03. A slice of heaven in Northumberland – March 23rd 2011

The clouds of night seemed reluctant to clear as we set off for the third of our forays into the wilds of Northumberland. Heading west, we followed in General George Wade’s footsteps along the Military Road, quickly arriving at the tall wooden cross situated on the right hand side of the road at Heavenfield, near Chollerford.

St. Oswald's Church at HeavenfieldOriginally erected by King Oswald in AD 635 before the battle in which he defeated King Cadwallon, the site marks the spot where Christianity was restored to Northumbria. We spent some time exploring the small church dedicated to St. Oswald, which is located some little distance to the north of the cross, amidst a stone walled enclosure surrounded by fields. A simple, single-chambered place of worship, lit by gas lights and candles even today, it is still used for occasional services throughout the year.

The sun came out more brightly as we headed south, back over the road, and followed a metalled track to a fingerpost at the top of a rise. From there, we squelched across a rushy field towards a wood and thence towards Acomb, crossing fields in which sheep grazed peacefully in the spring sunshine. A far cry from past times, when this area resounded to the man-made sounds of mining; both the Romans and late 19th century Britons finding an abundance of lead and coal in the locality.

We followed the path through woodland, past the camp site and then onto a quiet road past the Mariners Cottage Hotel, (an unusual name for a country guest house); enjoying the warm sunshine and the sounds of new born lambs in the fields. The road led us to Acomb village, where we had a coffee stop and admired the ornately decorated metal pumps, which had provided water for the locals in years gone by.

From Acomb, we turned north along the path behind some houses before descending to cross a stream in a wooded dene, where we heard the first chiffchaff of the year ! The path then lead us across more fields until the old engine house of the former Acomb pit (now incorporated into Low Engine Cottage) came into view. From here, at Halfway House Farm, there was a 1500 metre long incline, on a metalled road. The climb did make us sweat a bit, so we decided to stop for lunch before we reached Fallowfield on a wide grass verge with a stone wall at our backs and a view over the Tyne Valley … and what a super lunchtime we had. Buzzards wheeled overhead, we spotted a kestrel, and chatted briefly to a young cyclist and an envious young woman who was passing in a car, and all in glorious sunshine.

We reluctantly vacated our lunch spot and headed off westerly towards Wall village, the track alternating between woodland and fields. We finally droppedWall VillageChurch interior down towards the lovely stone built settlement, to find St. George’s church sat amidst charming properties surrounding the village green. The church is set unusually on a north-south orientation, and possesses a lovely carved screen and cross above the chancel. We spotted the Wesleyan chapel in the other corner of the green before heading off to the Hadrian Hotel for tea, coffee and a swift half !

After sunning ourselves in the garden for a very pleasant half hour, we left Wall along another quiet road, until a stile over the wall on our right led us up a steep bank in a southerly direction. The incline necessitated a fuel stop for the remainder of (someone’s) sandwiches and some delicious chocolate covered coconut macaroons because we were becoming a little weary after all our upping and downing during the day. Our brains (well mine anyway) could have done with a boost at this stage, because we found ourselves lost amongst alpacas !

“We shouldn’t be here !” – but we were, so we negotiated an alternative route around our woolly friends, and eventually found ourselves back on the right path. From here, it was but a hop and a skip back along the correct path to the Military Road, the lay-by and, to our relief, the car.

Tired limbs, uplifted spirits and a real sense of satisfaction in having completed another walk accompanied us back to Ponteland. What a beautiful day we enjoyed !

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About gardeningdave

Retired - living in Northumberland - walk, usually every two weeks, with a group of three or four friends in the wider Northumbria.
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