As you can see from the title, not much climbing on this trip to the North Pennines / South Northumberland area.
After a relaxing train journey to Newcastle, the short two carriage Carlisle train trip along the banks of the Tyne to Stocksfield where my friend Alan picked me up was a treat, passing through the industrial outskirts of Newcastle, Gateshead, Wylam and into the country.
Next morning, we had time to visit an old friend of 91yrs of age in Morpeth with whom Joan and I used to play Badminton in the 1970’s. He showed us a DVD he’s produced with the granddaughter of a wartime mate, depicting the progress of the 5th Tank Regiment from their victory at Alamein , battling through Sicily and then the Low Countries into Germany. Needless to say, Bob Lay is the last survivor of his particular troop.
Alan and I then motored down to the Elk’s Head at Whitfield to meet the others. After donning our shorts, we set off for Allenbanks where we walked South along Staward Gorge , climbed Staward Peel and then down alongside the river Allen to the road where we had a paddle in the sunshine while waiting for a lift back to the pub. Staward Peel was built as a border stronghold in 1272, then in the early 1400’s it became a monastery eventually being robbed of many of its stones to build the local Manor House two centuries later.
A later start as we were off to Alston to catch the 10.45 narrow gauge train on the South Tyne Railway to Lintley. We continued to walk along the old track bed to Featherstone, crossing the fantastic Lambley Viaduct built in 1851 and renovated with the aid of a Euro grant in the 1990’s using lime mortar imported from France. At the end of our walk, we came across the Wallace Arms, so just had to have a pint of “Black Sheep” bitter before getting our lift back to the Elk’s Head.
After dinner that evening, we taught a German family how to play “Killer” on the dartboard as a ruse to get them off the Pool table where we had some competitive games. Feeling guilty, we asked if they’d like to use the table again, but they said that they were loving playing “Killer”! By now the Graingers( Hadrians Brewery) IPA had run out and we were on to the Reiver’s Bitter. As I found the Graingers a little sweet, I was drinking Theakstons XB.
Our last day was spent climbing the moors out of Allendale to the “Chimneys”. These 40 ft high chimneys were fed by dry stone flues covered in earth and grass ,tall enough for me to stand up in stretching for 2miles from the lead ore smelting hearths in Allenheads. Amazing Victorian skill and technology of the 1850’s. Up on the hills, we spotted a full range of moorland birds; Curlew, Snipe, Plover, Lapwing ,Skylark, Black Grouse, Pipit, Dunlin, Common Grouse and Pheasant. We then spent the afternoon at the Killhope Lead Mining Museum fully preserved as the water –powered lead works had been over 150yrs ago which included entering the mine itself wearing our helmets and wellies, trudging in 12” of water. After the tour finished, we had a walk in the pine woods surrounding the site to look for red squirrels but we guessed they’d gone to bed.
Another good pub in an interesting area not as crowded as the Lakes or the Peaks. The Elks Head, Whitfield, Hexham NE47 8HD tel 01434 345282 firstname.lastname@example.org ; www.elkshead.co.uk Managers; Philip & Alison Johnston (Philip is a fell runner)