Alston is England’s highest market town, which despite being so remote, is still a busy place, it retains its cobbled streets and traditional shop fronts. There are many local specialties including Alston Cheese and Cumberland Mustard, with hand-made gifts, craft shops and art galleries in and around the town.
Alston with its steep main street and old shops and houses seems unchanged by modern times and is used by film and TV companies as a setting for period drama. The attractions of the town are only a five minutes walk from our station, but, be warned, it is a steep uphill climb from the station to the Market Cross.
Evidence of Bronze Age settlers has been found, whilst the Romans also had a fort near the town, known as Whitley Castle, possibly built to protect their mining interests in the area.
The town grew as lead mining became the area’s major occupation. In the 18th and 19th centuries the mining rights were leased by the London Lead Company, a Quaker owned organisation which had a great impact on the community, with a reputation of looking after their workers.
The Hub Museum
The Hub Museum is housed in the former railway goods shed, which is the large grey stone building located on the opposite side of the road to Alston railway station. It contains a selection of local transport and household exhibits along with historic photographs, posters and memorabilia of the local area, illustrating life in the ‘good old days’.
The Hub Museum is well worth a visit and usually open on South Tynedale Railway operating days between 11.00 am and 4.00 pm, and is managed by the Alston Goods Shed Trust, which was set up by local business people. Admission is by donation and annual membership to the Alston Goods Shed Trust costs £5.00.
For further information – contact the The Alston Goods Shed Trust, Alston, CA9 3HN, by telephone on 01434 382272, 01434 381609 or 01434 672306 or visit their website.
The original plans submitted to parliament in 1844 by the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway intended not on terminating the branch line at Alston but instead continuing on to the centre of mining at Nenthead a further 4¾ route miles away.
Killhope North of England Lead Mining Centre
A further seven miles along the A689 is Killhope North of England Lead Mining Centre. Killhope is a fully restored nineteenth century Victorian lead mine.
The water wheel and buildings of the Killhope North of England Lead Mining Museum provides a fun and educational day out learning about the life and work of the lead mining families of the Pennine dales.
Visitors can enjoy a visit to the lead mining museum and explore the underground mine by guided tours, visit the shop and cafe, or explore the woodland walks around the area. Various special events are held throughout the year between April and October.
For further information see the website at www.killhope.org.uk, write to Killhope North of England Lead Mining Museum, Killhope, near Cowshill, Upper Weardale, County Durham, DL13 1AR, telephone 01388 537505 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Walks from Alston
From Alston Station you can walk along the South Tyne Trail, or if you are feeling more adventurous take a walk into the town and follow circular walks either along the River South Tyne down to Garrigill, a round trip approximately 8 miles, or alternatively follow the River Nent via Blagill and the waterfalls a round trip approximately 4 miles or even continue all the way to Nenthead.
Walks from Kirkhaugh – On a fine day there is nothing nicer than getting the first train to Kirkhaugh and following one of the waymarked routes from the station with a stop en-route for a picnic.
Walks from the station start from under a mile down to the river and the picturesque church at Kirkhaugh; include the possibility of following the Pennine Way to Slaggyford returning via the South Tyne Trail (approx 5 miles); or following the Pennine Way south from the station to the site of the Roman fort at Whitley Castle sitting astride the “Maiden Way”.
Visit the Walkers are Welcome Website at http://walkalstonmoor.com/