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Posted:  Friday 29 September 2018

North East Associates
Allendale Walk

- Wednesday 26th September –

On a Wednesday morning in late September, a group of ten North East Associates gathered in the picturesque village of Allendale looking forward to a brisk autumn walk, with conversation of course, to be followed by a pub lunch.

Also there, as usual, was Colin Harris and his wife Lesley to greet us, check the numbers and take our lunch orders - with cheerful efficiency as always.

The weather was warm but very windy on our departure, with a sniff of moisture in the air.  Fortunately it stayed warm and dry all day, with sunshine too.

Allendale is an ancient lead-mining centre in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with a long history.  Now it is a farming community plus tourism - with four pubs and several cafes.

Unlike most towns and villages in Britain today, there are no parking restrictions, no meters and no yellow lines anywhere.

Apparently when the Local Authority tried to introduce these, the inhabitants protested strongly - and won.  So one can park anywhere in the village square or surrounding streets, with care.

A very welcoming place!

We set off northwards following the steep-sided wooded valley of the East Allen River, and soon came to a stone entrance in the hillside called the Blackett Level, out of which a stream flowed.  A plaque gives its history -

The Blackett Level

This was the start
of a 19th century stone-lined tunnel
for extracting water from
the Allenheads lead mine
some seven miles distant.

Unfortunately the mine closed down
before the project was completed,
just leaving another relic
of bygone times.

The text above reads:

"Started in October 1855,
the Blackett Level
was to be a seven mile tunnel
draining water from deep
in the Allenheads mine.

Shafts were sunk in four places
along a line between here and Allenheads, and miners tunnelled
towards each other
hundreds of feet below the surface.

At the same time they hoped
to discover new veins of lead ore.

"This entrance to the tunnel
was started in 1859.
The miners did not find
the riches they hoped for
and the tunnel
never reached its destination
it reached just beyond Sparty Lea,
almost five miles away.

"The Level cost over £120,000
(roughly equivalent to
£13,000,000 today?)
and was abandoned
in the early 20th century,
as by then the Allenheads mine
had closed and the lead mining industry
in the area had largely collapsed."

The name came from one
Wentworth Blackett Beaumont M.P.
- 1st Baron Allendale

and owner of the mine.

We walked for over an hour along the riverside path, passing two beautifully restored – but very isolated - stone houses, and eventually reached Oakpool, where there is just a bridge and an old mill that has been renovated as a large stone dwelling house.

After a short break, we left the river and turned southwards, climbing up through woods and fields to Chapel House, with fine views over the Allen Valley and beyond.

We passed several places with quirky names - Pia Troon, Low Ousterley, Clough Head - and eventually dropped down through pastures, with stunning views, having seen cattle, sheep and pigs, and wildlife including heron, dipper, late butterflies and some interesting fungi, and returning to Allendale village via Bridge End, having covered 6.3 miles in about three hours.

We were greeted on the last leg by Cliff Sore, who was unable to join us on the walk but who was visibly hungry for some food.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch at the Golden Lion, and discovered that this is yet another pub that has set up its own brewery - much appreciated by Tynesiders no doubt.          

John Farrington

pictures:  john farrington
               gillian & austin brownlee

(jf  27/09/2018)

(ph  28/09/2018)

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