Three of the group set off to complete the River Font series of walks by circumnavigating the Fontburn reservoir. We parked up near the bridge on the B6342, backtracked slightly along the road, before cutting off down a steep bank through woodland, to emerge into a grass field towards Roughlees Farm. We then turned due north to cross the river to follow a good track towards Ritton White House, and the remains of a bastle. We had good views back towards the reservoir and the old 12-span viaduct which carried the Rothbury branch of the Wansbeck (later North British) Railway.
It was a clear, cold morning (there were small patches of icy snow scattered amongst the early primroses in sheltered spots) as we trekked upwards to the old bastle, though there was little evidence of it now amidst the farm buildings.
Our route then turned west to cross the old railway line, and we took the opportunity to have a coffee stop in the cutting near an old bridge. From here, again with views south to the reservoir, we scaled Priest’s Knowe before dropping down to Newbiggin Farm with sheep and lambs sunning themselves in cosy spots out of the wind.
The path now crossed the Newbiggin Burn several times before entering the conifer woodland on the way to Fallowlees farm, in a clearing between two arms of the southern part of Harwood Forest.
Another ruined bastle here ! Just beyond the farm, we turned left down a field side before halting on a grassy bank to have our sandwiches, which gave time for one of our party to go hunting for a cup-marked rock in the valley bottom – and he found it !
We crossed the Fallowlees Burn and then traversed some scrubby ground, heading east towards the reservoir. The path was easy to follow as we skirted the thin strip of woodland bordering the stretch of water, and there were several well-marked trails in this area, indicating how popular a spot this must be for lovers of the outdoors. We eventually followed the track into the woodland, affording us better views of the reservoir, before emerging into the open area near the dam.
The former “Goats on the Roof” café is situated on a small rise overlooking the water, and now appears to have been converted into two holiday lets. Perfect for a quiet getaway holiday ! We followed another group of walkers alongside the main dam, admired the top of the overflow pipe and the water tower, http://www.fontburnremembered.co.uk/ and then turned off back towards Roughlees Farm and the farm road back to the car.
A lovely walk completed in spring sunshine, with interesting things to see and great company. Another river walk completed, not as long as some, but fascinating nevertheless. Whither next ?