We drove north-west to the gorgeous village of Elsdon, and parked near the church, which is dedicated to St. Cuthbert and stands proudly on the edge of the spacious village green. As was our custom, we spent a little time exploring the interior, and admired the wonderful, warm woodwork and lovely decorative west end, around the font. The desiccated horse heads, discovered during restoration work in 1877 at the base of the tower, provided an interesting, though gruesome, find.
Upon exiting the church, we admired the intricate external stonework, warmed by the weak winter sunshine, and marvelled at skills of the stonemasons displayed there.
We left the church and headed across the village green towards a ladder stile, pausing for a chat with the café owner on the way. He wished us a good walk, and we strode sprightly across several fields past Castle Wood towards a covered reservoir, and then joined a metalled road at a small crossroads. It was then but a short step past The Folly Farm until we turned off down a track towards Colwell Hill Farm. We headed south before reaching the farm buildings though, following a grassy path towards Soppitt Farm, which held seed potato memories for me of my early years in the Plant Health Inspectorate in Northumberland.
Crossing the B6341 road, we continued our gentle stroll on grassy tracks towards Haining, stopping briefly in the lovely winter sunshine on a stout wooden bridge over the Elsdon Burn. The path zig-zagged a little past the farm, but we were soon trekking south again up a gentle rise towards the point where the Border County Ride crossed a minor road. Here was evidence of the locals’ fight against the incursion of wind turbines – a sign encouraging passers-by to support them in their up-coming struggle.
On a westward tack now, over Gallow Hill at about 260 metres above sea level, we enjoyed superb views both northwards towards the Northumberland National Park and southwards to the Tyne Valley. Our next point of note was Hillhead Cottage, a fine detached house set in its own extensive gardens, though currently deserted. The property may be a holiday let, so we availed ourselves of the handy wooden bench along the front wall and partook of lunch ! A very elegant meal it proved to be !
Replete, but with still a little way to go, we set off again through more grassy fields towards the farms at Todholes. The views back towards Elsdon were superb in the winter sunshine, the Peel (Pele) Tower standing out like a beacon on the northern edge of the village – a symbol of permanence and safety, echoing its crucial role of past times when the local area was besieged by the Border Reivers.
We passed between the two farm steadings, through some woodland, before re-crossing the Elsdon Burn and heading back towards the village. Alas, it was here that disaster struck, when one of our number, who had prior to this been hopping over the tussocky ground like a mountain goat, tripped and fell soggily into the mire. This unfortunate accident only momentarily dampened our enjoyment of the walk, but curtailed a coffee stop on the way home. Ah well, another time !