Tuesday 4 August 2015

Salter's Road.

The Salter's Road is an ancient trade route. It actually dates way back in the mists of time. However in medieval times, salt was carried by pack horse from salt pans in England to Scotland. Often smuggled to avoid paying taxes. Whisky smugglers, Border Reivers, drovers and many others also used the trackway
My intention was to walk from Thropton the nearest point I could get to on the bus on the Thursday and head across country and on minor roads to Alnham. According to the map this was where the Salter's Road began.  Arriving at the village by midday, a quick bit of lunch was had, aware there was a fair mileage to cover I was a tad anxious to get underway. The footpath I wanted leading out of Thropton looked good. It was a false illusion though. Coming across an adjoining track the path up and vanished. On the map I could see where it ought to go and indeed there was a faint semblance of something leading through  dense, shoulder high grass and thistles. My suspicion was that this was more of an animal trail than human. This was further enhanced when I put up a Roe buck just in front of me. He was not a happy chappy, bounding down the slope to clearer ground, he spun round, stopped, throwing a wee wobbly, stamping his feet and snorting in indignation. Worse, I did not have the camera to hand. In sheer frustration I finally cut up the side of a field and on to the road. All the way across to Alnham constant map reading was required on vague bridleways and illusive footpaths. Mind, I had been warned that some Northumberland footpaths could be rubbish.

Alnham has a tower marked on the map. It is now someone's stately pile, surrounded by walls and trees.
Salter's road is marked as a restricted byway. The climb out of the village was enough to cause wobbly knees. Worse though was the dense vegetation. There is a path, of sorts, but oh my, a machete would have been useful in places. The swarms of flies heightened the sense of frustration. However, once up on to open moorland things eased up. Grazing cattle saw me pushing on to White Gate, ( actually a nondescript wooden one!) Once clear of the cattle I immediately looked about for a spot to camp, settling for an open spot with a stiff breeze to keep the winged beasties away. It had been a long afternoon with  a tad over eleven miles covered.

The weather people had warned of unseasonably low night time temperatures with the possibility of grass frost. They seemed to have got it right, it had been bitterly cold overnight and it had rained heavily too.The morning was still wet, mostly damp, drizzly stuff. Fortunately I was only in waterproofs for an hour or so. Across the moor I could see a shepherd on his quad driving sheep. From where I was I could see a small group of sheep hiding in a dip that had been missed. Trying to get his attention proved difficult. With some quick thinking, I whipped out my whistle and gave it a blast. It caught the dogs attention and in turn the shepherd's. Sheep sorted he came across for a wee natter.
Salters Road.
Dropping down to Ewartly Shank, The way on is on a hard surfaced track. A steep drop and then a long drag uphill by Little Dodd and down once more to Low Bleakhope and the upper Breamish valley. A couple of short, sharp showers came scudding through as I headed up the valley past Upper Bleakhope. (The house was empty).
Looking across to Little Dodd.

The Breamish valley is lovely, climbing up out of it was not so easy going though. A heavy shower saw me scrambling back in to waterproofs once again.

To be honest I was not moving that well. A lot of excuses could be offered, medical issues, age, laziness, whatever? With heavy showers becoming more frequent and the fact that if I pushed on it would mean heading through forestry. Thus it was somewhere by Rushy Sike I stopped. An extremely heavy downpour was the clincher really. A half day of walking with six and a half miles covered.
It was another cold night with heavy showers. By the time I set off it was just damp and mizzly. Hardly enough to warrant waterproofs so I opted for a spot of dampness.

Salters road is waymarked in places. Often popping up in unexpected spots, not always on the junctions of paths and tracks but further on. Thus it was an eye had always to be kept on navigation. This was more so once entering the forestry area where several tracks led off in varying directions. Originally I had been considering a loop down to Uswayford and around. Mulling things over though I was now more in favour of continuing directly on to the border ridge. The clincher was when I saw the turn off path. Well, it was marked as a path, on the ground it appeared more as a tangled mess through dense trees.

There was a lovely moment when, coming up through the forestry it all opened up and ahead was wide open moorland. There followed an easy ascent on to the border ridge itself. Windy Gyle was off to my left but I had no inclination to head off that way.

Instead I followed the ridge line along and eventually up and around to Cairn Hill (Scotsman' Cairn). It was then a descent down to the Harthope valley and camping fairly high. A distance of roughly just over nine miles.
A lovely camping spot, Harthope valley.
More rain overnight and once more a damp start to the morning. It was a fairly straight forward day heading down the valley and around to Wooler. My destination for the night was Highburn House camp site. It is a large caravan park for both statics and tourers but tents are well catered for. A large field area set aside specifically for tents. Rabbits abound all over the place. ( Mike please do not let Lucky read this!) Also squadrons of ducks patrol the area. Mainly staying in the caravan areas. Surprisingly my mileage for the day came out at just under ten miles.
This trip was a day shorter than intended but I am satisfied with it. Not a great number of miles but enough. On the way around I have seen herons, buzzards kestrels and according to the shepherd chappy, a hen harrier, wrens and various other bird life. Also have seen stoats, shrews and deer.
A few more photos.

 An a'patchy tent at campsite??


  1. Nice trip Dawn complemented by good photo’s as is usual. Beautiful hills. Love the Apache tent, very clever play on words.

  2. Thank you Alan, most kind of you.

  3. What a gorgeous lot of open countryside there is in those photos!

    That a-patchy tent puts me in mind of the one that I bought second hand for £2 to go on a 3-week touring holiday with a friend at the end of our A-levels. The fly was intact when I bought it, but it turned out that the material had degraded over its long life so it didn't stay that way for long. By the time we broke a pole and returned home early (only by a couple of days) it was very patched - and I no longer had a bag for my sleeping bag, having sacrificed it to make the patches. Happy days!

  4. It is a lovely area Gayle. The chappy who owned the tent agreed it was past its best.

  5. What wonderful photos, Dawn. A lovely area isn't it, but how many times have we set off on paths/bridleways that are marked on the map, but simply don't exist on the ground.... It's often easier going off across country than trying to follow them!

  6. Thank you Chrissie. At times navigation in cultivated areas can be a real pain.