Grid Reference NY8355.
Allendale is around 34 mi (55 km) to the west of Newcastle.
11 mi (18 km) to the south of Hexham.
35 mi (56 km) to the east of Carlisle.
Allendale refers to the “dale” or valley of the river Allen. Evidence of prehistoric settlement has been found on the surrounding moorland. In the 16th century this area, close to the Scottish border was a lawless and troubled place. Fortified farmhouses known as bastles were constructed to protect residents and livestock against raiders.
Lead mining has occurred since Roman times, with the first smelting mill being constructed in the 1600s. The significant growth of Allendale Town and the surrounding villages was fuelled by that of the local lead-mining and smelting industries in the 19th century. The remains of two flues from the former smelting mill (between Allendale and Catton) run to chimneys up on the fells high above the village. The smelting mill is now home to the Allendale Brewery.
In 1869, the Hexham/Allendale railway line was opened to provide improved transport, but its opening coincided with a rapid decline in the industry due to cheap imports of lead. The last mines in the area closed in 1894 (although an attempt was made to re-open the mine at Allenheads in the 1970s). With the closure of the lead mines, the population rapidly declined and Allendale became a popular tourist destination for Edwardian Tyneside’s seeking a country escape. The railway was finally closed to passengers in 1930 and to goods in 1950 (when the local terminus was bought by the stationmaster and opened as a caravan park.
It’s a beautiful, crisp January morning. The car thermometer reads -2 all the way from Whitley Bay, north-north west, up through Hexham, where the sun and the temperature give way to near frozen mist and a noticeable one degree further drop. The tops of the distant pines are frosted white.
By the time we park up at the Allen east river bridge at 10:30, the mist has burnt off. The sun is low and the temperature has settled at -2. The first mile takes us along the east bank of the river. The ground is frozen.
A steep bank brings us up above the river. Here, the fields open up and the views north are spectacular. Distant disused lead smelt chimneys share the white-out, sun-sparkled horizon with lonely farmhouses. The hedge row and dry stone wall shadows shield the final overnight freeze.
Always extraordinary (perhaps to the sub/urban mind) and shocking to come across the sight of dead moles affixed to wire fences by their snouts. Certainly, the moles, I’ve noticed these last few weeks on our walks, can really be active – fresh, earthen pyramids are dotted all over the landscape. I can’t see that these little fellas can really be such a pest to the local farmers. The stringing up of trophy moles is something I have seen many times these last few years. The thinking is that their corpses discourage other moles – can this really be so? I thought that they were practically blind. Still, country life.
We have been extremely fortunate with the weather these first three walks of 2019. Today’s 5 miles are an absolute joy. The landscapes of Northumbria are unbeatable.
We settle on the remnants of collapsed dry stone on the west bank of the Allen for lunch. Malcolm produces 3 Cranston sausages and kindly distributes them. We each savour these delicious sausages. And the whole thing has the effect of a Gentlemen’s Club; instead of cigars… sausages.
Malcolm: Cranston sausage. Ham, tomato and salad cream on brown. Tea.
Raymond: Cranston sausage. Black, sweetened tea.
Nick: Cranston sausage. Chicken and mayo on brown. A small tub of pineapple. Tea.