It was good to get back on track with our planned itinerary, so we met up at the edge of Harwood Forest to leave a car there for our return, and journeyed back to Great Bavington to begin the walk. The day was dry, with light cloud and little wind – which was a relief because the air temperature was about 5 or 6⁰ C.
We set off almost due north, with the ground rising on our left, through permanent pasture where moles had been raising their soil-ly hillocks. We crossed a stream that would eventually join forces with the young river Wansbeck, and then turned east to approach West Harle farm along a well surfaced bridleway.
The question was posed; “Why do so many farmhouses in Northumberland have such high chimney stacks, especially when many are on a hilltop, where there should be sufficient up-draught ?” Any ideas ?
We followed this bridleway past Northside farm, then the Three Farms steading (another puzzle, because there appeared to be only one !) and finally The Shield, before crossing the main A696 road, over the River Wansbeck, and into Kirkwhelpington. There was a suitable bench at the top of the road just past the river bridge, so we stopped for a while for a coffee break.
A few more yards further into the village, we were walking near to the church, and the sign near the gate invited us to visit their Easter exhibition “The journey onwards”. In the churchyard, there was a pathway strewn with palm leaves leading to a cross, and inside the church itself, some fabulous tableaux depicting scenes from the Easter story. A really superb display, and well worth a second, more leisurely viewing (which several of us did later in the week).
Our Google challenge was quite abundant in the fields around here, though the local farmers from Milbourne were the final arbiters about the brown sheep with the facial white blaze – http://www.bcsba.org.uk/coloured-sheep/zwartbles-sheep.html
Leaving St. Bartholomew’s church, we passed the post office, the old school and then out of the village towards the A696. I missed the footpath which would have led us parallel to the busy road, through fields, but we only had about 30 yards or so on the verge before the path led us up a series of short inclines towards West Whitehill farm. There was a reasonably sheltered spot here, so we stopped to eat our sandwiches.
After the break, it was but a few steps to the hamlet of Knowesgate, site of a station on a branch of the old Wansbeck railway line. The former station building was pictured here in 2007 – the line closed in 1952. (courtesy of https://www.railscot.co.uk/Wansbeck_Railway/index.php)
Our route now lay due north once more, climbing and falling over the gentle Northumbrian hills, until we reached the farm of Catcherside, and the highest point of our walk at almost 800 feet above sea level. From here the path was straight and true adjacent to a conifer plantation/shelter belt, until we turned due east towards the farm of Fairnley. We did a quick zig-zag around the farm buildings, then across permanent pasture and the thankfully substantial bridge over the Ottercops Burn (pause for photo), before reaching the Harwood Gate to Elsdon road and the car at the end of our walk.
We decided against stopping for a post perambulatory coffee as we motored back past Kirkharle to the other car at Great Bavington. We’d enjoyed another dry day, though conditions underfoot were a little clarty at times, necessitating in some foot washing in the available burn (♪ ♫ You put your right leg in … !)