Allentown

LETJOG – Day 32: Friday 18 June – MIDDLETON-IN-TEESDALE to ALLENHEADS (18 miles)

A moorland relic

Another fine moorland day began with a sustained and pleasant climb out of Teesdale, first on a rarely-used country lane with commanding views across the Tees valley, before a more challenging ascent through rough pastures and onto the moors. After completing the crossing of the Harthope Moor pass (617 metres) on the quiet single-track road over to Weardale, I exercised a ‘right to roam’ with a delightful descent over springy heathers and rough grasses. On walks such as this the nordic poles really come into their own, for power uphill, control downhill, and forever a sense of exhilaration and freedom.

A former quarry above the Tees, now used for fishing and recreation
High up, at the top of the pass over to Weardale

And today has also been a day of birds – all of course too quick for my camera. Along with the curlews and lapwings that have been a regular part of my moorland journey, many wheatears and grey wagtails have darted off at my approach, along with a number of whinchats, identified by their deep-orange breasts (if my online research is correct). These moorlands are of course also home to pheasant and grouse, and these abound, providing sport later in the year, although I have as yet failed, knowingly at least, to spot the rarer black grouse.

Into Weardale and my path from Westgate to Cowshill followed the scenic Weardale Way, as it made its way up-river through forested glades along the tumbling waters, interspersed with inviting ways through early-summer flower meadows brimming with the now familiar combination of cowslips, cow parsley, buttercups, daisies and clover; a perfect setting for my snack lunch, before another steep climb out of Weardale and over the moorlands once again to the head of Allendale.

A Weardale meadow, near Westgate
The River Wear itself, as it tumbles over a series of rocky ledges
The moorland road as it descends to Allendale . . .
. . . and an unusual road sign

Allenheads is a hidden treasure. Once a thriving lead mining and smelting centre, and home to some hundreds of people, the closure of the mines in the late 19th century led to something of an exodus, but a fascinating historical legacy survives in the landscape, buildings and artefacts of the town. These include a small exhibition around Lord Armstrong’s 1846 water-powered engine, and the entrance to a spiral ramp for the pit ponies that used to descend 100 metres into the hillside to the mining ‘levels’. An unexpected highlight on my walk, and with time to explore, I recommend Allenheads as a quiet destination for strenuous walking and gentle sightseeing alike. Content with all that this day has brought I booked into the Old School House for the night, and into the Allenheads Inn for dinner.

Allenheads village centre
Allenheads village, from The Old School House
I must return sometime for the skiing!

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