In The Midst Of A Global Pandemic,
Rachael and I decided to take advantage of the weather, and the new car, before Boris Johnson inevitably put the country on lockdown due to Coronavirus. Although, even at the time of writing, 1 daily form of exercise is still permitted with members of your household – there is no limitations on where or how long that form of exercise can last – so it would have been fine anyway 😎
#1 - Oldgate Bridge
#2 - Skinnery Bridge
#3 - Monks Lodge
#4 - Woodhill Drive
#5 - Carlisle Park Entrance
#6 - Ha'Hill
#7 - Morpeth Castle
#8 - Bennett's Walk
6km (2 hours)
Map OS Explorer 325
Parking Free for 3 hours (Parking Disc Required)
In the relative ghost town of Morpeth,
We arrived at the car park opposite 📌Morpeth Riverside Leisure Centre pleasantly surprised to find parking is free with a parking disc Monday through Saturday with no restrictions on a Sunday when we arrived.
After changing into our walking boots and wrapping up I immediately made a beeline for the Gelato stand which was to my delight, still trading! (reminder: this was pre-lockdown, please don’t report the ice-cream stand!)
As an exception to the rule, we took what was traditionally our mid-point selfie at the beginning. Giving me an ice-cream is one surefire way to get a semi-natural smile out of me – most of the time my selfie smile looks like a prisoner mugshot.
Once the ice-cream was devoured, we headed to the public loos for Rachael in Carlisle park only to find they were padlocked shut…
So instead we headed out to begin the walk in the direction of the 📌Morpeth Clock Tower which was constructed sometime between 1604 and 1634 out of recycled Medieval stone (thanks Wikipedia!).
Now flanked by a modern high street and shops and buildings, it looks a little out of place but still tells the correct time which is the most important thing.
After scouring the high street – thankfully ☕ Harry’s Coffee shop was open and had customer toilets and proper English Breakfast tea available.
From the bridge, we spotted two wading anglers making the most of the weather and possibly the lack of tourists.
We stopped for a moment to take stock of the view and beautiful houses that lined the River Wansbeck. A quick Google told me you’d need around £500,000 to consider one of these properties and so I swiftly told my wife to dream-on before heading down a short set of stairs to the riverside path.
Having spied the 📌Bakehouse stepping stones from the bridge and jokingly asked my wife whether she was brave enough.
Surprisingly game, she applied no hesitation in venturing out to pose with her cup of tea before wandering back to begin meandering around the Morpeth Loops.
Not long after setting off along the riverside, we saw a stoic doggo sitting in the river absolutely refusing to move until his owners threw him a stick or a ball.
Seizing the opportunity, I took a photo of the proud canine much to the amusement of his owners. As we walked away, he was still sat proudly in the water, immovable and undeterred.
As we made our way further around the river, the path forward narrowed to a riverside path called Lady’s Walk originating at 📌Skinnery Footbridge.
The path was renovated in 2010 by the local council and carves straight through to the B6343 before we needed to take a sharp left, innocuously signposted for Mitford and Kirkhill.
Arcing around the public footpath towards the fields and hills described in our guide – we passed a couple of stunning homes – one of which houses the remains of Newminster Abbey. Monks Lodge particularly stood out to me as an example of my dream home with it’s large estate, rustic brickwork and detached double garage – a boy can dream.
After a few fields, hills, kissing gates and a housing estate – we ended up atop the familiar hill we drove into Morpeth from. As we descended towards Carlisle Park which marked the halfway point of the walk Rachael and I had a minor disagreement as to whether we should take the picturesque steps or the official route guidance of sticking to the main road.
With nothing interesting to photograph from the previous 20 minutes of the walk (highlighted by no images from that portion here on this journal) I decided to be brave and take the steps knowing my wife would never let me live it down if the path lead to a dead end.
Luckily, today was my day and the steps led not only to a more interesting route to the park, but a shorter one. Success!
We stopped on a bench to quickly devour our packed lunch before heading out on the second half of the Morpeth Loops walk.
Passing through Carlisle Park, we arrived at 📌Ha’Hill which I can only assume is Northumbrian slang for ‘High Hill’ which would make sense as upon asking Rachael whether she wanted to go up and over or around she immediately exclaimed ‘I’m not going over the top!’.
Forking to the left to take the less steep route around, we were greeted by a stunning view of Carlisle Park gardens opposite 📌Morpeth Court which I initially thought was a preserved historic building only to find out that in true 21st-century style, it’s been converted into luxury serviced apartments.
Standing out against the backdrop of Morpeth Court and near the entrance to the gardens was a statue of 🧍♀️Emily Davison, the unfortunate suffragette hailing from Morpeth who campaigned for, and ultimately died fighting for votes for women.
After snapping a picture of Rachael next to the statue, we made our way towards Morpeth Castle, scaling the steep zig-zag staired path up the hill to where it stands.
Continuing the theme set by Morpeth Court, when we arrived at and researched whether 📌Morpeth Castle was an open tourist attraction, we found that it too had been converted into luxury accommodation.
Descending the hill from Morpeth Castle back into the town centre, we went past Morpeth Court and Carlisle Park gardens once again.
The guide navigated us past some local businesses as landmarks to a specific step of steps near Chantry footbridge which allows access to the riverside walk.
After walking underneath the 📌Telford bridge, we saw the same wading anglers from previous making their way further down the river in search of a better place to fish from.
With the exception of seeing just how high the new flood defenses have been built in Morpeth, there was not a great deal to see for the remainder of the walk.
The most interesting scene of this section of the walk was 3 young boys trying to catch some fish with some bait and line – which reminded me of the kind of thing I used to do to kill time as a very young man.
After rounding the corner to complete the walk, we headed back to the car park along the high street. Not quite feeling ready to go home, Rachael and I decided to head to Whitley Bay for a short follow up stroll.
We needed a short walk for Rachael. It just so happens that Warkworth Castle is one of the shortest routes in our guidebook!
One of the shortest walks in the guide book was just over 2km at Plessey Woods – perfect for the heavily pregnant wife.
With what may just have been the final sunshine of 2020, a hike to the famed Sycamore Gap was in order.
Stonehenge was somewhere I’d wanted to visit for the longest time. So, despite the torrential rain, we decided to pay a visit.
In the afternoon, determined to continue extracting value out of our new English Heritage memberships we headed to Carisbrooke Castle in the middle of the Isle of Wight.
Entry to Osborne House gives you access to the full grounds and a section of the ground floor of the house.