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Saturday, 3 November 2012

Seven go off to Allendale...by Tony Bliden
November 2nd
There are seven of us out today, five regulars, pun,route, vogel,halfmarathon and blogpie plus two guests, Geordie Bob who is exiled from the North East  to Essex,and Doug, gadgie friend of the vogel. Doug live in Allendale and is guest routemeister for the day.
Today we are having a country walk based on Allendale, not much more than a village in South  Northumberland,close to the boundary with Durham.

The most interesting thing about Allendale is its annual Tar Baal, held on New Years Eve. Forty five locals, known as "Guisers" walk round the town carrying blazing barrels of tar on their heads. The barrels are old whiskey barrels and the tradition goes back to Pagan times, like all the best northern English traditions. Of course Pagans didn't have whiskey barrels but they did have large wooden containers of another spirit called lifwass, distilled from oat mash and probably just as effective as Scotch. Fortunately there was no Pagan Health and Safety Executive either or this practice  would have been stopped years ago. Nowaday we just ban children from playing conkers unless they are wearing full protective  armour.
  You thought I was kidding too!  Google Allendale tar barrels and read all about it.

When the guisers have carried their barrels around the town they throw them on a bonfire with the cry "Damned be he who throws the last". Needless to say, really but I will, the event is very poular and a lot of drinking goes on.

Allendale has several pubs and tea rooms too. We chose "The Allendale Tea Rooms" for our breakfast of bacon butties and tea. The staff were very friendly,service, tea and bacon were excellent but we felt we could not award the full five flitches as the choice of bread was either white bap or brown sliced bread, so the score was 4.5
Northumberland County Council used to have a field centre in Allendale called Deneholme. When I worked as an information facilitator we took parties of children there for a weekend's walking and orienteering and bad cooking. Good fun though and all gone because of cuts to the education budget years ago.

The walk: A map couldprove useful although the route is quite well.marked with black arrows on a yellow background.OS Landranger 86, Haltwhistle and Alston covers the whole and the village centre where you can park is at GR837558.

The start; go past the pub and down the road.
We walked past  the Allendale Inn and down the road a short way to the River East Allen and followed a footpath on the east bank. A short distance along the bank we came across the blocked entrance to a tunnel, left from the days when the area was a lead mining centre. The tunnel goes to Allenheads, a couple of miles away.

                               Industrial archaeology.
 And a little further on the remains of a railway also from the industrial past.

. The end of the line. Although built of stone it looks very similar to the bow of the Titanic where Kate and Leonardo defied the elements and the class system.
 And a little further along we came to a road bridge and crossed the river. Tempted by the small industrial area which had a bakery and a micro brewery, we fought off the demons and turned right along the west side of the river, The walk continued across muddy  but pleasant enough fields until we came to a well renovated house with an interesting garden which I didn't photograph. A shame, it was well laid out and colourful, even at this time of year. Shortly after we came to a road leading uphill past a Weslyan Chapel (marked Chapel Ho on the map), turned right down a farm lane, through the farm yard and across a couple of fields to a minor road. Turning right we walked to a bridge and called a halt for a Herbiespot. Not an ideal spot but today's sandwiches were augmented by pork pies, mince pies as Christmas is approaching, and Ben's brilliant ginger biscuits.

                     A view from the bridge at Oakpool, today's Herbiespot.
        Not a sign of Tigger, Eeyore Piglet, Wol or even Winnie the Pooh himself.
Lunch over we continued up the road past a house called Staward Lea and the old railway line and found the style that led over the fields on the way to Catton.Approaching one field we took note of this sign.

Harry gives the golfer the warning. There was another bell at the other side of the field and we found
          six golf balls which we left on a style.
It must be a private driving range belonging to the farmer, certainly not a whole golf course. Following the path across fields it eventually turns into a muddy lane that leads into Catton, another pretty village which also had a field centre once.
Turning right we walked part way through the village before turning right down a lane which leads back to the river. We were greeted at one point by a number of hens and ducks.
The punmeister, who has been relatively quiet recently, told us a film had been made about hem. It was called Meet the Flockers. Best one of the day.
The rest of the walk followed the same path we had started on and soon we were back in the village and, having replaced very muddy boots with shoes,headed for the Golden Lion.
This pub had everything gadgies need on a cold late Autumn day. A roaring fire, a selection of real ales including Timothy Taylor's Landlord, Wylam Blonde, Anarchy (from a new micro brewery at Whitehouse Farm near Morpeth) and Cumberland. And a CD playing late fifties/early sixties American hits by the likes of Bobby Darrin, Bobby Vinton and Bobby Vee. You had to be called Bobby to get a hit in those days. The dying days of American dominance in the music world.
We could have stayed until the next Tar Baal. Definitely five barrels.
A shorter walk than usual and Higear performed so badly I will not quote the reading but here is this week's matrix (CVII)

                                      steps                           miles
ASDA SLIM                 14798                           7.1
LIDL USB                     17596                           8.33
LBN                               13828                           6.44

OUTDOORGPS said  7.2 miles, Guest Geordie Bob had a GPS which claimed 7.8 and it has been measured at 7.1.
Nice walk out.