With only two Footloose available for the walk, it was decided to retrace part of River Font 2, and make it into a circular. So it was that we headed for Netherwitton, and parked near the church. St. Giles is a small stone-built church, originally erected in the 12th or 13th century, but totally rebuilt in the late 18th century. It is extremely well maintained, due in part to the close interest taken by the Trevelyans, the owners of the Netherwitton Estate.
Once we had looked around the church and grounds, we donned our boots and packs and set off northwards out of the village. Taking the footpath across fields, we paralled both the road and the river to the ford over the Font where the track to South Healey farm began. A group of young people with packs were spotted trying to decide on their own route, as we made our way up the very good track to the farm, being overtaken by a shepherdess on her quad bike, who was giving her sheepdogs a run – they were winning ! Where the route was not sheltered by trees, it was quite chilly, the wind blowing strongly from the north west.
We stopped to chat with an old chap in his farm cottage garden, spied our first swallow of the year, and then headed off around a shelter belt of trees, before dropping down to a small stream, near where a gorsey bank provided a suitable sheltered spot for a coffee stop. The party of young people passed by as we lounged to the sound of trickling water. We caught up with them a little later at the ruined farmhouse (they were enjoying a first lunch !) and found out that they were doing a silver Duke of Edinburgh practice hike – first checkpoint Combhill, on our route too.
Leaving the group, we continued to follow the path almost due west through a series of grass fields with sheep and lambs, before reaching a long thin strip of woodland, which afforded us some protection from the cold wind. A little wet in places, but the track was easily walked, it not having rained to any extent for the last three weeks. Combhill farm steading was reached through a small paddock which housed a couple of frisky cows, and the shaggy goat that Robin and I had seen two weeks previously. The farm track led us to the B6342 road where we turned south towards Ewesley farm. Walking up the farm road, we almost took the wrong path, but realised in time and continued due south down a very rutted lane alongside first a small area of woodland, and then a stone wall. Once the path led us into open fields, we anticipated crossing the old Northumberland Central Railway via a bridge, but although the path appeared to continue, the bridge structure had disappeared with only a few stones visible. A little further on however, we did get a view of another bridge where the railway track had crossed a stream.
We soon entered the forested Broomfield Fell, where there was a mixture of cleared and replanted areas. Thankfully we were able to follow the gravelled roads that bisected the treed areas and quickly made our way through the forest. We puzzled over some metal artefacts we came across at the side of the track – exercise equipment, display table ???
Emerging from the forest, we contoured for a while, paralleling the Ewesley Burn as it wound its way towards the river. In fact, we followed this tributary all the way back to Netherwitton, with some super views over the spring countryside to the north east. A final ford near the village, and we were back where we started, with Netherwitton Mill basking in the afternoon sunshine. A lovely walk, with varying views – another fine Footloose day.