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Romans and Countryfolk of Corbridge

Discover little Corbridge, where history lies around every corner.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 3hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 525ft (160m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Village streets, riverside and farm paths and lanes, 8 stiles

Landscape Small town and low hills

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL43 Hadrian's Wall

Start/finish NY 992642

Dog friendliness Dogs should be on leads

Parking On town centre streets

Public toilets On Princess Street between Hill Street and Main Street

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1 The walk begins at Low Hall Pele on the eastern end of Main Street. Head west down Main Street before turning right up Princes Street. At the town hall turn left along Hill Street, then, just before the church, turn left up the narrow street to pass the Vicar's Pele. Turn right at the Market Place and head north up Watling Street, then Stagshaw Road, which is staggered to the left beyond the Wheatsheaf Inn.

2 Go left along Trinity Terrace then left again along a footpath, signed 'West Green'. This leads past Catherine Cookson's old house, Town Barns, to the Georgian house of Orchard Vale, where you turn right, then left along a lane to the river.

3 Turn left along Carelgate, then follow the riverside path to the town bridge. Go over the bridge, then follow the south banks of the Tyne on an unsurfaced track that passes the cricket ground at Tynedale Park before mounting a grassy embankment running parallel to the river.

4 Turn right up some steps, go over a ladder stile, then cross the railway tracks (with care). Another stile and some more steps lead the path through a wood and across a field to meet the A695 where you turn right - there's a footpath on the nearside.

5 Just beyond some cottages, turn left up a country lane, which zig-zags up Prospect Hill. Just after the first bend leave the lane for a southbound path that climbs fields. Just short of some woods the path meets a track where you turn right for a few paces to rejoin the lane. Follow this up to reach a crossroads at the top of the hill, where you turn right.

6 After passing Temperley Grange and West farms leave the road for a path on the right that follows first the right-hand side, then the left-hand side of a dry-stone wall across high fields and down to the Snokoehill Plantations.

7 Go through a gate to enter the wood, then turn left along a track running along the top edge. The track doubles back to the right, soon to follow the bottom edge of the woods.

8 Turn right beyond a gate above High Town farm and follow the track, which becomes tarred beyond West Fell.

9 Beyond Roecliff Lodge a path on the left crosses a field to reach the A695 road. Across the other side of the road the path continues and enters a copse known as The Scrogs, before joining the B6529 by Corbridge Railway Station. Follow this over the bridge and back into Corbridge itself.

Corbridge is a picturesque little town, with Georgian stone cottages, antique shops and old inns cuddled up to a square-towered church. Nothing much happens here these days: people come for a little peace and quiet away from the city and maybe a spot of Sunday lunch in one of those inns. The wide River Tyne flows by lazily on a journey that takes it from the wild hills of Northumberland, through the cityscapes of Newcastle and onwards to the shivering North Sea.

Though the present town was founded in Saxon times, the Romans, under Agricola, first arrived in ad 79. They established their settlement six years later, just ½ mile (800m) to the west of modern Corbridge, on the north bank of the Tyne. Known as Corstopitum, it would have been the most northerly settlement in the Roman Empire, strategically placed at the junction of their Dere Street (York to northern Britain) and Stanegate (Corbridge to Carlisle) roads, and near to what was, after ad 122, the frontier, Hadrian's Wall. The Romans also had a fine bridge across the Tyne, and you can still see the rubble remains of foundations when the water levels are low.

In past centuries Corbridge was second only to Newcastle in this part of the world, and of great strategic importance. As such, the town has known many troubled times. You'll see that straight away, for the first house you come to, Low Hall on Main Street, has a fortified pele tower. These fortifications were added to defend against the Scots; both the marauding Border reivers, who came to rob and pillage, and the Scots armies, who came to destroy. William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and King David II all invaded and all laid the town waste on their journeys south. Centrepiece of modern Corbridge is undoubtedly St Andrews Church, built in the Saxon era and with a Roman archway borrowed from the older settlement. The church was extensively modified in the 13th century, with the addition of aisles, transepts and chancel, and was restored during Victorian times.

Round the back of the church you'll come across another fortified house, this time the 13th-century Vicar's Pele - even the clergy were not immune to the wrath of the Scots. Before going down to the River Tyne and that magnificent 17th-century bridge, the route passes Town Barns, where the famous north east based author Catherine Cookson lived in the 1970s.

We take a short riverside ramble now, before climbing out of the valley, traversing pastures scattered with woods, and strolling along hedge-lined country lanes. You arrive at Prospect Hill, with its pristine cottages and farmhouses. It does indeed have prospects - a fine view of Corbridge, the Tyne Valley and the low hills beyond where the Romans marched and Hadrian's Wall once offered a firm deterrent to those erring northerners.

While you're there

Visit the Roman Fort, Corstopitum, where the two large granaries and the Fountain House are particularly impressive. The main street that runs through is the Stanegate. Finds from the archaeological digs are kept in the museum. They include Roman armour, coins and other personal artefacts.

Where to eat and drink

The Angel on Main Street is a large 17th-century coaching inn that offers a fine range of tasty meals, including Sunday roasts. It's a free house with Black Sheep and Courage ales always available. Children are welcome.

What to look for

In an old stableyard wall behind the Wheatsheaf Inn (off Watling Street) there are two crudely sculpted heads believed to have come from one of the three Corbridge churches set ablaze by the invading Scots in the early 14th century.

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