Isaac's Tea Trail
Isaac's Tea Trail is a 58 km (36 mile) circular walk through picturesque river valleys and over high heather moorlands in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The route links Alston, England's highest town, with Allendale and includes romantic hamlets like Ninebanks and the old lead mining village of Nenthead. There is much to enjoy in the variety of wildlife and range of landscapes passed on the way, and the hand of history, whether in the shape of chapels, farmsteads, field patterns or remnants of the lead mining industry are ever present.
The Trail commemorates the life of Isaac Holden who, born into a poor lead mining family in the West Allen valley, became a miner himself. This was until a decline in the price of lead in the early 1830's resulted in the closure of the Keirsleywell mine. He then embarked upon a new career as a travelling tea seller. He married Ann Telfer and they opened a grocers shop in Allendale. With Ann running the shop, Isaac, dressed in black, became a familiar figure, in all weathers selling tea door to door to farms and outlying hamlets. You can learn more about Isaac Holden in the Trail guide.
The guide describes the circular route in four sections, each of which it recommends as a day’s walk.
Section 1 Allendale to Nenthead 18km (11.25 miles). Allow 6 hours
The Trail begins over the Allen Bridge, crossing fields and streams before climbing to Pry Hill Chapel and the tumbling ruin of Rowantree Stob. The landscape changes dramatically, as pasture yields to rough hill grazing and heather moorland, and the route climbs to Coalcleugh. Finally the Trail drops down to the village of Nenthead, destination for the end of the first day.
Section 2 Nenthead to Alston 8.9km (5.5 miles). Allow 3 hours
The Trail follows the River Nent down to Alston, and the shorter distance of this day’s walk will allow time to explore Alston’s numerous visitor attractions. Despite the evidence of past industrial activity it is the fell-side views, streams, lime kilns and ancient byres which linger longest in the memory. The trail follows the Nent’s eventful descent into Alston, past the Severn Sisters waterfall and flat beds of limestone, winding through surrounding woodland and over stone stiles between meadows.
Section 3 Alston to Ninebanks 19.1km (11.75 miles). Allow 6.5 hours
Initially the Trail follows the Pennine Way to the Roman fort at Whitley Castle. The Trail then follows the fast flowing South Tyne back upstream before climbing steadily up to the top of the Ayle valley at Clarghyllhead. The bracing moorland walk to Ninebanks affords panoramic views towards the Cheviot Hills and east coast before descending into the familiar West Allen valley. Ninebanks Youth Hostel, a former lead miner’s cottage, benefits from profits from the sale of the guidebook. This is therefore the obvious place to stay.
Section 4 Ninebanks to Allandale 12.6km (7.75 miles). Allow 5 hours
Leaving Ninebanks Youth Hostel the route passes Isaac’s birthplace at Redheugh and follows the Mohope Burn downstream. The route then leads on to Dryburn and Leadgate Bank and continues into Monkswood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The day finishes with a riverside walk along the East Allen back into Allendale.
The guidebook ‘A Guide to Isaac’s Tea Trail: Hidden Heritage of England’s North Country’ includes an accommodation list insert. Click on the guidebook image for more details and to purchase this guide. You can also download a pdf leaflet here
You can find out much more about Isaac's Tea Trail at the Trail website www.northumberlandlife.org/teatrail
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