Tag Archives: muddy paths

Old rail trails and a bear hunt for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Whenever I look out across our green and wooded valley it seems hard to believe that around a century ago it was a major coal mining area with pits in every village and an extensive network of railways with steam trains carrying tons of coal every day to the staithes on the River Tyne.

This industrial heritage has left us the legacy of miles and miles of old railway paths, many of which have now been ‘upcycled’ into trails for walking, cycling and horse riding. As Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is “Ground:rocks, sand, dirt, paths, walks, trails”, I thought I share some photos of some of our local old rail trails.

The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. This railway was a mineral line carrying coal from local mines. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!

Some of our local railway paths form part of a particularly popular long distance cycle route, enjoyed by 15,000 people every year. It’s called the C2C, and it is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend. The route travels 79 miles right across Northern England, literally from sea to sea, hence the trail’s name! I can’t say I’ve ever covered the whole distance, though we have walked several sections of it at different times.

The Derwent Walk railway path forms part of the C2C cycle route through Gateshead. This 9 arched viaduct was built to carry the railway over the River Derwent.
The Derwent Walk Railway Path forms part of the C2C cycle route through Gateshead. This 9 arched viaduct was built to carry the railway over the River Derwent. Built originally in 1867, the Derwent Valley Line carried goods and passengers.
The Nine Arches viaduct that carried the Derwent Valley Railway. The C2C cycle route follows the Derwent Valley Railway Path through this part of Gateshead's countryside.
The Nine Arches viaduct that carried the Derwent Valley Railway. The C2C cycle route follows the Derwent Valley Railway Path through this part of Gateshead’s countryside.
The Waskerley Way is an old railway path in County Durham that forms part of the C2C cycle route. The Stanhope and Tyne Railway was also a mineral line but this one carried limestone for use in the local iron and steel industry.
The Waskerley Way is an old railway path in County Durham that forms part of the C2C cycle route. The Stanhope and Tyne Railway was also a mineral line but this one carried limestone for use in the local iron and steel industry.

Whilst I was looking for my challenge photos for this week I also came across one I took whilst out with my youngest son recently. This one involves a muddy trail and a muddy tale!

Our walk took us along one of our favourite muddy paths where we spotted a trail of deer tracks in the squelchy mud. We observed from the tracks that the deer had been running in the same direction as we were walking but though the tracks were quite fresh there was no other sign of the roe deer that had left them.

Tracks in the mud - is it a bear chasing a deer?
Tracks in the mud – is it a bear chasing a deer?

After we’d followed the tracks for about a hundred metres or so my son spotted another set of tracks that seemed to be punctuating the deer tracks every now and then. We observed these tracks were from the paws of a large carnivore … and so the story soon became jovially embellished! We decided that, obviously, the tracks we were following were those of a bear chasing after the deer! … I should perhaps add that we don’t have bears here in the north of England of course … but, in storytelling, dogs could become bears, I’m sure 😉

J Peggy Taylor

Beechwood sun and shadows

Weekend Nature Round-up – Signs of Spring

We probably all have our own little ways of noticing that Winter may be gradually releasing its icy grip, though this year perhaps ‘soggy’ would be a more appropriate adjective. I have noticed several of my Spring signs this weekend.

Late in the afternoon on Friday as I was busy with my usual housework I was treated to a glorious burst of singing, interspersed with a curious mix of clacking, clucking and peeping. This was one of ‘our’ starlings, singing his little heart out in our eaves. I’m not sure if he knew it was Valentine’s Day but I think he definitely sounded like he was keeping his toes crossed!

Today we took advantage of a sunny and relatively mild February Sunday and headed off into the woods for an afternoon’s ramble. As usual, being an avid nature-watcher I was on the look-out for several signs of a hopefully fairly imminent Spring.

Snowdrops almost blooming
Snowdrops almost blooming

The first of these was right outside our front door – our snowdrops are looking healthy and fit to burst. We’ll have to see what this week’s weather brings, but I’m sure those flowers will be opening very soon.

My second sighting, just a few metres into the wood, was the beautiful golden globes of the Winter Aconites Eranthis hyemalis. I always think of these flowers as ‘the’ promise that Spring is not too far off, so it is always a delight to see them. Rather like the snowdrops, they were just waiting to burst open. I’d thought today’s sun might have tempted them, but they mustn’t be quite ready.

The golden globes of Winter Aconites
The golden globes of Winter Aconites

The third sighting, close to the Winter Aconites, was my first bud-burst of 2014. The elder’s purple buds had burst forth just showing the tips of its tiny purple first leaves.

We stopped to admire the amazing reflections of the winter trees in the deep and muddy puddles along our path. The sun was still quite high and the reflected colours were much greener than a few weeks ago.

On we went, up through the sunlit beechwood, the shadows dancing across the mossy floor. This part of the wood is always full of interest, from fungi to flowers to fruits to creatures, there’s always something to discover. Today we were spotting new fungi growth on some old fallen timber – it was the fairly common Hairy Stereum Stereum hirsutum. Watching an old tree rot may not seem the most exciting thing to do, but deadwood is an amazing haven for wildlife and is especially fascinating to children [like ours] with a keen interest in both fungi and the invertebrate world.

Green shoots that promise bluebells in Spring
Green shoots that promise bluebells in Spring

At the ‘top of the forest’ we spotted the last of today’s new signs of Spring. Under the beech trees some familiar-shaped shoots were beginning to flex their glossy green fingers as they thrust their first leaves towards the encouraging sunshine. Here we saw the promise of bluebells! It will of course be some time yet before we are greeted by their glorious scent drifting on the breeze – but that is definitely something to look forward to.

J Peggy Taylor