This section of Isaac’s Tea Trail is only four miles but there’s so much to marvel at along the way it’s worth spinning it out to take longer than four miles should. Also it has a few steep ups and downs.

We re-joined the Tea Trail at Monk Farm near Whitfield, directed by a fairly new signpost – just one example of the ongoing improvements along the route.


The first section of the walk was along a wide track through dense oak woodland. These are sessile oaks, so called because their acorns have no stalk. While fact-checking this I found a new word: ‘sessility’ meaning the inability to move actively or spontaneously. Yup, every day’s a school day.

The trees on our right were growing down the steep valley side so we were eye-to-eye with their crowns and canopies. Occasional gaps allowed dappled sunlight to reach us and revealed framed views of fields topped by moors.

It’s always a striking moment on this walk when the shade ends abruptly.


I can be prone to name-dropping when going through this gate ……….


For the record, Clare Balding loved her walk on Isaac’s Tea Trail.

Once we were out in the open we really had no choice but to sit down and take in the view. We were on a natural grandstand above the River West Allen and could see for miles upstream and downstream. Tiny tractors were haymaking across the valley, creating exquisitely regular patterns with rows of grasses heaped to dry on the unique lemony green of a fresh-cut field.

Reluctantly leaving the glorious panorama, we continued uphill and away from the river. A recurring feature of our walks is property envy as we pass idyllic cottages – today we had to look up to admire a very special property. Its creator came out to chat to us, telling us he’d made the treehouse for his granddaughter.  Our own granddads were immediately found wanting.


Having gained height we followed a track past a series of ruined farmhouses before descending to cross the Dry Burn via a narrow stone bridge. Then there was a very steep ascent to reach the flatter pastures above Ninebanks. One entertaining feature of Isaac’s Tea Trail is the quirky tea memorabilia encountered in surprise places, such as teapots and vintage tea posters, and also items related to walking. After all, the Tea Trail is a wonderful, wonderful walk.


Our walk finished at the hearse house funded by Isaac Holden and restored with a grant awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to the North Pennines AONB Partnership for the Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme.

As we descended to Ninebanks we had a good view of a tough section of our next walk. That track heading up to the highest point on the horizon is a long slog, but I happen to know there’s a bench half way up it.



There’s more information about Isaac’s Tea Trail at https://isaacs-tea-trail.co.uk/

and https://www.northpennines.org.uk/location/isaacs-tea-trail/

For updated information on shops, cafes, accommodation and attractions in the North Pennines AONB that have re-opened since the Coronavirus lockdown see blog https://northpenninesshane.home.blog/2020/07/06/visiting-the-north-pennines/

You can follow me on Twitter @isaacsfootsteps




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