Walking the circuit . . .

The mill weir with fish ladder in place, downriver of the Allen Mill Regeneration complex, looking back at Allen Mill Cottages

Yesterday I alluded to ‘the circuit’ and wondered if anyone might comment on that somewhat obscure reference. Maybe it’s one of those things that everybody knows about, which often feel like the most fun sort of things to comment on in this year-long diary.

Over the years, there have been any number of regular circuit walkers that we, and no doubt most other folks, have clocked. No, I’m not talking about the Allen Valley Striders — they’ll get their own entry sometime soon, just like the members of the Allen Valley Velos, I hope, who go much further afield. No, I’m talking about solitary individuals who pound the pavement around and around the circuit from Allendale Town, past the Primary School and the Village Hall, Recreation Ground and Denelands/Denefields estates, past Deneholme on the big corner, and on down to the border with Catton, where you can double back by turning acute left and on past Station Garage, the Sports Pavilion, and Allen Mill Cottages, and over the bridge to Allen Mill. From there, the route goes on to Five Lane Ends, then left and past the Show Ground, and Thornley Leazes, past Bridge End and over the lovely bridge to The Peth, and from thence up into Allendale Town. You can walk it either way, but either way brings you back to the beginning from whence you started.

Some walkers are single-minded in their pursuit, others more ambling, but all seem to have one destination, the end of their walk, or however you decide to look at it, the return to the beginning. I walked about one half of the circuit, from Station Garage through Five Lane Ends, and up the Peth, on the day I visited the Allendale Tea Rooms. I was happy to make this walk, hoping my jaw would not suddenly deteriorate beyond my capacity to endure, but I was struck by the reaction: “You walked from where?” It really didn’t seem like that much of a deal. And so, to the folks who regularly do the circuit, it must not seem such an effort either.

But it is, I suppose, and I’d only done half of it. It is an effort, but it takes you through countryside that helps to define a kind of indomitable Allendale. You walk past the Sports Ground and marvel at the perseverance of the Sports Club who had to deal with such challenges to get the pitch off the ground, as it were, and then to build the Pavilion as well, and to integrate the tennis courts into the package, so brilliant! You admire the growing success of the Allendale Brewery, and then just on down the road you muse on the history of the Old Brewery looking down the lane to The Riding, home of a grand hotel that Sylvia and Forster Milburn ran so successfully some 30plus years ago. You walk over the bridge at Bridge End and you’re cheerful you don’t have to pay a toll at the little bungalow Toll House anymore (that would have to take you back more than a century, I guess).

You emerge from The Peth into a ‘market square’ (there’s no market, as such, anymore) of a town that’s still bustling, if dramatically different now then it was at its peak of some 6,500 inhabitants, as Robert Philipson’s recently published ‘Looking Back at Allendale’ book shows (consider these pre-publication and post-publication reviews), and yet is still an energised place to rest for a while.

With these thoughts, and many more, dancing through your mind, you’re still wondering when the fish will be starting to jump up the ladder on the Allen Mill weir (September and October, according to the fishing reports from the Allen Valley Anglers). And then you’ll know that if you were going to make the circuit a regular practise, you’ll have to modify your beginning or ending, to take advantage of the natural rest on the bridge there, so you can stop half-way through and watch the sea trout and salmon jumping over and over again on their way upriver.

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