Without Clive and Steve on this occasion, our second walk of the year saw us head up the A696 for a little way before turning off to the ‘village’ of Thockrington – well, really just a couple of houses, a church and a very large farm steading ! It was raining slightly as we drove, and quite foggy over the tops, but approaching our starting point the clouds were beginning to lift.
After a short delay whilst the farmer moved some cattle from one barn to another, we parked the car on a grassy bank below St. Aidan’s church and climbed through the rough pasture to enter this tiny gem of a building, set high on an outcrop of the Whin Sill – http://www.chollerton-churches.org.uk/thockrington.html
The church has an interesting structure (some leaning walls) but a fine vaulted chancel roof. The churchyard contains the graves of Lord Beveridge, the founder of the welfare state, and Connie Leathart, one of Britain’s first female aviators.
We followed the gated, minor road due west after leaving the church, then branched off towards Colt Crag Reservoir. We were a little surprised by the very low level of water, which appeared to be a fairly permanent feature, seeing the abundant vegetation on the surrounding stone lined banks. Odd !
After crossing the tail of the reservoir between sturdy stone walls, the road, now unfenced, continued for several hundred yards before a T-junction, where we turned left, still following Cycle Route 10. We stopped for a coffee before the turn-off to Cragback Farm, and then bore right opposite Carrycoats Hall, which was just visible through the trees. We were now approaching the main A68 road, and could hear the traffic speeding up and down this main artery between England and Scotland.
Thankfully there was a fairly wide verge for us to walk along until we could turn off towards Whiteside Farm, but we were disappointed to find The Tone Inn closed and up for sale, though the donkeys in the adjoining field were still there.
The farm road took us past Whiteside and then on to White House Farm, where an inquisitive dog watched us walk past from his vantage point in an outbuilding. We followed the track around the steading as it traversed some sheepy, grass fields, and made our way into a substantial block of conifer woodland. The track became ever more boggy, and we had to divert into the trees on several occasions to attain the eastern edge of the wood, where we emerged onto a green lane. We lunched in the lee of a stone wall, and posed for our traditional group photograph.
From here, we continued across some marshy ground until we reached the edge of another small belt of conifers, before emerging onto a minor road for a few yards, and then turned due south before the farm buildings of North Heugh. In the adjoining Hedchester Cottage, I discovered later, was the home of CactusUK http://www.cactusuk.co.uk/ – what a surprise !
Our route back to the hamlet of Thockrington was straightforward through grass pastures, and we were intrigued by the bright red muck spreader parked up in the farmyard. The farmer was readying a barn to rehouse some cattle, and we chatted for a few minutes before returning to the car near the church, very satisfied with our day’s walk.