Those who know us know that there is a constant and major obstacle in the way of the twolocalexplorers adventures: time. While I work a Mon-Fri job, Hogs does not, and he very infrequently gets time off at the weekend. This means that unless we take annual leave, we rarely get more than one day together and we probably only get that twice a month at best. Put simply, it sucks. We both adore our jobs – we get to do what we love best every day – but we would love nothing more than to have every weekend together; we would be off wild camping, exploring, biking, walking, running, discovering! With a rare couple of days off in a row, I booked in some annual leave and we made a reservation at an actual hotel. Honest truth – an actual upmarket hotel! Such a rarity for us.
Our stay is of little interest to this story. It’s a hotel, it was nice, we went for a sauna and I wore a fancy frock for dinner.
After breakfast the following morning we packed up and headed off. We had taken the bikes through the Slaley forest the day before so we made plans to go for a trail run. We’ve walked and ridden the area around Blanchland / Slaley / Edmundbyers for the past twelve years so we know the trails incredibly well. With a rough idea of a route but no set mileage in mind we parked up on a road high above Edmundbyers just off the Coast to Coast route and ran westbound along the old Boltslaw incline that eventually drops down to Rookhope. We stopped at the top of the incline where the remains of the old engine house stand, tucked into a cleft. The building, constructed in 1846 has been disused since the 1920’s and a restoration project completed in 2012 has secured the landmark for the foreseeable future.
We’ve been here before, and it’s maybe a longer story for another day so we about turn and head back along the incline a short way before veering off left down an unofficial track that snakes around the side of Bolts Law before winding up to the trig point that marks its peak. Over these twelve years together we must have over twenty photos at this trig point. It’s just such a view from here. Acres of moorland and farmstead bordering Northumberland and County Durham stretch out on a breathtaking 360. We remark that Bolts Law is equal in favour to us as the Simonside Ridge in Rothbury and trundle off down the track to continue our run. Before long we take a right turn along the footpath to eventually rejoin the incline track we started on. This lollipop loop rounds off at 7 miles. This is the furthest either of us has ran since starting to train again in January, so we were quietly pleased with it.
Despite being pleased with our mileage, it resulted in a little problem. When we finished it was still only 12:30pm which was far too early for our day to be finished. This is part of the issue with running for us at present. Because we’re quite early into our training we can only manage an hour or two so it doesn’t make for a full day of activity, so we have to supplement.
Hogs hatches a plan. On the road up from Edmundbyers you can see some old abandoned looking buildings and he has a suspicion you can access them from a bridleway that neighbours our usual route down off the moors when on two wheels. We park up a bit further along the road at the start point of the two bridleways and head down the path n’er travelled. Surprisingly quickly it turns into a footpath which likely explains why we’ve never ridden down it, and it runs behind the wall line so we romp across the grass to a hole in the wall to see if we can pick out either of the abandoned buildings. Lo and behold it’s there in front of us barely 200m down the slope of the common. It’s unclear if we’re stepping onto private land but we decide to risk it.
No matter how many abandoned buildings we come across (n.b. a LOT) I’m always shocked at them. So many buildings just literally abandoned and left to the ravages of time. This first building is Sandyford and it stands on the site of an old mine dating back as far as 1787 when it was first leased by Thomas Errington. Gainster, fluorspar, limestone and lead ore crop up in the records as having been mined – or at least permission has been granted to mine them – at this site between the 1780’s and the re-opening of the shaft in 1926 but there’s precious little information about the site as a whole, in particular this building.
It’s an eerie thing, walking round abandoned buildings that still show signs of a life once lived. The wooden staircase stands intact in the very position it has always stood. Bare bed-springs balance precariously on the splintered remains of the first floor joists. A threadbare tatter of blue carpet dangles through the ceiling like it’s been hanging out to dry for decades. So much history is trapped here, so many stories of family and farm life. Laughter. Tears. Christmases. Birthdays. Dinners. Sunrises. They all happened here but there’s no one left to tell of them. That voice drifted down the valley long ago leaving only this silent shell of stone and mortar.
This first building is just a warm-up. The happy neighbour standing tacitly at the head of the burn. The real interest lies less than half an OS square away. So we keep walking.