Choosing a walk to celebrate the anniversary of my first walk on Isaac’s Tea Trail was easy. It had to start in Allendale, in Northumberland, which has many associations with the Victorian tea pedlar and fund-raiser Isaac Holden. It had to include deciduous woodland to maximise the chance of autumn colours. It had to include a section of the Tea Trail, inspired by Isaac’s fascinating life story. It had to be fairly short and easy.
The route began in a pleasure garden – surely the perfect promise of an enjoyable walk. A newly-constructed viewpoint near Allendale village hall gave access to the woodland gardens of Deneholme.
The gardens are being restored to their Edwardian splendour, with new paths, a stunning wooden bridge and wildlife-friendly woodland management. The steepest slopes were eased with flights of steps, and a circle of ancient beech trees demanded a short stop for awe and admiration.
The path from the beech circle down to the River East Allen was a bit steep and slippy but there were plenty of trees and branches to hold on to. At the riverbank my route joined Isaac’s Tea Trail, but before I could set off northwards I had to say hello to the Troll. He’s carved in the stone under the footbridge over the Philip Burn, and is a master of disguise, using moss to cover part of his face, his hand and his huge teeth.
There’s also a carved fish leaping upstream near the bridge. You just never know what you’re going to see on a walk in the North Pennines.
As I followed the River East Allen downstream a huge heron standing on a rock demanded a short stop for awe and admiration. This lovely riverside path is much more peaceful these days than it would have been in the heyday of the lead-mining – it passes Allen Mill which smelted lead and silver in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It must have been a massive enterprise, with many furnaces and ore-crushing machines, and long flues taking the poisonous fumes three miles away to vent on Flow Moss. Two chimneys still standing on the horizon are landmarks seen from miles around.
At Allen Mill I parted company with Isaac’s Tea Trail and stayed along the east bank of the river for a while before peeling away and up towards the village of Catton. Crossing the main road through the village, I continued along a tarmac lane which climbed up the valley side. Soon it brought me views across to one of my favourite sections of Isaac’s Tea Trail near Keenley Methodist Chapel.
Leaving the lane, easy walking along a sequence of footpaths took me through fields towards Allendale, with views a long way up the valley towards Allenheads. Such views made me long for a pair of seven league boots so that I could be on the Carrshield Moor section of Isaac’s Tea Trail in just a few strides. Although on second thoughts, there’s so much joy to be had in gentle, slow pottering that maybe I’ll just stick to my one league boots (apparently a league was around three miles, almost the length of this walk).
My boots were new at the start of my blogging adventure a year ago. In the past 12 months the blog has had 3,556 views, and been read by people in the UK, America, Australia, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Germany, Bulgaria and Taiwan. Although I’ve now walked all 36 miles of the Tea Trail I’ll be returning to the North Pennines as often as possible. This, my first-year anniversary walk, was typical of the area – in just a short distance there was so much of interest and such a such lovely variety of scenery. A pleasure garden indeed.