What a brilliant first day on Isaac’s Tea Trail. So much of interest, autumn colours, wide views and wooded dingly dells, and – best of all – it’s mostly downhill or on the level.
The start point was Keenley Methodist Church (grid ref NY803567) and I finished at Isaac’s Well in Allendale (grid ref NY838558). That’s three miles (4.8km) of Allen Valleys gorgeousness, despite the cloudy and misty conditions.
At the start I stood facing a very inviting woodland tracks, but I delayed setting off and went into the churchyard for a closer look. Actually, it was to sit on a bench and eat a bar of dark chocolate – my inner hedonist likes to pile on the pleasures, as if the anticipated pleasures of a walk in the North Pennines aren’t enough. Then it was off down the track and on into an avenue of Scots Pine, ash, oak sycamore and holly.
This section of Isaac’s Tea Trail heads down to reach the River East Allen, and that first mile is like an advert for the whole area. It packs in so many changes of scenery and atmosphere, drawing me on with a smile on my face (a rather tense smile as I passed a huge bull surrounded by his many wives and progeny).
I’m no tree-hugger but I was glad to grab hold of some handy tree trunks during the final, slightly slippy, descent to the river, but on the whole this walk is very easy underfoot. Lunch was eaten sitting on the flat top step of a stone stile in a wall. An unusually wide top step, perfect for my unusually wide backside.
After lunch came an unexpected treat. The trail passes through a garden which, even at this late stage in the season, is full of colour and interest. The autumn tints of the wooded valley slopes behind it created a scene that held my eyes for a long time.
Eventually I tore myself away to follow the path along the valley floor and beside the river before reaching a series of wooden bridges and steps. They lift Isaac’s Tea Trail up and over a riverside cliff and deliver it onto a delightful path soft with pine needles weaving through the woods. Blessed are the Boardwalks and Bridges Brigades everywhere! Their constructions keep our boots dry in boggy areas, and help us across terrain and hazards that can seriously interfere with the happy endorphins generated during a walk.
This route is pretty endorphintastic, keeping close to the river until the path emerges onto the road at Allendale and it’s just a short, sharp uphill effort to reach the village square and Isaac’s Well. Victorian tea seller Isaac Holden brought clean water to the community via this stone trough in 1849. On future walks I’ll find out more about his fundraising and philanthropic endeavours, and his eccentric character.
So that’s three miles completed, 33 still to go. I’m walking Isaac’s Tea Trail for the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as part of their HLF-funded Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme. Their expert staff will be helping me choose when to walk certain sections to catch the best of the seasonal attractions around the route. Today’s walk certainly showed the many splendours of autumn, but I’d be very happy to walk it at any time of year. In fact, I definitely will be back many times.
This map is merely an aid to locating the walk. Ordnance Survey provides all the detail on OL43 Hadrian’s Wall.
There’s more information about Isaac’s Tea Trail at http://www.allenvalleys.com/isaacs-tea-trail/