“That’s a big lens,” I commented to the gentleman who was cradling his camera by the waterside, “How long is it?”
He looked pleased that I had noticed.
“150 to 400mm full frame,” he replied. There was a note of pride in his voice as he lifted the camera for me to see. I guessed that was holding around £2000 worth of photographic equipment so I reckoned he took things seriously.
“What photos do you like to take?” I went on. He had been standing at the viewpoint where the Kielder and Bakethin reservoirs join and, despite the glorious blue skies that stretched in all directions, he hadn’t taken a single shot in the few minutes that we had been there. He seemed to be waiting for something.
“Oh, I like wildlife,” he explained. My mind moved to the red squirrels and ospreys that Kielder is noted for.
“There’s a colony of adders here,” he pointed to the rock bank below our feet, “they like to sun themselves on the warm stones.”
I found that I had subconsciously taken a step back.
“Oh really?” I returned, looking a little too quickly around my feet. “Have you had any success so far?”
I’m not good with snakes and so did my best to maintain an interested and nonchalant expression.
“No, not yet.” He looked thoughtful. “I saw three brown ones yesterday but I’m waiting for the black and white one today.”
“Ah, I see,” I said out loud.
“Must be a Newcastle United supporter,” I mused silently.
My mouth went onto say “well, I hope you’re successful” while my mind privately finished the sentence with “when I’ve gone.”
I smiled and took my leave, following the rest of my walking group back up the lane to the main reservoir trail.
We were on the first section of the North Tyne Trail and the four of us were now on the final mile to Matthew’s Linn car park.
I had spotted this long-distance footpath on the Ordnance Survey map one evening when finalising one of the sections of the Teesdale Way that I had been following earlier this year. The South Tyne starts less than 1km from the infant Tees in the Pennines behind my home in the Eden valley. The map suggested a dedicated path alongside.
My journey along the Tees was coming to an end and I was already grieving for its loss. The river had been a fascinating focus for walks on the days when the weather for rambling the Lake District hills was too inclement. I had enjoyed seeing the landscape from its banks as well as journeying through Teesdale’s history and geography. I was going to miss it. So, the option of another river walk was an extremely attractive one as the summer began to wane.
I did some research and found that the River Tyne Trail stretches over 135 miles and covers the North Tyne, the South Tyne and then the Tyne itself where the two meet. The South Tyne starts at Garrigill, just south of Alston in the Cumbrian Pennines. The North Tyne begins at Deadwater, near Kielder, in Northumberland.
I discovered too that the waymarked and official route was as a result of the efforts of volunteers from a north east based cancer charity. I loved their name and their cause and decided that this would be something to look forward to doing over the cooler months. A friend popped into the Daft as a Brush cancer care shop in Newcastle to pick a copy of the route’s guidebook for me and I have to own up to being ridiculously excited when I finally got my hands on it. New river, new things to discover and a gentle reminder of the journeying challenges that cancer sufferers face when travelling for treatment.
And here I was, on our first day, in glorious summer sunshine enjoying the fruits of the charity’s labour with friends in a beautiful area. The charity had arranged for the path beginning to be marked by a dedicated sculpture that was installed, with landowner permission, at the agreed birthplace of the North Tyne – the Deadwater Burn. I’m not quite sure how appropriate the name of Deadwater is in this context but the tiny hamlet consists of a farm, a few cottages and a converted station house and can’t quite decide if it is in England or Scotland. Access is permitted across private land to the start point and we dutifully took our inaugural walk photos there before tramping off along the disused railway line that trailed us to Kielder 3½ miles away.
For a lovely Bank Holiday Saturday, the area had the gentle bustle of visitors and holiday makers but we still felt as though we had the place to ourselves. Posses of families and friends on mountain bikes would sail past occasionally, some with bells and thanks, others in an irritatingly oblivious haze.
The walk begins faithful to the burn as it winds through forestry and fells. The infant river is then unceremoniously swallowed up in the Bakethin reservoir under the Kielder viaduct. From there, we had the reservoirs as company and wide forest tracks that foster easy walking and chat. The paths meandered through lakeshore woodland that kept us occupied with wildflowers and sudden new vistas of the reservoirs that stretch for over 5 miles. The shade was welcome too in the strong sunshine and heat.
The issue of returning to the car after an 8 mile ramble was resolved by meeting our taxi from the Matthew’s Linn car park. Our driver was in the middle of wedding guest runs and finding out how she had done in the Industrial Tent at the Falstone Show, just down the road from our pickup point. She had been up since dawn baking scones and fine-tuning pies, flans, cakes and jams in her quest for success. Her family were looking forward to eating the results of her labours over the rest of the weekend. I made a mental note to book her again for the next section so we could find out how she had got on.