What I’m going to write about today is our stay in Northumberland, but in particular, our jaunt to Hareshaw Linn, near the little town of Bellingham.
A note on the accommodation; Coldtown Farmhouse is a stunning, traditional Northumbrian farmhouse, built in the 1830’s, situated just outside West Woodburn. It provides a wonderful aspect of the valley of the river Rede, a tributary of the North Tyne. I know what you’re thinking; well I bet that was a cold house. It was anything but, owing, I’ve no doubt, to the biggest dehumidifier I’ve ever seen in my life (and a kind request from the owners to empty it regularly). The owners lived in a modern house beyond a huge walled garden, so none of that intrusiveness you can sometimes get from old school bed and breakfasts. The owner, Anne, gave us a quick tour of the house, collected the key on our departure, but otherwise left us to it. Sign up through our referral link here, and get yourself £25 while you’re at it.
On the first full day, we took a trip out to see Hareshaw Linn, a tumbling casacade of a waterfall through a narrow gorge.
The valley is cut deep in places by Hareshaw Burn, a tributary of The River North Tyne. Over thousands of years the burn has carved out huge cliff faces, like the one seen above.
I must admit that I didn’t know much about the Linn, or Bellingham (pronounced Bellinjum) before we headed out. In fact, we rode in convoy, thanks to the growing number of children amongst the thirty-somethings, and if it wasn’t for that, I’d have never found my way.
The objective, if you can call it that, of the walk was simply to stretch our legs after a day of travelling and a night of sitting around catching up. We don’t get to meet up very often, being a multi-national group of university friends, and we’d all travelled far and wide to be together.
A beautiful Georgian house dominates the scene opposite the petrol station. On a map from the 1900’s, the house was surrounded by what looks to be a walled garden. Now the garden is slightly smaller, making way for more modern, but no less charming, terraced houses. In the summer months I’m reliably informed that the scene is enhanced by two Copper Beech trees that flank the burn.
It can be muddy and slippery when wet. It certainly was when we ventured there, due in most part to the snow that had not quite melted in the shadowy corners of the gorge, which spilled out onto the path.
The first waterfall you’ll reach would be a wonderful place to paddle on a summer’s day. Although the temperature was far from paddle-worthy, I did appreciate the peaty colour of the burn as it rushed over the rocks.
You can explore this beautiful wooded valley within a couple of hours. Simply follow the path and return on the same route.
Linnhe: Scots Gaelic word for a pool or rushing water.
For centuries people have been drawn to the Linn. The Victorians were so entranced with it, they laid a path to the waterfall for their picnics and musical gatherings. It is a place where lovers have always met, children played, poets sought inspiration and naturalists have come to wonder.
The stone buildings of the farm were once the manager’s offices of an ironworks – an industry that survived here for just ten years in the mid-1800’s, employing up to 500 people and transforming the environment. Remaining are only a few houses and the lower dam. Blast furnaces used to stand near the present day ambulance station. The current car park occupies the site of the old brickworks and stables. The once busy cooking ovens, ironstone mines and stone quarries are now only evident in the mounds and hillocks further up the Linn.
The narrow steep sided valley, cut by the Hareshaw Burn, has protected the ancient woodlands. The tree branches intertwine, creating a lush, damp environment, rich with wildlife.
There are red squirrels, bats and badgers but of special interest are the rare mosses and lichens that adorn the trees and rocks. Because of its importance to wildlife, this area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
For those of a more daring bent, you can get within showering distance of the waterfall.
Overall, a wonderful way to stretch your legs after a lazy night spent catching up with good friends.