This is another of the Donkin Pennine Way circular walks. I parked in the middle of Alston and headed off down the Natrass Gill path which comes off the main street just where the Weardale and Teesdale roads branch apart. This path rather shadows the Pennine Way which runs parallel just a short way to the west. Indeed towards the end approaching Bleagate Farm past Woodstock I strayed a bit to the west of the path and found myself joining the Pennine Way early bypassing the Bleagate farmyard. Then back north to Alston a bit nearer the river – I saw a red squirrel hereabouts – until a woodland path brought me back into the town by the bridge over the Tyne. Crossing the bridge leads to the edge of the village where there is a war memorial and another branching of roads as the A689 to Brampton joins the A686 to Carlisle.
The Pennine Way here heads past a house and over fields to join the drive of Harbut Lodge and meet the A689 again, then climb up the other side and make its way north for a bit up on the moors passing the old Roman fort of Epiacum (Whitely Castle). You know you are passing Epiacum because there is an information board. There is not a lot else to see. Here the Pennine Way coincides with one of many lesser known walking trails, Isaac’s Tea Trail names after an itinerant tea seller Isaac Holden – the more famous Isaac Holden, the Scottish inventor, industrialist and parliamentarian was his cousin. The ways part at Kirkhaugh, problematically for the Tea Trail which crosses the Tyne here using a bridge which, some signage advised me, is not currently in working order. Donkin has alternative routes back to Alston from here. One relies on the defunct bridge. The other simply follows the railway along a path which he describes as “uncomfortably narrow”. I guess it has been improved since his book came out as the description fails to match reality and I walked the last two or three miles back in perfect comfort.
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