ALSTON AMBLE - 10.4.11

It was 8.30 on a calm, warm sunny morning when six of us left the South Tynedale Railway Station car park. We were going to explore the Northumbrian/Cumbrian border land above Alston, England’s highest market town. Leader, Barrie, had been joined by group members Jim, Frank and Roger and we welcomed two guests Barbara Young and Ian Whitehead.

Off we went heading upstream beside the River Nent as it hurries over little waterfalls towards the River South Tyne at Alston. We left the river at Gossipgate and began the gradual uphill climb through the old mining hamlet of Blagill then onto a high moorland track towards Nenthead. Soon the track was left behind and we took to the fell, over rather soggy paths, to reach the county boundary wall (no passport control).

A brief stop for coffee and to remove excess clothing as the temperature was beginning to rise although it was only mid-morning. Then it was onward again to open fell crossing dead heather and watery peat haggs to reach the little cairn on top of The Dodd. Water bottles came out again as we enjoyed the views across to the distant Keilder Forest to the North and in the South was the Cross Fell ridge beyond the Nent Valley. Then it was pleasant to walk along a good track down the long Middle Rigg to reach an idyllic spot for lunch beside Hawkuplee Bridge over Wellhope Burn. Some of us even had a proper seat!

After half an hour basking in the now hot sun it was off again to follow the Burn upstream to Peat Gap and then it was some more rough walking to the trig column on Hard Rigg. Out came the water bottles again, a couple of which had been topped up from a pure (hopefully) hillside stream.

Everyone was pleased when the leader promised that from then on it was all downhill, but not so pleased when they found that they had to negotiate Long Moss bog! However a good track was soon reached which took us past Clargillhead Pottery where the potter beseeched us to visit; sadly we had to keep going. The downhill route continued the splendid Clarghyll Hall with its tall crow-stepped gables of the former peel tower to reach the tiny hamlet of Ayle.

Another steep descent took us to the River South Tyne and the path beside the Tynedale Railway which lead us back to the car park which we had left 20 miles, eight hours and many litres of water ago.

It had been a good, long day with exceptional sun and temperatures for early April.