36 Allendale – Bardon Mill

Allendale Town to Bardon Mill 9.6 miles (15.4Km.)

The bus brought me from Hexham into Town the next morning and I’d resisted using the multiple stores in Hexham to stock up for the day. I went into the Co-op, established 1874 to find a busy well stocked shop with staff smart in the Allendale Co-operative Society uniforms. Unfortunately, for me, the sandwiches had not yet arrived so I searched the shelves for alternative lunchtime sustenance until being tipped off that the butcher next door might assist me. “Not a lot available this early” said the cheerful assistant. I had beef and mustard between the two remaining cobs or rolls depending where you come from.

Stone seat by the River Allen

Stone seat by the River Allen

The Blackett Level still pours water into the Allen along this very pleasant riverside walk. At Thornley Gate the road bridge takes us to the other bank but here I’m attracted by signs for a bakery in the former mill industrial estate so I go to explore and top up provisions. Here also is the Allendale Brewery, today the smell of baking bread drifts in the air which on brewing days could compete with the distinctive smell of malting barley. Nice that the former mill has a new use but I wonder if Allendale might have been a better location to bring a bit of commercial life back into the Town.

Bridge Eal - House and Garden

Bridge Eal - House and Garden

The path first skirts the garden of the house at Bridge Eal but then after a stile we take the grand tour, a mini Hidcote Manor and free to view but stay on the public path, no right to roam please.

I gave ‘Isaac’s Tea Trail’ a miss and continued along the river bank. Not for the first time am I annoyed by a waymark post that shows the direction of just one path when there are two possible paths from this location. Selective waymarking to my mind is worse than no waymarking. I added it to the short list of complaints to be submitted to Northumberland County Council and got the following reply.”Isaacs Tea Trail does benefit from an additional waymark on a post here.  However there are waymarks on the footbridge which indicate both public footpaths so I’ve not added any further waymarking.” So why didn’t they put the Tea Trail sign at the footbridge and save the trouble of installing an additional post?

It was a good climb up from Oakpool with signs that the road was difficult to maintain trapped between the hillside and riverbank. A diversion around the developed farm was well signed then it was down again to cross the river at on a suspect bridge at Wide Eals. A short gap in a riverside footpath forces a long climb on the A686 where my sweating brow attracts a swarm of pesky flies forcing me take on the appearance of a Morris dancer as I try to remove them by flicking a handkerchief around my head.

Approaching Staward Peel on the high ground I spy a group around the next stile. As I get closer I hear a man telling the others a story which tempts me to linger, but perhaps his followers have paid him to divulge his tale so I press on along a path with warning of a steep drop to either side. It’s Striding Edge with trees. There were lots of building up here “for troubled times” and it must have been an impressive border stronghold which would have been bare of trees back then. Another site I believe that would benefit from a bit of tree felling.

Crossing the South Tyne Ford by footbridge

Crossing the South Tyne Ford by footbridge

More delightful walking beside the Allen then suddenly this must be it, but it’s all wrong. The back cover the guide has a picture of Plankey Bridge while the text temps the reader with, “This is a wonderful suspension bridge, which evokes memories of those seen in Indiana Jones films! Once across the bridge, which will give ‘butterflies in the stomach’……….” This was a much awaited highlight of the walk and it was GONE. Replaced by an ugly utilitarian steel structure opened in 2007 which does nothing more than get me to the other bank of the river. I would have preferred this bit of footpath heritage to have been retained but equally Northumberland County Council could have been a little more imaginative with the replacement bearing in mind some of the interesting structures that have been built as part of the National Cycle Network. A major blow that lowered my spirits for the rest of the day.

Passing through Beltingham I wanted to photograph the cottage by the church lych gate but again a parked car blighted the scene so I pressed on. Fortunately I’d plotted the location of the access to the Nature Reserve (no sign to say ‘Members Only’) and found the well used permissive riverside path which took me off the road.

Bardon Mill Pottery

Bardon Mill Pottery

I had a green light for safe passage over the railway line then entered a sleepy Bardon Mill where any services remaining available were closed for lunch or the day. As often happens I realise I’d been here before, buying wall planters from the pottery, sadly frost damaged one winter. A pottery since 1878 but formally a water powered woollen mill the pottery invited tourists to visit but unlike so many similar establishments, there was no tea shop here.

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Great English Walk map of section 36

Great English Walk map of section 36

 
Great English Walk hills and dales of section 36

Great English Walk hills and dales of section 36


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