Seven group members and guest, Jane, assembled at Sainsbury’s car park in Haltwhistle; the conversation turning inevitably to the weather forecast, which hadn’t made for good reading!


The route left Haltwhistle close to the railway station, quickly crossing the South Tyne River, which appeared steely grey, matching the sky.  A short stretch took us up Bellister Road and under the A69.  Farm tracks and boggy field paths took us to the impressive Featherstone Bridge, built circa 1775.  A short, steep and very muddy climb though woods, followed by more field paths, brought us to the station house at Featherstone Rowfoot on the former Haltwhistle to Alston branch line, which is now the South Tyne Trail. 


The line closed to passengers in May 1976 and has since become a leisure route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.  More of the South Tyne Trail later.  The route continued through the hamlet and on to Lynnshield Farm via a short road section and field paths.  The farm buildings afforded shelter and the opportunity was taken for a coffee break, where Christmas chocolates were shared.  Beyond Lynnshield Farm the route became more exposed out on Broomhouse Common; taking us along Park Burn and past Lynnshield Waterfall.  Some rough and boggy moorland took us over to Low Ramshaw Farm.  The route continued over the youthful Park Burn, up to Hargill House Farm and a short road section took us to the Coanwood Quaker Meeting House, which provided an excellent dry lunch stop, complete with portaloo (in place of the former dry closet!).  The Meeting House is now in the care of the Historic Chapels Trust; we met the caretaker outside, who explained that an annual service is held there by Quakers. 


After lunch, our route turned east, taking us over fields and through several farmsteads before reaching the road on the western edge of Plenmeller Common.   From this high point an impressive vista of Haltwhistle and Hadrian’s Wall beyond opens up, however this was not at its best on the day!  A mile or so of road walking took us to a footpath along Sandyford Rigg, where Highland Cattle were surprised by our presence.  This footpath skirted the ‘hidden lake,’ above which we took the opportunity for a brief break.  Continuing towards Broomhouse Common, the weather took a turn for the worse, which was heightened by the fact that we were walking into it! 


A sharp turn right across the Common took us down to the South Tyne Trail and a mud-free return to Haltwhistle, re-crossing the A69 (which breaches the former track) and the South Tyne River via the impressive Alston Arches viaduct, built in the 1850s and restored by the North Pennines Heritage Trust in 1996.  The walk covered 15.5 miles and the weather was much kinder than expected.  Unfortunately, Haltwhistle was not able to offer warming refreshments on a wet Sunday afternoon in January, so without further ado, we headed for home!