An interesting walk in the valley of South Tynedale from Eals Bridge to Lambley Viaduct via some little known paths before returning via Ashholme and Towsbank Wood.
|Parking:||Layby, Eals Bridge|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
After a long walk over Grey Nag and Black Fell earlier in the day I was enjoying a well earned meal in the Cumberland Inn where I was staying the night in Alston. Whilst eating I noticed a poster on the wall next to me advertising a guided walk the next day to Lambley Viaduct. Although I had already planned a walk the next day to Tynehead Fell I'd not yet visited Lambley Viaduct so it was a tempting proposition.
It wasn't until breakfast the next morning that I finally made up my mind. Outside it was raining on and off and I thought a valley walk would be nicer than heading back up on to the hills. So it was that I joined the Walkers Are Welcome Alston Moor group on one of their monthly walks. The meeting point was quite handily for me the Cumberland Inn. I also got lucky in that the first two group members who arrived, Richard and Sarah, offered me a lift to the starting point for the walk, Eals Bridge, which was about 8 miles down the valley.
"At a large bend in the river our main objective, Lambley Viaduct, finally came into view. This impressive 30m high structure once carried Haltwhistle to Alston line before it was closed in 1976."
Now for the most part I tend to walk on my own or, at most, with one or two friends. So to join a large group of people who I didn't know was something of a new experience for me. Also getting a lift to Eals Bridge was another member of the group called Gina. Gina, as I found out runs the Ryder House B&B in Alston. She was also a keen hill bagger and we soon got chatting in the car about Nuttall bagging in the North Pennines. The kindness shown by Richard and Sarah in giving me a lift and then a good chat with Gina overcame any nervousness I was feeling and certainly proved that in Alston walkers are indeed welcome.
Arriving at Eals Bridge we parked at a new parking area on the western side of the bridge. In total there were sixteen of us plus three dogs and soon Keith, our leader for the day, set off over the bridge and then up the lane into the tiny hamlet of Eals. After the last house we continued on a track and then a path on the east bank of the River South Tyne. Passing a footbridge we continued on to reach the foot of a steep narrow path climbing into Towsbank Wood.
After climbing about forty metres in height the path levelled out for a stretch. Along the way we crossed a small stream with an interesting waterfall further up the gill. Having previously recced the walk route Keith had discovered a faint track leaving the path at NY682573. This track was used to drop back down to the riverbank and ultimately meet up with a riverbank path which, although not a definitive public right of way, is clearly marked on the map.
This path took us through some interesting woodland and passed the ruins of a dwelling marked on the map as Low Asholme. By this point I was having a good chat with Cathy. In addition to being a member of the Alston walking group Cathy was also involved with another walking group at Haltwhistle and is involved in planning walks for the twice yearly Haltwhistle Walking Festival.
At a large bend in the river our main objective, Lambley Viaduct, finally came into view. This impressive 30m high structure once carried the Haltwhistle to Alston line before it was closed in 1976. A number of those in the group still remember the line when it was active. To get up on to the viaduct itself required us to pass below the arches on the east bank, cross a footbridge (dwarfed by the viaduct) and then climb steeply up the other side to reach the western end of the viaduct. Needless to say the views up and downstream from the viaduct were superb.
After walking back over to the eastern end of the viaduct we stopped for a lunch break. We then continued on a path, initially through the top of Hag Wood. The route then took us across some pastures and a muddy track at Assholme. Passing some log piles we then continued on a path heading south for Towsbank. All along this stretch there were good views looking back down to Lambley Viaduct. Probably the best view of the viaduct was from the ruin of Lingy Close. At the same time there was also a good view across the valley to Glendue Fell and Hartleyburn Common.
After passing the buildings at Towsbank we took a path dropping down into Towsbank Wood. Thanks to fallen trees and lots of scrub the path in the next section wasn't easy to follow. Eventually we managed to work our way down to a clearer track at about NY683567. Turning left on this we soon came to some of the remnants of Tows Bank Colliery. Opened as recently as 1986 it was only active until 2001. Further information about the colliery, along with photos, can be found on the Subterranea Britannica website.
As the path became indistinct once again we crossed over the largely covered remains of the tramway for the colliery. Keeping an eye out for waymarker posts we eventually regained a clearer path before the footbridge over Kindle Burn. Having crossed over the burn we emerged out of the woods to cross several pastures and reach the Eals Bank road. From there it was a simple case of following the road back down to the bridge and the end of the walk.
Lambley Viaduct makes a fine object for a walk. It proved to be fortuitous then that I saw this walk advertised whilst I was actually staying in Alston. The walk itself was very enjoyable made even more so by the company of the Walkers Are Welcome Alston Moor group. I'd like to thank Keith, Cathy, Gina, Richard, Sarah and everyone else for making me feel so welcome. Having since signed up on to their mailing list I hope to join them for more walks in the future.