Linear walks feel like more of a journey than circular routes, and they can offer a greater variety of scenery as they track through different areas. You don’t always need two cars – or even one car – where there’s a bus service, and Northumberland County Council is in the process of producing a leaflet to help walkers make the most of buses in the North Pennines AONB.
A variation on my walk of October 26th (‘Isaac and the 688’) is planned for the leaflet, so I’ve been out to check a few details for the instructions and, most importantly, try a route that avoids the muddy slippery quagmire I encountered.
I rode the 688 to High Forest Community Centre at Sinderhope. It’s a great bus – shiny and clean, low access, snazzy red seatbelts and always chatty, smiley helpful drivers.
Starting the walk as I had before, I soon reached a lane which was to be my detour around the boggy area.
Missing out the muddy footpath needn’t mean missing out on seeing the waterfall and the remains of Holmslinn leadmine near the bog. It only adds about half a mile to pop along the footpath from the lane and have a look, then come back the same way to the lane again.
Using the road added some great views that I hadn’t seen on my previous (muddy) walk which stayed on the (very muddy) valley floor.
Turning off the road I joined Isaac’s Tea Trail, waymarked with a picture of Isaac Holden. He was a Victorian grocer who had a shop in Allendale and also walked miles around the area selling tea door-to-door. His Methodist beliefs led him to raise money for the poor and needy and he funded many projects for the community. The 36-mile Tea Trail links many of the places where his customers lived.
My walk shadowed the River East Allen along its western side, the path undulating as it descended to cross tributary streams then climbing again to the meadows above the steep valley side.
The signposting was clear and obvious so I hope users of the Northumberland County Council leaflet will find the walk easy to follow. Quirky teapots and tea adverts hinted at the promise of a choice of refreshments at the walk’s destination, Allendale Town.
Any walk will deliver surprise sightings and sounds, and I was treated to a close view of a huge hare running from behind a tussock near the path and across the field in front of me. It’s easy to see why these wonderful creatures have such a presence in folklore and mythology.
I also discovered the place where snowploughs wait for winter.
A reminder of weather to come, but for now the autumn sunshine added to the pleasures of the day. Some larch trees lining the valley were still holding on to their golden needles, and a glow surged within each beech tree when the sun’s rays picked it out of the woodland line-up. Foresters will tell you that the colours of autumn foliage are caused by carotene, anthocyanins, xanthophylls and tannins. Simple chemistry then, but oh so beautiful.
My route eventually turned away from the river and up into fields that in summer are glorious hay meadows. At this time of year their hawthorn hedges and thickets attract berry-eating birds. Hundreds of them. The sky was filled with fieldfares wheeling in huge flocks and then settling on every available branch to feed. I couldn’t get a decent photo of them – so here are some berries which have probably been eaten by now.
Northumberland County Council’s buses and walks leaflet will be available early next year.
The map is only a general guide to the route. Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL43 ‘Hadrian’s Wall, Haltwhistle and Hexham’ has all the details.
There’s more information about Isaac’s Tea Trail at http://www.allenvalleys.com/isaacs-tea-trail/