An amazing stroll to an awesome pub: The Wallace Arms, Rowfoot, North Pennines | Strolling holidays

Begin The Wallace Arms, Rowfoot, Haltwhistle
Distance 4½ miles
Time 3½ hours
Elevation achieve 215 metres
Problem Average and doubtlessly muddy

The connection between William Wallace and Tynedale is as gory as a Sam Peckinpah film. In 1297, Braveheart and his warriors tore by way of the Tyne Hole, ransacked church buildings, razed three priories and, in Hexham, burned a category of schoolboys alive (proof, if any extra have been wanted, that it’s best to by no means belief Mel Gibson). That the locals selected to call a pub after this bloody villain is proof of the grisly streak that runs by way of the Northumbrian sense of humour and the historic love of a great scrap.

Google map of the route

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It’s laborious to think about now – the one sound to be heard above the speeding waters of the South Tyne is a semi-hysterical piping from considered one of England’s largest inland colonies of oystercatchers – however this was as soon as considered one of Europe’s most harmful areas. South Tynedale was populated by murderous clans (excessive amongst them the Ridleys and the Fenwicks) who have been “reavers”, residing by theft and intimidation, and gave the English language the phrase “bereaved”.

The ornate Jacobean manor and durable defensive pele tower of Featherstone Fort date from these lawless days. It’s a supply of bloody legend. The heinous homicide of 1 proprietor, Sir Albany Featherstonehaugh, by a gang of native miscreants options in Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion (although the “conventional” ballad verses describing the dastardly deed on the Deadmanshaw have been truly a spoof concocted by County Durham wag RS Surtees). And the wholesale slaughter of a Featherstonehaugh wedding ceremony social gathering by the Ridleys of close by Hardriding has led to tales of spectral visitors wandering the Tyne’s banks on the anniversary of the nuptials that by no means have been. Nonsense, in fact, although on a quiet day in spring, when the sky is darkening and you might be pattering alongside the sting of the dripping deciduous Hag Wooden, the ghostly white glow of untamed garlic and wooden anemones, the screech of a jay and the rattle of branches would possibly momentarily persuade you in any other case.

Featherstone Fort, a supply of bloody legend.

Shut by the fort, on the riverbank, are reminders of newer battles. Featherstone Camp was initially constructed to accommodate US troops arriving within the UK for the Normandy invasion, however by 1945 it was one of many nation’s greatest prisoner of conflict camps, holding 4,000 captured German officers. The camp had three orchestras, a theatre, a bakery, a soccer league and its personal newspaper, Die Zeit Am Tyne.

An previous neighbour of mine used to drive a bus that took the prisoners to work on close by farms. “Most of them appeared canny lads, however there have been a pair that have been proper Nazis,” he recalled. In 1945 eight prisoners minimize by way of the barbed wire and escaped. They deliberate to hijack a aircraft and fly again to Berlin. One, Karl Kropp, drowned attempting to cross the river; the others bought so far as Alston earlier than they have been captured by a neighborhood copper. The camp closed down in 1948 when the remaining prisoners, having been “re-educated” – for a few of them have been certainly “proper Nazis” – have been repatriated. A few brick buildings and the Nissan huts’ foundations are all that stay beneath the lime bushes.

There’s a reminder of a extra peaceable previous when the trail takes you alongside the embankment of the previous North Jap Railways department line, previous the previous station at Coanwood to Lambley Viaduct, a joyful piece of Victorian engineering.

Inbuilt 1852, it’s 260 metres lengthy and stands 30 metres above the rippling waters of the South Tyne. The person who designed it was geordie engineer George Barclay Bruce, a protege of Robert Stephenson. He’d go on to construct railways in additional unique places, amongst them the Grand Nationwide Tramway in Buenos Aires.

Lambley Viaduct
Lambley Viaduct, a ‘joyful piece of Victorian engineering. {Photograph}: Mark Pinder/The Guardian

The viaduct as soon as carried the road that linked Alston to Haltwhistle. For many years heavy items trains crammed with the product of the North Pennine lead and zinc mines – as soon as among the many most efficient on the planet – rumbled throughout its single observe (the reed beds alongside the river are a part of a scheme to deal with the pollution that also spill from the deserted shafts). The passenger line survived the Beeching cuts largely as a result of the native roads have been too slender, steep and tough for buses and vehicles. It was ultimately shut in 1976, although the Alston to Slaggyford part nonetheless runs as a heritage railway.

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Crossing the viaduct there’s a detour to the tiny village of Lambley, the place the one remnant of the Benedictine priory sacked by Wallace is the bell hanging within the village church (the ruins have been swept away in a flood within the 1700s).

The South Tyne between Featherstone Castle and the prisoner of war camp.
The South Tyne between Featherstone Fort and the prisoner of conflict camp. {Photograph}: Mark Pinder/The Guardian

A steep, stepped path right down to the west financial institution of the South Tyne results in a secure, fashionable footbridge (the unique was mounted on ropes and had a whiff of peril and Indiana Jones about it). From right here you get a dizzying view up on the 9 nice arches of Bruce’s masterpiece. The river – sherry-coloured from upland peat – swirls across the huge gray, stone toes. Upstream are broad gravel seashores fringed by bushes: it’s a well-liked spot for fly-fishing and in addition the extra adventurous (or maybe foolhardy) wild swimmer. From mid-June salmon could be seen leaping up previous Featherstone weir, or choosing their means gingerly by way of the shallows – their dorsal fins poking above the water.

If you happen to’re significantly fortunate, you would possibly see the iridescent blue streak of a kingfisher, or an otter could pop its head up and survey you earlier than disappearing under the floor, leaving a necklace of bubbles.

The pub

Sign pointing to Wallace Arms
{Photograph}: Mark Pinder/The Guardian

The Wallace Arms is a heat nook of Northumbrian rural life. In summer season you might hear the chink of metal quoits from the opposite aspect of the automotive park (the pub’s first crew play in division two of the celebrated Allen Valley Quoits League). The small two-room bar has open fires and, if it’s not a folks evening, the one soundtrack is the back-and-forth of locals speaking about sheep costs and Strictly. There are normally three native ales from the likes of Hadrian and Border, Hexhamshire and Allendale available pump. Meals is proscribed to crisps, however you may carry your individual and eat it within the bar, and on Friday nights they ship out for fish and chips from close by Haltwhistle. On Fb

The place to remain

A few mile and a half from the Wallace Arms, on the west aspect of the South Tyne, on the fell above the blink-and-you-miss-it hamlet of Kellah, Kellah Farm is a working hill farm run by the Teasdale household. It has 4 good bedrooms in what was, till the nineteenth century, a pub known as the Pitman’s Arms. Kellah Farm is in a darkish sky space and the one sound you’ll hear at evening is the hooting of owls. It additionally has three self-catering cottages, that sleep two, 4 or six individuals.
Doubles from £74 B&B,

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