North Pennine Walks
Date: 13th April 2013
Distance: 8.1 miles
Ascent: 1214 feet
Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: NY716467
A nice ramble along the River Nent before a climb up to the trig point on Hard Rigg with a rough return over the pathless moor via Newshield Moss.
Route Summary: Alston - Gossipgate - Blagill - Blacklaw Cross - Hard Rigg - Newshield Moss - Gossipgate - Alston
1. The River Nent
2. Is all the green a sign of the pollution in the river?
3. Looking back along the River Nent towards Grey Nag
4. A delightful waterfall in Blagill Burn
5. Newshield Moss from above Blagill
6. The high lonely farm of Foreshieldgate
7. Approaching the trig point on Hard Rigg
8. On the top of Hard Rigg
9. A pair of dead sheep - victims of the snow?
10. Looking north from Hard Rigg to Pike Rigg
11. Heading across the tussocks to Newshield Moss
12. The ruined sheepfold on Newshield Moss
13. Looking down towards Alston
14. The lovely little waterfall at Gossipgate
Walk Detail: This was my first visit of the year to the North Pennines as I look to get back on track with bagging the last half a dozen or so Dewey tops to be found in the area.
Starting from Alston the initial stage of the walk was a pleasant mile or so in the company of the River Nent. The Nent has the reputation of being one of the most polluted rivers in the country - a legacy of the lead mining industry that was so ubiquitous in these parts prior to the 20th century. Whilst its waters may not be the purest it didn't have any effect on my enjoyment of my walk alongside the river itself. An early highlight of the walk was a picturesque little waterfall below the cottage of Gossipgate.
Eventually I left the company of the river at a bridge carrying a minor road to the little hamlet of Blagill. Passing through Blagill I then came across another lovely waterfall hidden away in the trees of Blagill Burn. Crossing over the B6294 I then followed an old mining track to below Foreshieldgrains (a remote farm high up on the moor) to reach Blacklaw Cross. If there is an actual cross in the area I didn't see it, perhaps it was buried under a snow drift.
Up until this point the walk had been on mainly good paths and tracks. From Blacklaw Cross I left the path to follow the wall north to the waiting trig point on Hard Rigg. Almost as soon as I left the path I had to cross some bog but overall the going underfoot to the top of Hard Rigg was fairly easy.
The view from Hard Rigg was extensive and included the western half of the North Pennines from Knock Fell to Cold Fell as well as the moors above both Allendales. I also got my first proper sighting of Pike Rigg, one of the other Deweys on my to do list.
After a short break for lunch I followed the wall north for a short way before crossing it at a particularly high snow drift to make a beeline for the masts on Newshield Moss, the key to my descent back to Alston. Just before crossing the wall I came across the sad sight of two dead sheep huddled together and who were seemingly victim to the recent snows.
While there were no difficult bogs or peaty hags to cross on the way to Newshield Moss there was plenty of rough tussocky moor which required some care to negotiate safely without twisting an ankle. Once the masts were reached it was then a super descent zig-zagging down the hillside on the access track with good views of Alston and the surrounding moors.
After crossing the B6294 again I dropped down a sheep pasture back to cross the Nent at Gossipgate and retrace my earlier steps back into Alston itself, a pleasant end to a thoroughly enjoyable and varied walk.