The final Footloose foray for 2013 was greeted with cloudy skies, with the promise of rain later, but four intrepid walkers set off north towards Wooler and the enticing Breamish valley and the ancient village of Ingram. We parked in the Village Hall/National Park Centre car park just as it started to rain, so quickly donned our boots and sought sanctuary in the church.
St. Michael and All Angels stands within a very neat and well-ordered graveyard; and the interior too is tidy and well cared for. The original 11th century building has been much altered and renovated, especially in the late 19th century, but the sturdy Norman tower retains its original stones, carefully reconstructed in 1885. The font dates from 1662, to commemorate the ‘new’ Prayer Book of the time, and the lych gate at the churchyard entrance also remembers a significant event (the Great War of 1914-18). A modern day tapestry by Branton First School children beautifies the vestry wall, indicating a living community in this charming location.
It was still raining slightly when we left the church, so we kitted out in waterproofs, and headed for the hills. The track followed the gentle gradient up the side of Wether Hill, passing an Iron Age settlement on our right until we came to Cochrane Pike at 335 metres above sea level. The weather was so misty though, I doubt we could have seen the sea even if it had been nearer.
We continued walking in intermittent rain, making for a shelter belt of trees on the side of Lumsden Hill for a coffee stop, and after a brief rest, we continued heading east along a well-marked path. This led us around the flanks of Ewe Hill, at 331 metres, and across a series of small feeder streams of the Chesters Burn. We decided to stop for lunch when we espied a stack of cut timber adjacent to a wooded walled enclosure, ideal – suitable for seating and sheltered from the wind.
Lunch over, we followed the track as it joined others which crossed this landscape, and turned north, heading for Chesters, an apparently abandoned farmhouse set in prominent position in the sparsely wooded terrain that is the Breamish Valley. From here, the path headed downhill, through bracken clad pasture until it reached the outer fence of another belt of woodland. We passed through the gate to descend to the Chesters Burn, which we skipped over on rough stepping stones, before climbing steeply to attain a flattish plateau, where the path turned north east.
From here, the track descended gently across grouse inhabited, grassy fields, past several ancient earthworks, until Ingram Hill Farm came into view down to our right, near the Middledean Burn. Yet another circular, stony rampart of a former Iron Age fort or settlement greeted our eyes as we wound our way along the farm track, and we could just make out the ancient cultivation terraces above the farm on the western slopes of Wether Hill.
We finally emerged onto a road, crossed a cattle grid, avoided the “children and sheepdogs who cross, today and every day”, passed a row of lovely stone built cottages, admired a couple of guinea fowl strutting into a farmyard, and returned to the church and car park, and the end of our walk.
Eight miles of reasonably easy walking and we still had time for tea/coffee and cake at Powburn on the way home. Great !!!