Sunday, 13 March 2016

We walked from Stanhope to Consett along The Waskerley Way..(again)  March 12th(North Pennines)
Another extra walk for Dave and I, a railway walk from Stanhope to Consett Wetherspoons. This is a 13.5 mile linear walk so by car it would need a little organising. For gadgies it is simple, catch the X21 from Newgate Street in Newcastle to Stanhope, do the walk, have a drink and catch a bus back to Newcastle. However, the X21, run by Weardale Travel, very friendly driver, only runs on a Wednesday and a Saturday so plan carefully.
The walk is easy to follow, but should you need a map OS Explorer 307 Consett and Derwent Reservoir covers the route. If you make photocopies you need three sheets of A4 and your copies must not be for sale or the Queen will get you for breach of copyright.
The walk starts by the church in Stanhope. Looking at the church from the street there is a lane on the right hand side that leads uphill. Turn left at the top, pass the Methodist Chapel and watch out for a fingerpost pointing uphill on the right.
                                               St Thomas, Stanhope, Norman origins
                                             Stanhope Castle, 18th century

 Fossilised tree in the church yard and information board.
This footpath leads to Ashes Quarry which, until the 1940s produced limestone and some coal. Now it is slowly reverting to nature although the spoil heaps look very unnatural. Cross the bridge and turn left, following the usual yellow arrow signs.

                     Ashes Quarry and spoil heaps with a view of Stanhope too.
The footpath now becomes a dismantled railway which once had an aerial system for sending material uphill and downhill. The old winding engine sheds have gone and the land on the right is now grouse moor. The track which has a good surface, is alongside the road up Crawleyside.  The road is a steep climb for miles, I know, I once cycled up it. Once was enough. At Fell Haven, a cafe  the road and track part company and the walk is now really on the Waskerley Way.
                               Fell Haven cafe, popular with cyclists.
                                              Follow the signs
 There was a great deal of activity at the cafe. The Consett Rugby Club had organised a triathlon for children and this was the start point for the cycle ride. The children and adult companions/guards/supervisors/were being given a talk on behaviour. Watch out for walkers, dogsters and other cyclists, be polite, ring your bell, consider others. Quite right too. We walked past the starting grid and then they set off, passing us. A very cheery set of children too, from about six years to sixteen, many calling out "Hello" "Good Morning" Pleasing to see, and not a mobile phone in sight.

                    Dave, about to be cycled by the tail end charlie.
From this point on the path is level for several miles as it crosses the moors in a great arc.  Panoramic views, to the south is Waskerley Reservoir, to the north the receding hills of Durham. A fine day, a little breeze on our backs, perfect for a spring walk. Another reservoir, Smiddy Shaw lies to the north.
                     Waskerley Reservoir
  After 6.5 miles, approximately, and half way into the walk, we came to a small plantation at Waskerley itself. A house, a small church, an old chapel and a picnic site make up the settlement. We declared a Herbie Spot and sat at a table in the shelter of the trees.
                              The trees are growing, slowly and are still in plastic tubes

                             Picnic area. Only two of us, we had Racer
                             Picnic area. Only two of us Bars from ALDI and Yorkshire flapjacks
            As we had lunch we heard a Tawney Owl, it hooted once, possibly disturbed. Break over we continued on our way along the track which turns south and then abruptly turns back north. The area was an ammunition dump during WW2 and the fencing remains. Here the path is above the old railway bed, now a small nature reserve, Burnside. We headed north east across Whitehall Moss looking down on the farmland below to the west.
To the east, the Sky Blue Farm, a nest of Coventry City supporters.

One of the farms has a small pond, with Black Swans. (Middle Heads  I think)

The track crosses Hown's Gill on a viaduct which has in the past been used by suicides. To prevent this the sides are protected by ugly posts and wires.

I'm all for preserving life but this is ugly

Looking down on Hown's Gill from the viaduct
Beyond the viaduct the track magically becomes the Consett and Sunderland Railway Path

Approaching Consett; a relic from the days when the town made iron and steel
Approaching the town we passed these two interesting pieces of art

                              Telescope and strange legged sextant
Once in the town we headed for the Wetherspoons pub which had some excellent Abbott Ale, fine fish and chips for me (you don't appreciate what a treat this is for me) and a steak and ale pie for Dave.

The Matrix MMXVI  K
                                                                      steps                               miles
NAK                                                           34954                               13.24
LIDL3D                                                      28717                              11.25 (adjustment needed)
Dave's LIDL3D                                          27091                               13.54
 "              USB                                           26762                               13.51
  " NAK                                                      23061                               13.46
OUTDOOR GPS                                                                                 13.14
etrex                                                                                                     13.46

Consistency, apart from my 3D

Walking time     4 hours 15 minutes              stop time 48 minutes

As we walked we counted cyclists, walkers, dogs and runners with the following results
Cyclists  129
Walkers 38
Runners 3
dogs  18
3 buggies, one tricycle and 1 scooter

We also spotted:
Golden plovers, white and black swans, grouse, lapwings, kestrels, waders unidentified in a large flock, crows, robins, wrens, chaffinches, grey lag geese, mallards and lbjs. We heard a Tawney owl and a Great Spotted Woodpecker but it was too cold for the adders to be out.
Contains OS data, copyright. Crown copyright and database right 2016