Another poor forecast from those chaps at the Met Office, but the consensus of opinion from our band of intrepid walkers was, to use Nike’s mission statement, ‘Just do it !’ So, two vehicles set off to meet up at Kielder, and after a minor hiccup in arrangements, we left one car there and took the other to Falstone, hoping for a coffee to set us up for the walk. Alas, the Blackcock pub was closed, the information centre café (in the old school) was closed, and even the toilets were closed.
An angel hailed us from the Methodist/URC chapel nearby and offered us, not only the use of the toilets, but also a cup of coffee. We had a lovely chat to the three people preparing for a tombola, but eventually took our leave and started our walk by heading north-west along the North Haul Road, past Braeside cottages and on towards Hawkhope.
We quickly came to the dam wall, with a fine view of the valve tower and the spillway, and then headed for the corner of the car park to commence the trek alongside the northern edge of the lake. The path led us through the conifer woods, past the entrance to the old Falstone mine, all the way until the bridge over the Belling Burn, and then on through more opens country. Eschewing the Lakeside Way path, we made our way to Plashett’s Incline and a picnic spot overlooking a remarkably tranquil bay opposite the Hawkhirst Scout Camp, just visible across the broad expanse of water.
A wind began to ruffle the previously glassy surface of the lake, so, before we became too chilled, we posed for the traditional photograph, and then continued the walk. Through conifers once more, but still on a good path, we approached Gowanburn Farm, seemingly marooned amongst rushy fields betwixt Kielder Water and the Forest. The track was metalled from here, though the transition only lasted for a few hundred yards before we dropped down to the waterside once more, at the point where the former railway track gained height for its final run into Kielder Village. Much imagination was required to ‘see’ the old route, until we entered what was obviously a former cutting, with the ubiquitous Silver Birch trees lining the former trackbed.
Kielder Viaduct was our next port of call. Built in 1862 to allow the railway to cross the river, it is reputed to be the finest surviving example of a skewed arched bridge, with each stone having been individually crafted.
We admired the view over the Bakethin Reservoir, and the metalwork illustrations that had been created between the stone pillars on the northern side of the viaduct, before descending to the river level and following the track back into Kielder Village and the car.