Saturday, 19 November 2011

Tea shops and tea trails November 18th.
    This week my blog has been visited 17 times by people in Russia and 12 times by people in the United States. Why? I can't imagine Russians wanting to know about walks in the North of England, Americans maybe. Let me know, but preferably in English.
    Anyway there are six of us out today, a super selection of sexy sexagenarians wandering the moors around Allendale. We are going to follow part of Isaac Holden's tea trail,*  following in the footsteps of a man who, in the nineteenth century, sold tea to the farmers and miners of this part of Northumberland whilst his wife stayed at home to mind their grocers shop.
  Our part of the walk starts in Allendale. From Newcastle take the A69 to Haydon Bridge, turn left onto the A686 and at Langley turn left onto the B6295, through Catton to Allendale.  On LR 87 the town centre is at GR 838559. In the square there is a tea shop supplying excellent bacon sandwiches and tea.
 This area was once the centre of a thriving lead mining industry. The first record of lead mining is in 1230(AD not GMT or even BST) but it was not until the mid 16th century that the industry really expanded, and it continued well into the 19th. As a result the area could be an industrial  paradise for someone like Dave wearing his archaeologists hat, but not today, we are walking. In spite of the mining that went on here the area retains a certain beauty, the river valleys are deep and wooded, the moorland bleak, you almost expect to see Kathy running across the landscape crying for her Liverpudlian waif.**
I could have been a Geography teacher but I was hopeless at P.E. although I had a jacket. If you look carefully at the picture of the River Allen you can see many sedimentary layers of rock. Out of sight on the right of the river are old flood plains, or haughs. (See St. Oswald's Way)

  The Tea trail from Allendale leads off the square, down a steep road, crosses the River Allen and follows a well marked trail across fields, through woods and farmyards. Sometimes the markers are the yellow Public Footpath signs, occasionally the tea trail markers with a silhouette of Isaac. Between fields there are stiles or kissing gates, ***a lovely walk for a happy couple. At New Shield we left the Tea Trail and followed a mere public footpath to Low Acton where a track led to a minor road. Turn left on the road and after a half mile there is a good track on the right. A large sign says "Private", a smaller one maintains there is no right of way but as we have nearly all been awarded ASBOs ** **by irate land owners at times, and as we are all poor readers, we took the track anyway. On my OS map the track runs alongside a kite shaped plantation, Dave's more up to date and larger scale map also shows a plantation, but it has gone, eaten by Jenkins Forestry Products.  But just beyond  where the North West corner of the plantation would have been if the plantation still existed are two small and securely locked corrugated metal huts. Peering through the window we could see bottles of soft drink, beer and cider, provisions for the brave and noble hunters who come to the moors to defend the nation from grouse. Although we could not get in, not being brave and noble hunters, we made use of them as  an al fresco Herbiespot.

Five gadgies, from left to right;
Vogelmeister, halfmarathonmeister, punmeister, dashing and debauched Ray, routemeister. Photo by blogpiemikester.

  Obviously shamed by last week's failure Dave had brought a supply of pork pies, but so had I. They were welcomed and I acquired the title "blogpiemikester". The college of Heralds are designing my new coat of arms, " a pie rampant, with quill".
  After lunch we continued on the track across Acton Moor. There are some superior shooting butts alongside, sixteen in all and numbered   "16 1",  "15 2"  "14 3" etc. There must be a reason for this, all sensible suggestions will be considered.  Eventually the track runs out and there is a considerable stretch of Lauder grass to cross before reaching a minor road. Turn right and make a decision. It is possible to take a footpath in the direction of Ninebanks and rejoin Isaacs Tea Trail or, as we did, follow the road for about a mile and then take the footpath to two chimneys on the moor. Relics of the days when the area was a centre for lead mining the chimneys are the end point of stone built flues that lead up from the old smelter.  Although now ruined it is possible to follow their line back down to the valley of the Allen and be amazed at their construction. Apparently small boys were employed to work their way up the hillside inside of them collecting any lead (or silver) that had been deposited on the walls. Not surprisingly, life expectancy for the miners of the area was not very high.
 On reaching a road, turn right and wander back into Allendale. Allendale has several nice pubs and some strange traditions. On New Years Eve the locals take to walking round the town square with blazing barrels of tar on their heads, an activity that the Health and Safety people must surely stop soon. Was Oliver Cromwell the first Health and Safety officer, or just plain miserable I ask. We chose the Golden Lion which sold Timothy Taylor's Landlord but I was driving.
  It was a grand day for pedometers: Dave wore two which measured the walk as 8.54 and 8.97 miles. I wore two but lost one, the remaing Higear gave a reading of 9.6 miles. The Outdoor GB App, bought at considerable expense, had used 43% of its battery after 4.5 miles although the young man in the Apple Store told me how to conserve power. The Benometer said 10 miles. Dave measured the walk on a 1:25000 map as 9.8 miles, my attempt on 1;50000 said 9.5. 9.5 seems about right.

* Roger Morris has produced a delightful booklet about Isaac Holden and his tea walk, called  Isaac's Tea Trail. I like to boast my copy is autographed by the author, we met him on his allotment near Birtley once.
** I went to see the latest film version of Wuthering Heights last week. It contains a version of a classic joke which I could not print here, but if anybody knows the story of the young man who took a degree in wit and repartee after being insulted by a clown you know the one. Presumably so did Emily Bronte.
*** For my foreign readers: A kissing gate is a gate that swings inside a V shape, only allowing one person through at a time. Traditionally you kiss your partner as they go through. If my book of Cumbrian gate fastenings ever gets written ther will be a photograph.
**** Again for my foreign readers. An ASBO is an Anti Social Behaviour Order, dreamt up by the last government for minor misdemeanors and worn as a badge of honour by the awardees.