No matter how long I stare at the contour lines on the map I can’t make them move apart. They spell steep and I don’t do steep. However, I’ve agreed to walk Isaac’s Tea Trail as a project for the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and I’ll just have to puff my way up and knee-creak my way down the steep bits somehow.
I’ll be following the Tea Trail on a 36-mile circuit of the North Pennines’ greatest hits – stonking scenery, characterful towns and villages, historic and industrial relics, moors and meadows, and riverbank delights.
My new best friend Isaac walked this area in Victorian times, selling tea door-to-door. But he gave the community much more than a cuppa; he raised money for all sorts of projects. He sold his poems, he sold his portrait, he persuaded people to donate, and the memorial erected after his death showed just how much this eccentric pedlar meant to the life of the North Pennines. He knew what people thought of him – here’s an extract from one of his poems: “Some said I was funny, others said I was strange, to come to this country a begging to range”.
I’ll be doing Isaac’s Tea Trail in short stages during the coming months, taking photos and describing the route, blogging as I do. Eventually it will all come together on the North Pennines AONB website to give you a flavour of what to expect if you plan to walk some or all of the trail. The idea is part of their HLF-funded Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme,
As well as venturing into unknown countryside, I’m venturing into cyberspace (somewhere I never thought I would boldly go) and will be tweeting a few updates @isaacsfootsteps. With every tweet I will be shuddering at the missing apostrophe.