Sadly, there were only three of Footloose again, for this our sixth walk of the year. The one element that was constant however was the weather, because, once more, the sky was cloudless, the sun shining down from the clear blue heavens as we made our way westwards towards Chollerford and the North Tyne valley.
St. Mungo’s church in Simonburn is situated on the edge of the village green and was thankfully open for visitors. The interior was light and airy, and obviously well cared for. There were wall-mounted memorial tablets to the two important families associated with the church, two interesting baptismal fonts and some fascinating stone effigies. As usual, we were intrigued by many of the grave markers in the churchyard, but left for our walk with numerous questions unanswered.
We started our expedition via the substantial stone lych gate, turning left through the hamlet, and, chilly after our dawdle in the churchyard, decided to sample the coffee in the Post Office Tea Rooms !!! That soon warmed us up, so we started out again up Castle Lane in a westerly direction. The path climbed steadily through woodland and we eventually came upon the ruins of Simonburn Castle, a relic of the Border Wars with the Scots for over 400 years since the 12th century. The flora that we observed on the ash trees lining the route intrigued us – the patterns created by the algal growth in the bark fissures were beautiful, especially so when bathed in sunlight.
After passing Fenwickfield farm, our route led us across some rough grazing land, following the line of an old stone wall, until we turned and headed north. After a descent through tussocky grass to a gate, following the edge of the National Park boundary, we climbed again to a rise where the views all around were superb. Haughton Common to the west, Wark Common to the north, with the North Tyne valley stretching out in the east – stunning scenery with a wealth of history; we were north of Hadrian’s Wall, deep in Reiver country !
The path now directed us down, over a dyke, and then upwards again towards a plantation near Goatstones, where we followed a metalled track towards High Moralee farm. “Time for lunch” came the cry, so we found a grassy bank in the sun to enjoy our sandwiches.
The road between High and Low Moralee farms and Latterford, high above the Gofton Burn, proved a delight for lovers of botany – we saw some magnificent oaks just coming into leaf, masses of pale yellow primroses and purple violets, and gorgeously coloured young larch cones. The huge sycamore, near The Croft, almost surpassed the rest with the massive girth of its main trunk.
Once more we headed uphill, over fields, towards Conshield, from where Chipchase Castle could be seen over to the east, near the river. Past the farm, we made our way south to join the tree lined Ward Lane, where we were treated to the sight of two buzzards wheeling high in the thermals over the valley.
A final stroll over fields, across the delightful Castle Burn, through a couple of gates and over a style, and our walk was complete.