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Walk This Way - Favourites

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There are so many beautiful walks throughout the region, some challenging some less so, and we’ve tried lots and written about even more. Here are a few of our favourites, but there are many more at livingnorth.com for you to tackle

Blanchland

Parking: Public Car park in village….honesty box £1 
Start: Car Park
Finish: Lord Crewe Arms
Distance: 3.5 miles
Time: 1.5 hours 
Difficulty: Easy. There are two short climbs. The route takes in short sections of road but is otherwise across open field and tracks/paths.
Footwear: The walking is fairly good but can be muddy, particularly along the farm tracks so wellingtons or walking boots are recommended.
OS Map: Explorer 307
Other: Dogs would need to be on a lead for the majority of the route as it passes through fields that may hold livestock. The route contains ladder stiles and gateways.

1. From the public car park on the north edge of the village (1) turn left up a slight incline along what was once the drove road used to move cattle to and from Hexham. Take the left towards Coat House farm and follow this track up the hill. As it flattens out and turns slightly right towards the farmhouse join the footpath through a marked gate on your left. Continue across this field and exit via the ladder stile to the left of the main gate.

2. From here follow the track diagonally down across the field pausing to take in the view across the valley. Exit over the ladder stile and turn right onto the lane. Continue through the hamlet of Baybridge. Follow the lane round and over the Derwent River into County Durham (N.B. there is a picnic site at Baybridge next to the river)(2).  Continue left and take the signed footpath left off the lane, through the gate and into the woods. After a short distance you will cross a small stream, turn right up the hill immediately after this and follow the path to the top edge of the woods.

3. Enter this field via the stile and cross the field bearing right as you reach the fence. Follow this to the gate in the top left hand corner of the field. Exit through the gate and turn left on the farm track. Follow the track through the gateways all the way to Allenshields farm. Enter the farmyard through the large red gates and continue straight ahead exiting the farmyard through the gate and onto open farmland. Head diagonally left across this field to the ladder stile (3,4). Follow the line of the dry stone wall across the next field and to a further ladder stile. Once over this stile head across the field towards the houses (diagonally left) and exit the field via the gate onto the road. Follow this road down the hill to the ‘T’ junction. Turn left following the road round and over the bridge back into Blanchland. 

4. Turn right as soon as you are over the bridge cutting between the bridge and building to the river ban.  Follow the river side footpath until you reach a signpost for Blanchland, turn left here and follow the track up and around to the left until it reaches the road. From here cross the road and follow it (or slightly raised footpath) left back into Blanchland, entering the village past the abbey. Turn left around the abbey and continue for a short distance down the hill to the Lord Crewe Arms (5) Or turn right around the café and up the slight hill to return to the car park.

5. Blanchland sits in the North Pennines A.O.N.B, on the Derwent River which marks the boundary of Northumberland and County Durham.  It is an attractive and largely unspoilt village, with the appearance of a ‘model’ English village. It was largely constructed under the direction of Nathaniel Lord Crewe, the Bishop of Durham (1674-1722) with stone taken from the remains of the 12th century Abbey and thus many of its buildings have monastic origins. The delightful Lord Crewe Arms was originally the lodge of the Abbot of Blanchland. The remains of the Abbey cloisters are still clearly visible in the pub beer garden.  The original Abbey itself was Premonstratensian, a Roman catholic order founded in Premontre by Saint Norbert in 1120. They were more commonly known as the White Canons, due to the colour of their habit. Blanchland (or white land) takes its name from their presence there. Despite their many shared ideals with the Cistercian order Premonstratensians were not monks but ‘canons regular’, not existing as a closed order but involved in pastoral care and ministry in their local parishes. 

The final destination for our walk, the Lord Crewe Arms, has many interesting stories to tell and has long been linked to the Jacobite uprising of 1715. It is said to be haunted by Dorothy Forster who, as niece of the then Lord Crewe, is reputed to have ridden, in disguise, on horseback to London, rescued her brother Tom from prison, 4 days before his trial and an almost certain death penalty and hid him in Blanchland until his escape to France. The pub has been a favourite of many great literary figures; W.H Auden, Philip Larkin and Benjamin Britten have all frequented the inn and more recently Blanchland itself became the fictional town of Stoneybridge for the CBBC series ‘Wolfblood’. 

Kielder Castle, Skyspace and the Observatory

Parking: At Kielder Castle car park. Parking is £5 for the full day.
Starting/Finishing Point: Kielder Castle Café.
Distance: 6 miles
Time: 3 1/2 hours. 
Difficulty: Medium. There are several long uphill drags in this walk, although none are particularly steep. Some sections are very uneven underfoot and the nature of the surface of some tracks and forest trails makes this walk slightly more tiring than at first anticipated.
Footwear: Walking boots or robust trainers if the weather has been dry. Much of the walking is excellent on un-metalled forest trails, however there are sections that are very uneven underfoot, prone to being very muddy and as a result slippery.
OS Map: OL42
OS Reference: NY632934
Other: The path regularly crosses the many excellent mountain bike trails and cyclists do have priority so be aware. There is a short section along the C200 road towards the end of the walk which can be busy as it is the main road to and from Kielder. Apart from this section, this is an excellent route for dog walkers. There are public toilets at the car park and the café (open all year round). The site of the Observatory is very exposed and there can be strong, cold winds even on what appears at the castle to be the mildest of days, so appropriate clothing is essential.

Kielder Castle was built on the site of an earlier settlement by architect William Newton as a hunting lodge for Hugh Percy, the first Duke of Northumberland. The site itself is thought to be an ancient burial ground dating back to 3,000BC. Entirely in keeping with its Gothic styling, the castle is reputed to be haunted by ghosts including a ‘grey lady’ and a servant girl called ‘Emma’, although little is known about their ties to the castle or historical significance. In the mid-1950s the Forestry Commission constructed much of the current housing that exists around the Castle to accommodate the workers engaged in the planting of the forest. Originally envisioned to create a strategic timber reserve for the whole country Kielder now has over 230 square miles of forest managed by the Forestry Commission, and is home to more than 50 percent of the England’s remaining Red Squirrel population. The Castle is now the tourist information point for Kielder and is open from 10am–4pm daily (except Christmas and New Year). It also houses the Kielder Castle Café which is open from 9.30am–5.30pm daily throughout the summer and 11am–4pm throughout the winter (excepting the same dates as the information centre). Bike hire is available throughout the year from Kielder Cycle Centre who can be contacted on 01434 250457.

1. Leaving the castle via the arched coaching entrance, we turn left and follow the red trails marker down across the gardens and past the Minotaur Maze (1), which is well worth a slight diversion to explore. This basalt rock and glass maze was built in 2003 by Nick Coombe and Shona Kitchen and is part of Kielder Art and Architecture. From here we join the road and turning right at the T junction, follow the curve up and around to the left past the village shop. We cross the C200 diagonally to our left and enter the forest again, following the red waymarked arrow onto a narrow trail. From here we climb steadily through the forest. Despite the criss-crossing of mountain bike trails and paths it is clear that wildlife in the forest itself is thriving, with evidence of large number of roe deer and even a herd of feral goats. The ground is blanketed with moss and lichen and as the day moved to evening we saw several barn owls swooping through the trees. 

2. Emerging from the woodland we join a forestry road that is again well signed with red arrows towards Skyspace and the observatory. To our right as we gently climb the trees occasionally open out with views across the valley and north towards Deadwater Fell (2), crowned by its distinctive military radar station, and below it the Specere shelter (3), another element of Kielder Art and Architecture, designed in 2009 by renowned architect David Adjaye. Next we approach Skyspace, which has settled into its environment considerably since it was first installed in 2000. This sculpture by famed American artist James Turrell consists of ‘a short tunnel that leads to a partially buried circular room, a ceiling containing a central circular oculus or opening, and a ring of seats forming the lower part of the inner wall.’ It is a great place to pause and sit for a while. Watching the silent sky float by directly above you is both a hypnotic and extraordinarily relaxing experience. 

3. Suitably rejuvenated, we now press on for the extra half-mile of forestry road up Black Fell to the observatory, taking in as we go increasingly expansive views as the forest thins. From the observatory we see a dramatic panorama across the valley and Kielder water itself. With minimal light pollution, Kielder Forest is famed for having the darkest night skies in England and the Observatory (4), built by Charles Barclay Associates in 2008, has developed an excellent access program to allow anyone with sufficient interest to learn about astronomy, visit the site and use its astronomical equipment. It is run by Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society (KOAS); to find out more about their events visit the website at www.kielderobservatory.org. 

4. Retracing our footsteps back down the forestry track we take the third track on the right after we pass Skyspace, taking us in an almost directly southerly direction. This gently descends, giving open views across the forest (5). At the fork we take the left hand track downwards and into open woodland of slightly more mixed character before heading into an older and more mature area of forest. At the next fork we again take the left track that drops us down to meet the C200. Here we turn left for a short burst along the road before turning right, signposted Bakethin Nature Reserve. We continue on the road down to join ‘Lakeside Way’ and from here follow signs for Kielder Castle, keeping Kielder Burn to our right. We re-join the road by which we left the castle earlier and – crossing the bridge – complete the short climb back up to Kielder Castle.

Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Parking: Chare Ends Car Park. Fees apply. 
Starting/Finishing Point: Chare Ends Car Park, on your left as you approach the village from the causeway. 
Distance: Approx 4 1/2 miles
Time: 3 hours approx.
Difficulty: Easy. Walking is predominantly along paths, tracks and is very flat. The section through the dunes, given the nature of walking on sand, can be a little harder going and the final sweep along the beach around the south west tip of the island is often uneven underfoot.
Footwear: Trainers or lightweight walking boots. The walking is mostly excellent, firm and level.
OS Map: Explorer 340
OS Grid Reference: NU127421
Other: Holy Island itself is accessed by a tidal causeway and as such planning a visit is essential. Northumberland County Council publish safe crossing times and you should ideally look to arrive shortly after the tide has cleared the causeway, to allow plenty of time to complete the walk and explore the islands many interesting sites. It is also possible to arrive on the island at high tide by boat from Seahouses with Billy Shiel’s Farne Island Boat Tours (tel: 01665 720308). There are no public toilets in Chare Ends car park, the nearest are situated in the Green Lane disabled parking and coach park a short way into the village itself.

When King Aethelfrith, the Anglo-Saxon King of what would become Northumbria, died in battle at River Idle (now Nottinghamshire) in 616AD, his children fled north to Iona via Mull. Here, despite their father’s historic paganism and violence towards Christian monks, they were taken in by the Irish monks of St Columba on the island. They were protected, educated and eventually baptised. When Prince Oswald eventually won back his father’s kingdom at the battle of Heavenfield, establishing the Kingdom of Northumbria, he asked the monks of Iona to send him a missionary to help convert his people to Christianity. In 635AD St Aidan arrived in Northumberland and was given the freedom to establish his monastery in the location of his choice. He chose Lindisfarne. Since then the island has been inextricably linked to the spread of Christianity throughout Great Britain and the wider world. The presence of the monks on the island gives us an invaluable historic record of the site and insight into its incredible history, from St Cuthbert and the Lindisfarne Gospels through the first Viking raids on the UK to the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the mid-16th century. Lindisfarne Castle, which sits on the volcanic plug of Beblowe Crag and is visible for miles around, was built from the stones of the demolished priory in the 1550s.

Modern Lindisfarne is home to a wonderful array of both flora and fauna and despite its popularity with visitors it is still possible to find relative solitude on the wild coastal paths of this walk, away from the tourist hub of the village, Priory and Castle. The sand dunes that protect the eastern side of the island provide perfect habitats for a number of nationally important plant species including the Lindisfarne Helleborine, a marsh orchid that can only be found on Holy Island. The range and volume of flowering plants here also support an incredible array of butterflies and moths, many infrequent visitors to this part of the country. In autumn and winter the food-rich mud flats provide a haven for huge flocks of waterfowl that arrive to escape the Arctic winter.

1. From the car park walk into the village along Chare Ends Road, turn right along Marygate and then at the ‘T’ junction turn left and follow the road down towards the beach, passing the Church of St Mary the Virgin on your left. Join the coast path and turn left past the ruins of Lindisfarne Priory on your left. (2) Continue along the path towards the harbour, looking to your right you can see Bamburgh Castle on the opposite headland (1). 

2. Turn onto the tarmac path that follows the curve of the bay around towards the castle itself, past the upturned boats that provided a traditional method of storage on the island. Shortly before you reach the castle the track splits: take the path diagonally left across the field towards the Gertrude Jekyll walled garden. This was redesigned in 1911 as part of the conversion of the castle to a country residence for Edward Hudson, the founder of Country Life magazine. Interestingly, the architect for this project was none other than Sir Edwin Lutyens, whose popularity had benefitted greatly from the support of Hudson and his publication. From here head directly east along the edge of the field following the line of the wall, then turn northwards along the coast path as you reach the beach, keeping the sea on your right. Here you will pass an impromptu sculpture garden (3) where visitors have built increasingly elaborate stone piles on the final strip of grass before the beach. 

3. Continue past the lough visible on your right towards Emmanuel Head, the north-eastern point of Holy Island. There is a white brick pyramid that soon comes into view as you cross the field approaching this point (4). This is a Daymark, a simple daytime alternative to a lighthouse. Built in 1810, it is said to be the earliest the earliest purpose-built daymark in the UK.

4. Continue around the coast path (entering the dunes) until you are about halfway along the small sandy cove on your right. From here, turn diagonally south west just before the high dune. At the junction do not take the track to the left but continue along the path towards the north west. This path (eventually) gradually loops around to the left, joining a path running alongside cultivated farmland and bringing you back to the causeway road. Turn right here and then almost immediately left past the ‘pilgrims path’(5), marked by tall poles heading out across the mud/sand flats, and along the beach southwards, following the line of the island on your left. 

5. Soon the church of St Mary the Virgin will appear on your left (6). Just before reaching this point, turn left up the track that will take you back into the village, where there are many cafés and pubs serving anything from a pint and a sandwich through to a full local seafood dinner. Continue back through the village and onto the car park at Chare Ends.

Published in: June 2019

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