Behind every Great North Run there’s a great running culture

With the Great North Run celebrating its one millionth runner this year, the North East can rightly claim to be among the UK’s top regions for running.

A whopping 56,000 entrants took part in this year’s race and it can truly be called an international event – simply take a look at the A-list competitors in recent years, including multiple Olympic champions Mo Farah, Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele.

But the world’s best half marathon isn’t the only running event the North East has to offer. With rolling landscapes, stunning coastlines and enough hills to test even the best runners, the North East is the perfect place to explore on foot.

If you are looking for a new challenge, here are some of our top suggestions.

Northumberland Castles marathon:

Bamburgh CastleWith both a half and full marathon available, this route from Alnwick to Bamburgh Castle is one of the most unique and eye-catching races on the marathon calendar.

Taking in beaches, roads, fields and cliff tops, this tough but satisfying race is one of the most stunning runs you’ll ever do. With picture postcard villages such as Dunstanburgh and Craster along the route, even the weariest limbs won’t stop you from admiring this distance race.

Try the Cheviots Challenge fell run

For many the thought of making running even harder is enough to make one break out in a cold sweat. But if your love of running stretches to taking on some of the most challenging terrains in the region, why not opt for the Cheviots Challenge. The charitable event raises money for the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team, so every leg-sapping mile of the course is all in aid of a good cause.

Run like the Romans

Hadrian's WallOffering something a bit more unusual than your standard half-marathon, the Hadrian’s Wall Half has been described as a multi-terrain trail race – meaning that it isn’t quite the extreme up and down of a fell run.

While it couldn’t be described as a fast course – the current course record for the race stands at 1hr 21 – following the old Roman wall across Northumberland is an experience like no other.

The short burst: Newcastle Parkrun

Completely free and fun to take part in this weekly 5km timed run is becoming increasingly popular in Newcastle. And with other Parkruns springing up around the region, you won’t have to travel far to find one near you.

The Newcastle event kicks off at 9am every Saturday morning around Exhibition Park in Newcastle. All you need to do to join in is register online and print out your barcode – oh, and thank the army of volunteers who organize and marshall the event for your running pleasure!

Join a running club

Morpeth ChantryIf you’ve always fancied being a “Harrier” then the region isn’t short of running clubs sporting the famous name. Alnwick, Morpeth, Gateshead and Tynedale are just some of the names that spring to mind – but whichever running club you do decide to join, you are sure to be met with a smile and friendly air of competitiveness to keep you interested.

Winn Solicitors is the UK’s leading accident management company. If you’ve had a non-fault accident as a pedestrian in the last 3 years call today on 0800 988 6288.

Berwick-upon-Tweed is the most Northerly town in England’s most Northerly County of Northumberland. With some of the most spectacular coastal views and situated on the banks of the River Tweed – Berwick is a dramatic walled town in a beautiful location. As a result, Berwick has always attberwick bridge ntracted artistic folk…


From home grown artists including Thomas Sword-Good and Fred Stott, to visitors including Turner and L.S. Lowry – Berwick’s landscape and architecture has been a fascination for many.



Lowry in particularGranary Gallery Dean Gartland small had a great love of the town, visiting Berwick on holiday from the 1930’s until the year before his death in 1976. Until 21st September 2014 the ‘L.S. Lowry in Berwick & Northumberland’ exhibition is open daily in the Granary Gallery. Over 6,000 people have already visited the exhibition which includes loans from Sunderland Museum & Art Gallery, The Lowry Estate, The Lowry (Salford) and from private collections.



This is the largest collection of Lowry originals to be shown in Berwick-upon-Tweed and features; The Market Place, Dewar’s Lane, Spittal Sands, and a football match on ‘The Stanks’. Don’t miss your opportunity to see the works of one of the UK’s best-loved artist’s, right here in Northumberland!



The exhibition is open daily (Monday & Tuesday 12-4pm, Wednesday-Sunday 11am-5pm) in the Dewar’s Lane Granary building which also houses Berwick YHA and the Granary Bistro Cafe. The Granary building itself is worth a visit. Built in 1769, the six storey Granary suffered a fire in the early 19th Century which causes it to lean more than the tower of Pisa!


Beginning from Dewar’s Lawalk-in-the-footstepsne, you can also follow the Lowry Trail to walk in the footsteps of the great ‘matchstick-men’ painter, exploring the town and discovering its hidden gems. The Trail takes in the Elizabethan Walls and Berwick town, before crossing the River Tweed into Tweedmouth and Spittal, a total walking time of approx. 3 hours.



Today, Berwick has a thriving culture and arts scene, with 4 art galleries (Granary Gallery, Gymnasium Gallery, Berwick Museum & Art Gallery, Watchtower Gallery), 5 museums (Berwick Barracks, KOSB Regimental Museum, Berwick Museum, Town Hall & Cell Block Museum, and The Main Guard Museum) a working pottery (Tower House Pottery) and the Maltings Theatre & Cinema.

If you plan your visit for the last week of the exhibition, you can also attend the 10th Annual Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival (17th-21st September 2014) a celebration of international film in various unique venues around the town.

Complete your visit by buying some local artists work as a lasting reminder of Berwick-upon-Tweed. From local art shops and galleries on Bridge Street and Castlegate, to Serendipity and the Tourist Information Centre on Marygate, you will find the perfect gift or souvenir.

Head over to to find out more about the town that inspired Lowry.

Annual Dawn Chorus at Ford & Etal

The first hour of the 21st annual Dawn Chorus at Ford & Etal was more akin to a January morning than to early May. The temperature was hovering either side of 0°C and the grass as we walked down the steep bank to the River Till was pure white. Those of us who had met there once before recalled the thick mist with which we had been confronted – a morning when birdsong meant everything because it had seemed that we would never see a single thing…                     Towards Hay Farm from Slainsfield Road spring

But the sun slowly rose and its rays became stronger.  With the light behind us we were able to stand for several minutes and watch – in amazement – a young male Crossbill and two females at the top of a few Scots Pine trees, in an arable landscape and far away from the thick pine woodlands in which they are normally seen.  Perhaps Crossbills send out small foraging parties in spring, to investigate every remaining tree in an area that might still bear cones after they have run out of supplies in larger woods?  They flew off as we eventually moved to go past them, only to sit on a distant ash tree until we had passed and then fly straight back again.

Down on the river, a male Grey Wagtail gave a wonderful display of dancing at the edge of the rushes, whilst above him a Great Spotted Woodpecker foraged almost upside down under a branch.  Further up the steep bank, in the bluebells (and in the sunshine) two Roe Deer made a lovely picture. Two Curlew flew overhead.  Linnets, Bullfinches, Greenfinches, Yellowhammers and Goldfinches were busy in the thick gorse bushes beside us and a Dipper flashed past.Crossbill May2014.3

Moving up the river, we finally emerged into the sunshine ourselves, stopping to study the scolding ‘chuck’ of two male Blackcaps arguing with each other at a corner of the wood.  Looking across the river there were great views of Blue Tits darting in and out of a nest box and a cacophony of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Another view of a Grey Wagtail was possible and a Long-Tailed Tit bounced past.  One or two people were intent on identifying the breed of sheep on the bank behind us.

Walking back up to Tindal House Farm, a Garden Warbler’s song burst from a patch of blackthorn and a Whitethroat scratched his song in the bushes below the farm.  We finally saw a Swallow – and a fine patch of Yellow Archangel growing on the edge of the wood. It was a real delight to sit down in the Granary Tea Rooms at Heatherslaw where an unending supply of Bacon, Sausage and Egg Rolls were soon on our plates.  Twenty-first birthdays are of course also an occasion for a glass of something celebratory, with or without the orange juice, and a suitable toast was proposed to the next 21 years of the Ford & Etal Dawn Chorus.

house sparrow3The total number of species recorded (43) was a little disappointing; there were some notable absentees.  A few members spent went to explore other corners of the estate after breakfast; their results are shown below in an additional list.

Seen/heard:  Mallard; Tufted Duck; Pheasant; Grey Heron; Lapwing; Curlew; Common Gull; Herring Gull; Rock Dove; Woodpigeon; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Skylark; Swallow; Grey Wagtail; Pied Wagtail; Dipper; Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Blackbird; Song Thrush; Blackcap; Garden Warbler; Common Whitethroat; Chiffchaff; Willow Warbler; Goldcrest; Long-tailed Tit; Blue Tit, Great Tit; Coal Tit; Jackdaw; Rook; Carrion Crow; House Sparrow; Chaffinch; Greenfinch; Goldfinch; Linnet; Crossbill; Bullfinch; Yellowhammer

Additional species reported:  Buzzard; Moorhen; Meadow Pipit; Raven; Lesser Whitethroat; Tree Sparrow; Reed Bunting;

Outdoor Activities in Northumberland

For many people in Britain when it comes to going away on holiday, this means staying at home. No, we don’t mean their own home, but in the beautiful British Isles. For many of us we can’t imagine any better place to spend a week or two but right here and why wouldn’t we? With some of the most beautiful landscapes, activities, history and food on offer, why would you not want to explore – after all there’s no place like home.

This year you and your tribe have found yourself travelling to Northumberland. Maybe you are travelling north, or maybe you have travelled south. No matter what direction you have come from, you have one thing in mind… an unforgettable holiday! To help make unforgettable memories, you need to organise an unforgettable outdoor activity Go Ape!

Go Ape Matfen

Outdoor ActivitiesOne activity you should definitely take part in while in the area is Go Ape! Set in Matfen’s 300 acres of historic parkland. Take your tribe and enjoy the view from the tree tops at Britain’s number one Tree Top Adventure.

Go Ape is a great day out for the whole family, as long as your baboons are 10 years or over and at least 1.4 meters tall, there is no reason why they can’t get up in the trees.

The course at Matfen has high ropes and zip wires, the longest being 160 metres long! So not for the faint hearted but is sure to have the little people grinning from ear to ear. Although at 11 metres it isn’t the highest Go Ape course in the country, it is certainly a great place to start. With 38 crossing it will take your tribe between 2 to 3 hours to complete, leaving you plenty of time to explore the beautiful parkland from the ground.

Take a blast back to the pastOutdoor Activities

The wonderful thing about Go Ape is for the adults in the group it gives you a chance to get back in touch with your childhood. Doing what you used to do as a kid, climbing up in the trees. It’s the perfect opportunity to shake off that Monday to Friday suit and show the kids ‘how you used to do it when you were younger’. For the mini Tarzans in the group, it’s a great opportunity to do something that they wouldn’t get to do everyday, climbing in the trees. When we were younger we would scrabble around without any safety thoughts, however at Go Ape, safety is of the upmost importance. So you can be rest assured that your little ones are going to be safe at all times.

So what are you waiting for! When you visit the beautiful Northumberland, make sure you book your Tree Top Adventure  at Maften.

You know the old adage: “Fail to prepare and you are preparing to fail.” Where the North East weather is concerned, it’s not always easy to plan ahead. As any natives of the region will tell you, bright blue morning skies can be chased away by dark storm clouds in the blink of an eye. But get yourself the right gear and there’s no reason you should let anything stop you from getting out on that bike and exploring the nation’s finest landscapes.

So, what should make it on to your checklist before you embark on a journey through the great outdoors? Here are our top 5 essential pieces of kit to keep you safe, secure and comfortable while you ride.

The not-so-humble bike helmet

Far from being a clunky bit of polystyrene, cycling helmets are now state-of-the art pieces of headgear. The technology within them has advanced as swiftly as the designs have changed. Whether it’s a short commute or a 100km epic, you’ll be looking for a combination of strong safety credentials and comfort from your helmet. After all, you don’t want protecting yourself against a road accident to give you a headache.

What you shouldwandee007 be looking for:

–          Safety rating

–          Comfort

–          Breathability

Our hot pick: The Bontranger Circuit

Staying safe with sunglasses

Don’t be fooled by the stereotypical posers pouting behind their Aviators. Cycling eyewear is as important for function as for fashion.

If you have ever suffered temporary blindness at the hands of rainwater, grit, dust or a fly hitting your eyeball at 30 mph, you’ll know how easily a hit to the eye can result in a trip down the grass verge – or, worse, into the middle of the road where a road traffic accident can be caused.

What you should be looking for:_DSC5072a

–          Lens clarity

–          Changeable lenses

–          Snug but not painfully tight fit

Our hot pick: The Avenir Delta

Tough Tyres

Bike tyres are notoriously fragile and cycle accidents are common through punctures caused by nails, glass or even potholes. If you don’t want to be forced into fair-weather cycling, the answer lies in choosing the right rubber. In fact, recent years have seen the development of hardy tyres containing resistant materials such as Kevlar – yes, like the bulletproof vests.

On wet road surfaces, slick road tyres can also make staying upright tricky – even for experienced cyclists. To provide extra grip and reduce the chance of an accident on the road, winter tyres are available. These wider, treaded alternatives to slick tyres are better at dispersing water and increasing traction.

What you should be looking for:

–          Tread to increase grip and disperse water

–          Durability and puncture resistance

–          Minimal compromise on rolling speed

Our hot pick: Schwalbe Durano

The dreaded tool kit

You don’t need to become an expert in all things “bike mechanics”, but having a basic knowledge of maintenance can help you avoid the hassle and expense of carting your pride and joy down to the local workshop.

Once you’ve clued yourself up on the basics, the next stop is getting a kit worth its salt. There are all sorts of toolkits on the market but there are a few essential items you’ll always want to keep close at hand to help you mend your machine after a little rough and tumble.


What you should be looking for:

–          Selection of Allen keys

–          Tyre levers

–          Pedal spanners

–          Tensioners

–          Cassette tools

Our hot pick: X-Tools bike tool kit

The essential cycling jacket

The North of England can be cold and wet – there’s no getting around that. But having an effective first line of defence against the elements can make all the difference. With hundreds of jackets to choose from for every weather condition, this one can be a bit of a minefield. But there are several features you should pay close attention to

What you should be looking for:

–          Breathability

–          Rain protection

–          Features – such as pockets and hoods

Our Hot Pick: DHB Minima S


Winn Solicitors is the UK’s leading accident management company. If you’ve had a non-fault cycling accident in the last 3 years call today on 0800 988 6288.