Friday, 31 October 2014

Once more unto the Wear dear friends, once more. Oct 31st.
   Slightly down on numbers this Halloween, five of us Brian, Ray, John H , Dave and me) have elected for another walk in Weardale. It is a beautiful valley and looks very rural but on this walk there is evidence of old industries, some dating back hundreds of years.
The walk starts at Wolsingham and follows the Weardale Way  which is well marked in most places as it wanders over moorland and field but a map is more than pretty useful and the one to use is OS OL 31 North Pennines. It is also a real gadgie walk as it involves a bus journey,or two cars at least.
We drove to Stanhope and had breakfast at the Durham Dales Centre which also has a free car park.
Having got down to 13 stones (182 lb in US ) I just had tea.
We then caught the bus to Wolsingham a few miles east down the valley. The bus is operated by Weardale Travel, there are not many of them so if you want to do the walk this way look on their website for bus service 101. Friendly driver and they now have upped their technology and scan gadgie bus passes* instead of counting and making a note.
The journey to Wolsingham takes all of ten minutes and once off and having armed our pedometers we set off.
Weardale Coaches, great way to travel

                                              The River Wear at Wolsingham.
In Wolsingham look out for the sign say in Weardale Railway and follow it down to the river. Once across the river a sign post points to a track alongside the railway. It is marked as the Weardale Way on the map but ignore it, cross the railway bridge and walk uphill until you spot a sign post saying Ashes farm. This is the real Weardale Way. The farm track does indeed go to and through Ashes Farm.
A gate fastening for the book, unique.
Follow the little yellow Weardale Way markers on gate posts  towards the wonderfully named Towdy Potts farm and continue over fields in a western direction before turning south and climbing through fields with some curious cows and calves until you hit heather covered moorland. Plenty of grouse too.This is Sunnyside Ridge, in the distance a small clump of trees is known as the Elephant Trees because they look vaguely like a small group of pachyderms walking line astern.

                                     The Elephant Trees, oh come on, use your imagination
Just short of this group of trees the path turns north. We stopped in what looked like a shell hole and declared a Herbie Spot. Sandwiches and coffee, Hobnob flapjack, caramel chocolate muffins,almond slices and mini bramley apple pies. (184 pounds) I was accused of eating healthily because I also had an apple. Considering the date it was remarkably warm although a little breezy, warmest Halloween in the UK since records began, apparently. Preparing for hell.
Back to the directions;
Head downhill towards the farm at West Biggins. Biggins apparently means barley. West Biggins has some noisy dogs. At the bottom of the hill the track turns almost back on itself and follows the Bollihope Burn. The first farm really has gone for technology; a button operated gate. We opted for the side gate and the very narrow footpath alongside the track.
                                                    Technology comes to Weardale
                                                          Frosterley quarries
 Frosterley is well known for its marble quarries, now closed. Dave the geologist would have given a short lecture on them but we plodded on. The font at Hexham Abbey is made from Frosterley Marble as no doubt are lots of other things in the north.
Information board for Harehope Gill lead mine, opened in the 18th century the buildings have long gone apart from a few bits of wall.
Further along we came to some well preserved lime kilns which were in operation until 1975. Limestone was brought from a nearby quarry and put in the kiln in layers with coal in between. The slaked lime had a variety of uses, fertiliser and whitewash are but two.

                                                        Bishopley Lime Kilns.
Beyond the kilns follow the footpath alongside the Bollihope Burn. The railway track went through an opening blasted out of the limestone;

  The limeston quarry that supplied the kilns further down the line.
Follow the path which goes through a caravan park and up a steep road to Hill End. The Weardale Way is marked here by a finger post on the left. Look out for it and follow the path west across moorland for half a mile before finding the almost hidden gate on the right. From here the path crosses fields as it goes downhill past more old quarries and disused shafts. It is a little difficult to follow,  or, as John put it, this section was designed by a navigator who did a lot of tacking, some signs are obscured but persevere and eventually you reach a large caravan park named Heathe View. The Weardale Way goes through the park, across more fields to Unthank Mill. Here a footbridge crosses the river and follow the road back to Durham Dales Centre, if you left your car there.
                                                      This week's car park.
Changed we drove to the Punch Bowl at Edmundbyers for re-hydration (three real ales, very good, hints of grapefruit in one) before going home.

The Matrix MMXIV T
                                                                           steps                      miles
LIDL3D                                                             28023                     12.81
HiGear                                                               23720                      10.768
Dave's USB                                                       24478                       10.81
Dav'e 3D                                                           24808                        10.91
OUTDOORS GPS                                                                              10.9
Brian's GPS                                                                                         12.2
Rays                                                                                                     11.37
Brian and Ray took a slightly different route from Hill Head
Gadgie distance 386 miles
*  In England people over the age of 60 are given a bus pass which they can use for free on any local bus in the country. Aren't we lucky.

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