Our second walk of the year, and we set off on a freezing cold, clear day with the anticipation of new things to see in the same area as the previous month. Having missed out on the church interior last time, we were delighted that we had arranged to have the church opened for us, and what a pleasure it was. Beautifully bright and clean, with some fascinating memorials and windows; we spent a lovely time browsing, admired the wonderful woodwork and the range of stained glass. A real gem !
We began the walk proper along the same quiet country lane as last time, skirting the nature reserve along the banks of the River South Tyne, until we reached the track which climbed past the Willimoteswick Castle and its imposing gatehouse. The day continued sunny, but with very little wind, so the biting cold did not seem too bad once our activity had warmed us. We paused at the top of the rise to look back over the South Tyne valley, and then turned eastward along a quiet lane. Before the track dropped towards the wooded valley of the River Allen, we decided to stop for our lunch in the lee of a small wood.
Thus refreshed, and with the sound of buzzards echoing in our ears, we set off once more, passing a rather run-down stone farmhouse and outbuildings, before entering a steeply wooded track through the Briarwood nature reserve. We picked our way carefully down, alongside the Kingswood Burn as it crashed its way, ice fringed, down to the river, and marvelled at the regenerative power of a tree, partially uprooted but growing strongly again from a side shoot. Having successfully negotiated the descent, the footbridge and the River Allen came into view and we dawdled awhile at the confluence of the waters, admiring the ice designs on the rocks of the waterfall and the lacy patterns edging the stones at the river’s edge.
The riverside path now led us northwards, into the Allen Banks National Trust
woodland, where we walked to the sound of tumbling waters, the sight of a pair of dippers, and the twittering of woodland birds. Ice rimmed rocks made wonderful subjects to marvel at, and the suspension bridge was a structure to behold – not sure about crossing the river on it though, with so much frost about !
The frost certainly made the track easy to walk, because all the muddy stretches were firm. So we made good time, and emerged at the NT car park with the afternoon only half elapsed. We climbed the road, past the entrance to Ridley Hall, and admired the stone finials on the entrance gateposts. The leafless trees meant that we had a good view of the Hall – it looks a super building, pity that it is not open to the public.
We soon left the road, to follow a field path towards Beltingham, stopping briefly to admire the fungal patterns on a felled tree, but then quickly arriving at the Beltingham Burn beneath the church, to which we returned at the end of another wonderful day’s walk. The village is tiny but full of character – pity it doesn’t have a tea-room !