Yesterday we went out to Allenheads, one of the highest villages in England, aiming to check out the route for the Allenheads walk on Sunday 17th June. Allenheads gets it’s name from being the area that is the source or heads of the River East Allen, the main source of the River Allen. The River Allen is the main focus of another walk later in the year, where we visit Allen Banks, further down river.
Again, the weather was perfect, sunny with a welcome breeze. However, having arrived at lunch time and a little parched we needed something to kick off the day…
The Hemmel Cafe
The Hemmel Cafe is where we started. After a long journey with lots of traffic, a cup of tea and a home-made fruit scone with butter and jam were just what we wanted.
This cafe is very popular with cyclists, not just because it is on the route of the C2C but because the area is perfect for cycling. This does mean that sometimes the cafe can be quite busy.
Once we were ready, we set off up the road. We passed one of the many lead mining shafts in the area. Most are capped for safety but this one was left uncapped and was covered over with a metal grating. We threw some stones down to see how deep it was. We think that we heard a splash but it was very faint so it must’ve been deep. We also saw the sloped access to the mine, where the miners would take ponies down.
Continuing on we followed the path up the road towards the start of the walk over Byerhope Bank. There is a shortcut over a ladder stile. However, this stile, which was a bit rickety to start with, is now unusable. We managed to use it but another rung disappeared when I (Martin) stepped on it. We’ll have to take a diversion next time.
Once onto the track and away from the road, the walking is much easier. The views over the valley are spectacular. We soon passed an interesting cairn. It was constructed in 2017 as a monument to the memory of a long standing Chairman of the Allenheads Trust. There is also a stone seat here to contemplate life while admiring the view.
Down to the river
From here we continued along the track until it descended back down towards the river. The river crossing was a ford, although there was a old footbridge a little further along. We chanced the ford as the water wasn’t too deep.
We walked past the farm and into a field. Luckily the cattle and young were eyeing us from a safe distance on the other side of the river. Crossing a stile led us to a safe little path by the river, which was becoming prettier the further we walked. The prettiest part being around St Peter’s churchyard.
Going away from the river we encountered an enclosure full of sheep and lambs, noisily waiting for the farmer to do something with them. We carefully negotiated them, trying not to disturb them too much. We then started the climb up the other side of the valley, via fields, gates and stiles, and more sheep of course.
A couple of miles of field walking later we emerged onto a road. Following the road down we found Thorngreen Lime Kilns, which we had spotted earlier on from the other side of the valley. These were repaired in 2011 by Natural England.
Walking the remaining leg back to Allenheads, we crossed several more fields. They were similar to the other fields except for the quantity of rabbits. As soon as we entered the fields, hundreds of rabbits ran for cover jumping over walls. It was an incredible sight to see.
The Allenheads Inn
Arriving back into Allenheads, we changed our shoes and relaxed. It was after 5pm, so the cafe had closed. Luckily, The Allenheads Inn was open. Several cyclists were sitting outside. We went in and had an interesting chat about the Inn. With two bars, a pool room, a restaurant and accommodation, it serves the cycle route well. I (Martin) last visited this place 20 years ago, when doing the C2C. The layout hadn’t changed much but the decor had. The landlord at the time I visited was a little eccentric and accumulated a great deal of maritime memorabilia, which used to hang from the ceiling. He retired in 2001 and handed the tenure on.
To round off the day we enjoyed a small beverage sitting outside the Inn as the sun set.
Verdict on the walk
We had a great day walking in the Allenheads area. However, we have decided that whist the walk was good, it was a little long at 9.5 miles. Also, there were some parts that would be difficult and not rewarding. So, we are aiming to reduce it down to 7.5 miles and still retain the best bits.