Walk the Reivers Way with a Cicerone guidebook
The Reivers Way
by Paddy Dillon
A handy pocket sized guidebook for anyone planning to walk the Reivers Way. Follow in the footsteps of the border reivers on this 150 mile route running from Corbridge to Alnmouth. The reivers route wanders through wild and scenic parts of Northumberland, and can be walked in 9 days. The book also includes variants and alternative routes. More...
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Corbridge to Allendale Town
Start Corbridge – NY989643
Finish Allendale Town – NY836557
Distance 27.5km (17 miles)
Maps OS Landranger 87 or OS Explorer OL43
Terrain Fields, forests and riverside paths are followed by moorland tracks, including some that can be wet underfoot.
Refreshments Plenty of choice at Corbridge. Pub off-route from Peth Foot. Plenty of choice at Allendale Town.
Public Transport Regular daily trains, as well as Arriva and Stagecoach buses, serve Corbridge from Newcastle and Carlisle. The Hadrian’s Wall bus serves
Corbridge daily through the summer, linking with all parts of Hadrian’s Wall, as well as Newcastle and Carlisle. Tynedale and Tyne Valley buses
serve Allendale Town from Hexham daily, except Sundays.
As with any long-distance walk, the golden rule is not to burn yourself out on the first day. This is a long day’s walk, with fiddly route-finding all the way through the valley of Devil’s Water, followed by a long moorland crossing that can be wet and boggy on its higher parts. If it seems too much, then break the journey using one of three accommodation options before the halfway point, and cover this initial stage over two shorter days.
Spend time in Corbridge before starting the Reivers Way – if possible try to arrive in the afternoon and stay for the night, or at least arrive early in the day just to be able to stroll round the streets before leaving.
When the Romans pushed Dere Street north through Northumberland, they crossed the River Tyne near Corbridge, linking with the coast-to-coast Stanegate. The Roman fort of Corstopitum stands at the junction of these two roads, pre-dating Hadrian’s Wall. There is a splendid museum on site, as well as a café. There is an entry charge, and the site is open daily from April to October, and at weekends through the winter, tel 01434 632349, www.
The fort guarded the Roman bridge, though masonry from the bridge is now inconveniently located on the opposite bank of the river. The river has shifted since the bridge was built, and to spare the massive stone building blocks from damage, they were lifted, moved and rebuilt away from the riverbank.
There are plenty of fine old buildings around Corbridge, such as St Andrew’s church, with the Vicar’s Pele Tower alongside. There is another pele tower where the old Newcastle road leaves town, built into Low Hall. These towers are features of reiver country – places where cattle could easily be driven inside on the ground floor, while people took refuge above in time of strife.
There was plenty of strife in this area. Ethelred, King of Northumbria, was slain here in 796ad, and it is also where Regnald the Dane defeated both English and Scots armies in 918ad. King David I of Scotland occupied the town in 1138, while King John sacked it in 1201. Corbridge suffered three burnings, by William Wallace in 1296, Robert the Bruce in 1312, and King David II in 1346.
There is accommodation in Corbridge, plenty of pubs and restaurants, shops, a post office, two banks and an ATM. The tourist information centre, tel 01434 632815, offers a leaflet called ‘A Walk of Discovery around Corbridge’.
Leave Corbridge by heading downhill from the Angel Inn, once an important coaching inn. Cross the bridge over the River Tyne. A ferry and ford at this point were replaced by a bridge in 1235, but the present bridge dates from 1674. This was the only bridge on the river to survive a devastating flood in 1771. Keep left to follow the B6529 past the railway station, which could be used as a starting point, and is handy for the Dyvels pub, an Indian restaurant and Fellcroft bed and breakfast.
Cross the bridge over the railway, then, as soon as the road bends left, exit to the right up a few steps behind traffic mirrors. A path leads up a wooded slope and a stile leads into a field. Walk straight ahead alongside a hedge and cross another stile, then cross the A695. Continue straight over a stile to follow another field path, crossing a stile to reach a quiet road. Turn right along this road and follow it almost to West Fell, where it becomes a private drive.
Continue straight along an enclosed path and later go through a gate. Follow a grassy path flanked by gorse and thorns, keeping well to the left of High Town. Go through a gate and follow a track away from the farm, but turn left up a path on a wooded slope.
Keep to the edge of the wood, watching for pheasants and deer, and avoid a couple of lesser paths climbing to the left. The path climbs more steeply and bends left to reach the top of a plantation. Turn right through a gate and walk alongside a wall. Pass through two large fields, converging with a pylon line to reach a gate and a road near West Farm.
Turn right along the road to reach a junction where a grassy patch sits in the road. Keep straight ahead as signposted for Lightwater Cottages, following a grassy path between forest plots of different ages. Note the parallel lines of tumbled drystone walls, which the path follows faithfully through Dipton Wood. Enough light reaches the forest floor for it to support plenty of heather and bilberry.
Cross over a prominent track around 190m (625ft) and keep straight ahead along another track as marked. Climb a little, then descend, and the path is worn deeply into creamy, soft sandstone. When Lightwater Cottages are reached, walk down the access road to reach the B6306.
Turn right up the road, then left as signposted for Ordley, passing through a stone gateway and following an access road down to a stud farm at Linnel. Keep right of all the buildings and go through a gate into a field. Look across the field to spot another gate, where a track leads down a wooded slope. Cross a footbridge over Devil’s Water, then climb up stone steps to reach a track.
Turn right to follow the track a little downhill, then uphill. Nunsbrough Wood is managed by the Woodland Trust, while a nearby wildflower meadow is designated access land.
Turn left down a path to enter the meadow at a gate and stile, turning right to follow a path through it. Cross a little footbridge and walk upstream beside Devil’s Water, towards a fine house and garden at Peth Foot. Before reaching the house, turn left to cross a footbridge. The Travellers Rest lies uphill off-route, offering food, drink and accommodation.
Turn right to continue along Devil’s Water, crossing a footbridge over a little inflowing stream. Walk through dense forest until the path drifts uphill away from the river and reaches a road. (Turning left uphill leads off-route to Dukesfield Hall Farm bed and breakfast.) Turn right down the road, but don’t cross a bridge at the bottom, instead turning left along a broad track. Crossing the bridge allows walkers to reach a bed and breakfast at Juniper.
Again, the route traces Devil’s Water upstream through a wooded valley, passing a curious ruin that was once a smelt mill. The track later leaves the forest and heads through fields to reach a house at Redlead Mill. Walk straight past the house and through a gate to continue further upstream.
The track ahead was used by both Wade and Roberts, but is not a right of way. It leads further upstream, then pulls away from the river and climbs to a bend on a quiet road near Viewley.
To stay on rights of way, however, turn left after leaving Redlead Mill and follow the track away from the river, then head right along a forest path. Continue up through fields and keep left of the farm buildings at Steel Hall. Turn right to follow a track past the farm and across fields to pass a solitary byre. Enter a forest and walk straight ahead to reach the bend on the road near Viewley.
Continue straight along and down the road to reach a hairpin bend. Turn left along the access road for Embley, which rises gently, drops down to Devil’s Water, then climbs up a wooded slope. Follow the access track up between fields then turn right to go straight through the farmyard at Embley. Watch for a gate on the right on leaving the farmyard, which bears a bridleway marker.
A track runs downhill, then bear left a little to spot a marker post in a gap between two holly trees. Pass this and look down across a rushy slope to spot a stile. A path leads down stone steps from here to a footbridge spanning Devil’s Water.
Don’t cross the footbridge, but follow a rugged path upstream. Drift away from the river, passing through a couple of gates in fences, climbing uphill and crossing a stile near a corner on a fence. Next, traverse across a couple of fields, passing through gates, to find a muddy track leading down to the farm of Burntshield Haugh. Cross a concrete bridge over Devil’s Water one last time and follow a concrete farm road uphill.
Go through a gate and walk further up the access track, but don’t follow it when it turns right. Instead, cross a stile and walk up through a field to cross another stile. Walk up towards Hesleywell. Turn left to walk away from the farm, then watch for a couple of stone step-stiles to keep just to the left of New House. A couple of ladder-stiles are crossed, and the idea is to aim to the right of the farm buildings at Long Lee to reach its access road.
Cross over the road and go through a gate, then climb diagonally through a rugged field and pass through little gates in front of the house at Steel. Watch for a gate on the way through fields beyond, and keep to the right of the farmhouse at Stobby Lea. Walk down through fields to cross a footbridge, then climb to reach Harwood Shield, going straight through the farmyard and passing substantial stone outbuildings.
Turn left along the farm access road, then right along a clear track that passes some walled and fenced enclosures on the moorland. The broad moorlands of Hexhamshire Common are designated access land, and used for grouse shooting
After passing the last enclosure, turn right and follow a track down through a gate and across Stobbylee Burn. Climb steeply up a stony track to reach a junction on Hangman Hill.
Turn left downhill, then the track swings right to reach a junction of tracks beside a stone bridge spanning Black Sike. Turn left to cross the bridge, and follow the track past a corrugated black shooting hut. When a complex junction of tracks is reached before a building at Ladle Well, simply turn right up a rutted moorland track. This track climbs parallel to a drystone wall, drops to cross a stream, then climbs again to Stobb Cross at 401m (1316ft).
Cross a track here and keep straight ahead for Allendale, bearing in mind that the moorland path can be wet and boggy. The track runs down through a gate and passes between fields before suddenly landing on a road near the Spittal. Both Wade and Roberts advised walkers to follow the road down to Allendale Town, but a field path can be found by following the access road for High Scotch Halls Farm, offering a much better finish to the day.
Pass the farm, cross a stone step-stile on the left, and head diagonally right across a field to cross another step-stile. Pass in front of a house and follow its access track, then cross another step-stile on the left. Walk to a brow offering a fine view of Allendale, then walk downhill and cross an access road.
Drift right to go through a gateway between two fields, then head for the far corner of a field to cross a step-stile. Cross one last stile on the way downhill, then squeeze between two houses and head straight into Allendale Town.
Allendale Town, formerly known as Allenton, was granted a charter by Edward I. Lead mining was an important industry, but the ore contained a significant amount of silver. In the mid-19th century the population expanded and a smelt mill was constructed in the dale. Noxious fumes were conducted uphill through stone-built flues to be vented high on the moors.
New Year’s Eve is referred to as Old Year’s Night in Allendale, and the local folk celebrate it with a stirring fire festival. Tough-looking Dalesfolk don fancy dress and are known as ‘guisers’. They carry blazing tar barrels on their heads and process round town, hurling the barrels onto a central bonfire as the church bells ring in the New Year. After frantically ‘first footing’ round all the houses, the local folk melt away, leaving hordes of visiting tourists wondering what happened! Be warned that not a bed is to be had in the area during ‘tar-barling’.
Allendale Town has broad greens, a range of accommodation, a few shops, pubs, restaurants and cafés. The post office has an ATM and there is a bank. Tynedale and Tyne Valley buses run to and from Hexham, except Sundays.