It started with a zip wire. It wasn’t supposed to. It was meant to be a short walk around the village, but in Allendale that walk starts in the play park and there it was.
My friend Julie was beside herself, climbing on and setting off with abandon, Murphy the chocolate Labrador racing alongside. Julie has quite few years’ advantage on me, and much more recent contact with young play park frequenters, so she was well used to them.
My memories of childhood playgrounds are of lumbering, heavy roundabouts which, if you could climb on them at all after getting up a bit of momentum, would throw you off onto unyielding concrete out of spite. Zipwires, it transpires, are nothing like roundabouts and flying through the air at great speed was a sight more thrilling! I’ll definitely be back for more.
Anyway, back to the walk. I was promised that the walk through Deneholme wood, along the stream and back up into the village was a treat, and so it proved. Past the first gate and into the wood was a drift of garlic mustard, tall and implausibly upright, for all the world like a group of Meercats on their hind legs craning to see the stream down below in the sunshine.
We followed the path down to the first wooden bridge and up the new steps on the other side. Teams of volunteers are working hard to keep this local gem accessible and their labours are evident all around.
At this precise moment in Spring, with the sky cloudless, the blazing sun turning the woodland below dappled green and the wild garlic spreading its savoury scent, Deneholme Wood was close to perfection.
The next stretch of path down to Blackett Level – the entrance to a stretch of tunnel dug to drain water from the Allenheads mine in the mid 1800s – though stepped with stone in parts, was uneven and slippy in other places and probably not much fun in wet conditions.
Like the one at the start of the walk, the bridge by Blackett Level was bathed in bright sunlight making the water sparkle as it spilled over the ledge to join the stream below. Murphy, being a Lab, was all for taking a dip, but a lead and a strong arm kept him on the walkway, looking on longingly.
There are good visitor information boards and a plaque at the entrance to the tunnel which somehow manages to bring a real sense of the mining history of this place to life.
Had it not been for the church bells, the stroll along the East Allen, looking across to the cricket pitch and pavilion on the opposite bank, could have been miles from anywhere. And yet with just a short climb we were back up to the road and handily delivered into the square on the doorstep of the Forge Studios café with its welcome tea and scones.
Written by Nuala Obrien – The Incidental Blogger