Easter break: what to do?

The signpost points the way to the 97 mile route from Holy Island to Hadrian’s Wall

I’m afraid that I remember school breaks mostly as another series of normal work days, personally, but the other family members of course were ensconced at home, wondering what on earth to do? By the time we were both working full-time, the kids were apparently old enough to take care of themselves, though we remember some exciting activities up at the Allenheads Schoolhouse.

I’d be willing to bet that we never thought of making a trek around Isaac’s Tea Trail, however, as Jane Pryde and Linda Beck did with their children, a year or so ago. And never in our wildest imaginings did we contemplate heading home on foot from Holy Island on a walking/camping adventure along St. Oswald’s Way! But that’s exactly what these families did this past week, arriving safely back home late Saturday afternoon, and having raised over £1100 towards the Higher Ground Allendale project for their pains. Tara Cameron accompanied the intrepid walkers, and set up the crowd-sourcing site, which reached its goal close to the last day of the long hike, much to the pleasure of the participants.

Here’s what they say on the JustGiving site: “We will be walking St Oswald’s Way to raise money for Higher Ground Allendale, a therapy garden for those with with poor mental health. The walk starts on Holy Island and follows the coast down to cut across through the Coquet Valley, ending at Wall, but we will continue to walk back to Allendale. We will be camping every night and we will be doing this walk with the kids..
Thanks in advance for your donation.
Tara Cameron, Linda Beck, Jane Pryde 
And kids xx”

I imagine there were some very tired bodies by Saturday evening, but I hope a glass or two of bubbly and a nice hot bath was on the cards for the mums!

It all just sounds like the perfect solution to that vexatious problem: what are we going to do over the Easter break? On the St. Oswald’s Way trek, you get copious physical exercise, you get an extended history lesson, you get an incredible ring-side seat in a wonderland of nature as the walk progresses, you get numerous real experiences of geography, you get a fair foray into inter-personal dynamics and socialisation, you get fresh air and sunshine to clear all the cobwebs away along with any worries you might have carried over from school or work, and with some clever organising, you raise money for a cause that’s part of your home village’s heart! That’s an amazing bunch of rewards for time that otherwise might be lost, wasted, frittered away.

If history is one of the sorts of lessons the families learned on their trek, we’d better try to recapitulate just a brief synopsis, hadn’t we? We know about King Oswald (604-641AD, ruler of all Northumbria, which extended down to encompass East Anglia) from the historian, the so-called Venerable Bede, who along with many others of the period, ascribed saintly miracles to his body. Any kid I know who loves the Horrible Histories will have been delighted to hear that Oswald, having been killed in battle with the Mercians, was dismembered, and his body parts paraded on stakes until various miracles occurred (magical ash trees, springs of water, healing properties of the earth where he died, resulting in a hole deeper than a man’s height from miracle salvagers scooping out a souvenir ‘cure’). Apparently Oswald’s head is interred in a rough casket in Durham Cathedral, where it’s associated with St. Cuthbert (though the two never met, Cuthbert having been born 40 years after Oswald died). Before Oswald died, however, he gave Holy Island to St. Aidan, whose counsel he took up and thereby helped to spread Christianity throughout the land. These adventures took place long before the waves of Viking raids into Northumbria (circa 800-900AD), which are roughly described in the early seasons of the Vikings television series. There’s no real record of Oswald ever having made the trek along his eponymous way, but it’s fun to think of him surveying the northern parts of his kingdom anyway, though he might have had the luxury of a horse to carry him!

Meanwhile, back to the present time, Jane writes to describe a little more about the trek, during her recovery from the week:

“It was Linda and Tara’s idea to fundraise for [Higher Ground Allendale] as they’re friends who have independent local businesses themselves.  We walked 97 miles over 6 days from Holy Island to Wall. [Each walking day was ~17 miles, and the brave kids who did the whole week sometimes managed the whole day; other times they got to 11 miles before exhaustion took over — nobody wanted them to be totally pooped!]

We were joined by different friends and their kids each day who would walk the full day with us and sometimes camped/stayed over night — the companionship gave us a massive boost. Tony Beck (Beck’s Training Ltd) was our support for setting up camp each night and one night we camped in -5 degrees! He was on call for anyone who had had enough and needed a pick-up. He was a superstar.

We spent one lovely night in a soft bed in a pub in Rothbury (the Newcastle Arms) where we were able to bathe, shower and catch up on sleep! Sam [the other half of the gardening executive corps at Higher Ground Allendale] came to surprise me there at the end of that 18 mile, exhausting day, which was lovely!

[Exceeding our fund-raising target by over 10%] will be a massive help and make a huge difference to the project. It will help keep [Higher Ground Allendale] going for another half a year! I cried at the end when I tried to say how proud I was of the kids and thank you to Tara and Linda!”

Thanks for wrestling with the keyboard on the day after the adventure, Jane! When Joan Morgan, proud grandmother, told me the story of the families’ trek, I caught my breath because it sounded like quite the most brilliant idea for a school break that I’d ever heard of, and so I’m very delighted to be able to relate it here for the diary, and to offer my congratulations to the participants as well. Good show, one and all, and now you can enjoy some chill-out time too, I hope!

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