A cold frosty morning with the prospect of sunshine raised the spirits as Footloose set off for the penultimate leg of the North Tyne walk. We all met in the village square in Wark, and then took Geoffrey’s car back to Chollerford. Having made good time, we managed a coffee in the Riverside Tea Rooms before setting off (it gave the opportunity for the temperature to rise !)
Having put on boots and coats, gloves and hats, we crossed the river to the southern bank and walked almost due east alongside a snow covered stubble field.
This path eventually brought us out onto the A6079 (Hexham to the A68) road a mile or so before Chollerton hamlet. Walking along this road, we passed under a fine example of a skewed arch bridge, which had carried the railway overhead, and came to the old Chollerton station buildings (now a private residence) on the left. I did spy a jay fly across into the roadside trees, and a fox patrolling the rough ground near the Erring Burn. A heron flapped slowly away back to the river a little further along too.
Chollerton St.Giles church was thankfully open, so we spent some time admiring the interior of the wonderful grade 1 listed building (apparently the 19th century Stable and Hearse House near the entrance to the churchyard is grade 2 listed), especially the organ, the 13th century font with its Jacobean cover, the Jacobean panelling in the chancel and the wooden figures high above the nave. I must email the vicar to say thanks.
We headed north along the road on leaving the church, past the Old Church Cottages, and soon came to the stile where were able to leave the road and descend from the edge of the field to the old railway track. We dropped down through the wooded glade out into an open, rough and boggy field on the banks of the river, though I suspect that the railway track may have been drier underfoot. Nevertheless, we followed the official route for a while, but then returned to the railway rather than turn steeply down to the pumping station on the riverside. This unofficial diversion brought us eventually back to the road, from where it was but a short walk into Barrasford village. We passed the Barrasford Arms and decided to have our lunch stop here, the bus shelter providing us with a suitable perching place.
After lunch, we had about 1.5 miles on the roadside path near the entrance to Barrasford Quarry, before we turned off left just before a bridge over Gunnerton Burn; Haughton Castle was just visible through the trees over on the south bank of the river, and this privately owned grade 1 listed building has its own website http://www.haughtoncastle.com/index.html – but back to the walk. The footpath down towards the river ran alongside and through a small copse of ash trees, but the route was very ill-defined for us to cross the burn and we reached the main river without finding the correct path. We retraced our steps therefore, decided that the ford which we eventually found was not suitable for us to cross over, and so we walked back to the road.
The path down the other side of the burn was in a far better state, and we quickly joined the riverside route once more, walking on a very good track alongside a long arable field towards the interestingly name Chipchase Strothers. The track became a metalled road here, and we walked on to Chipchase Mill, though the current farm steading is some way apart from the river.
Very soon we re-joined the road and were able to see the magnificent Chipchase Castle (http://www.chipchasecastle.com/) set on the hillside overlooking the Tyne valley.
Walking alongside the boundary wall, it became obvious that the former railway was paralleling us on the opposite side of the road, in a deep cutting. Just before the road zig-zagged left and then right, we could see the old track etched into the field to our right, and the minor road to Chipchase Kennels crossed an old railway bridge. We soon attained Wark village, and disappeared into the Farm and Coffee Shop for delicious scones. Ah, another wonderful end to a great day’s walk. Only one more leg to go now !