Saturday, 30 June 2012

Three men on a scorcher.... June 29th.
   The curse of Carol King continues. I could not get out last Friday but the rest of the team cancelled a walk because of the rain.  Yesterday, June 28th, a months supply of rain fell in the north east of England in a couple of hours. Homes were flooded, railway lines closed by landslips, the metro closed down, cars were left abandoned and in some areas electricity supplies were cut. It all got a few paragraphs in The Times.
 Because of the disruption only three of us have turned out today, me, Dave the vogelmeister and Ben the halfmarathonmeister and we have decided the best bet is a "Railway Walk" on one of the disused tracks that Durham County Council have transformed into foot/cycle paths.
 We met on Eldon Square Bus Station in Newcastle and caught the 10.15   X21 to Lanchester, making the day out a proper gadgie walk, utilising bus passes.
 Lanchester is a pretty village close to the River Browney. Sadly some of the houses had suffered from flooding in yesterday's storm. Not far  west of the village is a Roman fort Longovicium from which the village takes its name.* The fort was built about 150 AD on the Roman road Dere Street and of course, it is not far from Hadrian's Wall.

  The old railway from Consett to Durham runs through Lanchester. Yards from the village centre, on the road to Tow Law (the B6296) you can take your pick, walk south east to Durham (See The Railway Gadgies  January 6th) or, as we did set off north west on the line to Consett on the Lanchester Valley Walk.
(You can easily follow this walk without a map but should you want one Explorer 307 covers the whole route and the start of the walk is at GR165473)
Mostly the footpath, which is well built, wooded and with heavily grassed verges follows the old railway. After a few yards we startled a yellow hammer that had been snoozing in the grass.  There are a couple of right angled turns that trains could never follow near Hurbuck and the Knitsleys where there is a farm shop selling local produce and tea. I have always liked farm shops, I used to embarass my daughters when they were small by asking for "two hill farms and a ranch please" whenever we visited one.
Approaching Consett the path is back on old railway line and there is a junction. To the left is the Waskerley Way which wanders off to Stanhope, to the right is the Consett and Sunderland Railway Walk and straight ahead is the footpath that takes you to the Derwent Walk which is our chosen path for the day. Walk a short way on the Consett and Sunderland and see the monument to the Consett Steel Works.
    For over a hundred years the Consett Iron and Steel Works produced steel for the north east but it was closed in 1980, leaving another northern town without its main employer.

  By the junction is a small park with picnic tables, neatly vandalised, so we sat on the ground, backs to a fence, for a Herbiespot including pie from Dave and ginger biscuits from Ben. I felt a bit ashamed.
 Lunch over we continued. The path skirts the town of Consett, crossing the site of the old works where a new estate is being built. There is one road to cross, one cemetery to pass and then the path follows the line of the Derwent Railway.
On the left is Shotley Bridge, birthplace of Paul Collingwood MBE, who played cricket for England, captained the one day team, and still plays for Durham CCC. And he got to carry the Olympic torch!
Further down the line passes Ebchester which also has a Roman fort (Vindomora) on Dere Street. The old line is now well wooded but still has pretty rather than spectacular views over the Derwent Valley which is heavily wooded. There are several high viaducts that give spectacular views of the trees below but do not permit abseiling or climbing.

                             Dave and Ben walk the line.

  Approaching Rowlands Gill the walk enters Red Kite country. Hunted out of England they were reintroduced to the north east in 2004. Over the next few years 94 pairs were let loose and they have been successful, slowly spreading from the original release area.

 It was a windy day and we only spotted one kite near Rowlands Gill, but the information board showed us what we had missed. There is a Red Kite Trail to follow, about 12 miles long and sightings still not guaranteed. Another good kite spotting area is Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire.
        The River Derwent from a viaduct. It is muddy after yesterday's rain.

 Our walk ended at Maguire's Fish and chip shop, tempted but I fought it, in Rowlands Gill although it is possible to continue as far as Swalwell, close to the dreaded Metro Centre.
We caught a bus back to Newcastle and made our separate ways home.
 My Outdoors GPS awarded the walk 13.6 miles, Ben's GPS which uses Ukrainian satellites claimed 13.9 and my good old HiGear pedometer read 12.5 miles. I'm with Ben on this one. Dave has a new "curved" pedometer but I await his results. They will be added.

 I really needed a walk out today and thanks to Ben and Dave for making it such an enjoyable one. Surprisingly after the wet misery of the previous day it was warm and dry, a scorcher before lunchtime.
I know someone who would have loved this walk, wish I had taken you on it.

* For my foreign readers. If a town in Britain ends in "chester" or " caster" you can guarantee it had a Roman connection