A super circular walk above the valley of West Allen Dale including visits to the top of Knockshield Moor, Brownley Hill and The Dodd.
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After recent walks up on to Pike Rigg and Roman Fell I only needed to visit Brownley Hill in West Allen Dale to complete all the Deweys in the North Pennines. When I'd first planned a route for this hill a couple of years ago it was a fairly short six mile walk from Carrshield. Almost the night before this walk I changed my mind and, to make the long drive more worth while, worked out a ten mile route from Coalcleugh that would also incorporate The Dodd, one of the North Pennines 2,000fters.
The forecast for the day was excellent and after driving as far as South Tynedale under cloudless skies it was with a wry smile that I arrived at the layby near Coalcleugh at the head of West Allen Dale to park up under a substantial bank of cloud. As it happened the cloud hung around for a couple of miles and then broke up and I enjoyed a beautiful, if breezy, day (indeed I frequently had to go and fetch my hat back after it had been blown from off my head).
"The views of West Allen Dale along the next section on Whitleyshield Carrs were particularly fine and in addition I could see, far to the north, the long line of Cheviot hills from Peel Fell all the way to The Cheviot itself."
Right from the start of the walk the views of West Allen Dale were excellent. After passing a series of ruined farmhouses with names such as Whetstonemea and Rushymea I left the bridleway I'd initially been following for a largely pathless walk, first to visit the Three Curricks and then the unmarked top of Carrshield Moor. Continuing on the sun finally broke through the cloud as I arrived at the impressive currick on Knockshield Moor, a top that only just misses out as a Dewey.
Brownley Hill, the main object of the walk proved to be a more interesting hill than I'd at first imagined. Although mainly grassy there were also some nice outcrops and rashes of rock as well as the substantial edge of Greenleycleugh Crags. The summit was marked by a trig point and between the trig point and Greenleycleugh Crags were a few small tarns which seem to have become home to a sizeable population of black headed gulls. There were hundreds of them and they didn't seem to be happy to see me and every now and then a handful would break away from the main group and come and check me out.
After eating my lunch I walked along the rim of Greenleycleugh Crags before dropping down to the high road between Carrshield and Allenheads Town. Crossing rhe road I continued to descend, first past Taylorburn and then on past Limestone Brae to reach the River West Allen and the lowest point of the walk. Crossing the river by a footbridge I climbed up a couple of pastures before skirting around the farmhouse at Farney Shield in an area called the Bottoms. From there I picked up a grassy quad track that led me on a steady pull up on to Smallburns Moor passing along the way Jackson's Fold, quite possibly the finest sheepfold that I've come across to date.
From Jackson's Fold the path continued steadily uphill on to The Dodd, the grass only giving way to heather towards the end when I left the path to reach the summit. Way back in 2005 The Dodd was my first North Pennines 2,000fter so it felt fitting to me that I should revisit it on the same day I'd completed the North Pennine Deweys.
From the top of The Dodd it was then a short and what should have been a straightforward walk back to the car. However, whilst crossing Alston Cleugh, I turned suddenly half way across the stream to see if there was a good photo opportunity and immediately slipped over on the slippery rock on the stream bed and fell lengthwise into the shallow water landing heavily on my right knee and hip. Sore and wet I limped back to the car thankful that I'd not banged my head. The walk did however end on a bright note when I came across a wonderful patch of mountain pansies just below the road.
Despite my accident at the end this was a wonderful walk in an area which is fairly unfrequented even by North Pennines standards. Indeed the only person I saw was on the road near Limestone Brae, a rather surreal encounter with a strangely garbed man who I think must have been a monk at the Buddhist monastery that I'd read somewhere is situated in the area. He was a very nice chap who was out for an afternoon walk in his long brown robes and was keen on telling me about some oystercatchers I might see down by the river.
With this walk I finally completed my target of visiting all the Marilyns, Nuttalls, Hewitts and Deweys in the North Pennines and while it may not have been the case of leaving the best til last it was still a walk that I'd heartily recommend and which I'd happily do again.