There's a walk from Durham all the way to Witton Gilbert, one waymarked with  the Small Pilgrim's Places yellow arrow on green (these are apparantly dotted around the country and usually involve a village church which one can visit/start out from/end up at.)
This one starts out from/ends up at St Michaels and All Angels in Witton Gilbert ( , and you can walk a circular route to Durham and back, along the River Browny one way, along the Lanchester Valley cycle path the other way.

I've often walked it, either all the way into Durham, getting the bus back; or from Durham, having gotten the bus there for some or another reason. Once in the thick snow, about two years ago, on a Sunday for the sake of experiene. That time I also walked back. It had snowed so much the busses weren't running. A couple of other times - roundabout summer-into-autumn - I've led a walk from Durham Cathedral that involved some meditative and creative stops along the way.

More often though, we cut the walk in half and turn upon reaching the remains of Beaurepaire Priory, near Bearpark (interesting what a fancy name can be done to in the mouths of folk over many years), a popular walk for the dog (the fluffy one - see 'Keld'). He loves chasing pinecones...

The dog's not been around for a while - a consequence of in -previous-blog-mentioned weighty life-situation that kickstarted this project. So recently I've walked it twice on my own, on the 23 January, shortly after Charlotte went back south after a week's visit (so a bit down-in -the-dumpy); and again about a month later, on the 20th February.

23 January 2013
Still plenty of snow about which turned quite icy and harder to work with. Not an extensive walk, but because of ground-conditions, I was wearing wellies anyway, and wouldn't have wanted a long and arduous trek. So more of an amble and a potter along, making and doing things.
1. Through Witton Dene, passed the pond along to the green bridge. Into the burn bed to make a snowy zigzag and a circle where a bank had formed at the turn of the Dene Burn 2. Following the SPP waymarker into the woods, along the Browny River, up some steps, reaching a snow-covered field, where I trod a twirl. 3. Still following the Browny, trying out floating some snowballs. When that turned out unimpressive, I balanced some other snowballs in a tree. Much more satisfying effect. 4. Upon reaching the farm track, I turned right into it, up the bank and onto the Lanchester Valley Way cyclepath, taking a few fancy photo's. 5.Where the LVW crosses with a footpath, I turned right again, crossed the footbridge, through the field below Witton Hall, crossed the A691, and home. Not an extensive walk, but enough for a frozen day...
23/01/2013 snowy zigzag
23.01.2013 Witton Dene circle
23.01.2013 Witton G to Bpark,trodden spiral
23.01.2013 River Browny floating snowballs, not as impressive as hoped
23.01.2013 snowballs in a tree
20 February 2013
This walk needed to happen for the sake of redemption...I had set aside this day for a long walk, as life (as previously mentioned somewhere) still and constantly tries to thwart this project. But no joy, as yet again, life won. In this case, I needed to get to the market to pick up something I had gone to pick up earlier in the week and was told they had left 'it' "on the diningroom table", can I come on Saturday?
Extract OS308
1. As per previous walk until meeting the farm track under Bearpark Hall farm. Instead of turning right, I turned left, up past that farm as well as Stottgate Farm. 2. At Moorsley Banks, I turned left through the farm gate (about 90') and walked alongside where there used to be a fence all along, but taken by the floods, by the look of it. A fair bit of standing water, remains of said floods, in the hollows. 3. On along Club lane, crossing the A167 (eventually - busy road), in amongst the houses of Western Hill, turn sharp right towards Flass Vale (not marked as such on the map), where some Sycamore-thinning had been happening). 3. Coming out by Crossgate Moor/Kins Lodge Hotel, along the streets, under the viaduct and into Durham Town, and particularly the market. 4. Return trip took me along the selfsame tracks.
Much more water
Sycamore thinning
Chainsaw doodle
Witton Dene
Having to blog about a walk on my doorstep, irks me somewhat. My intention with this project was to go on walks far from anything remotely known, using maps to navigate and see new things and places. I hadn't reckoned with the snow, and I hadn't reckoned with the people I wanted to get away from, for at least half a day or so. So many demands! So many hold ups.......

It's well into March now, and I have done a couple of great walks (albeit also not very long) I hadn't managed to blog about yet. But even so (and also 'Therefore'), there's a constant underlying feeling of anger and sense of frustration I had hoped to have channel out by now, still with me, because of not managing to get to what I wanted to get to and where I wanted to go to.

My answer to next months outside-of-walk demands/requests must be "no". Let's see if I can manage it.....




This was my birthday walk, though it wasn't my birthday yet.

The landscape thick with snow.

Julia Cameron also says:  "One of my favourite ways to talk with friends is to walk with them. I love being engaged with the larger world and with each other."

That's what  this walk was like. Favourite. Walking. Talking. Engaging. World. Each other.
My wife and I. The World in the shape of a horse/pony engaged with C by eating her apple, she engaged by giving it. Making friends.

I've been to Gibside before, but it's usually been through work, with someone in a wheelchair, so one is mainly confined to walking down the avenue of trees lining the start of the Long Walk from the Chapel out towards the Column of Liberty....and back. At a stretch, in a fit mood with the right ground and weather conditions, one can make it to the Octagon Pond, engaging with the ducks perhaps, looking up at the Banqueting House, sometimes getting caught in the rain and sheltering under the tree by the pond.

It was therefore a treat exploring the Skyline walk, going round Snipes Dene - keeping
to the sunny side -  having lunch perched on damp log, passing the Mine and spending time in the Wildlife Hide, throwing pinecones onto the frozen surface of the Octagon Pond, exploring what the Nature Playscape was, having a coffee at the Stables (hurrying a little as the time for the forecasted snowfall was fast approaching) and strolling up the Avenue, for once not having had to go down it first.

Engaging with Gibside in this way was a curious thing, in that I had always imagined it a bigger estate than it turned out to be. It wasn't a disappointment or anything like it, but an interesting observation, how something you can't see the edges of may seem huge, and once you've been to its edge, its borders, it limits it somehow becomes pocketable.

Or has it got to do with ability? Behind or in a wheelchair its edges are still out of reach.
18.01.2013 Visitors map of Gibside, not to scale. Walk marked out in pinkish-grey
18/01/2013 On the skyline
18/01/2013 On the skyline
Making a friend
Hide and column
in the hide
18.01.2013 Pond and Banqueting House
18.01.2013 Snow starting to fall
"We live as we move, a step at a time, and there is something in gentle walking that reminds me how I must live if I am to savor this life that I have been given"
Julia Cameron - Walking In This World

A local walk in the snow, some of it still falling. A popular doggy-walk for the fluffy one. He would've loved the snow, but he got stuck in Somerset...

Usually we do the walk in less wintry conditions. Where the path passes Fulforth farm, we have to be on the look-out for a bundle of farm dogs bravely attacking our Bichon (known to be in the 'toy' chategory at Crufts) and protecting their farm and people from it (sometimes their instincts make dogs extremely dumb). On this day, they were nowhere to be seen. Good thing the fluffy one wasn't with us then!

It started snowing fairly heavily, about 10 minutes into the walk - we couldn't see the valley! On a clear day one can see Durham Cathedral from the top of the hill. We did consider going back for about a second, but as we knew the walk very well, decided to follow our noses and plod on. And enjoyed every single plod!

We walked down the lane past Horn's House, turned right up Broom Street, left into the farm track to West Hall cottage and sort of guessed where the path might be (through experience) into Beech Wood. 

A magical landscape, snowy woods....

We had to take a short detour from our usual route through a gate, to try avoid seriously soggy, muddiness and cross over the field but almost got stuck in the
mud anyway, where the cows have churned and trodden the cold, wet ground into a kind of sticky soil-butter: there's a shell of a building, barn perhaps, where the animals shelter. Sometimes sheep, more often cattle. Pitch black ones. Beautiful animals, though quite covered in mud on this occasion.

Once through the mud and the next rickety gate, we went down another farm track, through a slightly sturdier gate and past Kay's Burn House, onto the solid tarmac of  the cycle/footpath alongside the A691, back to WG.
route, not to scale and not entirely accurate in terms of features
15.01.13 Before it started snowing
Snowy horse...nearing Fulforth Farm, started to snow shortly after
15.01.13 Mud sketch, Beech Wood
Snowy sheep
Charlotte in Beech Wood
15.01.13 In Beech Wood
I missed the dog - our dog. He's only a silly fluffy thing, very energegic (always up for a walk, whatever time, almost whatever the weather....he would look at you as if he really didn't understand why he should go out in pouring rain though), with a lot of stamina (he walked Hadrian's wall path with us in 5 days aged 4 months. Well, ran back and forth and all over the place. He seemed a bit destitude once we were back home, as if he was missing something but couldn't quite remember what. Same thing when we came back from a week's holiday in a yurt near Kielder.)( ) and he loves the snow. Even though icy snowballs form clinging to the fur on his bum and legs. He missed all that this year...not much snow in Somerset.

How incredible, the people and animals that become part of ones life, by chance or choice, and how life's a little lost without them.....
"We live as we move, a step at a time, and there is something in gentle walking that reminds me how I must live if I am to savor this life that I have been given"
Julia Cameron - Walking In This World

James took me for a walk and I brought Dexter.
06.02.13 Dex and I surrounded by Cheviots
Dex' instincts, historically as a hunting assistant, makes him run fast through,
around and amongst tufts of tall and chunky grasses, ducking and diving,
twisting and turning,  no doubt to scare birds up into the air to be taken a
shot at. It's a joy to  watch. His sprees would normally last about 5 minutes.
His 'funny five minutes',  Cecilia (owner) calls it.

On this  walk, I did let him off his lead eventually, once the flocks of sheep were out
of range and behind cattle grids. His funny five lasted about 45. He didn't disturb anything remotely (they all probably heard us coming a mile already and was well beyond), but the joy of the goose chase emanated and oozed from his shiny slickness. He came back every time I called for a chummy well-done pat on the ribs, only to streak off again. 

Once we got back towards our parked car, I happened to notice the faded sign asking dogs to stick to the allocated paths as grouse were being farmed in the area. Dexter can't read and I wasn't looking for signs, so we didn't see it. Yet no harm was done, only abundant frollicking joy.

The witness of it was worth the 'tresspass'.
"We live as we move, a step at a time, and there is something in gentle walking that reminds me how I must live if I am to savor this life that I have been given"
Julia Cameron - Walking In This World

"All shal be well and all manner of thing shall be well" - Julian of Norwich

I took a map, not so that I wouldn't get lost (though that helps) but because I
love maps, and finding out where I am in relation to everything else gives a certain perspective, that the things you can see and hear
and touch aren't the only things that exist and have an impact.
(Does-a-tree-fall-in-the-forest-when-there's-no-one-to-see-it? kind of

A few routes are suggested as you approach the gateway to the adventure waiting to be had.

 I chose the longest possible route, a combination of about 3 of the routes, wanting the longest possible adventure, a satisfying episode with no annoying cliff-hangers or abrupt stops that could make me feel what's the point-like. 
 First up and along the Family Tree walk, along Briarwood Banks, down some slippery steps, over the footbridge at Plankley Mill and back along the River Allen.
In places the path/steps etc were very muddy and well-trodden.
I lingered, taking as much soulfood in as I could and working out the best routes around the muddiest patches while keeping an eye out for an elderly couple following behind along the way I was going. But I needn't have worried.

I stopped for lunch on a rock by the river.

The couple passed by and disappeared around a bend, the last I saw of them.

I missed my other half, not even able to imagine the conversations we might have had, or the landart we might have made. I wondered wether I would've bulldozed on along the muddy path, occasionally waiting for her to catch up, like the old man was doing? Or would I have had to catch up, wombling along, taking pictures, watching my step, as the old lady did? Would we have walked and talked and stopped in places together all the way, not like them at all?
04.01.2013 Allen Banks, rocks covered in lunch-time foil wrapping. Removed afterwards and binned
04.01.2013 Allen Banks, rocks covered in lunch-time foil wrapping. Removed afterwards and binned
After lunch, I found a leaf-like looking piece of bark, quite beautiful. As I continued on I found all sorts of contrasting backgrounds and textures for it. Gradually I made my way to the tarn in Morralee Wood where I had flask tea and choccolate biscuits on a bench.
04.01.2013 Print in mud on paper
04.01.2013 Foil rubbing of leaves on bench
I made a foil rubbing of the leaves on the bench and put it in my book of walks. I made a muddy print of a leaf I found on the ground between its pages. I liked it. It looked good.

I left, crossing the Suspension Bridge and walking along the lower path -  hugging the river, at one place the edge falling into it, only my bootprints.




We live as we move, a step at a time, and there is something in gentle walking that reminds me how I must live if I am to savor this life that I have been given"
Julia Cameron - Walking In This World
The day I decided to walk began quite innocently. 

But then out of the ether, a demand was made, by request I hasten to add, which turned out to be that one too many....... time and energy, albeit from an environment I'm usually quite happy to be demanded from. It seemed that other areas which had pressed in a bit over the past six months or so, simply took all I had, suddenly the reservoir was empty. I could just about survive with what I had left. That's what it felt like: Life's too heavy. 

I rebelled, said 'no'; I got in my car and drove. By the time I stopped an hour and half or so later, I fetched up in Staithes. 

I didn't walk far this day, just round and about. What was important about the ambling was the point where I understood that I needed to take control of all the havoc that was seemingly happening inside: the decision to walk was born. It clearly had been the right one, because since then there's been designs on my walking time, wether it be work, social or health, some which I can ward off, others which I can't.
30.12.2013 Staithes panoramic, tide out
I walked among the rocks, just looking, taking in the view, watching the anglers, scanning for features, thinking and keeping a beady eye on the incoming tide...
And when the tide came in (fast), I wombled around the village; along Cow Bar lane and wharf; up Cow Bar Bank onto Cow Bar Nab; along and across Roxby Beck,  following local footpaths and enjoying bonfire smells whafting over from the well-camouflaged allotments along the bank. 

Another time I might walk awhile along the Cleveland way, or totter up to trigpoint 49, or explore the Old Railway.

Another time.
Comfort and Strength Mandala, 26-28th July 2012
Tuesday, 24th July 2012, 
My brothers Piet and Diek in an accident.  Piet's wife Griet, and daughter Catherina died....prayer mandala to channel the pain, and pray. No words.
Intricate Celtic weaving and knotting.
Horse for Catherina
Goose for Griet
Tree and light for Hope
Harp and flute, music for our souls
Comfort and Strength for Piet and Diek.

And God

Loyalty, companionship.
Comfort and Strength detail. Loyalty, companionship.Alice.
Comfort and Strength detail. Strength.
Light, sun, day, vitality, illumination, resurrection, messenger of birth...




In Celtic Christianity: symbol of Holy Spirit
Comfort and Strength detail. Comfort.
Comfort and Strength detail. Tree of Life
"By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to
give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our
feet into the way of peace."
 (Luke 1.78-79)

The light and the cross,
Tree of life


 Reed. Communication : flute.... fantastic worlds of vision, heroism, and beauty. 
 Quiet. Hear them sing a song when the
wind blows through a field of reeds...otherworld voice.

The celtic harp - music that make men weep, bring joy, lull to sleep....dispensers of sorrow, happiness, and rest.

Comfort and Strength detail. Music. Harp and flute
Comfort and Strength detail. God






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Summer it is, sunny or not.
Hot, humid, 'close' as someone said this morning. The rain falls in big plops, or sheets of showers. Everything GROWS; has been growing since it stopped being icy...

The dog and I went for a walk: from Slaley village (school, pub, post office and church  lined up either sides of the road), through Slaley Woods, over Holly Hill, past (fantastic)Lightwater Cottages, into Dipton Wood. Turned at Temperley Grange, went by Todburn Steel, around Peel Flatt and out again onto the road the other end of Slaley.

The wheat stood hip-high and the oil seed rape hung heavy and obtrusive over the path. The dog gagged on the grasses forced low by said rape and recent damp. In places, the grass trodden flat by a previous rambler, not a path in sight...
Masses of tall grass. Very green.
Green are my favourite colours.
On the edge, almost not even inside of,  Dipton Wood a very rooted tree right in the middle of the path. I lingered and it became both mandala and land-art, quaint albeit.

Sludged alongside bogged and mired paths.
Came upon an amazing sandstone path just beyond Lightwater Cottages! Rockhard,  water-carved - felt like walking up a cemented watering canal, imagined the scene during the recent flashfloods.....!
wheat, sky, black crows... Slaley
lots of ant-activity - great big mounds bulging about, especially in the foresty parts. Mounds seem to be covered in pine-needles Slaley Woods
tree mandala landart, Dipton Wood Nr Slaley
a little detail
sticks, pine cones, bark, moss...
amazing sandstone-bedded path... flash floods hurtling down like a bishon friese! Nr Lightwater Cottages
Throughout Dipton Wood the air closed in tightly. Finding someplace to eat the glorious packed lunch almost impossible: everyplace sittable there's a colony of busy and pincher-bummed ants, or a murder of mosquitos....

Down the escarpment from Hunter's Hill, alongside Dipton Burn... fantastic evidence of recent flooding. Beautiful small pools, cauldroned out. Debris caught in low-hanging growth, damming yellow foam. Sudden sun bursting through canopy where I've just laid some fresh-green bracken on the foam. A momentary sanctuary...
Lined the burn with bracken in another foamy place, burdensome feel to it. Like 'down and out' hardship, where the sun never shines....
In Dipton Wood
Bracken star in cauldron Dipton Burn, Nr Hunter's Hill. Sunny spell putting a bit of a spell on it just as I took the photo
Bemossed dry-stone wall. Dipton Wood
Spitting bugs in Seventy Acre Wood. No bears.
'down and out' bracken-lined foamy burn. Dipton Burn
Rape and Poppy
Sweating and breathing hard on the humidity up the bank, up and over to Todburn
Steel - more grass and oil seed rape dotted with poppies, less footpath. The  previous rambler must've given up, because no more trodden grass. Just my nose and I (it's a good nose...)
Another ladder-stile - dog struggled with this one.
Had to stop on the hill up from Blackburn to admire the green, pick some wool and make a trinity of circles. To catch my breath.
the wood. Todburn Steel
the saw
yarn bombed fences
the yarn bombers, pretending not to be
Blackburn. Footbridge depleted. Dog not sure....
seeds, grass and wool. a trinity of circles. Fields between Todburn Steel and Peel Flatt
added spot of yellow...
ladder stile beyond Peel Flatt pond. No sign of any footpath beyond this point. The end is in sight.
Back at the car, long chat with the owners of the house in front of which I parked, who liked the peace and quiet - once went shopping in Eldon Square, centre of Newcastle, 20 years ago....too busy for their liking: never been back.
Sounded bloody marvelous!
The word 'mandala' is a sanskrit word which - loosely translated - means 'circle'. In art and in a variety of religions, circles commonly represent unity, wholeness and infinity - without beginning or end, without sides or corners - protection and containment.

Like with  most things, doing an online search results in information overload. Is it o.k. to call my prayer-circles mandalas? My mandalas tick some of the boxes, but I find that that's not important at all. For me, each individual mandala is important especially at the time of its conception. Each is a prayer, a meditation, a silence, a contemplation...some lasting days, some hours, others minutes.

The 'left-over' mandalas are - for instance - minute prayers: I'm sure I'm not alone in squeezing/spooning more than the necessary paint from the tube/tub in a bout of creativity, so I don't quite take to beating myself up. But I do hate letting (nevermind watching!) paint dry unused. So the left-over paint becomes minute mandalas, made shortly after the days/hours mandalas were finished.

I find it a little bit interesting, looking back at what thoughts and prayers emerged from previous thoughts/prayers.....
"Equinox" 23 - 27/03/12
"Bread and Wine" 2/4/12
"Easter" 3/4/12
"Yurt" 30/4/12 - 2/5/12
"Success/Meaning" made with the left-overs of "Equinox", 27/3/12
"Eye of the Storm" made with the left-overs of "Bread and Wine", 2/4/12
"Feeling Anxious" made with the left-overs of "Easter", 3/4/12
"Something Groovy" made with the left-overs of "Yurt", 2/5/12