Well, after the previous day of rain, sleet and snow, with high winds to boot, our hopes were high as we woke to blue skies and strong breezes – and we gathered as a foursome once more to venture into pastures new.
Heading up the Great North Road, we arrived at Felton in fairly quick time, and parked up in Riverside to don our walking gear. St. Michael and All Angels church was our first stop, just up the hill at the edge of the village – and what an interesting building. Externally it looks as though it is roofless, except for the chancel end, though internally, the very low pitched nave roof becomes obvious. A really well maintained structure, the blend of old and new gives the building a homely and much loved feeling, and the glass screen separating the west end from the main body of the church is an inspired use of space.
We spent some time admiring both the internal structures and the well cared-for churchyard, chatting to a couple of ladies who were doing jobs around the place. Eventually though, our walk called, and we set off through the awakening splendour of Felton Park, first through grassland and then through woodland. There was a plethora of spring flowers carpeting the woodland floor, and we tested our identification skills to name them – the white flowers of wood sorrel and wood anemones, the blue of wild violets, the pale yellow of primroses and celandines, the hyacinth-like spikes of butterbur and the insignificant florets of ground elder and woodrush.
We had a coffee stop at an idyllic spot overlooking the River Coquet before continuing to traverse the woodland bordering the river. Crossing a footbridge brought us into more open pastures and an occasional winter sown cereal field. We diverted slightly from the printed route and headed towards Weldon Bridge. The path here took us high above the river as it wound its way through the Northumbrian countryside, and we eventually found a super spot to have lunch, and our traditional photograph !
We then walked away from the river, via High Weldon and a minor road towards Low Town, before heading east once more into cultivated fields and the track down to Elyhaugh. Rejoining St. Oswald’s Way, we climbed back through the fields to the footbridge over the Swarland Burn, but this time we took the high path to emerge into an extremely long grass field thickly inhabited by sheep with young lambs at foot. In due course, we walked beneath the noisy A1, to emerge into further mixed woodland towards some farm buildings. Here we diverted to look at the disused Catholic church of St. Marys, adjacent to Felton Park, built in the Gothic style in 1857 for Thomas Riddell, who was able to use an underground corridor to access the church for worship.
Retracing our steps to the path, we walked through more woodland to a farm track which brought us back to St. Michael’s church and the end of our walk. It had been a wonderfully sunny day on the whole, but with a stiff wind from the north. We were surprisingly tired, but somewhat revived by the tea and cakes at the splendid Running Fox coffee shop in Felton village. What a wonderful climax to our 19th walk of the series, a definite highlight, and one to be repeated in the future.