A most curious thing often happens on walks. It is a moment, a point, when you come to a place that is unforgettable. It stands out: a lake shore, the breeze whispering through a bank of reeds, a bridleway flanked by trees. Today, that moment was a field of buttercups.
The field in question was on the outskirts of Eighton Banks, Gateshead. It was so still, tranquil, hardly a breath of wind; blue skies offering a dazzling contrast with the great expanse of yellow-gold.
Me, Leanne and David, had set off from the Angel of the North an hour or so previously, our route taking us down onto the Bowes Railway Footpath. This follows, as the name suggests, an old railway. It was one of the earliest in the country – indeed, the world. The line was built by non-other than George Stephenson in 1826.
Remains of the railway can be seen along the way: wooden sleepers embedded in the earth, so old they look fossilized. There are also the views across the Team Valley to savour: A great green panorama of grass and forests and those meadows of rapeseed and the sharp edge of distant summits. And if you listen, you can hear, faintly, the blast of whistles: Steam engines on the Tanfield Railway line.
We enjoyed lunch at the Ship Inn, Springwell village, before following a bridleway into Wrekenton, and the end of the walk. We all agreed that the best moment had been the field of yellow, dazzling under the summer sun.
A magical moment.
The Bowes Railway footpath near Birtley