The day dawned clear and frosty as we made our way out of Ponteland, and headed west into the Tyne Valley. Dropping down from the escarpment top near Horsley, we could see the white, soft billowing clouds of fog filling the valley below, but it remained bright and sunny as we made our way towards Ovingham and the start of the walk. We parked in the lee of the majestic parish church of St. Mary the Virgin, with its impressive square tower, and donned boots, coats and rucksacks.
The walk began just behind the church on a public footpath to Whittle Dene and Nafferton, crossing behind a group of houses and descending into a horse paddock. Here we encountered the mist we had seen previously, and the temperature drop was immediately apparent as the sun became hidden by the low cloud.
The path meandered past a group of weekend cabins of varying types of construction; one such exhibiting the artistic talents of the owner, if the strange living sculptures in the garden were anything to go by.
On past the cabins, we came across the old flour mill surrounded by trees which displayed strangely coloured bark, and surmised that the staining was due to the high iron content in the boggy ground.
We soon crossed the Burn and climbed out of the wood to the edge of farmland, stopping to admire the red female flowers of the pathside hazel trees and the male catkins ready to shed their yellow pollen.
It was a real pleasure to walk along this field edge path, bathed in milky sunlight, enjoying each others company and putting the world to rights.
We soon came to St. Andrew’s Lane and headed towards Ovington. The lane passed a cereal field where a flock of gulls rested next to a flooded depression. They flew off as we came into view, but the heron standing a few yards away remained motionless and pretended to be invisible. In Ovington we had a coffee break sat on a seat in the sunshine.
Walking on, there was a short stretch along the road until we turned off south towards the river. More cabins came into view – a positive village ! … and several for sale if you fancy a bohemian lifestyle. Our walk continued alongside the mighty Tyne on a well trodden path, and back into Ovingham, past groups of snowdrops to a sun drenched lunch on the village green. We just had time to look around the churchyard (the church itself was closed), and found a fascinating collection of gravestones and memorials, especially that of Thomas Bewick, a well known local man and internationally renowned as a wood engraver and book illustrator.
So ended our first walk of 2011 – a thoroughly enjoyable time with superb weather, interesting views and good company.