On Easter Sunday, as restrictions had lifted a little, we decided to take a walk from Blanchland to Bolt’s Law. It looked like a great day for walking in the hills and, even though the ambient temperature was still a little low, the sun was out and keeping us warm.
Even when the only thing that is open in Blanchland is the Post Office, it is still a beautiful and popular place to visit. There were plenty of people about, enjoying this gorgeous location.
We headed off, via the public facilities by the river. Crossing the bridge, passing the public footpath on the right and continuing on up to the road junction. We took the road towards Allenshields. It was more open here and we could feel the westerly wind coming down the valley. Still, it was lovely and sunny.
At the bend in the road, we headed out onto Buckshott Fell. The wind had increased, but we carried on up the bridleway, to the top of the fell. At the top we turned southwest, towards the curiously named “Old Man’s Grave”. I haven’t been able to find out the origin of this place and couldn’t see anything there that would provide any clues.
Sikhead Dams and the Chimneys
On reaching the road to Stanhope, we crossed it to join another track towards the chimney in the distance. The wind had really gotten up now and walking was getting more difficult. We pushed on though as the track joined the route of an old flue that was originally connected to the chimney. This is a remnant of the lead mining in the area. Smelting the lead ore gave off poisonous fumes, so these flues were required to remove the fumes from the smelting mill. Lead mining and processing must have been a very lucrative industry, considering the cost of building a flue as long as this one and a chimney on the moor.
It was about lunchtime when we reached Sike Head Dams, so we took shelter in the lee of Sike head Dams. The wind was blowing waves over to this side though and the spray was soaking us. It was different from being blown over by the wind though, and welcome at this point.
We set off around Sike Head Dams. We were originally aiming to climb Bolt’s Law, but the wind had put us off and we had already decided to save it for another day and head straight towards Sike Head Lead Mine.
Sike Head Lead Mine is adjacent to the route that we’d chosen to descend back to Blanchland. Before we descended we took a closer (not too close) look at the mine. I like a bit of industrial history. Parts of the mine were still operating into the late 1980’s but that was for fluorspar and the lead mining was long gone.
Ramshaw and Manor House
We descended down the path from Sike Head Mine towards Ramshaw. This is part of the “A Pennine Journey” long distance path. There are remnants of other mine workings here. They are marked on the map as the fluorspar mine. Evidence of mineworking here was all over the ground. There were pieces of ironstone everywhere, some with what looked like fluorspar embedded in it.
Walking away from the industry of the mine, we found a more rural landscape. Still there was evidence of long gone industry everywhere, mixed into the streams and meadows now populated by farm animals.
Derwent Lead Mines
We continued down the road to the Derwent Lead Mine. Again there was evidence of mine working everywhere. There were warnings of deep mine shafts and an engine house on the hillside with spoil heaps next to it.
The remnants of mining industry rapidly faded as we turned from the road and started on a path through Deborah Plantation. This plantation is a more modern industry, forestry. Whilst it makes for some lovely walking, it is industry all the same. The plantation is in the process of being harvested for Egger, the manufacturer of wood based panel products. They have a chipboard factory at Hexham.
Back to Blanchland
The path through Deborah Plantation exits onto the road from Baybridge. We walked down the hill and then followed the path back to Blanchland, along the path by the river. This path is quite varied and lovely to walk along, and even has a waterfall.
The path emerges just to the south of the bridge. We went back into Blanchland and rounded the day off with a take-away tea from the Post Office. Then reflected on a lovely walk. Bolt’s Law will wait for another day.