Returning to a recently walked area not too far from home, Footloose assembled near a bridge over the River Font near Roughlees Farm, on the road to Rothbury, and then took our other car to a verge near Bide-a-Wee Cottage in Stanton. The day was dry but overcast, with a forecast of no rain, so we togged up and set off.
A vehicle graveyard was the first sight to greet us as we headed west from the minor road, but this was soon replaced in our view by those lovely spring harbingers, primroses, which were growing along the bank sides. We walked along a field edge, passing a small stretch of woodland, before crossing a small burn and reaching the farm road of Whittonshield Farm. Turning left here, we followed the roadway to its junction with the Netherwitton road, and the farm gate with its pig sign.
After a dozen or so yards, we turned off towards Longshaws Mill, crossed a substantial ford over the Font, before making for a house called Shelly, where we joined another minor road before heading into a recently planted wood. The track we followed through it deviated quite a way from the actual footpath, but was a little easier to walk. Not so the next bit of woodland that we came across though – boggy, tussocky and decidedly difficult walking. We were supposed to be heading to the Font again, but the path was totally undefined and we struggled ! We stopped for lunch, sitting in the sunshine, glad of a rest. It was really relaxing sitting in the lovely countryside, the first chiff chaffs serenading us as we ate our sandwiches.
After our lunch stop, we eventually emerged from the woodland (though in reality, it was hardly that – just young trees amidst lots of rank grass) onto a flattish grass field, and made our way to the road named The Trench on the outskirts of Netherwitton. It was a relief to be able to put one foot in front of another without tripping up ! Netherwitton is a lovely village, but with time marching on, and with over 3 miles still to walk, we had a stop to discuss tactics.
So it was that our group split for the final stage of the walk, with two of us completing the leg from Netherwitton via South Healey and Combhill, while the others had a walk around the village, visited the church, which was unfortunately closed, and then began to walk up the road towards Forestburn Gate, opposite Newpark Wood and following the river.
The duo also walked up the road, crossed the River Font, and then turned off towards South Healey farm over a very high, dry ford, also over the river. This track was easy walking and we made the steading in good time. Turning right between the buildings, we climbed through fields towards a derelict house with arched openings as part of the adjoining barns, heading north westerly all the time. The next stretch of the route was a gentle uphill stroll through sheepy grass fields, towards a corner of mixed woodland. We followed the edge of this before turning towards Combhill farm, where an unusual shaggy goat totally ignored us from its home in a barn.
The farm access road enabled us to reach the B6342, and we were soon back at the car, having crossed the River Font once again. A buzzard wheeled overhead to celebrate the end of the walk. We then drove up to Forestburn Gate, turned right towards Netherwitton, and picked up the remainder of the group on the way, before heading for home.