A short walk of approximately 1 1/2 miles at Morpeth.
No facilities on the walk itself, but just a 10 minute walk from the centre of Morpeth.
Postcode for Satnav - NE61 3AA - This is the post code for East Mill, Morpeth, just opposite the layby.
Turn left at the bottom of Morpeth main street (driving or walking) and take the Ashington road, the A197, or 'Dark Lane' as it's called locally. Continue along past Morrisons and the Morpeth NHS centre and you will see a layby on your left. If you are driving, park here.
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The entrance to the walk is about 30 yards into the layby, a small gateway that leads to a flight of steps going up. Climb the steps and continue along the pathway as it runs behind a care home. Then take the signposted path for Howburn wood. This leads through open beechwoods on the hillside, but at times the path can be overshadowed and gloomy. Now the path goes through a cutting, then along with a steep drop on the right. Eventually you will reach the end of the wood, with a gate that takes you past St Georges Hospital.
Keep to the right on the grass verge past the hospital, and you will see a gateway on your right, with a path that leads off north through rough grass. Follow this path, which soon enters a field where you walk alongside a line of trees The path bends round and reaches a gateway beside an old WW2 pillbox. Here the path splits. Take the path through the gate, and you eventually reach the Morpeth North bypass. Now you need to retrace your steps back to the car park, but when you get back to the pill box, you could take the path on the right that runs on the other side of the hedge. This leads you round by the high school, then down Cottingwood Lane into Morpeth.
This is one route, but there are lots of side paths and other routes through the woods. This walk is also ideal if your partner is shopping in Morrisons and you need to exercise the dog.
These woods and the steep sided Howburn valley once held coal mines, from as recent as the 1920s right back to Roman times. You can see some traces of the industry from the old bricks that are occasionally used to line the path. You might also see some acient 'bell mines' in the woods, pits that were dug and expanded out underground to dig out the coal seams. The large meadow on the left as you come back from the walk is called 'Pestilence Close' and supposedly the Morpeth inhabitants who died in the plague of 1665 are buried here. The Romano-British smetled iron in the valley, and traces of their works also exist. Hard to believe so much industry existed in what is now a green nature reserve.
The Victorian 'County Lunatic Asylum' existed where the new housing estate is now at the edge of the woods. A little further up, you might see what is left of the Morpeth racecourse, where horses were raced in the 1730s. The grandstand is long gone, but you can see traces of the oval track in the fields, where the path runs alonside a line of trees, then bends round to the high school.
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