Featherstone Castle and Lambley Viaduct walk
This route is a beautiful circular walk that follows public footpaths and bridleways across fields and meadows beside the River South Tyne to join the South Tyne Trail.
The walk is rich in history taking in a 14th-century castle, a prisoner of war camp and an elegant 19th-century viaduct that used to carry the Alston to Haltwhistle railway line.
Wooden fingerpost marked Diamond Oak, grid ref: NY673613
Wp 1 – Start. Distance to Wp 2 – 0.3mile (400m). At the fingerpost marked Diamond Oak go left through the wooden foot path (f/p) gate, on to the bridle path or track keeping the castle on the left and river to the right, until the entrance to the Second World War prisoner of war camp is reached (Wp 2) approx. 500yd (450m) from the start. Enjoy the view of one of Northumberland’s most beautiful castles and above the weir look for trout and salmon jumping. Note: The castle is not open to the public. Featherstone Castle - 200yd (180m) from the start is a Grade 1 listed building and was the ancestral home of the Featherstonehaugh family who were believed to have lived there for twelve generations since the Norman conquest. The castle comprises a Jacobean manor and peel tower. The peel tower was built around 1330 and was used to protect the family and their farm stock from raiding Scottish Border Reivers during the 14th to early-17th century. The castle is said to be haunted by a 17th-century wedding party: the Lord forced his daughter into an unwanted marriage, but the wedding party was killed by the daughter’s lover when they were out hunting as part of the wedding celebrations. The party is said to haunt the castle on the anniversary of the wedding.
Grey Heron, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Goosander, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail are some of the birds that breed and feed on the south Tyne River. Black Grouse, Lapwing, and the occasional Barn Owl can be seen on pasture beside the South Tyne Trail. Buzzard, Sparrow, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Nuthatcher, Treecreeper, Finche, Greater Spotted Woodpecker inhabit the woods all the year round. Visitors from Scandinavia, such as Fieldfare and Redwing arrive in the winter and in the summer Flycatcher, Warbler, Swift & Swallow from Africa.
Wp 2 - Entrance to Camp. Distance to Wp 3 – 0.5mile (700m). Pass through the camp entrance and follow the camp road for ½ mile (800m) with the camp on the left, until it ends at a sharp left corner where a track commences. (Wp3) Look at the camp layout with its Nissen hut bases and guard house (sharp left corner) close to the camp road. Buzzards can often be seen soaring on the thermals above the woods to the left and Dippers, Wagtails and Kingfishers near the river.
Prisoner of War Camp: 1/2 mile
Featherstone Castle, camp 18, was a large camp housing 7000 German officer prisoners. The camp was divided up into three compounds, guarded by watch-towers at the corners and high, double barbed-wire fences. The guards patrolled between the double fences with machine guns. As you walk past the camp you can see the concrete bases of the Nissen huts that housed up to 100 men. Lying 200yd (180m) from the river and between the camp and the castle on the meadow, there was a sports field, consisting of a 400m running track enclosing a football pitch.
Wp 3 - Track from camp road. Distance to Wp 4 – 1 mile (800m). Leaving the camp road continue along a gravel track beside the eroded banks of the river for 200yd (180m) where the track bears slightly left away from the river, towards the road bridge crossing the River South Tyne. Head towards the bridge through a metal farm gate to the metal f/p gate on the left of the bridge where the track meets Coanwood to Lambley road. Cross the road going right to a fingerpost marked P/F Coanwood 3/4m adjacent to the bridge, bear left going through the metal f/p gate and following the track down to the meadow beside the river. At this point the path becomes indistinct on the ground, so follow the river bank for 500yd (450m) heading for a wooden electric cable pole on the edge of the river where just beyond you reach a ditch. Slightly to the left across the meadow, away from the river, there is a dwelling on the edge of the wood. Head for the dwelling on a lightly defined path passing over another ditch and under electric cables, to where the path meets a gravel track to the dwelling. Pass the dwelling keeping it to your right and cross a small stream (Wp 4).
Wp 4 - Stream crossing. Distance to Wp 5 – ½ mile (800m). Cross the stream bearing right across a meadow towards the river, aiming for a waymarker post 220yd (200m) away. Follow the waymarker arrow going left along and down the river terrace towards a metal gate and stile marked public footpath on the edge of the wood. From the stile follow the footpath beside the river to a footbridge crossing the river. Cross the bridge turn left and follow the footpath (note there is some river erosion of the footpath that needs a little care at this point) and take the steps to the top of the Lambley Viaduct (Wp 5).
The steep bank at the waymarker post between Wp 4 and Wp 5, 2 miles (3.2km) from the start, is a fine example of a river terrace, the remains of a floodplain from when the river flowed at a higher level thousands of years ago after the last Ice Age. The river has cut down to a new flood plain leaving the old flood plain high and dry above the steep bank.
Wp 5 - Lambley Viaduct. Distance to Wp 6 – 2.3 miles (3.7km). From Lambley Viaduct turn left across the River South Tyne and follow the track of the disused Haltwhistle to Alston Railway line to Park Village 2.3 miles (3.7km) away. The track is part of the South Tyne Trail and forms part of the National Cycle Network Route 68 so look out for cyclists. Pass the ghostly remains of Coanwood and Featherstone Stations and cross the Coanwood to Lambley road between the two stations. On reaching Featherstone station refreshment may be had at the Wallace Arms pub 150yd (140m) up the road to the right. From Featherstone station it is another 1200yd (1.1km) to Park Village where the trail passes under a sandstone road bridge and 50yd (45m) beyond it crosses the Haltwhistle to Lambley road, marked either side with signs for the National Cycle Network 68 (Wp 6).
Lambley viaduct crosses the River South Tyne in a series of elegant stone arches. More than 850ft (260m) long, it once carried the Haltwhistle to Alston railway. The railway opened in 1852 to haul coal and lead from the Alston mines as well as passengers, and closed in 1976. It is a particularly elegant example of Victorian engineering and spans the river with nine 56ft (17m) wide arches, which in its day supported a single railway track 105ft (32m) above the river.
Wp 6 - Sign for National Cycle Network 68. Distance to Wp 7 – 0.4mile (600m). On reaching the Haltwhistle to Coanwood road from the South Tyne Trail turn right and walk up the road 120yd (110m) and just beyond the road junction into the village, visit the National Trust Bellister Estate Orchard on your right. On leaving the orchard turn left, after 20yd (18m) left again and walk through Park Village until reaching the junction of the road bypassing the village. Turn left and walk to a fingerpost beside the road on the left 150yd (140m) away (Wp 7).
Bellister Estate orchard
The orchard has more than 14 types of apple and 2 types of pears. There is a seat where you can eat lunch or just enjoy the views of the North Pennines and beautiful South Tyne valley.
Wp 7 - Fingerpost marked ‘Public Footpath Burn foot ¼ m’. Distance to Wp 8 – ¼ mile (400m). At the fingerpost go left towards Burn Foot taking the steps down into the wooded ravine, crossing the stream by the footbridge. Pass over the stile and go in the direction of the waymarker, following a footpath beside the fence enclosing the wood on the left. Leave the fence where it corners left and bear slightly right down the hill towards a footpath gate next to the road bridge. Pass through the gate turning left onto the road bridge over Park Burn river (Wp 8).
Wp 8 - Road bridge over Park Burn. Distance to finish/start – 1 mile (1.6km). From the Park Burn road bridge pass Park Burnfoot Farm on the right and follow the road back to the start near Featherstone Castle keeping the River South Tyne on the right.
Walking along the road from Park Burnfoot Farm towards Featherstone Castle, 6 miles (9.5km) from the start, on the right-hand side bank of the River South Tyne, Carboniferous Sandstone can be observed. This was laid down more than 300 million years ago by sand deposited in river deltas that hardened into sandstone.
Wooden fingerpost marked Diamond Oak, grid ref: NY673613
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