Saturday, 1 May 2010

Allen Banks - Just off the Wall but oh dear me!

TT picked the venue for our Wednesday outing.
He chose Allen Banks one of the National Trust woodlands very near to Hadrian's Wall, 5½ miles east of Haltwhistle, 3 miles west of Haydon Bridge.
It's a walk through a gorge with towering cliff faces and lots of waymarked trails.
There's a good carpark with a picnic area and toilets.
Straight out of the car park and onto the path alongside the river, but do mind where you put your feet, irresponsible dog owners have been through.

Allen Banks heading towards the suspension Bridge

The Trust has been doing lots of work on this section over the winter months, lots of trees have been felled opening up the canopy and making a brighter pathway.

Waters of the River Allen tumbling along

Masses of wild garlic, tiny white flowered oxalis, a smattering of bluebells and primroses along the way, although the garlic was beginning to wilt a bit without the tree cover to protect it.

Wood Anemone

As we pass further into the Gorge there's a sense of neglect, it's a bit like visiting an elderly relative whose house has that musty, unkempt smell,  a good clean up would make a world of difference.
In some places there has been landslip so the path drops away and you're trying to get down a 2ft drop to continue along the path.

Eventually you come to the smart new bridge at Plankey Mill, it  leads you into the field of cows with their calves and it is a bit rutted but hey that's the country for you.

The new bridge at Plankey Mill

On through the field and we're heading off towards Stawart Peel a medieval Peel Tower standing high above Staward Gorge and the River Allan. The path takes us through woodland, much of it commercially planted conifer wood so the trees are planted in  lines.

Commercial Pine trees

Having said that it's obviously an area teaming with wildlife, the muddy spots had masses of animal tracks and droppings for us to examine and try to identify.

On a less favourable note, it was also teaming with empty beer cans and bottles.

Please take your rubbish home

We followed the track by the river, watching sand martins swoop into nests a mere 18inches above the water, let's hope there's no big rush of water to flood them out.

The paths are well marked and we headed up to the high point and the Peel Tower.

The path to Staward Peel, Ramsons (Allium ursinum) line the path

It's a very steep climb, and whoever built the steps up the path must think we all have 40 inch long legs and knees that bend up to our ears, folk have made thier own track upwards, avoiding these impossible steps, bit of a waste really.
The Tower part of Staward Peel

Eventually we reach the top, looking forward to the 'tremendous views' promised in the walks leaflet, alas these are all obscured by scrubby branches, although maybe as a photographer I'm being a bit picky here.

The best of the "tremendous views" from the top

I was surprised that there wasn't a seat available, it seems the perfect spot to have your sandwiches and a drink. At the moment the only place you could sit is on the stones of the monument.

Then we went back down and headed back to the car park.
The only people we saw were other walkers, most of them over 50, certainly no children, so the plants pulled up and the flowers, like the Toothwort that I had photographed less than an hour before, could only have been snapped off by one of these older walkers.

Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) a parasitic plant, one of the flowers deliberately snapped off by adult walkers.

Is it because the place has that uncared for feel, that people just don't care?

As we got back to the car park we did see a young NT employee doing remedial works and collecting rubbish so all is not lost.

Would I recommend it as an outing for visitors to this area?  
No I wouldn't, and that's a shame, because there is much of interest if only it wasn't all so shabby.
Catch you later.

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