Sunday, 12 June 2011

Blanchland - Blanchland Moor

Date:                  Saturday, 11th June 2011
Start/Finish:        Blanchland Car Park
Distance:            6.8 miles
Time Taken:        3 hours
Companion(s):    Ailsa

Route Map:

With the prospect of the weather deteriorating to rain showers from about 3pm, the plan had been for me to set out early to Westgate in Weardale to complete a 10 mile circular walk via Rookhope.  However, I was later than usual in waking so missed the chance of the 6.30am set out time and, on opening the curtains, discovered that the weather looked decidedly dodgy!  The prospect of walking on my own had not been entirely appealing in the first place but, the added prospect of walking in rain from start to finish was definitely not something I would look forward to.

So, I pottered about the house a bit, had several cups of tea and looked up the latest weather forecast for the day on the internet.  I finally decided that, if the forecast was to be believed, I should have time to complete a fairly easy 8 mile route as long as the drive there didn't take too long.  So out came the books and walk route printouts and I eventually settled on an 8 mile circular route from Blanchland, going up onto the moors, through a bit of forest, before heading down the moors to Baybridge, with the final leg along the River Derwent back to Blanchland.

Having gathered together all of my kit and resolve to head out on a walk on my own, I was just making my sandwiches when the telephone rang.  Turned out to be the eldest daughter, Ailsa, wondering what I was up to and, having now changed her plans for the day, offering to be my walking companion for the day.  Excellent news but that delayed our set out time even further as I had to go and collect her before we could head out for Blanchland.

Anyway, we finally did set off and as we drove towards Blanchland the weather didn't actually look too bad.  It seemed to be quite a bit brighter in the direction we were headed and I had high hopes that we would complete our walk before the rain clouds headed our way.  Oh how wrong that thought proved to be!

Arrived at Blanchland car park and started on our walk at about 12.30pm.  Our route first took us uphill through some woods, nothing too strenuous although we did encounter some free ranging hens which seemed to be leading the way :-)

Leaving the hens behind, we continued though the woodland

and emerged to follow the path in front of the houses in Shildon, heading towards the ruins of an old lead mine

There is some new fencing and paths around this ruined lead mine which suggests there may well be plans to erect some information boards but, at the moment I'm afraid the ruin shall remain nameless as it doesn't seem to be identified on the OS Explorer map.  From here, we followed a track gently uphill which took us towards Pennypie House.  Apparently, lead miners and cattle drovers often broke their journey here, where pies were once sold for a penny a piece (before decimalisation I guess!).  We took a few photos as we headed along the track.

From Pennypie House, we headed through the gate and followed the track which would take us up onto Blanchland Moor.  Once on the track crossing the heather moorland, on a clear day you will be able to see the Cheviot Hills in the distance.  However, our view was hindered by dark and threatening clouds.

 Derwent Reservoir in the distance
The trig point on War Law

Can anyone tell me why there always seems to be sand on moorland paths?

Derwent Reservoir again

As you may be able to tell from the deteriorating photographs, it was at this point that the camera was put away, the waterproofs came out and it was heads down and leg it to Slaley Forest as quickly as possible in the hope that we would be able to shelter under the trees from the quite heavy rainfall.

Upon reaching the forest, we were to be disappointed as the forest track we joined was clear of any cover from the trees and it was wet, muddy and very slippery and it was at this point that we decided to abort the planned circular route and head back the way we had come.  Having already walked the route, we thought it would be quicker and easier to backtrack rather than risking having to navigate in poor conditions on unknown paths.

Suffice to say, we made it back to Blanchland in reasonably good time.  I was reasonably warm and cosy in my Berghaus Paclite Trek jacket but, unfortunately, Ailsa's waterproof had not done it's job well and she was cold, soaked to the skin and quite miserable :-(  So I cheered her up with a hot pastie purchased from the Blanchland Deli and some traditional sweets (cola cubes) we bought in the Old Post Office.  That seemed to do the trick! :-)

It was a shame the weather spoiled our day as I think the walk would have been a very enjoyable one in better weather conditions.  Guess we'll just have to use that as an excuse to return on another day!

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