Just half of Footloose set off on yet another misty, late autumn morning for our next walk. We headed north west along the A697 to Knowesgate before turning due west, over a moorland track, to our destination of West Woodburn village. We set off towards our first stop, the church of All Saints, nestling between trees adjacent to the road, and within sight and sound of the River Rede.
The church has a lovely interior, light and airy, with some wonderful oak woodwork and a carved reredos showing images of two of the Northumbrian saints, Oswald and Cuthbert. The octagonal font, with its tall oak canopy, at the west end of the long, narrow nave, complements the other elements of this beautifully peaceful early 20th century building.
As we left, on route to East Woodburn along the road, the day occasionally brightened with hazy sunshine. We turned off the road onto a track, crossed over the Lisles Burn, and then left again along a grassy footpath towards Alder Hall. The track followed the Burn for a while before climbing onto the ridge that bordered the River Rede, leaving the confluence of the two watercourses behind. We followed this track through deciduous woodland, admired a bracket fungus on a dying tree, and spotted a dipper skimming over the water to our left.
We quickly arrived at East Woodburn Bridge, a substantial stone structure spanning the River, which possibly indicated much busier times in the area, and then followed the trail as it turned west towards a junction of paths. The light at this time was amazing, as we looked southwards – sunlight streaming through the mistiness, and shining off the River Rede below us.
The path turned due north now, heading towards the converted farm steading of Coldtown. A tricky section this, over poorly drained grassland, but we managed to avoid the boggier bits as we climbed steadily towards the buildings. I’m not sure whether we helped or hindered the shepherd and his dogs as they moved some sheep to drier pasture, they were certainly quicker over this ground than we were !
After passing through Coldtown, we traversed a field boundary for a while until, as the book states, we needed to ‘pick our way across a small stream near
some trees’. Getting to the stream proved extremely difficult however, because the track down to it was, quite literally, a quagmire. What appeared to be a firm piece of clay was, in fact, just liquid mud, and I sank up to my knee in very quick time. Had not Geoffrey proved a tower of strength in helping to pull me out, I think I may still have been there ! Eventually though, we managed to negotiate this area, and crossed the stream in its lovely wooded glade.
Our second church destination soon came into view as we climbed the bridleway and speedily attained St. Cuthbert’s Church in its isolated position overlooking the Rede valley. We stopped here for lunch, sat on a bench in the late autumnal sunshine, and enjoyed the peace of the location. After exploring both the church and graveyard, we set off back down to West Woodburn, past the old Bastle house on the outskirts of the village and a well-earned scone and drink in the Bay Horse Inn. Another wonderful day, blessed again with no rain.