Allen Banks – May 2019

Allen Banks and Staward Gorge is the largest area of ancient semi-natural woodland in Northumberland, and back in May Sophie and I decided to do a walk there along the river Allen, looking for bluebells again! Now owned by the National Trust it was originally part of the estate of Ridley Hall.  In the 1800’s the Hall was bought by Mr John Davidson of Otterburn for his wife Susan Hussey Elizabeth Jessup, granddaughter of the 9th Earl of Strathmore.  Susan  laid out 65 flower beds in the formal gardens and organised the system of paths, rustic bridges and summerhouses, not to mention the work in the woods by the River Allen, managing and developing the estate for the next 35 years, and a cracking job she did.

Susan died without having had kids, so passed the estate on to her cousin John Bowes, the illegitimate son of the 10th Earl of Strathmore and in 1942 Francis Bowes Lyon gave the estate to the National Trust.

We started out from the carpark and walked along the lower path next to the River Aln.

The River Aln

It was so peaceful and the gurgling of the river was a lovely soundtrack to our meanderings.

The woodlands are well known for carpets of wild garlic

Allium ursinum, known as wild garlic, ramsons, buckrams, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek or bear’s garlic, is a bulbous perennial flowering plant in the lily family Amaryllidaceae. It is a wild relative of onion, native to Europe and Asia, where it grows in moist woodland.

The garlic lined the pathways and covered the banks so our walk had the aroma of an Indian Takeaway!

There were places where we could get right down to the river and have a splash.

Someone had been before we got there, and someone got left behind on the rocks

Hope they came back for him.

It’s  known as an ancient woodland, and the tree roots we came across certainly gave evidence of that

gnarly old roots

We stopped to photgraph the flora and fauna along the way

We got to a bridge and crossed it see what was on the other side


There were people having a Bar-B-Q in a field, I think they were staying in this holiday cottage

So far we hadn’t seen any bluebells, but did find an orchid.

Early Purple Orchid.

I think we’ll stop for a break now, sit and listen to the river and the birds, and come back next time for the other half of our walk.

Stay tooned!


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