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  • Julie Muller


A red sheep dog sitting  on a grass bank overlooking a small lake with shrubs and trees on the other bank
Bruno relaxing by Slipper Lake

There are two walks that start at Crozier Car Park, and they are very different to each other. Whilst one of them, the Nelly’s Moss walk, comprises a walk around the lakes, the other one, the Inspiration walk (waymarked pink) leads us through the cool shade of the trees.

On a hot summer day, it is always a relief to take a walk through the woods. and today was a particularly hot day. We followed the wide track from the carpark which was dry and stony under paw, but cool under the tall rhododendron bushes and birch trees on either side of it. Several other dogs and their humans panted their way towards us anxious for a drink. As we trotted along, we noticed several small humans and their parents balancing precariously on various wooden and metal structures in the middle of another path – this was the start of the trim trail. Thank goodness it wasn’t for us!

It wasn’t long before the path dipped down the hill, and we walked past large boulders all of which were adorned with rhododendrons and coral berries and carpeted in fresh green moss.

The path here was narrower, and the shrubs on either side were leaning across it towards each other and forming a green arch above our heads.

A couple of sure-footed young humans were jumping from boulder to boulder. When their anxious parents called them, they both sat down and slid to the ground, stripping off lengths of the soft moss carpet as they did so. Mum and dad seemed so relieved!

We continued to follow the path down the hill. There was a bench conveniently positioned on one side of the path overlooking far reaching views across the fields to the hills beyond.

It wasn’t long before we reached Slipper Lake. It is amazing how many of the Cragside walks pass this way, but we never ever get tired of peering into the deep dark water - always hoping to catch sight of a fish or four. Today the water was so still and the reflections of the trees above it were so clear. We lay down and large-bodied dragonflies and delicate iridescent damselflies flitted across our field of view. We watched them intently, but we were both too warm to chase after them.

Julie allowed us to briefly wet our hot dry paws and lap up a little water before we started to climb up the steep stone steps behind the lake.

At the end of the lake, there was an inscription carved into the stone. The words written down were said to be those of Lord Armstrong himself. Our humans stopped and reflected on what he was trying to say, but we just wanted to carry on with our walk. It was just too hot to linger for long.

And so, the climb began, and we found ourselves once more walking up steep stone steps past boulders and crags festooned in vegetation. Up and up, we climbed- and then the path abruptly turned back on itself, and we headed for a small wooden bridge. Through the trees, the views opened out in all direction and below we could just make out Slipper Lake glistening in the sunshine.

On the other side of the path there was a small cave chiselled out of the rock face enclosing an intimate seating area and yet another one of Lord Armstrong’s ‘pearls of wisdom’.

We left the cave behind us, and the path twisted its way between even more boulders bedecked with foliar wigs. We climbed higher and higher and eventually emerged onto a wide forestry track annotated with more wise words.

The Inspiration trail is aptly named!

We headed back along the track towards the trim trail which was now deserted and waiting for its next athletes. – Above us the pine trees swayed and danced in harmony with the wind.

As we rounded the corner, we could hear the excited chatter of the small humans enjoying the playground whilst their parents sat chilled out and relaxed in the warmth of the afternoon sun.

By the café, a few lucky humans clutched cones of deliciously flavoured ice- cold ice cream whilst their canine friends drooled in the hope of a taste.

We weren’t quite so lucky – home time for us!

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