Well, after criticising the Met Office experts for our last walk, today I have to say ‘Well done, chaps’. They predicted a wet day, and we certainly had that. There was no rain as we left Ponteland, but as we neared our destination, there was a persistent drizzle.
We left Geoffrey’s car in the small car park next to the (closed again) information centre café, and all piled into Clive’s car for the journey back to the start of our walk in Bellingham. The rain was not heavy, but sufficiently wetting for us to don waterproof leggings and coats. Geoffrey had a new pair of boots and we suspected that they would be properly tested today. We parked up near the Rose and Crown, and then headed off down towards the river, past the Lindale Guest House and the Riverside Garage
We turned north along the riverbank and followed the good footpath as the river curved westwards. We crossed the picnic area and passed under the road bridge and then behind the Riverdale Hotel cricket ground before entering a scrubby wood. It was very boggy here but the path was fairly well marked. Here we faced a slight problem – the bridge over the stream was missing, except for two rather narrow planks of wood. There was no way these would have supported our weight, so we had to come up with a different strategy. Having engineers in our party was a blessing, and after a brief discussion, we managed to construct a makeshift bridge nearby, and in this way successfully crossed the stream. What amazed us was the force of water that must have occurred to move such big timbers of the original bridge.
After this little adventure, the next stretch of the walk was uneventful, alongside the river and along the border of an open field. We did see an unflustered heron on this section, which kept us company for a while, before it got bored and flew over to the other side of the river. Our way led us, over a stile, out onto the road to Charlton, where we turned off to the left, down a metalled farm track. This ran parallel to the river for a while until we arrived at Newton, an impressive country house with horse paddocks, a tennis court and several outbuildings. We obtained permission to shelter in one of the barns for our coffee stop, and the owner came over for a chat while we enjoyed a brief respite from the rain.
Once more into the damp day, we followed the path up a very wet field where a tractor had carved some deep ruts, before emerging onto another metalled road. We followed this for a while, and eventually emerged onto the highway just below Lanehead. At the hamlet we found a smashing spot to stop for lunch – the backpackers hostel at Tarset Tor. Obviously newly built, it was closed for the season, but provided us with a sheltered veranda with lime green plastic chairs – out of the wind and rain – perfect. Also a good location for the group photograph.
After lunch, we continued down the lane towards Donkleywood. The track was metalled for a long stretch, and paralleled the old railway line for several miles, sometimes nearing the river, sometimes diverging, but all the while heading west. On this part of the walk, we crossed the Tarset Burn, swollen and angry with flood water, walked past Rushend, past the former Thorneyburn station and Old Hall. We decided about this time to continue walking on the road, rather than deviating towards the river to follow the prescribed route because we anticipated that the field paths would be waterlogged with all the rain we had experienced. Even so, the roadway was flooded in several places, which necessitated some nifty footwork to avoid getting very wet feet.
From Donkleywood, the road ascended and descended for several hundred yards, passing a line of old Scots Pine, (which unfortunately did little to shelter us from the ever increasing wind), before finally dropping steadily down to Falstone village, and the end of our day’s walk. We were glad to get out of the rain, and very pleased to have walked so far in quite awful weather. Still, we survived undaunted, and now look forward to the next leg of our North Tyne Trek.