Nature and history at its finest on Whittle Dene

Morpeth Footpaths Society

Ovingham/Whittle Dene Walk

On a recent relatively mild April Sunday, 16 members of Morpeth Footpaths Society met at the Tyne Riverside Country Park, the starting point of our latest walk.

The walk was actually two walks – an eight-and-a-half mile walk, with a shorter four-mile option. Due to waterlogged paths, our walk leader Doug had to alter the original route, which would have taken us to Whittle Dene via Overdene and Hunters’s Hill.

We crossed over the footbridge, built in 1974, adjacent to the narrow single lane bridge, which was built in 1883 and was originally a toll bridge, and walked through the pretty village of Ovingham.

We passed the local school where archery practice was taking place, before joining the path along the river until we came to a settlement of old-fashioned and charming wooden holiday chalets, which were originally holiday homes for people from Tyneside.

We headed up a steep hill to the village of Ovington, where we had great views over the Tyne Valley.

Here our revised route took us past the social club and through a field, where we spotted a heron in flight, until we reached the woodland of Whittle Dene, managed by the Woodland Trust.

Walking through the woodland with Whittle Burn below us, we spotted some late blooming snowdrops before crossing the burn and stopping for a short lunch break among the trees. Suitably refreshed, we continued through the Dene and its carpets of wild garlic, before reaching a derelict mill and yet more wooden chalets.

A local resident told us that evacuees from Newcastle lived in the cottages during the war. We were especially enchanted by the cottage with the willow branches carefully tweaked into circles – with the surrounding woodland this gave the cottage a fairytale air, like something out of the stories by the Brothers Grimm.

Here we came across the only muddy section of path – the rest of the route had been remarkably dry.

Once out of the woodland and back into the warm spring sunshine, we reached the outskirts of Ovingham, where we passed several more wooden chalets, before finding ourselves back at the Church with its Anglo-Saxon Tower (Thomas Bewick is buried in the churchyard).

We then made our way back to the Country Park and those doing the shorter walk finished here.

The remaining walkers continued east along the Tyne riverside for a short distance, before turning right onto the woodland path by the railway on the south side of the Spetchells (long chalk spoil heaps), climbed the wooden steps to the top, admiring the views before descending via more steep steps to the railway side path again.

Leaving this we took a good path to a submerged boardwalk crossing a fair sized pond (a bit of clambering on an embankment got round this), then up more steep steps to Hagg Bank.

We continued until we reached the historic Hagg Bank Bridge, which we had visited during a walk earlier in the year, then onward a short way along the broad old waggonway path into Wylam.

We diverted right off this to path, past the fine allotment sites at Wylam Haugh then sat for a while on the river bank in the sun, before crossing the bridge again and followed the main riverside path west, back to Low Prudhoe car park.

This route follows most of The Three Bridges Walk, one of several self guided walks published on Northumberland County Council’s website.

Sarah Howells

Secretary, Morpeth 
Footpaths Society