Day 11 Greenhead to Alston
This can be a difficult 17 miles over very wet terrain. 'Black' Hill gives a clue to terrain that seems to have been abandoned by man, with few waymarks PJ or PW, a sodden landscape and a navigational headache to boot. Please use OS maps (43 & 31) on this section. With careful map reading the South Tyne Trail can be used more than is intended on the original route. This will give encouragement and speed progress afoot towards Alston!
From the Greenhead Hotel go uphill immediately after the cross roads and just before the dead-end sign take a track (FP Blenkinsopp Common ¾m) on the left that swings right at the bottom of the slope to pass through a gate by a cottage garage. Take the wet track keeping the fence/hedge on the right and continue forward along the edge of the field to thecorner of a plantation on the right. Here, cross a stile, take the steps down to a track and go right to the verge of the busy A69. Cross this with care aiming for hidden wooden steps just to the right, leading up to a stile at the top of the embankment. At the stile there is a footpath sign – follow this half right to meet a ladder stile.
The path ascends from this to another ladder stile in a wall. Cross and go immediately left over another stile, then bear right over a field of marsh grass aiming to the right of a solitary wind-blown tree. In poor visibility, walk parallel to the power lines to a metal gate near another gate with PW on it. At a stile leading onto a track, yet again, the Pennine Way is joined with the luxury of intermittent waymarks. Take the grassy path opposite, to a ladder stile in a wall, to arrive at a gate just before a ruined stone building. Go straight ahead across the meadow to a gate with a Pennine Way sign. Bear left, crossing stone slabs, climbing up to the ruins of derelict barns at Gap Shields Farm. Go left to the fence and, just before a gate, go right climbing to a stile in the fence. Here a faint track meanders in a generally southerly direction to a ladder stile to the left of the OS column on the top of Black Hill. The path goes over marsh grass to a fence corner.
Continue with the fence on the right dropping gently to bend left to cross a boardwalk and a ladder stile. Stay with the fence on the right and cross a footbridge to arrive at a waymarker post beside the fence. Go left here over marsh grass in a generally easterly direction towards the buildings of Highside keeping to the high ground. Two prominent gates to the right of the farm come into view. Here drop right towards Greenriggs farm, which can be seen below, to a ladderstile in the fence. Descend the field to the farm and take a very wet route to a ladder stile. Go right, around the farm buildings to the access track and follow it to the minor road.
A finger-posted footbridge over Kellah Burn leads to Batey Shield where waymarks point the way through the buildings. (If you need an escape from the wet conditions underfoot, take the footpath before the footbridge, cross the field to a gate and the minor road. Cross Hartley burn and continue on this very quiet road to the houses at the junction with the A689. Use your OS map here) The path leads to a footbridge over Hartley Burn. Turn sharp left and head for the high ground where a path will be found which ascends the rise to High House, a ruined barn.
The path follows more boggy ground, to pass the remains of Lambley Colliery to a stile onto the A689. Here the Pennine Way is left for a short while for two purposes. Firstly to take in the magnificent Lambley Viaduct as it crosses high above the River South Tyne and secondly to escape a boggy stretch of the Pennine Way for a spell of easy walking on the South Tyne Trail. Go left, then turn left at a road (SP Featherstone 4m) and after a few yards go right on a footpath (FP Lambley ⅓m). This goes up a cottage drive, over a stile and into a meadow. Continue straight ahead to a stile, then a kissing gate and bear right over the next meadow to a gate in the fence.
Take the under-pass to another gate and go right, past the cottages onto a minor road. Turn right, through the hamlet of Lambley, passing the little church of St. Mary and St. Patrick. Just before the A689, take a path on the left (FP Lambley Viaduct ¼m; Coanwood 1m) and follow the lane. Another gate leads onto an overgrown metalled path which heads downhill to a wicket gate at the edge of woodland. Descend the steps to a junction of paths and go forward (FP South Tyne Trail South; Slaggyford 3¾m) to swing right beside the pillar of the viaduct then left to cross a footbridge. The path climbs a steep flight of steps and then crosses boardwalks to pass beside the old Lambley Railway Station up to the right. Climb to the old trackbed and go left, passing over a minor road.
The path stays with the trackbed to Burnstones and continues on to Slaggyford. The tree-lined route is highly attractive and there are frequent and unexpected views left into the valley of the South Tyne and the hills beyond. Slaggyford announces itself with the station platform on the right and the former station master’s house opposite. Go left at this house onto a short road leading down to the A689 and turn right to where a minor road (SP Barhaugh Hall) leaves on the left. Almost immediately pick up an overgrown riverside path which passes underneath the striking viaduct at Lintley, goes left over a footbridge and rises to a farm track. Cross the track and, with the railway embankment on the left, go over undulating ground and many stiles to arrive at Kirkhaugh.
Turn left down towards the railway track and just before the bridge go right onto a farm track and head south away from the railway track (this section is no longer disused and carries the South Tynedale Railway) to rejoin the A689 by a telephone box. Cross the road, go through a narrow gap in the low wall and rise on a good path through trees. After a kissing gate look for a stile towards the right hand field corner onto a track curving around the earthwork embankments. These mark the site of Whitley Castle, a Roman fort and signal station. The bridge over the lovely Gilderdale Burn is reached which is left on a good grass path climbing through a succession of gates to the top of the rise. Where a gate leads onto a wide walled track, take the wall stile to the left of the gate and bear left over marsh grass to reach the buildings of Harbut Law where the A689 is rejoined. Turn right for a few yards to the access road to Harbut Lodge and leave it at a wall stile on the right. The signed path crosses meadows towards the river. Stay close to it, even though for a while, it seems to be taking you away from Alston. The path finally meets the A689. Turn left to the junction with the A686, with Alston’s War Memorial to the right, and cross the fine South Tyne Bridge to finish this stage at the Town Hall and the Jacob Walton Memorial.