39 Elsdon – Rothbury

Elsdon to Rothbury 14 miles (22.4Km.)

Elsdon in the Northumberland National Park

Elsdon in the Northumberland National Park

Today, the guide, promised a tough one “but is very rewarding before and beyond…” the forest section. I had considered straying from the GEW but this extended the forest walking, after Redpath I opted for the quick exit.  The rain started soon after leaving Elsdon so before was just a gentle approach to the mighty Harwood Forest and offered me a false sense of security along a pleasant bridleway leading to a deserted road section. Happy to plod along towards Eastnook passing Whitlees I spotted I had gone wrong and pulled out the guide. “There is no alternative but to turn right at the farm and delve into the forest”. There was a sign and initially I was brushing through the wet lower branches of the ubiquitous pine trees but the path was clear to see and ditch boards cross gullies so all I need beware of was the low branches and the occasional squelchy bits underfoot.

Elsdon churchyard

Elsdon churchyard

Felling was taking place but the path remained open with signs warning users to take extra care, no problems. There were tussocks of grass in the open section but back in the trees the surface was very good although a number of fallen trees do need removing from the line of the path so I’ve reported these to Northumberland CC. I expected a fruitless search for the remains of Manside Cross but there it was awaiting my arrival by a gate. Navigationally the next section was easy as it followed the wide clearing shown on the map. The map suggested the path was on the forest side of the fence but the stiles and gates directed me to the clearing side. The ground was a bit rough but tough going is easier if the know for sure you are going the right way.

Approaching Redpath and easy walking

Approaching Redpath and easy walking

I wondered if the mast would offer me a good mobile signal but didn’t bother to check as I had no need to make a call. When the GEW finally turns to the north a track is met and the pace quickens towards Redpath Farm which is now unoccupied, awaiting a tenant seeking solitude.

Harwood Forest felling in progress

Harwood Forest felling in progress

There are now three possible routes with a bridleway offering the quickest escape from the bounds of the forest but the GEW takes the footpath admitting that it will be difficult. I explore to see if things have improved here since 1997. Sadly they have not and I quickly abandon the attempt but my boot goes ankle deep in water before returning to the parallel forest track which is shown as the permissive route for the Border County Ride.

Harry's Wood Harwood Forest

Harry's Wood Harwood Forest

Overall the journey through Harwood Forest must have improved since 1997. The route, except for the section above, was signed and generally clear. Yes it was occasionally tough underfoot but I still managed an average of 2.5 mph and only one wet foot. I chatted with a farmer who suggested he had been the last person to walk through the forest last year, he could be right.

I passed a warning to drive carefully as red squirrels were crossing (but not in my presence) then with rain back in fashion I failed to heed the suggestion and visit the Hillfort and burial mounds at Lordenshaws. I did note that a kissing gate was two hundred yards off the correct line of the path but again I missed the standing stone as Rothbury was now close by and a warm dry Inn was more inviting.

Blueburn Farm

Blueburn Farm

More bridge work at Rothbury, it must be costing Northumberland a packet. The local press reports that English Heritage are being difficult but then the Council did put an ugly concrete extension on the bridge which has a 16th century arch so can they be trusted this time round? A bailey bridge eases the chaos for the next three years until the work is completed.

This may be the end of the stage but my destination today is Alwinton so it’s a short lunch break and somewhere inside to return circulation to cold fingers.

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Great English Walk map of section 39

Great English Walk map of section 39

 

Great English Walk hills and dales of section 39

Great English Walk hills and dales of section 39

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