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Favourite Victorian picnic site.

Few walks in the North-East have such a roaring finalA as that which follows the Hareshaw Burn out of Bellingham.

An easy one-and-a-half mile path meanders up the valley of the burn to end at the impressive 30ft Hareshaw Linn waterfall. The water which drains off the fells pours over the bedrock into a splash pool in a cavernous bowl of sandstone.

Hareshaw Dene is designated as a site of special scientific interest.

It is not a walk to be hurried. Most of the woodland is ancient semi-natural, which means there has been tree cover for at least 500 years. Old oak and hazel are features, as are birds like grey wagtail, wood warbler and dipper, which live up to their name by dipping into the fast-running waters of the burn that has fashioned itself a picturesque gorge.

In spring, banksides are covered in primrose, lesser celandine, wood sorrel and wild garlic, edging later into foxglove, red campion, stitchwort, water avens and meadow sweet. Conditions are ideal for the 300 species of mosses, liverworts and lichens at Hareshaw.

The dene has long been a favourite place of recreation for Bellingham.

The Victorians built a path with stones from the banks and spanned the twisting burn, which descends the dene in a series of cascades, with six bridges. A project between Northumberland National Park and the community replaced the bridges. Photographs dating from 1870 show regular community picnics. The extent to which the dene has been closely linked to Bellingham life was revealed in a national park-local community oral history project.

People talked of memories and of stories passed down to them. They formed the basis of a play shown in Bellingham Town Hall, and included:

* "We were never out of the burn, plodging. We used to light a fire and fry the eels we caught."

* "We ate wild strawberries and rabbits, just lived off the land."

* "We always went up the Linn courting."

* "We made bows and arrows out of hazel sticks."

* "In Victorian times big picnics were organised and music played."

The Hareshaw walk is described as very pretty and accessible. The dene is signposted from the centre of Bellingham and there is a national park car park at the entrance.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 6, 2005
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