A good night’s sleep. We awake about 6.30 and relax in bed, before taking The Dog to the toilet – there’s only a small paved courtyard and our hound likes a piece of grass – so we have to take her round the small block for her ablutions.
We have breakfast and decide to go for a walk up into the Breamish Valley, just west of Powburn. So we get ready and take the car, heading up the main road. I was driving again and Hubby resumed navigational duties, this time with his Apps on the phone. He tells me to turn left and we head down this narrow lane, with sheep fields either side. It’s very pleasant, though quite hazy and the sun is struggling to get out behind the clouds. We came to the lovely little hamlet of Branton with the traditional stone built single storey houses, joined as a terrace with a farmhouse and yard. It looks so peaceful, tranquil and idyllic until we spot the iron legs of a pylon in the next field and see them disappearing into the distance. What a blot on the landscape – I have a real hatred for them, especially in areas of natural beauty, but they are, alas, a necessary evil. We carried onto through the hamlet until the road split – one a dead end, the other with national speed limit signs, so I head down there. We hadn’t gone far when Hubby declared that it was classed as a green lane and had a ford at the bottom. Green lanes are usually only negotiable by 4×4 vehicles, not a little Yaris. The road surface was tarmacked to certain degree and was something to be desired, with badly repaired potholes, that I feared bits would drop off the car and I would be in the garage with a broken suspension. It gave the car a good workout. We went round a corner, where the road became more of a dirt track and stoppped. We had arrived at the ford, which was basically the wide, free flowing River Breamish and there was no chance that my little car would get through it. Hubby was quite excited as it would be great crossing for the Land Rover which wasn’t helpful, so we turned around and retraced our steps all the way back to the main road. Sigh.
We turned left again at the next turning which was marked “Ingram”, the place where we were heading. The road followed the valley bottom, a classic flood plain, flat and wide with cows grazing the pasture. Bright yellow gorse was flowering and the first hints of the vivid lime green of the hawthorn were showing. The hazy cloud hung low on the hills, hiding the Cheviot fells in the distance. We came across Ingram, another small hamlet where there was parking, a cafe and walks, but our spot was further up. As we drove through, we were alarmed at the devastation of Storm Arwen late last year. It tore through the county of Northumbria, ripping up trees and here there was a long line of mature trees lying on their sides, their root plates 90 degrees to the ground and leaving a deep crater. We had seen lots of this since we had arrived and hadn’t really appreciated how much damage the storm had caused. It was a real eye opener.
We parked in a small car park next door to the National Parks Visitor Centre at Bulby’s Wood and got ready. It was quite quiet but there were several cars here already. We got ourselves sorted and started our walk, crossing the road onto the fell and immediately had to deal with a steep track. It got the heart going. Soon it levelled out and we walked along a relatively flat section – now we had some height and got good views, though the clouds could lift a bit more. There was more climbing to do until we reached the derelict hill fort of Brough Law. There was nothing left but heaps and heaps of stone, but you could see the outline of the foundations and a wall. The fort had an almost 360 degree view, so there was no excuse for not seeing someone sneaking up on you. All around us, were high remote fells and peering into the haze, you could just about see even more higher moors in the distance. We followed the well marked grassy path towards Ewe Hill, feeling very isolated. Even though we were quite close to civilisation, we felt we were on a high remote fellside with miles of undulating moorland and peaks. The sun tried hard to beat the cloud and we could feel the extra warmth. It wasn’t particularly cold – we had no coats on – but it was lovely when the sun briefly bobbed out. We turned left at Ewe Hill, and the path began to drop back down. The area was scattered with cairns, enclosures and old settlements, there was a lot of history here. We stopped briefly to admire the view down the valley, Ingram nestling in the trees. We carried on, meeting a group of people hauling themselves up the incline. The walk was only about 2.5 miles, but we are aware of our hound’s limited capabilities and that was just enough for her. We dropped down back onto the tarmac road and headed back to the car park. On the way, we acknowledged a passing walker with a huge rucksack and wearing full waterproofs, despite the warm weather and no hint of rain. The next thing we knew, he had stopped and started chatting to us which was nice, but we had a feeling, after he had mentioned he was a long distance walk, that he was missing human company and was keen to engage with anyone willing to listen. He was a nice enough chap and finally we said our goodbyes, noting that he was also wearing numerous layers underneath his waterproofs. We were hot with just a base layer and a walking hoodie, so he must of been melting.
The car park and surrounding area had got significantly busier – we could see a straggle of panting walkers trudging up where we had first started, several cars at a time were squeezing past each other on the single track road and as we reached the car park, the large grassy area next door had large family groups, picnic blankets sprawled on the grass, food and drink spread out, the children shrieking in the river as they paddled and the adults sat in garden chairs. And this was on a warmish Saturday over Easter – imagine the height of summer. A converted horse box had set up a pop up food stall and we hoped for a coffee and a piece of cake before we moved on, but on closer inspection, it specialised in burgers of all descriptions and had a small gaggle of customers. It kind of summed it all up. Where was the candy floss and inflatables. It was kind of jarring against the beauty of the area along with the steady stream of vehicles. It wasn’t really our cup of tea today, so a quick visit to the river where The Dog reluctantly dipped her paws and took a mouthful of water – she usually loves a good paddle, but think she was in the same frame of mind as us – we jumped into the car and headed to Ingram’s cafe just up the road.
This was a far better experience, a proper cafe with a wide ranging menu, located in a lovely old building opposite the church. We ordered sandwiches and a coffee and sat in their little enclosed garden. The sun had disappeared again and the clouds were heavy. We spotted our waterproofed walker again and hoped that he didn’t strike up conversation again, but he was enjoying his lunch. We decided to check out Wooler, further north and meandered through the back roads, getting shaken by the potholes and staring in disbelief at woodlands decimated by fallen trees. It was amazing no houses were damaged – trees had been broken in half or just keeled over, taking neighbours with them. It was incredible. We dropped down into Wooler, a small town with a pretty high street, but it was a quiet Saturday afternoon and suddenly we didn’t fancy wandering around a High Street. Sorry Wooler. So we decided to go on a tour and take in more of Northumbria and so with Hubby in charge of navigating, we kind of ran alongside the Devils Causeway, an old Roman Road, passing hamlets, fields of cows, sheep and newborn lambs, admiring long distance views. We came up to the village of Eglingham, not far from our cottage and decided to have a pint as the sun had reappeared and it was pleasantly warm. A pint in the beer garden, sunning ourselves sounded a good idea. Of course, by the time we got our beer and got outside, a big black cloud had gobbled up the sun and we had lost that extra heat. Hubby challenged me to a game of swingball tennis and we started a game. The Dog decided to disown us at this point and took herself off while I tried to hit the ball back without losing the paddle over the wall or get clonked on the head by the returning ball. We had a good 10 minutes of silliness before we exhausted ourselves and jumped back into the car. We fancied heading back and sitting in the little courtyard, reading books or writing this blog with a cuppa. So we piled back into the car and drove back to Powburn via an antiques showroom on the outer edge of the village – we are easily distracted. We wandered around, wondering how much junk we humans create and continue to create. We are a wasteful species, but hey enough of that. We got back to the cottage, noting that next door to the antiques place was a petrol station, a convenience store and a post office, all a short walk from where we were staying. Useful. So we put the kettle on, made a cuppa and sat on the outside chairs, listening to the birdsong and relaxing before tea. This is the life.