Despite the poor weather forecast, Footloose decided to begin the North Tyne walk on schedule, so Geoffrey, Clive and I met up at the Kielder village car park. It was a little damp, so we donned waterproofs, and set off up via a narrow track to join a good gravelly path heading north-west through mature mixed woodland. A very pretty collection of fungi caught our eye alongside the path, underneath the trees.
We meandered along for a while through the woods, the path rising and falling, before it emerged into open fields below Lightpipe Farm. We crossed Lightpipe Sike on the farm road, and joined the metalled road leading north-west towards Scotland. This ran parallel to the North Tyne for a while before swinging away at Bellsburn cottage. Here, we left the road and began to follow the route of the old North British railway line. This Edinburgh based group was the largest railway company in Scotland, and this route linked Hexham with Carlisle and the Borders via the Waverley route. Thanks to Clive’s research for this link http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/d/deadwater/
The old track bed made for easy walking and, with the wind at our back and no rain, we made good progress. There was the odd bit of discarded farm equipment alongside the path, but little else of interest to see. In fact, there was a dearth of bird life – the two herons and the kestrel seen earlier being the sum total.
We were quickly approaching Deadwater Station with the Tyne to our south, when we crossed yet another tributary winding its way down from the hills to the north. This was the Deadwater Burn which, upon consulting the OS map, appeared to be longer and have a larger catchment than the so-called main river ! Another puzzling item that we came across related to a hand painted sign on a farm gate, advertising a barn for sale with planning permission. Great, one might think, but with very poor access !?!
The original station buildings have been altered over the years, and currently look a little run down, but obviously still provide a home for someone. There were several small trucks with trailers parked around the edge of the track – horses or ATVs ? We wondered why, when there appeared to be no-one about. Another puzzle.
Not far past the old station, we turned right and made our way up to the Bellingham – Jedburgh road and emerged opposite Deadwater Farm (the home of farmer Jimmy Hill). Turning left here, it was but a few hundred yards to the border signs, marking the boundary between England and Scotland. We had thought that we would only be able to peer through the mist, into the field, to view the source of the river, but a great deal of negotiation must have taken place, because there was now a new gate and a gravelled path that led up to the fine marker stone.
An excerpt from the internet describes the history : ‘Installed in 2013, this sculpture was erected to mark the source of the North Tyne river. Kielder Art & Architecture worked with cancer charity Daft as a Brush to commission the stone. The sculpture marks the highest position from which water still flows into the stream bed during summer months. During the winter water can be found contributing to the flow a further 300m up the hillside.’
We decided to have our lunch sitting on the adjacent stone seat, near to another interesting fungus, but when the wind increased and it started to rain, we hastily took the regulation photo, and walked back down the path to the road. This new path and fence continued further on, adjacent to the conifer wood, until it reached the old railway track. We turned left at this juncture (otherwise we would have encroached into Scotland) and traced the footpath back to Deadwater Station and from there, returned via our outward route.
The rain stopped after about 30 minutes, which gave us the opportunity to admire the autumn colours of the larches and the railway architectural remains. We had hoped to visit Kielder church, but it was locked, so consoled ourselves with a well-earned drink in the Angler’s Arms.