A few months back, I was looking at a map of the UK trying to work out where to go on a new adventure. I became drawn to Northumberland. I’d visited its neighbours – Cumbria to the west and Yorkshire to the south – a number of times before, and enjoyed those experiences immensely. But, in Northumberland, here was a whole chunk of county that I’d completely overlooked.
I decided to do a bit of research and found out that the county was home to England’s largest and least visited national park. Those facts alone made the idea of visiting there more intriguing to me. So, before I had a chance to rationalise what I was doing, I booked myself a reasonably priced hotel and train journey to go and explore.
I had plans to explore the whole county in six days, but as soon as I got there I knew that I’d need longer. So, this is the first leg of my tour of Northumberland. What follows is the highlights of a four day trek across the southern portion of the county.
Day 1 – Hadrian’s Wall (Steel Rigg and Peel Cragg Circular Walk
This was a lovely seven mile walk that involved some short but stiff climbs along one of the most popular stretches of Hadrian’s Wall. The above photo is of the Sycamore Gap, which is the most photographed image along the wall. The cliff faces rose up so high at some points that I couldn’t see beyond them – it truly felt like I was standing on the edge of the world!
Day 2 – Corbridge
Corbridge was the most northerly town of the Roman Empire, so its economic, cultural and historic importance is worthy of note. The village itself today is a charming place to visit with its sandstone buildings, impressive church and tower (where you can stop and have a pint) and abundance of coffee shops. If I had more time, then I’d have loved to have done a river walk. I had a cracking three course Italian lunch for just £8.95 as well!
Day 3 – Allendale, North Pennines
Allendale was one of the remotest parts of England I’ve ever visited. The thirty minute bus journey took us deep into the countryside to this village that was surrounded by rolling hills on all sides. I walked a stretch of the river and climbed hills. I spotted nineteenth century farm machinery, fat hens freely grazing across cottage gardens and some truly magical riverside spots like the one above. Then, I ambled back to the village and noticed that Dr Who had popped in…
Day 4 – Back At Hadrian’s Wall
On this last day, I did a seven mile walk that started at the majestic Cawfield Quarry. It’s well worth a moment of anybody’s time to pause by the lake. This stretch of Hadrian’s Wall provided me with some heart-stopping views across the open landscape. I dropped down into the valley, and I was truly the only person in this expanse. On this clear blue day it felt so good to be alive.
I’ve only scratched at the surface of Northumberland. Whilst I haven’t talked about the history or culture of this area in any great detail, I hope you see that by seeing the natural beauty of the places featured that this county is well worth a visit. It’s a county that I want to return to many times: there’s still a great coastline, acres and acres of forest and the Cheviot Hills to explore.
Have you been to Northumberland? What did you make of it?
Ten-thirty in the morning, rushing around with last minute packing, My mate Rob is waiting outside, I’d better get cracking. A two hour drive north awaits for adventure to start, The excitement is starting to build in my heart. I jump in the car, the engine is running, Let’s go to a place where the scenery is stunning.
Two hours later, we’re there, the tent is pitched, Bags are dumped and without a hitch We march across farm fields – hope we don’t get a stitch! Our friend Aaron has joined us from Yorkshire, for which We are grateful as he directs our hike without a glitch, Now at the pub, for a pint we itch!
After a pint or three we treapse through country roads in rain, Amid gentle hills that keep rolling again and again. The sky is grey as rocks, as hard as stone, I’m glad I didn’t undertake this alone. Idyllic villages with churches, pubs and friendly locals, This is a trip that for a long time I shall be vocal.
After a seven mile walk and four pubs (where we socially distanced, of course), We head back to the campsite where we hear plenty of snores. Next morning, we’re up and out early as you like As we head to stunning Rutland Water to use our bikes, Through rocky trails by the lake and through woods, A seventeen mile pedal will do our legs and souls good.
On one side is the water, so still and calming, On the other there’s fields so ripe for farming. At Normanton, we whizz by the ‘floating church’ that stands on the water, Should you visit here? Yes, I think you ought to! Then, we cycle over the dam that stands so proud, For our tiniest county, Rutland should sing it loud.
For here, there’s lots and lots for whoever you are with, Cycle, hike, sail, birdwatch, even catch a fish As we finish our biking adventure, feeling stronger, I wish we’d stayed here a heck of a lot longer. We’ve experienced Rutland in such a short time space, I hope these memories never ever erase.
This weekend my friends and I descended upon Rutland, the smallest county in the UK. It may be tiny, but it packs a punch. It was great to hang out with my friends during these Covid-19 times. New rules and restrictions are important, and we managed to adapt our adventures well to that. I feel blessed to share these experiences with my friends.
The photos are a mix of ones we all took.
If you live in the UK or if you visit from abroad at some point, I hope you can visit Rutland.
Step back and build a little mountain of your own.
This poem is about the importance of retreating from the world and caring for yourself once in a while or when the world gets you down. It’s important we all have a place where we can restore ourselves. I think self-care and being able to openly talk about mental health issues is so important.
Being high up on mountains or hills is where I can restore myself.
The title of the poem is adapted from a lyric by the band Idlewild.
The photos come from mountain hiking holidays I did in Scotland (2018) and Wales and Ireland (2019).
Thanks for reading this. If you have any comments, it’d be great to hear from you.
I hope you all have a good week. Stay safe and healthy 😊