Take the Barhaugh road across the bridge. Immediately beyond is the small riverside nature reserve of Williamston, where salts of lead and zinc have influenced the flora, washed from the mines of the North Pennines. Flowers such as mountain pansy, spring sandwort and alpine pennycress, which are tolerant of heavy metals, have replaced more common riverside plants. Follow the road, turning left at the junction to Williamston Farm. Go through the farmyard and gate on to the footpath to Parson Shields. The path forks beyond the second gate. Take the higher path to a ruined building, then continue to an opening in the wall. Go through this and climb steeply, through a gate in the higher wall, then follow the wall and, where it turns left, take a line up the heather slope to a wire fence.
Cross the fence and follow the faint track on its north side, over the moor. This dips into a boulder-filled hollow before rising again to Low Bradshaw Hill.
A further gentle rise leads across High Bradshaw Hill. Beyond this, the track disappears into a deep peaty hollow, which might be waterlogged, but can be crossed with care. This is succeeded by sphagnum bog, also likely to need careful negotiation, particularly after wet weather.
Move across to a ruined building, after which the ground levels out to reveal the expanse of Whitfield Lough, the highest natural lake in Northumberland. Here there are likely to be flocks of black-headed gulls, herring gulls and perhaps the occasional black-backed gull. The lake is also frequented by greylag and Canada geese, while skylarks and meadow pipits fly over the surrounding moor, where you might catch a glimpse of roe deer.
Return to the fence, cross it and follow it to a wall, beyond which lie the summit cairn, trig point and gamekeeper’s hut
of Whitfield Moor.
There is a distinct feeling of remoteness; the South Tyne Valley is more than 3 miles away to the west, while the land to the east slopes for a similar distance into the West Allen. The road linking the dales lies 2 miles to the southeast, but in all directions there is only open moor, wide sky and the call of grouse, lapwing, curlew and golden plover.
Follow the wall south, keeping it to your left, to Whitfield Law. Cross Fell and Great Dun Fell, the highest summits of the Pennines, dominate the far skyline. Continue downhill to the hidden surprise of a narrow gorge and a small but pretty waterfall at the head of Barhaugh Burn.
Scramble up the slope beyond the burn and continue to a gateway in the fence. Turn right and head steadily downhill. On reaching a wall, follow it down to a gate that gives access to a field above farm ruins. Follow the broad farm track
to a tarred road. Turn right and walk along
this road back to the starting point.
Wild heather moorland with patches of damp sphagnum bog. Boots and waterproofs/windproofs are necessary. In the main, the route follows walls and fences, and so is relatively easy to adhere to.
How to get there
by car: Take the A689 from Brampton or Alston. Just south of Slaggyford village is a car parking space beside a bridge over the South Tyne. The Pennine Way footpath also crosses this point.
By public transport:
The 681 bus service linking Alston with Haltwhistle, (Mon-Sat) passes through Slaggyford.
Blueberry’s Tea Rooms and Guest House
Market Place, Alston
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Ordnance Survey Landranger map 87. Grid ref: NY 680 519
England’s highest market town, Alston, lies 4 miles to the south of Slaggyford.
The South Tynedale Railway, the highest narrow gauge railway in England, runs between Alston
Alston Tourist Information Centre, Town Hall, Front Street, Alston CA9 3RF
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