The Haltwhistle Rings
The Haltwhistle Rings are a collection of 22 circular walks of between 4 and 9 miles, all centred on Haltwhistle and its neighbouring parishes. They were devised, tested, mapped and described by keen local walker John Dixon (now deceased) and Mike Swann, with the assistance of other local walkers. In her recently published book, More Than Just a Walk – The Story of the Haltwhistle Walking Festival 2003 – 2020, Maureen Hart describes the significance of the Haltwhistle Rings for the Walking Festival – early festivals were based upon them, and many of the team who helped with their development were the founders of the Festival.
The Rings date back to 2003, when they were first published. They were drawn up as 22 separate leaflets, and were sold locally. Each leaflet includes photographs of significant features, and a map of the route. They were intended to stimulate interest in the beautiful countryside around Haltwhistle, and to encourage people to return to it following the devastation caused by the outbreak of foot and mouth in 2001/02. They were very successful in this.
The leaflets sold well, and have been very well used in the years since their publication. They are no longer available as leaflets, although there are rumours of sets still available in Charity shops and second hand bookshops! However, all 22 walks appear in their original form on the Haltwhistle Partnership website – https://haltwhistle.org/index.php/miscellaneous-pages/28-walks
In preparation for the 2021 Walking Festival, which will be a “virtual” Festival, the Haltwhistle Walking Festival Committee has decided to revisit the popular Rings, and to use them once again as the basis for encouraging people to visit the beautiful countryside around Haltwhistle, following the effects of Corona Virus. There is a painful symmetry to this, the Rings functioning again as a path to hope after devastating disease.
As a first step, the Committee – in conjunction with the festival volunteers and the regular Wednesday walkers – is carrying out a review of the routes. It is 17 years since they were first collated, and much has changed in that time. New roads, new bridges, footpath diversions; new plantations planted, and old ones harvested, development of routes such as the South Tyne Cycle path, and new buildings such as The Sill - all have made a difference to the routes and their descriptions. We are hard at work now, and hope to have a brand new set of revised Rings ready for the Spring. We hope that they will appear on our website in downloadable, and easy to follow format, for you all to venture back into the beautiful Haltwhistle countryside.
Watch this space for more news!
Many of you will know Maureen Hart, a stalwart of the Haltwhistle Walking Festival since 2004. Maureen has written a book entitled “More than just a walk – The Story of the Haltwhistle Walking Festival from 2003 to 2020”, which has just been published by Robson Print in Hexham. The book contains an account of the origins of the Festival, and includes memories, anecdotes and pictures from the seventeen years of her involvement, and unstinting service. Others have contributed their tales of the funniest, scariest and wettest walks, and anyone with an interest in the Festival, walking, or the local countryside will find the book entertaining.
During August 2020, local celebrity ROBSON GREEN made a documentary about his journey along Hadrian's Wall. Towards the end of his trek, he happened to come across four members of the Walking Festival Committee! Of course, nothing like that happens by sheer co-incidence, and the chance meeting took weeks to arrange! We spent a, well, informative day walking between Port Carlisle and Bowness on Solway, in the company of Robson and his film crew. We were providing local interest and expertise, and in return,
Corona Virus and the Festival: November 2020.
Having cancelled the Spring 2020 Festival owing to the first Lockdown, the Committee has been considering how it might run a Festival in 2021. We are now in the second Lockdown, and unable to meet in large groups to walk - it is impossible to know whether we will be able to do so again in 2021. We have usually begun our preparations for Spring by now, but current restrictions have made that impossible. We are therefore going to hold a "virtual festival" between 24th April - 3rd May 2021, with the aim of encouraging you all to enjoy the wonderful walks available in and around Haltwhistle, in whatever size and type of group is possibe at that time. We also hope to include our walkers from other parts of the country, by asking for their photos of their own vicinity.
We will be setting challenges, including treasure hunts, themed walks and photograph competitions. Watch this space, and indeed our Facebook page, for details of how to joing in. Most importantly, put the dates 24th April - 3rd May 2021 in you diaries!
April 17th How maddening that the weather since lockdown has been so perfect for walking! Sun, warmth, and all those dry footpaths, our preparations for the Spring Festival would have been a joy.
We hope you are all keeping well and staying safe, and we are looking forward even more to the 2021 Festival.