A few days ago Charlie dog and I arrived at the Heatherslaw Mill, located between the villages of Etal and Ford. It was a glorious, sunny autumn day and we thoroughly enjoyed a walk along the River Till, heading towards Ford Village, as far as Ford Bridge.
This October the trees along the river – including Alders, Sycamore, Horse Chestnut, Poplars, and Willow – are all still full and green, with only the Willow starting to show the first signs of changing to Autumn colours.
A ranger near Ford Bridge was busy trapping grey squirrels to protect the reds. He said it would be some time before the seasons were back on track. “A couple of good frosts will right things,” he commented.
The seasons in the North of England seem out of kilter this year due to warmer weather and an exceptionally wet and spring and summer. This mild and wet weather means that wild flowers like tiny forget-me-nots, daises and red campions are still growing and blooming along the banks of the River Till.
Ford and Etal is a fantastic place to visit for many reasons. It appeals to all ages and attractions include the light gauge railway, a working mill, Etal Castle, the historic Lady Waterford Hall, walks, cycle hire and cycle trails, a visitor centre and two beautiful villages. The history here is varied and truly ancient. Close by is the Duddo Stone Circle, now estimated to be 4000 years old.
Elspeth Gilliland, estate administrator, said that a lot of the shorter walks on the estate are proving to be very popular. “People like the fact that you can enjoy a lovely 45-minute or hour-long walk here, and then come back to the mill for a light meal or tea or coffee in in the cafe.”
Winter hours will begin on Nov. 4, but there is still plenty to do in the run up to Christmas and beyond. Places open on the estate include Etal Castle (open on weekends only beginning at the end of October), all footpaths and walking trails weather permitting. As well, The Old Dairy at Ford, the tea room, the Forge and many of the estate businesses remain open. December 2 sees the Christmas Market take place at Ford, and there are music events throughout the autumn and winter season too. You can also continue to hire bikes in the winter, but call the visitor centre to book on 01890 820338. Check the Ford and Etal website for details.