19km-5hrs including 30mins at the Diptonmill Inn
A mixed walk, starting over spring chorus filled moorland above Allendale, through beech resplendent woodland of West Dipton Dene and finally across lush meadows and pastures surrounding Hexham.
Once on the moor we were surprised to see so many Curlews, but in spring and early summer they move from their normal coastal habitat to breed in areas such as the moorland above Allendale.
Another wader, the lapwings breed inland and although fewer than the curlews were frequently entertaining us with dramatic aerial displays. They have a slow wing beat that doesn’t appear enough to keep them aloft.
As we started to descend from the moor, we were pleasantly surprised to see, not just hear, a group of skylarks singing energetically as they hung suspended overhead, before plummeting to the ground.
This red grouse habitat is managed by muirburn, a controlled burning, to encourage regeneration of heather, illustrated by strips of heather looking from a distance like strange hieroglyphs. And the line of shooting butts confirmed that Spitalshield was an active grouse moor.
Most of the walk through West Dipton Dene along the top of the narrow wooded valley was uneventful, but on descending to the stream we found the remaining path to the waterfall impassable as it was blocked and damaged by a fallen tree.
And although tempted to end our journey at Diptonmill Inn and ask for a lift back, we resolved to set out on the remaining 3 miles to Hexham.