A Christmas walk from Corbridge 17th December 2017

Our Christmas walk is one of the highlights of our walking year. It’s the one walk of the year where we can guarantee most of our children (now rapidly growing up) will turn up and walk with us. The enticement of Christmassy nibbles half way round and then lunch in a pub may also account for their presence. They also walk and chat together and, now that most of them are away at University, it’s a good chance for them and us to catch up.

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Eighteen of us, plus two well behaved dogs, gathered at the Market Square in Corbridge to begin this walk with the traditional photo-shoot. We headed north to start with, along the main road, and then dipped down towards the River Tyne just opposite the Wheatsheaf pub. There’s a nice windy path that skirts through the front gardens of some fancy houses just here and it takes us down to the riverside. As we met the river we headed east along to the bridge. Thankfully the footpath wasn’t flooded, as is often the case in winter, and we got to the bridge with dry feet.

We crossed the lovely old bridge and headed south, towards the railway station but continued past it and above it on the B6529. Just as the road curves left at the end of the railway bridge, we passed through a well-hidden gateway in amongst the trees and then walked through a small patch of woodland before climbing up through sheep pasture to meet the A695. We crossed and skirted the edge of another field before a steep climb led us through woodland to reach Ladycutters Lane and a fine view back to Corbridge.

resting above corbridge

That was the last of the cross-country walking for a while and we now headed up the quiet road for a mile or so before stopping for Christmassy snacks at the next country lane junction.

Striking out east we followed the next metalled road for a mile or so to Burn Brae Lodge, a hamlet of handsome looking houses at the top of Prospect Hill. Winding our way down the hill we reached the A695 again and crossed the busy road to take a footpath down towards the Newcastle – Carlisle railway line. Crossing carefully, we then found ourselves at Tynedale Park sports ground. From here we followed the riverside path, now raised up onto flood defence dykes back towards Corbridge.

Christmas lunch was taken at the lovely Black Bull pub in the town; good food and company to kick off the festive season.

 

5.5 miles

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A Frosty Walk from Wall 10th December 2017

 

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This was a proper Winter walk. The mercury was below zero, frost sparkled on walls and paths and the previously muddy ground was solid beneath our boots.

It was a little spoiled by a farmer spreading muck in the field right next to where we started, but you can’t blame him for that.

Starting off by strolling through the picturesque village of Wall, this walk was to sweep round Fallowfield and Chollerford before returning via the river North Tyne after five miles.

There’s a steep old climb out of Wall and up the hill that overlooks the village. On this today the ground was solid and frozen and easy underfoot; usually it’s a bit slippery and slidey until you get to the long abandoned undulations of the hill fort perched on the top. There are good views to be had from here so it’s worth a bit of huffing and puffing to ascend the hill. From there we crossed a couple of fields, skirting woodland and ending up in the tiny hamlet of Fallowfield. There’s a couple of handsome grey stone houses here but mostly it is dominated by farm buildings.

Out of Fallowfield, our path wound its way along to Written Crag – a site we visited a couple of months ago on a fine sunny Autumn day. This was a quarry used by the Roman Army to build Hadrian’s Wall and has left behind a shallow depression and a pavement-like surface partially grassed over and beloved of the local sheep. It was a good place to stop for lunch, basking in the bright sunlight.

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From Fallowfield we descended to the Military Road and then on to St Oswald’s Church, site of the infamous Battle of Heavenfield. It’s a lovely spot, the church perched on a rise that throws the building and the churchyard trees into sharp silhouette against the Northumberland skyline. Walking through the churchyard we left via a stone stile and followed the frosty footpath downhill, through rutted and frozen fields to yet another abandoned quarry. This one was much more recent and the remnants of sheds and winding gear are still in evidence. This particular section, down to the river, was particularly steep; deeply rutted and frozen iron-hard it was tricky walking for half a mile or so.

chollerford bridge

A fine flat mile section along the South Tyne brought us to the handsome bridge at Chollerford, looking resplendent in the low sun and reflected in the calm of the river. From there it was rather mundane road walking for about ¾ mile back to the parking spot. By then it was after 3pm and getting chillier and darker.

5.5 miles

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Wylam Wanderings 26th November 2017

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Now I like a nice bit of complicated map reading as much as the next man, but sometimes you want a nice easy walk on a good footpath and an itinerary that doesn’t involve a compass, GPS triangulation and returning to your car courtesy of search and rescue dogs. Ladies and gentlemen I give you this lovely walk from Wylam – Prudhoe and back again. Five miles of stress-free Sunday morning rambling.

We met up in the generous Country Car Park (it’s free and spacious) in the middle of the village of Wylam and set off south west along the old railway line. (head east and you’ll encounter the birthplace of George Stephenson) This is a lovely, slightly sunken footpath with the characteristic young woodland on each side and a good firm path of scalpings or gritstone. It is arrow straight as befits its railway heritage and is justifiably popular for rambling, dog walking and cycling. Thankfully it is also broad enough for everyone to enjoy and the autumn vegetation is always a colourful accompaniment.

After a mile or so we encountered the spectacular Wylam Railway bridge over the Tyne; an arching steel structure that spans the loop in the river at this point. On this day it was a little treacherous, thanks to an overnight frost, but our small group crossed it safely and continued along the track with the houses of Hagg Bank peering down on us. After a hundred yards or so we climbed the steps up to this little hamlet with its houses all cheek-by-jowl before descending to the right and back down to re-join the riverside path.

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Wylam Railway Bridge

Once again, the footpath here was solid and none too taxing, meaning we could chatter on safely without the danger of a ricked ankle or a deep squelch puddle taking us unawares. Following the second big loop in the Tyne we headed further west along the broad river valley with its wooded slopes on either bank. Another couple of miles brought us to the crossing at Ovingham; a single track bridge that has suffered in recent years due to old age and flooding. The Tyne Riverside Country Park provided a suitable lunch stop with picnic tables and toilets.

ovingham bridge

Ovingham Bridge

After lunch we crossed the bridge to take in the lovely church and well-kept churchyard of St Mary the Virgin in Ovingham, before heading back along the riverside path, retracing our steps back to the car. A nice cuppa afterwards in the Daniel Tea Farmshop and Tearoom was perfect.

5.5 miles

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Haydon Bridge Hike 12th November 2017

 

haydon bridgeOur preferred driving route to the Lakes usually consists of A69-Haydon Bridge-A686 to Langley and then on through Whitfield to Alston. The road from Haydon Bridge to Langley is a lovely twisty-turny road through the thickly wooded valley of the Langley Burn and looks stunning in most seasons. I have often thought that it looks like a nice place to walk.

Lo and behold, this walk included part of that very landscape! Result.

We started out in a parking space tucked under the A69 bypass and near to the town cemetery. It was a stunning day – crystal clear, sunny and just a bit of a nip in the air. Striking out southwards we met the A686 and walked up for about half a mile before crossing the road and heading off into the aforementioned woodland. The path seemed little used and was quite rough as it rose up a steep-ish slope through the trees and ended at a stile into a field. The views eastward along the Tyne valley were superb here and many a photo was snapped.

It was here that we first noticed the unusually large number of larches on this walk, the field edge being liberally sprinkled with this highly sculptural tree that were well into their winter moult.

We soon reached a farm track\road that gave us good walking through this beautiful but empty landscape. The track was edged by dry stone walls and, yet again, more than the occasional deciduous European larch (Larix decidua) sculpted by the ever present Northumberland wind.larix decidua

Lunch was taken hunkered down in a depression between hummocks of grassed-over spoil heaps in amongst tussocky yet comfortable grass.

We walked a short distance on the long abandoned embankment of the Alston-Hexham railway line (as we have done many times and in many places over the years) which must have been a great passenger route through this landscape. The walk continued through the sparsely populated hamlet of East Elrington and once again we encountered the echoes of the railway line as we crossed it via a stone bridge and strolled past what must have been a station master or signalman’s house. Perhaps this hamlet was an important stop in days gone by?

Following the metalled road out of the hamlet we headed steadily downhill, passing hedgerows that looked to be a good bet for blackberries and sloes next year. This road was our pathway for the next half mile or so, bringing us out onto the Low Gate road that joins the busy A69. After crossing the road we headed down through horse pasture to the banks of the river Tyne, picking up the footpath that led us in an uncomplicated fashion back to Haydon Bridge and the end of the walk.

6 miles

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Witton Gilbert ramblings 29th October 2017

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I work near Witton Gilbert and so the drive to get to this walk was rather like going to work on a Sunday. Which can never be a good thing.

Thankfully this walk was a good thing.

The early segment of the walk took us through woodland which was rapidly losing its Autumn colour. It was a dry day and the leaves were crunchy underfoot as we made our way along footpaths and farm tracks, ending up near the remains of Beaurepaire, once the summer home of the Bishops of Durham. All that is remaining are a few piles of stones that echo, very faintly, the layout of the handsome old holiday chalet. It is indeed in need of a good repair job. Nonetheless, it is a romantic setting and ideal for a lunch stop.

Heading out into surrounding countryside we were lucky to have bright clear sunshine to accompany us after lunch and therefore far reaching views out over the Durham countryside as we walked down a farm track alongside Arbour House farm. From there we picked up the path along Toll House road for about half a mile and then turned onto the footpath just after the bridge over the river Browney. This fine flat surface runs parallel to the river for quite a distance and gave us distant view of our lunch stop across the valley.

From there we followed well-trodden paths across farmland pasture before climbing back up through woodland tracks to the outskirts of Witton Gilbert at the site of St Michael and All Angels church.

5 miles

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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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