Allen Banks Morralee Tarn walk
Since reopening after the storm damage, this walk allows access into the woodlands to go on an exploration to Morralee Tarn.
A great walk for spotting wildlife all year round
It's the largest area of ancient woodland in Northumberland and has been here since at least medieval times. This long history has helped make it a fantastic home for flora, fauna and fungi.
Allen Banks car park, grid ref: NY798639
Starting at the car park, exit the main gate (where you came in) and take a right following the road over the bridge.
A carpet of bluebells and ramsons, commonly known as wild garlic, covers the woodland floor in spring and early summer. During warm weather, and when crushed, the latter has an unmistakably pungent aroma. Many of the plants here are characteristic of ancient woodland and soil types help dictate which species grow where. Woodruff, ramsons, dog’s mercury are found on the richer brown earths, whilst greater woodrush dominates in poorer and drier soils.
As you leave the bridge, take a tight left and go through the gate, merging onto a footpath that takes you through a couple of fields beside the river. The river Allen is rocky and fast flowing here, a prime spot for birds like dipper and grey wagtail. On heading into the woodland, there’s always the chance of spotting a Red Squirrel running around above your head.
This ancient woodland is host to an array of wildlife ranging from common birds to the elusive and rare, but extremely cute, Dormouse. April to July is a great time to see birds - more than 70 species have been recorded on the estate including species in decline, such as wood warbler and pied flycatcher. The River Allen provides a great feeding ground for Heron, Goosander, Dippers and rare visits by the Kingfisher and Otter. Other animals to keep you company are Red Squirrels, Roe Deer, Bats, Badgers and Foxes - plus a whole world of bugs and insects.
Venture into the woods where you’ll start following the purple waymakers up to the Tarn. Keep on the path straight ahead, past the site of the wobbly bridge and up the steps till you meet the main path through Morralee Woods. This is a great habitat for woodland birds, like woodpeckers, nuthatches and treecreepers.
Allen Banks is one of the best places in the north-east for fungi, with 181 species recorded here. Autumn's the best time to see mushrooms and toadstools, as this is when most fungi develops a ‘fruit body’ to distribute its spores and reproduce. Deathcap, destroying angel and panthercap fungi are deadly poisonous with no known antidote; all can be found in the woodland here. The deathcap is reputed to have been the cause of the murder of Roman Emperor, Claudius Caesar - it was added to his favourite mushroom dish by his wife.
Follow this path left before taking the next right and right again and that the fork keep right, following the purple waymakers pointing you up the hill, there are some steep sections here and the terrain varies so please take care.
The work of Susan Davidson in the 1800's is visible everywhere, from the network of steps and paths criss- crossing the hillside to the sites of summerhouses where her guests could sit and reflect on life while enjoying their surroundings.
As you reach the top of the hill take the steps on the left and follow this path to Morralee Tarn. The tarn itself is an historic feature in the landscape, originally dug out as a boating lake by the Victorians, it is now a real oasis and a great place to spot some wildlife, with superb views of the Tyne Valley and Hadrian’s Wall in the distance.
From the 17th century there are bell pits which are old coal or mineral workings, these were shallow pits dug where the seam ran close to the surface. But what makes this place so special is what happened 10,000 years ago, when the ice age ended and the melting ice sheets carved the gorge for the river and created the crags and rock outcrops we can still enjoy today.
Once you’re ready to make your way back, continue to walk with the tarn on your right then take the path heading left away from the end of the tarn which will take you on a loop until you reach the path you originally started on.
As you come down the little slope by the big fallen tree stump re-join the main path through Morralee Woods, turn right and follow the waymarkers to a gate out of the woods and into the field. Go straight towards the river and then retrace your steps back to the car park.
Allen Banks car park, grid ref: NY798639
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