Heavensfield & Fallowfield 8th October 2017

We have walked in and around Heavensfield many, many times over the years. This was the first time we had started a walk here and probably the only time we hadn’t visited St Oswald’s church. Nonetheless, we had an excellent walk in the October sunshine.

Veering off left of the church, we followed the footpath parallel to the Military Road and swept down grassy pasture for about ½ mile before passing through a gate and crossing the aforesaid road. Here you will find remains of Hadrian’s Wall, standing out abruptly against the sheep pasture. After zig-zagging through recently harvested fields we then found ourselves on an idyllic country lane. High stretching horse chestnut trees glowed an intense gold all around us and their leaves clattered down onto rough stone walls. A magical #Autumn scene.

Our bucolic feelings were short lived, unfortunately, as the footpath rose steeply up a grassy bank towards Fallowfield. What a climb! However, we were rewarded with spectacular view northwards over Northumbria. It’s a great spot.

from Fallowfield October 2017

After lunch in the nearby woodland of Fallowfield Dene we set off on the second leg of this lovely ramble and found ourselves at the site of a Roman quarry at Written Crag where stone for the Wall was no doubt hewn by cheerfully whistling legionnaires. After a mile or so we encountered walkers coming in the opposite direction. They turned out to be Dutch schoolchildren on a school trip – what fantastic weather they were enjoying and such stunning countryside. There was about 20 of them in total and we had a short chat with them.

Heading North again, we crossed high sheep pasture before joining a minor road that took us back to our cars after about a mile.

5 miles.

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East Allen Valley 1st October 2017

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.

5 miles.

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Straying into Cumbria 17th September 2017

For logistical reasons most of our walks are based in County Durham or Northumberland; most of us live there and our walks are relatively easy to get to. A long drive home is often more tiring than the drive to the start point so we don’t often venture too far from civilisation. Therefore, this walk took us out of our usual stamping grounds and into Cumbria. But only just.

We met up just off the A69 near Brampton and into the wilds of Cumbria by a hair’s breadth on an OS map. It seemed to be a popular local spot as there were plenty of dog walkers about on what was a warm overcast morning in Low Geltbridge.

The first leg of the walk took us around the surreal landscape of a local sand quarry, the left-overs from the ice age when sea levels were a lot higher in these parts. The quarry looked like a set for Dr Who or even Blake’s 7 as we circled the perimeter before heading off into surrounding woodland.

The footpaths were well laid out and overhead the trees were just beginning to thin out with the end of September looming and Autumn setting in.

Our lunch stop was in the tiny hamlet of Greenwell on the postage stamp village green. It’s obviously a quiet place as the village post-box still has VR on it.

After lunch the walk took us back towards the river Gelt and past a small cluster of cottages (one dating back to 1741) at a three way junction that sat beneath a spectacular railway viaduct housing the Newcastle-Carlisle line. A great film location we thought. It certainly still seemed like an important local junction as many cars passed by as we stopped for a short break.

Heading off the roadside we soon dipped down into the steep sided valley of the river Gelt. What a spectacular place – thick ferns and dripping stone sides give this stretch of the valley a distinctly Jurassic Park feel. It was cool and still with only the sound of the gurgling river Gelt to break the spell. Just near the end of the footpath we started to see other walkers and then we came out to a spectacular circle of land, looped round by the river and dotted with enormous beech trees. A fabulous spot.

Before we knew it we were back at the car park after another fantastic Family Walk.

5 miles

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Looping along the river Coquet September 3rd 2017

It’s quite daunting leading your first walk even with a group of friends you have known for years.

  • What if you get lost?
  • What if the footpaths are blocked?
  • What if it rains?
  • What if someone falls and breaks their leg and has to be helicoptered out to the RVI and it’s all over Look North on Monday evening as you peep out from behind the sofa in acute embarrassment?

All perfectly valid worries for the first time walk leader. Thankfully, Sally, who led her first walk today, had none of those things to worry about. It all went really well and the walk was fantastic.

We met up just outside the small village of Hepple Bridge, deep in the Northumbrian countryside and set off across nearby pasture, climbing steadily to a row of terraced houses overlooking the valley. One of the houses had a garden shed painted up like the Tardis. Strange folk round here!

Continuing on past an impressive barn conversion we carried on our walk into mixed farmland – all thigh-high barley and contented sheep – before emerging out onto a shallow plateau that overlooked long sinuous loops of the river Coquet. It’s like a geography textbook in this part of the Coquet valley – you can almost see ox-bow lakes forming before your very eyes. Not to mention deposited sediment and undercut banks.

We crossed the river using a long bridge that spanned almost as much land as it did water, testament to the common flooding in this area.

Next stop was the hamlet of Holystone and our lunch break at the site of a beautiful spring that supplies fresh water to the village. The Romans (remember them?) converted a simple spring into a beautiful shady glade with a rectangular stone pool containing the spring.

The second leg of the walk took us back into farmland; the tough, hardworking type of farmland in this part of the world. We were lucky enough to see a hare scampering in front of a combined harvester as the farmer gathered in his wheat harvest at Sharperton. Looping back towards the start point we passed through Low Farnham and plenty of lush pasture land and back down to Hepple for the end of our walk.

 

7.5 miles

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Sunset Stroll at Stocksfield August 25th

One of our regular walk leaders, Kevin Hilton, suggested a short walk for this programme – only 2 ½ miles he said. How about we do this one evening? I suggested. Good idea.

So here we were, parked up at Stocksfield on a balmy August evening ready for a short walk in the Tyne Valley. I’m going to have to type quickly as we get to the end of the walk really soon and I don’t want to run out of time, so here goes.

Starting out through lovely deciduous woodland the walk rose through the trees by well worn footpaths surrounding the village; just as the rain started. Thankfully, not too heavily and as we were under the canopy, we didn’t suffer too much. It was almost dusk like conditions at this point, yet in a group we all felt safe and un-threatened as we wove our way through unknown footpaths and copses.

Almost surprisingly we encountered the village suburbs and skimmed off the edge of the village as we ducked and dived through the labyrinthine pathways, passing well tended gardens, wooden sculptures and playgrounds.

After only an hour or so of carefree rambling we were back at the cars, walk over and everyone happy.

So happy, in fact, that we headed off to the Bluebell Inn in High Mickley to rehydrate.

2.5 miles

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Walking around Featherstone 20th August 2017

It’s a lovely couple of miles’ drive to the start point of this walk once you have exited the A69, just past Haltwhistle. Fantastic undulating, winding country roads that pass through verdant pasture full of contented looking sheep. The grassy verges awash with wild flowers. Very much the epitome of northern English countryside.

We started this walk at the small car park just beyond the Wallace Arms pub in the village of Featherstone Park. This irregularly shaped (free) car park can get quite crowded as the nearby South Tyne Trail is popular with weekend dog walkers.

The first leg of the walk took us on to the South Tyne Trail, yet another fabulous walking route created from the embers of a disused railway line. In this case the Haltwhistle – Alston line that carried mineral ore and smelted metal from the North Pennines on to Newcastle and then the British Empire. And probably other areas too.

Turning right from the car park we immediately encountered the old station house, now a domestic dwelling with a lovely big garden. Past the house the walk continues in that glorious flat way that old railway paths do – this time through a lovely grove of silver birches like a Klimt painting. After walking through the pretty village of Featherstone Park and the Park Burn we continued along the valley until we encountered the stunning Featherstone Bridge. This is a lovely high arched structure that looks quite out of place in such a rural setting but it is well worth seeing.

After lunch in the shadows of Featherstone Castle we continued along the South Tyne valley and through the remains of a World War II POW camp. It’s an interesting site with a history that belies its obscure location.

Just past the POW camp is a 430-year-old oak tree known as the Diamond Oak, a tree that was alive when Elizabeth I was on the throne.

We climbed out of the valley and up to the utterly spectacular Lambley Viaduct. This magnificent Victorian railway bridge should be as well-known as the viaduct on the Carlisle-Settle line but as it’s out of use, it is also out of mind.

Continuing back onto the South Tyne Trail our walk took us conveniently back to the car park.

6 miles

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A walk around Kielder – August 6th 2017

Somewhat optimistically this post is entitled a walk around Kielder. We didn’t manage an entire circumference of the reservoir as that’s rather a long walk. About 27 miles apparently. Nonetheless, we went around some of it. About 20%.

The original plan was to start at the Lewisburn car park but when we arrived it was shut. And shut permanently by the looks of it, so we made alternative plans. Doubling back we parked up at Tower Knowe visitor centre and decided to walk from there, across the dam and into the woods.

Following the easy footpath we arrived at the dam after quarter of a mile and headed across. There’s always something cinematic about dams, I feel. Not sure whether that is the Dam Busters, the Fugitive, or Golden Eye or indeed any number of other films shot in and around dams. They’re certainly spectacular examples of engineering and often great honeypots for wildlife.

At the far side of the dam, the going gets a little more rural and the footpath a bit more undulating and we picked our way through trees and bushes heading for lunch at the Belling, home of the Wave Chamber. This is a small, dry stone building looking for all the world like a bee hive. Inside there is a small seat and when the door is closed and there is almost total darkness, you can hear the sounds of the nearby waves (it’s right on the water side) bouncing off the rocky shore.  It’s very immersive.

After lunch we headed further along the coastal path to where Goodwell Sike enters the lake before heading back. By this time the rain had begun to fall, the skies were gloomy and our pace started to quicken along the forest track. Thankfully the trees overhead afforded us some good cover as we headed back to the dam. After crossing the dam we headed for the café at Tower Knowle for a cup of tea, before heading home.

6 miles.

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