Our third walk of the year, and, though the weather promised to be less than clement, all four of Footloose set off with high hopes of another interesting walk. Not far to travel this time – a quick trip up the A696 and then a right turn into Whalton village.
We parked near the Beresford Arms and were off by 9.25 a.m. up a supposedly quiet road towards Meldon – but several heavy wagons going to a Tyne Grain silo further up the road rather spoilt the tranquillity. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the views over the rather damp countryside, opting on one occasion to forgo the pleasure of squelching across a field of rapeseed for the firmness of the road.
We admired Meldon Old Station, now converted into a lovely house next to the dismantled Wannie Line railway, and then quickly arrived at the hamlet of Meldon, with the church of St. John the Baptist standing proudly on a mound next to the road. This is a very simple church, originally early 13th century, but restored in 1849 by the architect John Dobson. It has a wonderful simplicity – a single chancel chamber, beautiful slender lancet windows and the arching east window, while the wooden chancel screen and Minton floor tiles recall the later restoration. We spent some time browsing around the fascinating interior, before leaving the well kept churchyard and headed north, past Meldon Farm towards Mill House Farm on the River Wansbeck. This path lay through a series of grassy fields, and kept to the high ground, finally approaching a wooded copse, where we sheltered from the persistent drizzle and enjoyed a cuppa.
With Mill House Farm on our left hand, we crossed the final field diagonally, down to a gate and onto to a metalled track, emerging next to the renovated deerhunter’s lodge. From here it was a right turn past the old mill, then along a very muddy path over the River Wansbeck bridge, from where we admired the drifts of snowdrops on the bankside. Another muddy walk up through a wood towards the cottages at North Side followed. The snowdrops here were superb, carpeting the woodland floor like snow. This ride led us past the cottages onto the Mitford–Hartburn road, and the prospect of a cosy ‘coffee’ at the Dyke Neuk Inn. We reached this almost on opening time, divested ourselves of our wet boots and coats, and settled down to enjoy a bowl of hearty soup and a drink. Time passed pleasantly, but eventually we decided that the walking should re-commence, so reluctantly we donned our walking gear and headed out into the fresh air.
The drizzle had stopped by this time, so the next stretch of road walking was easy, and we quickly arrived at the junction for Molesden. This quiet lane led us past the Rivergreen Kennels, where we turned south along a track between fields sown with rape, until, after crossing the Wannie Line again, we ascended a raised farm track to Penny Hill Farm and a rather damp, shaggy haired donkey. After safely resisting the attentions of a very persistent lamb, we made our way through a neglected group of trees to a rickety wooden bridge over a stream, where we stopped to refuel. From here, it was but a short step along another farm track to North Farm, and then back onto the Whalton-Meldon road and the village of our departure.
We visited the church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, with its intriguing ‘Whalton Christ’ collage of photographs, colourful stained glass windows and imposing stonework. A fitting end to another good, if rather damp day.