After all that eating and drinking of Christmas and New Year, we were keen to take a walk around some of the local area but not go too far in the car. We found what seemed to fit the bill an 8 mile or so circular walk from Bolam Lake to Shaftoe Crags with our starting point just 14 miles or so out of Newcastle.
To get some ideas for routes either buy an OS map or pop the two names into a search engine; various web sites offer routes.
This is a very pretty little area and often missed by folks racing on up into more northern parts of Northumberland. Bolam Lake Country Park has plenty of parking and walks through a small wood to the lake. It is very family orientated rather than really being in the wilds, but it is a pretty place nevertheless. The lake is quite reedy but I understand you can canoe and fish in summer months. Despite being pretty close to Newcastle, you can see deer, red squirrel and numerous birds here.
From here we left the Country Park and followed our path across some fields; unfortunately this was really heavy going due to the terrible rains we have been having and at one point I really was all for turning back. In fact, were it not for the thought of the slippery plough back up the hill I would have done so. After the fields, we turned onto a firmer flat field boundary; fortunately the strong wind was to our side rather than directly in our faces but it meant we were all walking with our hoods up and heads down. This part of the hike really wasn't particularly striking, and started to make me wonder why I ever chose hiking as my sport of choice.
Eventually we spotted our goal; a rather fine house on the hill with a very strange slightly isolated walled garden to its left. Behind the gardens was a route up to and through some of the old crags at Shaftoe. The crags are on a ridge and the views back across the valley really felt like we had walked miles uphill to get there. At the top we sheltered in the lee of a crag and had a quick sandwich and drink to replenish ourselves, before going back behind the farm following a beautifully made and maintained dry stone wall back into Bolam Lake.
We concluded our hike was one of two halves; the first part wet, windy and not particularly spectacular apart from the lake itself, but the hike over the crag and ridge was well worth the effort. Overall we were happy bunnies.