortunately, we couldn't find the marked rocks, no matter how hard we tried. We were also two members down, since one of the girls wasn't feeling so great. But we did find other great ancient iconic places, like the hideout below.
I obviously went inside! I loved the fact that the stone was build below the surface, so you could go inside and spy on everything surrounding you. There were also a few stone-made benches inside, used by soldiers to probably keep their bows and arrows. I could tell this place had lots of history, and I even took pictures from the inside, looking out the window.
Since we'd left two hikers 'behind', we walked back towards them, before continuing to the next stop.
We carried on walking, and soon we were back in the middle of the trees. I could see and hear birds from different species singing beautiful melodies; there were rabbits and squirrels in the trees, and we even found a few streams of water running near us. It was a true relaxing experience!
We continued our hike until we reached half-way - around the 5 mile marker. What did we do? We went to the pub for a pint and some warmth, before we carried on to the next stop. When in England...!
Walking towards the pub, we passed by the cutest cottages, including a hidden clock in what looked like a private mini-town. It was adorable!
Soon after this, we reached our destination: the pub! It was called The Tankerville Arms, and it was the cosiest pub I've ever been in. There were only a few people in the pub. I ordered a cider with a berries cordial, and it was the best thing I've ever tasted.
The 19th century pub was dog-friendly, and since we took a little 4-legged friend on this journey with us, it was the perfect spot to give our feet and legs a bit of a break. The restaurant is open to residents and locals alike, offering British cuisine., and the menu concentrates on local produce.
After spending about an hour at the pub, we carried on with our hike, happier than ever, and slightly stumbling on our own feet...(just joking!)
Soon enough, we were back to majestic landscapes, and I couldn't help but photograph everything. The ladies were absolutely fine with this, as I assured them that if they'd just keep walking, I'd manage to catch up with them, even if it meant a little 10 second sprint to catch up.
At times, it felt like we were on top of the world. Looking down the mountains, I could see different lands, cottages, trees, horses and sheep. The clouds and the sky looked beautiful, and since it was nearly 3:30 pm, the sun slowly started making its way down. The result? A fantastic spot of light over the mountains and clouds.
We hiked past lots of sheep, and I was particularly amazed at how groups of hundreds of sheep seemed to 'follow the leader', wherever they might be headed. And trust me, there were HUNDREDS! I got close enough to this one who seemed to be the rebel one of the group, refusing to stay in line. I obviously said hello and took a few pictures. I also decided to name him Steve. Just because!
Further along, another group of friends aligned for a photo, but this time, I didn't get as closed. Something told me these were not as happy to see me as Steve...
We also hiked past some horses. I loved to see them run freely, kicking and neighing with the wind.
As our hike was slowly coming to its final leg, we stopped for a final snack and a cup of tea. I enjoyed a KIND peanut dark chocolate bar, while also having a cup of tea from my flask! We stopped near a water stream, and the calming sounds of the water made it a perfect spot for a quick snack break.
And what could be better than a cup of tea and a snack surrounded by nature?
We visited one last iconic place before we headed back down to the car, but since the sun was going down quickly, and it started to rain quite heavily, we've had to quickly head up to see it, tick it of the list, and I didn't manage to get many photos. I had to put my camera back in the backpack, because the rain got so intense at one point. But I wasn't giving up still! I wanted to see the iconic Shepherd's Cottage in ruins in Blawearie.
I have to say that, although beautiful, this place was also very creepy! Right by the house, there was a tree with lots of swings, and I noticed another tree on the way back down, also with swings on the tree branches. I thought this was seriously creepy, and I needed to get out of there! Haha!
The hike was coming close to an end, but not before we got SERIOUSLY LOST! We had to walk for another mile or so, not knowing where we were going. None of us had signal on our phones so we couldn't tell exactly where we were. We were surrounded by grass, there were no signs anywhere, and I started to panic as the sun kept descending towards the earth.
Eventually, one of us got signal on their phone, so we could easily track where we were. This meant that we had another mile or so to go than predicted, but we were still on track to make it back to the car on time.
The adventure was coming to an end! We walked past the very last gate, which would ultimately lead us to the car, where it all started.
I checked my apple watch at the end, and I was stunned when I realised I'd burned 1330 calories, done 202 minutes of exercise, walked over 20 km and walked around 26.000 steps. All in the space of 7 hours or so. This made me seriously think about cancelling my gym membership. Running isn't so good on the knees, and hiking is clearly more beneficial. Not only is there more incline (and a more realistic one...), it's better for the legs and easy on the knees. You don't get tired as quickly, and don't even get me started on how much more beneficial it is to see beautiful places while working out, versus the treadmill in front of you or worse, the gym's TV screen.
I drove home feeling pretty good, but it wasn't until I got in the shower that I realised how sore everything was. I soaked myself in there for a good 20 minutes, and I don't even care. It was needed! To end the day on a high, I treated myself to a Chinese curry and went straight to bed afterwards. Needless to say I slept like a baby!
This trip was incredible! I cannot wait for our next adventure. I hope you've enjoyed reading about this hike just as much as I enjoyed writing about it. I'll catch up with you soon.