Rather amazingly, despite all the COVID related shenanigans and restrictions, we were on our second holiday in the past two and a half months. OK, neither had involved air travel or required the use of either passport or sun cream, but they were holidays nonetheless. Or perhaps staycations would be a more appropriate term, although technically speaking this current one was on foreign soil (albeit only just).
Fortuitously with the benefit of hindsight, we had been slow to organise any holidays for this year and when lock down hit us in March, we still had nothing booked. We had been straight on the case as soon as lock down restrictions had been lifted at the beginning of July and had booked a week at the end of that month at Dalraddy near Aviemore. Even then, we had held onto some hope that we would be able to get abroad during the school October fortnight to celebrate my impending 50th but as August and September wore on, that became an increasingly forlorn hope. Madeira had been the original plan, way back in a pre-COVID world. As it turned out, I would have to settle for Kielder. Oh well, I'm sure I read somewhere that Kielder is often referred to as the Madeira of the North! Or did I dream that????
Take nothing away from Kielder Water and Forest Park, it is a beautiful, secluded place, especially since pretty much everything you see there today is man-made. The dam was built to create the reservoir (the largest man-made body of water in Northern Europe) in the late 70s and early 80s and today it sits at the heart of an increasingly popular tourist area with a focus very much on outdoor pursuits. We had first stayed in a lodge at Kielder Waterside back in July 2018 and had subsequently recommended it to friends who went there the following year. They were booked to go back during the October holidays this year and we eventually decided to book up for the same week, as well as another family that had never been before. We all had our own lodge but the plan was to spend a lot of time together, especially the four kids who would be in and out of one another's lodges all day long. That notion was knocked on the head a couple of weeks beforehand with the tightening of restrictions in England but we still managed to fit in a few socially distant walks and the kids managed to play together in the play park areas while pretending not to know one another. Along with one of the other families, we even managed to have a pub lunch at neighbouring tables in the Black Cock (only in England!!!! ) in Falstone.
We had arrived on the Monday evening with the priority job for the week being to successfully coax Ailsa all the way round the 27 mile circuit of Kielder Water on her bike. We had tried back in 2018 and travelling anti-clockwise, had made it as far as the dam, before throwing in the towel and returning the way we had come. At 7 miles each way, it had still been a decent effort for a 7 year old (not to mention a 47 year old!) but this time we were going for the Full Monty. I also had my eye on a walk up to the summit of Deadwater Fell but knew I would need to play my cards carefully in that particular respect.
Tuesday dawned looking promising and we decided to head south to Bellingham and do the walk to Hareshaw Linn before returning to the self-styled "Capital of the North Tyne" to inject some money into the local hospitality industry. We quickly located the car park just opposite the garage on a road leading off the main square of the village, and set off out the rear of the car park past the information board explaining the history of the Hareshaw Burn and the industry it once supported.
The Northumberland National Park website has this to say about Hareshaw Linn:
Visit Hareshaw Linn and take a magical walk through an ancient woodland, crossing no less than six bridges to reach a beautiful nine-metre high waterfall. This Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is designated for its rare ferns and lichen. More than 300 different types of mosses, liverworts and lichen can be found at Hareshaw Linn. The oak, hazel, elm and ash trees that grow here are great for wildlife. Keep a look out for red squirrels, great spotted woodpeckers, wood warblers, spotted flycatchers, badgers and Daubenton’s bats.
This area was the site of an ironworks established by Messrs Bigge and Partners in 1833. There were two blast furnaces, 70 coke ovens, 24 large roasting kilns for calcining the iron ore, a range of coal stores, a blacksmiths shop, wagon shed, stables and stores. The ironworks were in continuous production until 1848. Ten years later the plant was auctioned and many of the buildings demolished. You can still see the dam that supplied water to power the iron works and mounds formed from leftover ash and stone.
Information board at the car park
Through a gate the track leads past a load of static caravans before climbing up past a viewing platform that looks down to the burn and the remains of the dam and an old mill that was once powered by the water. A short section through rolling, pastoral scenery then follows before the path disappears into the trees and follows the burn in a series of bends and over a succession of bridges to the waterfall at the head of the gorge.
The river runs red - this reminds me a lot of many of the burns on the moors around Muirkirk in East Ayrshire where the legacy of the iron works and coke furnaces can still be seen in the red stream beds
Dappled autumnal sunlight through the canopy of trees
We stopped off for a snack at a S-shaped stone bench just before a slight drop down to a little bridge and Ailsa headed off up into the trees above the path to commune with nature, before returning a few moments later to excitedly announce that she had discovered a rope swing. Oh well, it would have been rude not to!
Rope swing 1
Rope swing 2
Rope swing 3
Rope swing 4
Mum has a shot too
And yes, Dad also had a go but no photographic evidence exists! Ailsa would have stayed there all day but we had a walk to complete and a waterfall to visit so, bribed with the promise that we could stop off for another shot or two on the way back, she agreed to carry on and we returned to the path.
The old mans shadow
Ailsa does like finding a good tree to climb
There are many good sections of flagstoned path along the way
One of the many bridge crossings
The magic money tree - it really does exist!
After the fallen tree trunk decorated with coins, the walk reaches its spectacular conclusion. The path rises below towering cliffs to the right before dropping down into the cavern-like head of the gorge with the Hareshaw Linn waterfall at the far end.
Approaching the head of the gorge, the scenery becomes quite jungle-like
Reminiscent of some of the cavernous gorges of the Dordogne area of France
Descending to the waterfall and plunge pool
Debbie, Ailsa and Linn
Light and shade
Getting right in underneath the overhanging cliffs
Wishing she had brought her swimsuit?
We had a picnic lunch below the overhanging cliffs and despite having encountered a few other walkers along the way on our walk in, we had the place to ourselves. We didn't have the dog with us on this holiday (she was boarding with my brother and sister-in-law) but she would certainly have loved this and been in and out of the plunge pool like a yo-yo. Perhaps it was a blessing that she wasn't here though, given the bloated body of a dead sheep that was floating against the far side of the pool!
Starting back for Bellingham
We had stopped off at Morrisons in Dalkeith on the way south the previous day but could still do with one or two bits and pieces so once back in Bellingham, we visited the baker and the butcher but in the apparent absence of a candlestick maker (I suspect it was something well before COVID that spelled the end for that particular local business had one ever existed), we had to settle for the local branch of the Co-op instead. We took a wee wander about the bustling capital before establishing that there appeared to be three hostelries, two of which were closed. It was unclear whether the closures of the Black Bull and the Rose and Crown were COVID related or simply just that strange English tradition of the pub closing down for a few hours during the middle part of the day! At least the Cheviot Hotel was not bowing to either COVID or tradition and so Ailsa and Debbie bagged a table in the sunny beer garden out the front while I donned face mask and nipped inside to provide my contact details, have my temperature taken and order the drinks.
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