As usual, I don’t get away as early as I had planned, there is rain forecast for after lunch. Allendale is quiet, the school bus has taken the local children off somewhere else.
At the bottom of the hill I rejoin the East Allen River next to an old corn mill, but soon I’m on paths through the meadows. Remote farm houses appear out of nowhere. One little cottage has no road to it, they have to walk down to the footbridge over the East Allen and up to the main road, the lady said she had just done her school ‘run’, what a place to find for a Bohemian lifestyle. They keep horses too. Eventually I reach that footbridge over the river at Peckriding Crags, a popular Victorian picnic spot.
I drop down to the river at Studdon Bridge where there is a shaft going down to the Blackett Level 25 m below. More isolated farms are passed. A farmer from one tells me of a successful scheme to introduce children to agricultural and environmental projects. At Rowantree Stob a bastle has been conserved and one is able to wander around it.
Slowly I start climbing out of the valley and meet The Black Way, at first a rough estate road but becoming a vague path through the heather. This route would have been busy in the mining days with ponies taking their loads of ore to the smelt mills. The weather is changing with a cold wind bringing in light showers and obscuring the views. I shelter in the lee of a peat hag for a bite to eat before carrying on over higher ground. It would be easy to go astray up here. Over to the southeast is Killhope Law in County Durham, I’m hovering between Northumberland and Cumbria. As I lose height, the enclosures and ruins of Coalcleugh come into sight – once a thriving village with chapel, library and pub. Not much remains, and today it feels a rather bleak place to be.
The last climb over the moors takes me to the highest point of the Tea Trail, 585m, on the county boundary. I don’t linger but press on down towards Nenthead where the moors are full of the evidence of the past – spoil heaps, hushes and ruined buildings.
The bike repair man is still busy but The Miners Arms no longer serves refreshments and the museum is closed, so there is nothing to keep me in Nenthead. My car is the only one in the carpark, thankfully it still has four wheels.
Isaac’s Tea trail has proved to be a classic little long distance way, all 38 miles of it. This is beautiful English countryside with a wonderful heritage. The villages are largely unspoilt and seem to retain a good sense of community often lost in today’s society. Accommodation and shops are plentiful. I’ve enjoyed the wildlife, even though I didn’t encounter any red squirrels, and learnt something of the lead mining industry which shaped the area. The ancient paths are clear but not heavily used, so are a joy to explore. I would highly recommend this as a short backpacking trip for the casual walker looking for exercise and interest. Where to next in this ‘staycation’ year?