Up on Byerhope Bank




5.25 miles (8.4kms)

850ft (259m)
2hrs 15min

About the walk

The hills here are wild and windy, and if there’s a hint of cloud in the skies, they’re dark, dramatic and brooding. In summer sun the drama is brought into colour by the vivid purple blooms of the bell heather. For ramblers in the Tyne and Allen valleys, the area offers walks both long and short; walks where you can see to far horizons and stride out with the aroma of that heather wafting in the winds. Allenheads is a good place to start. As its name suggests, this village lies at the end of the Allen Valley, where the green fields give way to the high moors.

Prosperous lead-mining area

 Like many villages in these parts Allenheads’ prosperity grew and declined with the lead mining industry, but just about keeps a foot in the 21st century with tourism. At one time the village had a population of more than 1,000: now it doesn’t exceed 100. Cottages line the river, with an inn, heritage centre and cafe half-hidden by conifer plantations.

Onto the moors above byerhope

This route heads in the Rookhope direction, onto the moors of Byerhope. A stony track, the course of the Broad Way, takes you along the fringes of the moor, overlooking Allendale. The track was built initially to carry ore and supplies between the lead mining villages, but has now been surfaced for the Land Rovers of grouse shooting parties. The profuse heather makes these some of the best shooting moors in England.

Beyond some quarries the track winds around to Byerhope, which in past centuries was a thriving village of farms and smallholdings owned by lead miners. Like many of the families of Allenheads, the Byerhope miners were involved in a bitter strike in 1849 with W B Lead over a time-and-motion study that engineer, Sir Thomas Sopwith, had imposed on them. There was fiery talk of tormenting blacklegs to their graves, but the strike was eventually broken. Those who held out were banished from working the mines again and were forced to leave, many to America. At Byerhope today, there’s just one inhabited cottage and a few crumbled ruins.

The route leaves the Broad Way on the hillsides beneath High Haddock Stones. A grassy zig-zag path offers pleasing prospects across Allendale to Knockshield Moor and Killhope Law. Via a terrace of colourfully painted cottages you come down to the river and follow it past Peasmeadows. The river returns to the outskirts of Allenheads, where the back road eases you past the strangely named hamlet of Dirt Pot to the village centre.

Walk directions

From the car park in front of the engine house and heritage centre, turn right up to a junction with the B6295. Continue up the lane opposite, signed towards Rookhope, which rises steeply beside a larch plantation. After 700yds (640m), as the lane bends to the left, branch off right at a signpost to the Rookhope Road. Over a couple of stiles and past the walled enclosure of an old mine shaft, climb alongside the right-hand wall to rejoin the lane higher up on the moor.

Go left, but almost immediately fork right on a broad track signed to Byerhope Bank. In time, swing left in front of gates to a quarry and on past a tall cairn, which is a fine viewpoint across the valley.

The track curves on around the head of Byerhope Burn before falling past a lonely, restored cottage. Carry on above Byerhope Farm and bear right at a junction, rising for another 350yds (320m) around a bend to find a waypost marking a bridlepath.

Head left along an occasionally marked trod down the hillside. Wind out at the bottom, past small spoil heaps, passing through a couple of gates onto a road (the B6295).

Cross left to a narrow lane, which drops behind cottages to a ford across the River East Allen. There is a footbridge just downstream. On the far bank, follow the lane left beside the river.

Eventually the lane swings sharply up to the right. Bear off left on a descending gravel track signed as a footpath. Walk down past a couple of cottages and keep ahead through a garden beyond to the river. The footpath continues upstream beside a series of shallow fish weirs. Ignore a footbridge across to Peasmeadows and carry on past a confluence. Higher up at a second confluence, cross a bridge to remain with the main flow. After some 250yds (229m), as the ground becomes marshy, move from the river to a path along a higher bank that leads out to a lane.

Go left over a bridge to a junction and turn right, walking up past the old stone cottages of Dirt Pot back to Allenheads.

Additional information

Stony tracks, lanes and generally well-defined paths, 3 stiles

High moor and rough pasture

Sheep country: dogs should be under close control

OS Explorer OL31 North Pennines

In Allenheads by heritage centre

By heritage centre

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About the area

Discover Northumberland

If it’s history you’re after, there’s heaps of it in Northumberland. On Hadrian’s Wall you can imagine scarlet-cloaked Roman legionaries keeping watch for painted Pictish warriors while cursing the English weather and dreaming of home. Desolate battlefield sites and hulking fortresses such as Alnwick, Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh and Warkworth are reminders that this, until not so very long ago, was a contested border region. The ruins of Lindisfarne bear witness to the region’s early Christian history.

Northumberland also has some of Britain’s best beaches. On summer days, and even in winter, you’ll see surfers and other brave souls making the most of the coast. Inland, there are some great walks and bike rides in the dales of the Cheviot Hills and the Simonsides – just hilly enough to be interesting, without being brutally steep. There's dramatic scenery in the High Pennines, where waterfalls plunge into deep valleys, and there are swathes of heather-scented moorland. Northumberland National Park covers over 400 square miles of moorland and valleys with clear streams and pretty, stone-built villages. It’s just the place for wildlife watching too. You’ll find flocks of puffins, guillemots and other seabirds around the Farne Islands, and seals and dolphins offshore.

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