Radio 3 woke me from my slumbers, and I looked out to view what the day heralded with regard to the weather – very breezy but dry and bright, – so far so good ! Steve picked us up and we journeyed south once again, heading for Blanchland village on the border of Northumberland and Durham.
Alas, the coffee shop did not open until 10.30 am so we investigated the church of St. Mary. Once part of Blanchland Abbey, it is an unusual shape, the nave and chancel sitting at right angles to the old north transept of the abbey church, which now forms a welcoming lobby area with interesting medieval grave slabs.
A lovely carved wooden ceiling and screen adorns the nave and chancel, in what is an historic and beautiful building. After signing the visitors’ book, we adjourned to the White Monk tea rooms for coffee and scones and, thus fortified, we set off down towards the river and headed west along the riverbank path, away from the fine stone bridge that spans the Derwent river.
This well trodden and easy path followed the river for a couple of miles until it joined a minor road, adjacent to the bridge at the head of Derwent Reservoir. We climbed this road for a short while until a farm track led us towards Acton and then, off piste once more, we traversed pastures full of sheep, through wooded glades and over streams as we made our way westwards to Cowbyers farm, with its converted buildings. Continuing west, through fields, with a superb view of the reservoir behind us, we were intrigued by, first, a mineral lick and then by a gruesome fence decoration !
Lunchtime was approaching by now, so we headed for the shelter of a stone wall, adjacent to a conifer wood to enjoy our sandwiches, coffee and cake. The sun shone, and it was surprisingly warm out of the blustery wind that had been in our faces most of the morning.
Setting off again, we descended through the wood to emerge onto a metalled lane near the hamlet of Shildon. A few houses gathered about a flattish plateau above a stream; not a very remarkable scene … until the ruined remains of the Engine House came into view. This building, built around 1806, housed a massive Cornish pumping engine that was used to keep the many local lead mines free from flooding. Presently being restored, it provides a dramatic reminder of a once thriving community of 170 souls.
Our route now led north-westward towards Pennypie Farm along a stony path, following an old drove road towards the moor, which we reached over a small burn which flowed past the farm. The way was now straightforward – along the moorland path, then down a metalled lane to the river once more.
Currently sheltered from the wind, we quickly arrived back at Blanchland, pausing to admire an allotment full of dahlias and chrysanthemums, before retiring to the tea rooms for a well earned afternoon tea and a final walk around this truly historic and fascinating village.
Once more we’d enjoyed a wonderful walk, good company, and learnt more about our local area and heritage. Roll on walk number twelve !