The first section of Isaac’s Tea Trail that I walked for this blog was from Keenley Methodist Chapel to Allendale. It’s a lovely three-mile route through woods, across fields and alongside the River East Allen. Or it was ….. until a landslip and a fallen tree wrecked a boardwalk near Thornley Gate. The former boardwalk is pictured on the title page of the blog posting of October 21st 2015
Now, after an epic effort by Northumberland County Council’s Field Team, a detour has been created, and news that the route is now open again sent me out to repeat my walk of October 2015.
Starting at Keenley Chapel as before, I almost ran down the lane to the gate. Forget kelpies and sirens luring people on, I’m always enticed by portals promising even more countryside beyond.
The route headed gradually downhill through fields of sheep and cattle, watched over by Isaac himself on the waymarkers.
Isaac Holden commissioned this portrait in 1853 as part of his fundraising campaigns. He was a grocer selling tea door-to-door across a wide area of the North Pennines, at the same time raising money for projects to help poor and needy people. He sold his picture for 6d a copy and I’m told that they have been found hanging in many local farmhouses and cottages.
My walk was marked by the distinctive colours of late summer, from rowan berries to wild raspberries, with purple heather in the distance. Then as I reached a house on the bank of the East Allen there was an extra treat of really gorgeous colours in a wonderful garden.
Soon I was approaching the site of the damaged boardwalk. The County Council couldn’t replace the boardwalk along its original course because the river bank was too unstable. So instead they have created a new 200 metre section of footpath.
The first section involved cutting 18 steps up the steep-sided field, installing a new gate and another six steps into the next field. This field is above the woodland that covers the steep valley side, so the footpath detour now offers an elevated view not previously seen on Isaac’s Tea Trail.
After I’d walked along the edge of the field, another new gate took me back into the woods, and down a lot more steps to rejoin the riverside path.
All this must have been really hard work, and Northumberland County Council’s Field Team has done a brilliant job. Their epic feat is not over yet – they’ll be back to install a handrail on the steps in the near future.
The great thing about the detour is that it means walkers only miss out on a short stretch of the original footpath. So, walking eastwards, I was able to enjoy the full length of the meadow approach to the woods, and then after the detour I was quickly delivered to the beautiful riverside path.
The rest of the walk followed the River East Allen upstream to Allendale. I have walked this path many many times, and each season has its own special sights and sounds. There is one particular pleasure that it offers at this time of year – the wild raspberries are delicious.
The maps in this blog are only to locate the walks. Please use Ordnance Survey’s Explorer OL43 Hadrian’s Wall for this route.