With one of our group’s mainstays suffering from ill health, we swapped out his walk for this one – favourite walk of mine along the East Allen valley.
On a gloriously golden #Autumn day we set off from just outside the Allen Mill Regeneration Centre, admiring the salmon runway beneath the nearby bridge and striking out immediately into woodland.
The path at this point follows along part of Isaac’s Tea Trail, a much longer series of walks that chart the route of locally famous itinerant tea seller Isaac Holden. He had a varied life and got up to all kinds of jolly japes whilst delivering packets of tea to rural farmers.
Whether or not he had time to admire the glorious countryside hereabouts is a matter for conjecture but we certainly did. The path hugs the course of the East Allen, passing through pasture and passing by some idyllic rural houses along this first easy stretch. With a trace of warming sunlight on our shoulders this was a lovely couple of miles.
As the rough track joins a metalled road on a stone bridge, we struck right, uphill and up the aforementioned metalled road known as Colliery Lane. This is such an isolated, rural location with high encroaching hedgerows on each side that it is a surprise to encounter a vehicle coming down the narrow single track. Nevertheless, every time we have walked this route we meet an oncoming car and so it was this time. Although very steep and a good test of your calves, this is a lovely ½ mile of Northumbrian road walking. The tapestry of hazel, hawthorn, ash, dog rose and bramble plus a myriad of hedgerow herbage is an absolute delight at any time of year.
We stopped for lunch by the remains of a bridge that once carried the Alston – Haltwhistle line. It’s a lovely spot with wide open views of the valley and is our standard lunch spot on this walk. The remains of the raised cutting provide good dry seating too.
After lunch we headed back to our start point, criss-crossing fields of cows and sheep via well disguised stone step stiles. This is the high point of the walk both topographically as well as from a landscape perspective as you can see a long way South West, deep into the Allen Valley with stone walls interlacing the fellsides and picturesque clusters of houses sprinkled between. It’s one of my favourite views.
Heading steadily downhill we picked up the path across open pasture before once again heading down a narrow lane. This looped back and cut across the remains of the Alston line again before heading downhill through thick woodland to rejoin the East Allen River. This time we were on the opposite bank and heading back to our start point at Allen Mill.