Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Bridge on the River Tyne or A Walk on a Grey Day in the Heart of Britain..March 8th.
We've almost reached the viaduct,
I've walked ten miles,I'm really tired.
                                                                    Margaret Algar   (with permission)
Haltwhistle is a small Northumbrian market town on the South Tyne. It used to be famous for Hadrian Paints but its main claim to fame is that it lies at the very centre of Great Britain, geographically speaking. That is, for readers not too familiar with our country, the larger of the two main islands that make up the British Isles.
The name Haltwhistle has nothing to do with train stations, although the town has one, but comes from the Old English heafod-twisla, " the place near the hill where two rivers meet". (cf Twizell, a place name that occurs several times and meens confluence, similar to the German Zweizalstein, a village in Austria where two streams meet)
Haltwhistle, surprisingly, has at least four coffee shops, quite a few for a small place. We chose" The Coffee  Shop" for breakfast and it proved to be a good choice. Large and airy, a bit like a canteen, the staff were very welcoming, bacon sandwiches came in fresh baps, with sauce and a pot of tea each.Five flitches without discussion.
We had originally planned a return to the Lake District but the forecasters got it right, it was a grey day with a light drizzle in the morning so we opted to stay relatively local and walk from Haltwhistle to Lambley on another old railway line and then return along the banks of the South Tyne.
Getting to Haltwhistle from Newcastle is straightforward, follow the A69 west and turn off into the town. The inheritors of British Rail have a nice car park outside the station and better still it's free.
The walk is covered on OL43, Hadrian's Wall, not essential but useful.
Car park.....

and station!
The walk:
We crossed the railway line at the station by means of the footbridge to avoid the £1000 fine for trespass and then crossed the Tyne by the footbridge,quite wide though.
The first bridge on the Tyne today.
The old railway viaduct over the Tyne, now defunct.
Once over the river we headed for the A69. Cross with care, it is a busy road connecting Newcastle with Carlisle and really should be converted to a dual carriageway but it is in the north of England. Once across we found, quite easily, the blue signpost that led us up to the old railway line, now converted into a cycle/walking track with a good surface and a gentle incline. We stayed on the railway path for the next four miles. The drizzle stopped and although it wasn't a warm sunny day we stayed dry. The track goes through two old and deserted railway stations, Featherstone Park and Coanwood until it reaches the viaduct over the South Tyne.
                                      Old railway station,
                                           and a great display of snowdrops.
The viaduct is a masterpiece of Victorian engineering. Built in 1852 to carry the railway high over the river on the way to Alston it ceased to be used in 1976.
From the bridge there are great views of the South Tyne:

                                                  A view from a bridge
                                                                shame it was such a grey day.
Brian thought he could see Jack Hawkins and William Holden hiding in the woods as they waited to blow the bridge.*
 Whoever lives at the west end of the bridge makes it clear that you can go no farther on the track bed. There is a formidable gate preventing access and so we had to climb down to the river  bank on the steep path. (It is possible at this point to head south and rejoin the railway path and walk to Alston). Once on the river bank we crossed the footbridge to the east side again and chose a Herbie Spot.

                                                    Lambley Viaduct.
                             A recently published report states that processed meats such as pies and sausage can seriously affect your life span, especially if eaten frequently, so Dave had not bought the usual porky pies today. Fortunately, in Ben's absence I had had the foresight to bring some Ringtons Ginger biscuits and Aldi chocolate, although it has also been reported that this substance is as damaging as pies because of the fats added to it. Next week, lettuce is bad for you.
Lunch over we walked across fields  by the river  until we came to the remains of Featherstone Prisoner of War Camp. Originally built as a training camp for American soldiers it became a prison camp first for Italians and then German officers. Between 1945 and 1948 25000 German prisoners passed through the camp which had a reputation as a successful "denazification" centre. Not much of it left now.

                    Ruins of the Second World War Prison Camp. Nice area to stay in.
Beyond the camp we passed Featherstone Castle. Its origins date back to the 13th century but it is mostly 19th century and I think it is used as a group centre, maybe a hotel specialising in freaky weekends.
                                        Featherstone Castle, ghosties and ghoulies.
Featherstone has nothing to do with feathers but much to do with stones. It comes from the Old English fetherstan which is a cromlech as you know. Once there was a cromlech here in the shape of a very large wicket, three vertical stones and one horizontal bail. (A tetralith)
Once out of the park (Climb the gate, it was secured with SIX padlocks) we walked along the road. In one field we saw the first lambs of the year, all but one wearing plastic macs.

                           The one on the left is wearing a plastic coat, hard to see.
The next piece of architecture we came to was the Featherstone Bridge, a beautiful arch built in 1775 to help the moving of lead ore from the mines in the hills above.

Featherstone Bridge

                                                         The Tyne fromFeatherstone Bridge.
Just beyond Park Burnfoot Farm a National Trust sign on the left side of the road took us along the best part of the walk. A muddy path led us through woods high above the river until we reached  the A69 again, close to the ruins of Bellister Castle.
Looking down on the Tyne

                                                          Misty ruins of Bellister Castle.
  The path took us under the A69 and back to cross the river again at the station.
                                                  Last few yards, over the bridge, under the railway (or over it on the footbridge) and to the car park.
During the walk we had seen a curlew, oyster catchers, a buzzard, lapwings, chaffinches, blue tits and great tits, a pair of ducks and a dipper. But the bird of the blog was undoubtedly a siskin.
                                                       Seed eating siskins.
To counteract the dehydration suffered on the walk we called in at the Boathouse in Wylam which had on offer fourteen hand pulled beers. I had a Tyneside Blonde, and very tasty too.

The Matrix  MMDCVII          
                                                                  steps                 miles

ASDAPED                                             20798                    9.77
Higear                                                    16343                     7.8 (Excuse: wrongb trousers)
ASDASLIM                                           21579                     10.21
LIDLUSB                                              22097                      10.38
OUTDOORSGPS                                                                10.0
Brians GPS                                                                          10.00

Good walk on a damp day

*    Two of the stars of The Bridge on the River Kwai. Alec Guiness was the real star.

                                                                                                        DD Ray