Saturday, 7 June 2014

A Wonderful Walk on the Weardale Way.
June 6th.
   The jovial jock who makes the local weather forecast promised us a fine day for June 6th so five of us (Brian, Ben, Dave, John and me) set out on a walk in Upper Weardale, starting at the village of Westgate. To get there from base take the A69 west to Corbridge (almost), turn south on the A68 and turn right eventually on the B6278 through Edmondbyers to Stanhope. Turn right when you get to Stanhope high street and follow the A689 through Eastgate before arriving in Westgate.
  We did stop long enough in Stanhope to raid the leaflet department of the top class information centre and for a cup of tea in the cafe next door. Brian's bacon sandwich scored well although the bun was English, too soft.

                                              The courtyard behind the information
                                               centre and cafe at Stanhope
                           .......   artwork too
Breakfast and leaflet buying over we headed west through Eastgate to Westgate and parked on the side of the road. The two villages are named as such as they were the east and west boundaries of the Bishop of Durham's hunting park in medieval times. Well you can't be at prayer all the time.
A map is useful for this walk and the recommended one is OL31, North Pennines. Most of the walk is on one side or the other. The roadside  car park is at NY905380 and here is a picture of it and its near neighbours.
                                            Room for a dozen cars, and free
They allow Dave to give us his old quip "You can call me Al" An explanation of this is available for £2 and a SAE.
The walk, at last.
Heading back into Westgate we found the Weardale Way sign post that took us down to the river. Crossing the Wear by the road bridge we found the footpath which follows the south bank of the river  to St. John's Chapel where you have the choice of crossing by footbridge or stepping stones. The last time we were here I chickened out of the stones as the water was high but on this occasion I was applauded across.

 Difficult to imagine that this sun dappled river becomes the industrial stream at Sunderland

                     Stepping stones or bridge? Real men use the stones

From here the path is on the north side of the river and crosses fields until it arrives at Ireshopeburn. Another interesting village, it claims the oldest Methodist that is still in use (since 1760). John Wesley preached here several times and most of the villages seem to have chapels, as indeed does much of the north. Nearby is the Newhouse, 17th century home of the local mine owner. It was the company offices too and behind is an early 19th century reading room built for the men who worked the seams for lead.
                                             Info at Ireshopeburn
                                             The Newhouse 17th Century
                               Recycled Garden gate
                                             Very young foal and most of mum.
A few fields later the path crosses to the south side of the Wear at West Blackdene and passes through Wearhead, another pretty village, watch out for the path markers, some of them double as signs for the Mineral Mine Walk in this area too.Several fields later we reached the village of Cowshill, crossed the river to the north side, walked uphill past the Cowshill Hotel and spotted a couple of benches which had "Herbie Spot" written all over them.
Today's treats were, in order of excellence, Mrs A's home made chocolate cake, tying with Ben's homemade ginger biscuits (there's diplomacy for you), Mr Kipling's carrot cake, chocolate flapjacks and chocolate. (13 st 5 lb or 187 pounds US)
                                            Ben is our expert gate opener. This is
                                                 a proper country gate fastener


                                  Weardale Head village
Lunch over we headed up a minor road the B6295, definitely not the A689 which goes back to Stanhope. After a few hundred yards the signpost pointed us uphill past the farm at Queensbury and out onto rough moorland. Looking back we could see the waste heaps left from old lead mining in the area looking like mini drumlins.
                                           Mr. Froggy going a courting.

                           The remains of old mining operations high in Weardale.
 I think we missed the path as we climbed the hill (see dotted line on map) but eventually at a point where several walls met we turned just south of east and continued on our way over Rase Head. The field walls came close together and we walked on what could have possibly been an old drove road once. At the triangular shaped plantation we hit the road, continued on tarmac past Middlehope Lodge, turned right at the first junction we came to and then turned right again on a path which led us down to Middlehope Burn.
                                            If it weren't for the stone walls it could 
                                    be the cover of  a "Country Greatest Hits " album
                                          Now that's what I call a stile. Awesome.
   Nearly in Westgate again we came across the remains of the Slit Mine, an industrial archaeologist's paradise. Mining for lead ended here in 1878 after several hundred years of work.
The area is worth a visit on its own. For pages of information without raiding Stanhope Information Centre look

                              Two of the information boards at the site
                                      Remains of the water wheel pit
Remains of the "Bouseteems" where miners left their haul in their teams "stable" allowing their efforts to be measured and their pay determined.
Ben observed that had it been the site of an ancient castle a greater effort would have been made to preserve it. True.
Brian observed that we would not have enthused about the site had we come across a dirty working area poisoning such a beautiful area. True
Continuing down the wooded Middlehope Burn we returned to Westgate on a beautiful path alongside the stream. Curious to name it Dave picked a flower just before...................

                                         The ASBO or a jail term awaits.

                               The Middlehope Burn, below the old mine workings.
Back at the car we changed and headed home, stopping in the village of Edmondbyers at the Punch Bowl for liquid refreshment. A five barrel pub it had on offer Lord Collingwood Ale, Allendale North Pennine and another one.All good beers, reportedly.
It was agood day for birds, Dippers, Lapwings, Golden Plover, Chaffinches, Curlews, and many more, but the bird of the blog goes to the tiny wren which appeared in a small flock near the river.
                                         The collective term for wrens is a farthing
Good for flowers too, Heartsease, purple orchid, vetches and many more.
The Matrix MMXIVS
                                                              steps                        miles
LIDL3D                                                  25650                       12.06
ASDAPED                                               24307                       11.42
Dave's 3D                                                 24605                       11.56
Dave's USB                                               24496                       12.12
OUTDOORGPS                                                                         11.22
My GPS                                                                                     11.4
Brian's                                                                                        11.2
Ben's Bragometer                                                                         11.4
Total Gadgie distance249 miles
This walk, we all agreed was one of the best of the year, partly because of the weather but also because there were so many things to see, scenery, birds, flowers, archaeological sites. It did not go unnoticed that it was the 70th anniversary of D Day, annd I for one know who to thank for the comfortable life I've led for the last seventy years.