A once-lawless landscape of hills and valleys with an interesting village.
Distance 7.5 miles (12.1km)
Minimum time 3hrs
Ascent/gradient 1,083ft (330m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Burnside and moorland paths and tracks - some wet areas
Landscape Valleys with woodland and moorland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL42 Keilder Water & Forest
Start/finish NY 793858
Dog friendliness Dogs on leads in farmland
Parking Beside Tarset Village Hall in Lanehead, on Greenhaugh road
Public toilets None on route
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 Walk to the staggered crossroads in the middle of Lanehead and turn right, signed 'Donkleywood'. At the Redmire cottages turn right. Go through a gate, over two stiles and through a hand gate. Bear left to a stile in the field corner. Bend right, following the river bank and go over five stiles. The path rises, goes through a hand gate and to a footbridge. Go through a gate at the end, then ahead to meet a track. Turn left to the farm buildings.
2 Go through two gates between the buildings, then ascend the lane. As it bears left, go ahead past a waymarker and downhill to cross the stream. Pass another waymarked post and go through a gateway. Bend right after it, go through a hand gate and turn left along the fence. Go over a stile on the right, then half left towards the house and church. Keep left of a ruined wall, and then bear left to follow a wall downhill to a stream.
3 Cross the stream, go over the stile beyond and climb the hill. Bear left past the church to a gate. Turn right along the lane. At the T-junction turn left. Follow the lane past Redheugh farm and the 'Forestry Commission Sidwood' sign to Sidwood Picnic Area, near white-painted buildings.
4 Turn left, signed 'Slaty Ford'. Follow the path through the wood for a short distance, then take another to your right. Go over a crossing track and continue uphill. After the track levels out, it goes beside woodland to a gate. Continue through the field, winding through plantations, to cross a ford then past a signpost on to a crossing track.
5 Turn left and go over another ford. Continue up the track to a gate. After ¼ mile (400m) look for a stile in the wall on your right. Go over and bear half right down the field. Go over a stream, up to a wire fence and follow it left. Go right, through a gate, and cross the field, through a gate, into the farmyard.
6 Take the right-hand of two gates to your left. Go through another gate and bear left to follow the track downhill. At the bottom turn left along the road. As it begins to rise, take a footpath, signed 'The Hott', over a stile. Follow the riverside path, through a kissing gate, to the suspension bridge.
7 Just after the hut beyond the bridge, bear left. Cross the railway embankment and go through a gate. Bear half right to a large tree in the field corner and join the road. Turn right, then bear left on the road. Continue over a cattle grid. Cross the river on a bridge and continue to Lanehead, turning left at the junction to the parking place.
The area around Lanehead is called Tarset. The name means 'the fold in the dry pine woods' and is first recorded in the early 13th century. Although the car parking area is beside Tarset Village Hall, there is in fact no Tarset village - only the burn in its valley, a parish name and the scant and confusing remains of Tarset Castle south of Lanehead. This was started in 1267 on the site of an earlier Scottish fortress by 'Red' John Comyn, a claimant to the throne of Scotland who was stabbed to death by the altar of the Greyfriars church in Dumfries by Robert the Bruce in 1306. The castle was burned by the Scots in 1525, and largely destroyed by a railway cutting in 1860. The walk takes you alongside the Tarset Burn before crossing it and heading across moorland to Thorneyburn.
The tiny hamlet of Thorneyburn mainly consists of the church and the large former Rectory. Both were constructed in 1818 for Greenwich Hospital. It had been given the parish after the former patron, the Earl of Derwentwater, had been disgraced for his part in the Old Pretender's rebellion of 1715. Like nearby Greystead, Wark and Humshaugh, Thorneyburn had a succession of naval chaplains as rector, and all four have very similar churches and rectories. The farmhouse at nearby Redhaugh probably started life as a fortified bastle house; at the edge of the small field opposite is a pretty pyramid-roofed 18th-century dovecote.
Sidwood Picnic Area is the start of a number of waymarked trails though this part of the huge Kielder Forest, including the 'Reivers Trail'. As well as the ubiquitous pines there are a number of ornamental trees that remain from the old Sidwood Estate. Through the woods and over the ridge, you come to Slaty Ford - a peaceful place, but with a dark history. In September 1796 six workers in the nearby colliery shaft were killed - either by an influx of water from a disused shaft or from an explosion; the records are unclear. On 20 September 1957 a Vickers Varsity aeroplane, on a training flight from RAF Thorney Island in Sussex, crashed here, killing all five crew members.
The beautiful suspension bridge over the River North Tyne towards the end of the walk was put up in the 1860s to provide access from the south bank to Thorneyburn Station on the Border Counties Railway. The line went from Hexham to Riccarton in the Borders, following the North Tyne Valley. It was opened in 1862 and closed in 1956. Part of the route is now submerged beneath the waters of the Kielder Reservoir.
Bellingham, 3¼ miles (5.3km) east of Lanehead, has a fascinating church with a stone-vaulted roof. Outside the slightly Germanic town hall is a cannon captured during the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900. A delightful walk from the village takes you up Hareshaw Burn gorge to Hareshaw Linn waterfall.
There is nowhere directly on the route, but in nearby Greenhaugh the Hollybush Inn offers tea and coffee, bar snacks and dining room meals. In Bellingham there are the Riversdale and Cheviot hotels, the Rose and Crown Inn, Fountain Cottage Tea Rooms and The Snack Bar.
Northumberland National Park is making efforts to increase and protect the alder tree in its area - examples have been identified near Redheugh farm. The alder has broad, dull green leaves and a black bark scarred with clefts - in winter it has greyish catkins. It thrives in marshy land, and has a deep tap root that ensures that it is fed even in drought conditions.