Distance: 10 to 11 miles depending on route taken
Map : OS Explorer OL26 – North York Moors – Western area
Start: Charltons village
There was a wet November forecast for the Pennines with the rain to arrive about 6.00pm on the coast so it took little time for us to decide to go to the east side of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park for our day’s walk and in less than an hour we were parked in the small mining community of Charltons which is on the A171 about 3 miles south of Guisborough. This village is basically only two terraced rows of houses and just off the road and by walking a short distance north on the minor road out of the village (crossing Wiley Cat Beck) you pick up the Cleveland Way which here turns along the road to Slapewath and the Fox and Hounds pub on its way to the coast. However, our route is the reverse through the wood and eventually westwards on to the moors. It is a pleasant walk, parallel to the road, through deciduous woodland where you reach a point overlooking the Fox and Hounds at Slapewath. The Cleveland Way was the second National Trail, opened in 1969 and stretching from Helmsley to Sutton Bank then along the old droving route and following the Cleveland escarpment to Charltons. It then goes over what is now farming country passing the sites of many old ironstone mines to Saltburn and then along the constantly eroding cliffs through Whitby and Scarborough to finish at Filey – a distance of 108 miles. When the route was being established it included Saltburn as there was a Youth Hostel there (now closed some years past) as the YHA were very much involved with the establishment of the route. This way also included Hunt Cliff and the Roman Signal Station which more than justifies the decision as Saltburn is an interesting place to visit.
When I first visited here in the 1970s many walkers, myself included, took a shortcut over the ironstone slag and alum shale tip to arrive directly to Slapewath but in retrospect this was a poor decision as it omitted the woodland walk to Charltons. In mitigation this was not then an attractive area as the slag bank over which the route passed was being processed for roadstone which was the business I was employed in. The two earlier books on the Cleveland Way are “The Official Guide” by Alan Falconer (1972) whose father is generally credited with the idea of the Cleveland Way and Bill Cowley’s 1975 Dalesman book. Both writers knew this area intimately and both comment on route-finding in this vicinity. No such problems now as you continue past Slapewath and pick up the concrete road heading steeply upwards towards Round Close Farm with Spa Wood on your left. This area is a mountain bike activity area and looks very strenuous. On reaching the end of the wood turn right over the stile to enter open moorland and follow the Cleveland Way westwards climbing gradually upwards. The views here, following the felling of many trees, are excellent – looking north up the Durham coast much of which is in the hands of the National Trust and east out to sea. Currently the path leaves the hard track for a distance to avoid forestry work and this gives your feet a rest from the hard surface. After a distance of about a mile and a half at GR 624144 we leave the Cleveland Way and head south. This is on a landrover track which soon turns right but our way is straight ahead south to the visible stile leading on to the open moor.
The two books mentioned previously on the Cleveland Way by Alan Falconer and Bill Cowley are worth seeking out if you can find them in a second hand shop as you see how time has made some changes and quite recently there have been two new additions to go along with the Official Guide. One is on Cicerone by Paddy Dillon and has the advantage of also including the Wolds Way as well as the link route back to Helmsley via the Tabular Hills.
Immediately on entering the moor, which is open access, you will see the trig point 299 metres to the west. Our target is Penrod Hill so follow a trod through the heather to the tumuli and then aim for the highest point. In bad visibility set a bearing as there are numerous minor tracks hereabouts. There are glorious views to the east over towards Runswick Bay. This is grouse territory as will be noted by the shooting butts and the associated land rover track which is taken from near Penrod Hill to the south-east for half a mile to some cairns at GR633123 to a junction of tracks. Take the route on the left which heads a shade north of east for just over a quarter of a mile to a T-junction and a further cairn. Turn right descending slightly. On the left are two prominent tumuli at Hob on the Hill GR 646125. It is worth the diversion from the route to this point and follow the earthwork shown on the Explorer map from GR 645121 to 645124 to Hob on the Hill where there is a cairn with the engraving RC 1798. This was erected by Robert Challoner who was the Lord of the Manor and MP for York. This cairn signifies a boundary and a further one with the same inscription can be found at Hob Cross GR 646134 (not visited on this walk). Compared to the ancient Bronze Age tumuli already seen these are of recent origin.
Returning to the main track heading south-east you soon come to a split in the tracks where either route can be taken to reach Commondale. Here is also a further cairn, of much more recent origin, which is dedicated to two shepherds who worked on the Gisborough Estate (note the change of spelling). They were Robert Leggott who died on the first day of the Somme offensive in 1916 and whose body was never found. He is commemorated on Lutyens monument at Thiepval. The other is Alfred Cockerill who received head wounds at Ypres and was sent back home. He never recovered and was at the Chalfont Colony which was an epileptic hospital in Buckinghamshire and died there a few years after. The monument is at GR 648117 and there are generally poppies to be found here. The track on the right is taken downhill to North Ings farm where there is no right of way through the farm. Note this if you have an older map. The diversion is to the left following the wall descending to Whiteley Beck which is crossed by a bridge. Take care on the other side whilst ascending on to the farm access road. It is then just under a mile of easy walking down into Commondale Village.
This is an interesting place. Note the houses and some of the buildings which are made of a superb brick. The terrace of houses on your left is known locally as Brick Row. These bricks were manufactured at Commondale from the 1860s to the 1950s and are very hard. Small quantities can be bought on the recycling market and command a high price. Commondale is on the Whitby line and has a station (stop) as well as a pub and a cafe. Note the War Memorial where I recommend you to stop on the nearby seat to enjoy your lunch.
It is now steeply uphill to a sharp bend in the road where the track, which is initially a shade wet, heads off north-east at GR 666106. Following this you reach a minor road at GR671117 and immediately leave it now heading north-east along a route known as the Quakers Causeway. For much of the way this is flagged with rough flags and was used by the Quakers to reach their burial site from their Meeting House in Guisborough. It is of older origin and was a monastic route between Guisborough and Castleton and passes several tumuli on its way across Stanghow Moor. Whilst walking on this two mile section note the conical hill to the east called Freebrough Hill at GR 690128. This is very close to the A171 and every time that I pass it I still find it hard to believe that with the plethera of mounds and tumuli in this region, that this hill is natural!
If time is short when you reach Woodgill Head you can continue ahead and downhill direct to the start. A better way is to go north-east to the road and car park and go behind it on to open land called Low Moor. Until recently this was disfigured by motorised trail bikes but these are now prohibited and the area is pleasant. Head north downhill to the Stanghow Ridge minor road. Find the footpath at GR 656153 where you enter Margrove Local Nature Reserve and follow a lovely path to near the old school which is the centre for the local Wildlife Trust. It is now a very short distance along the road back to Charltons.
The weather forecast was spot on as no sooner had we reached the superb White Swan pub (West End) at Stokesley when the heavens opened. This pub is a regional winner of pub of the year and our visit coincided with a beer festival. It was a happy group who left it after our celebration pint or a shade more for the non-drivers!
Distance: 10-11 miles
Map : OS Explorer 307 (Consett and Derwent Reservoir)
Start: Edmundbyers Village
Edmundbyers is an attractive village with a large village green and a varied collection of old and new buildings. The oldest building is next to where we park and this is the church of St Edmunds after whom the village is named. This is a comparatively small church going back to Norman times which was much restored about 1850 and only the narrow windows in the south wall of the chancel are from Norman times. During the restoration, material from other churches was used from the Chapel of Bishop Auckland Castle, Durham Cathedral and as far away as Bristol for the panelling round the top of the church. The churchyard, with its shelter bank of trees is a pleasant place particularly when the spring flowers are out and the birds are active. One grave is particularly interesting as the occupant Elizabeth Lee who died in 1792 was reported to be the last of the long series of witches who lived hereabouts! Times must have become more enlightened as she was 87 when she died. The church history is partly maintained in the porch where all of the rectors going back to 1220 are listed.
Before leaving the village a walk around it is worthwhile, passing the Punch Bowl to arrive at the site of what was the villages other pub which was called Low House. Since 1933 it has served as a Youth Hostel and is indeed the oldest hostel in the north of England. The building however goes back much further and records exist from 1772 and the building is also mentioned in the Muggleswick Plot from earlier times. Ann Elliot who lived here was murdered on the moor and although she was also buried in St Edmunds in 1785, her ghost reputedly haunts the hostel. She has never disturbed my sleep here on several visits but the Punch Bowl might well be the reason for that! The building passed into the ownership of Major Harry Barnes who was the Liberal MP for Newcastle East and it was him that sublet the building to the YHA. Inside the only remains of its former life as an inn is the beer rest where an enclave in the wall permitted patrons to put down their pint. Since 1933 the hostel has hosted around 200,000 bed nights and long may it continue. The Coast to Coast route has in recent years generated much needed income.
We leave the village on the footpath on the other side of the road from the YHA, a shade to the west and take the footpath leading to Pow Hill Country Park established by Durham County Council around 30 years ago. This footpath which heads north over pasture has fine views down to the reservoir and over to Cronkley and sadly is not as well used as it should be. The possible reason is that there is no path leading out from Pow Hill westwards and it is a pity that a route could not be established to link up to Carricks Country Park and then on to Blanchland where there are many paths. On reaching Pow Hill you descend down to the waters edge of Derwent Reservoir. In earlier times this was not permitted but over the years the various Water Boards have opened up access. A new trail has recently been constructed along the reservoir to the dam and this can be considered a bridleway as mountain bikes and horses are permitted to use it. There is also a footpath along the waters edge which moves according to how full the reservoir is. Work started on the reservoir in 1960 and was completed in 1966. It is 3 miles long and covers a surface area of 1000 acres. The material for the earth dam was all excavated from the area now covered by the water. Additional water can be supplied from Kielder but this does not flow into the reservoir itself. When full the reservoir contains 11,000 million gallons of water. The water is well stocked and attracts 15,000 anglers per year which makes it the best attended still water in Europe.
We now cross the dam itself and arrive at the Northumberland side where there is another car park. In late afternoon on a sunny day look east for a good long distance view of Hownes Gill viaduct. Another new path has been constructed along the north side passing under Cronkley and terminating for the time being at Millshield and we take this in order to eliminate road walking and to get a view of one of the better areas of birdlife which congregate on that side. Some years ago there were about 40 geese on the water but this number is now about 1000, of both Canada and Greylag. All of the normal species are seen and occasionally there are rarer visitors such as Osprey. At Cronkley Farm the access road is picked up or the lake path can be continued to Millshield where the same access road is met. Whichever route is selected, it involves a return back down the reservoir at a higher level.
Just before Birkenside take the footpath on the right which is well waymarked and arrives at Redwell Hall Farm where refreshments can be obtained at weekends. Here the road is taken east to the byroad to Muggleswick. Shortly after crossing the River Derwent and after the farm, the footpath on the left heading south-east is taken over pastures and in just over half a mile you arrive at Muggleswick. The population of this parish reached 1,677 in the 1871 census but crashed to 483 in 1881 no doubt caused by the closure of some of the lead mines. The church was built in 1728 on the site of an ancient Christian site and as was the usual practice the old stones of the original structure were utilised. The monastic grange at Muggleswick has recently received restoration work from the North Pennines AONB team. This building was built about 1260 and it is rare to find standing remains of monastic buildings. The graveyard contains the remains of Edward Ward who was an outstanding physique although his size was not recorded. Nevertheless he could be Durham’s answer to Little John of Robin Hood fame!
As a point of interest, less than half a mile further down the footpath is the missing crossing over the Derwent. Photographs exist of the old bridge which was washed away many years ago and it still remains a contentious issue. The problems are that the bridge crossed a county boundary and the Durham side is a footpath whilst the Northumberland side is a bridleway. The answer would appear to be to change the status of one of the paths and then build an appropriate bridge but with current constraints this looks a long way ahead,
Another more possible project for the AONB and Northumbrian Water would be the improvement of the Quaker Burial Ground at Winnowshill on the Northumberland side where there are 55 internments. A short distance downstream from Muggleswick the Derwent enters a gorge which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a large oak wood. This is a good place to find redstarts and pied flycatchers but the site is not open to the public.
Muggleswick is also well known for the Muggleswick Plot which was of potential national importance. In a similar way to the Covenanters in Scotland this involved changes in religious practice but in the end came to nothing. Fuller details of this can be found in books, notably Iain Browns “The North Pennines – Legend and Landscape” which I highly recommend. There is also in the same book a story about the Mosstroopers who raided Muggleswick led by Willie of Shotlyngton near Bellingham. This place is now known as Shitlington and there is a small crag there as well as a farm at the Hall and bunkhouse accommodation on the Pennine Way. The raiders were pursued and defeated which led to their execution. Hard times indeed!
On with the walk, we now take the path from Grange Farm past Calf Hall to arrive at the road which is followed past Haverley Lodge and Shield Farm to where the road turns sharp left to Hisehope Bridge and the clear track up Strawberry Hill onto Muggleswick Common is taken. This is a wonderful place with lovely views. At a crossroads of paths on Muggleswick Park (at GR 031495) take the path south-west down to Lamb Shiel Farm. Here in 1843 was another murder when William Lawson who lived there was murdered by his brother Thomas over a financial dispute. A wandering Irishman, probably looking for respite from decreasing potato harvests, was immediately arrested at Edmundbyers but fortunately a local policeman was suspicious of the brother and found the evidence hidden. Thomas was deported to Australia where he died soon afterwards. At Lamb Shiel the footpath to East Cot House can be taken and the path past Barkers Well and over the Burn Hope then followed to arrive back at the YHA. A slight extension can be made by following the paths to the west or walking over the moor to Harehope Hall and back down the road to the start.
Distance: 12 miles
Start: Eden Place Picnic Site, Beamish
The village of Beamish is a relatively new creation, like many of the villages near here, being formed in 1873. Formerley Beamish referred to the lands surrounding Beamish Hall and was a parish of Tanfield. The new Beamish parish consisted of Stanley, Shield Row, Kip Hill, Ox Hill, East Kyo, East Stanley and Beamish Stables. At this time the population was expanding rapidly due to the opening of three coal mines where the coal seams could be up to 40 feet thick. Mines were opened at West Stanley in 1833, Air pit in 1849 and the Beamish Mary in 1883 – the latter lasting until1960. There was a fourth pit known as Chophill or Beamish No 2 and a row of houses were built to house some of the miners. This was known as Eden Row and was situated close to the Stanhope and Tyne railway. Eden Place where you are now standing and Eden Square were then built a little further to the North and the village then consisted of 70 houses, a school and a chapel. The winding house of this colliery still exists as it is the one rebuilt at Beamish Museum. The school had a capacity of 400 with an average attendance of 274. The village lasted until recent times when it was demolished to make way for the new road following the closure of Consett Steelworks.
Beamish Hall was the home of two prominent Durham families which were the Shafto family (Bobby Shaftoe) and The Eden family from which Sir Anthony Eden the former PM was descended. The name Beamish is derived from Old English – Bew Mys meaning beautiful mansions.
We leave Eden Place and go to the pub called the Shepherd and Shepherdess where there is an interesting story. The pub takes its name from the statues of a shepherd and shepherdess above the entrance. During the Napoleonic Wars there was a blockade on Britain and lead for arms was scarce. Lead was sometimes smuggled into the country in disguise and these statues arrived as lead for the war effort. They came under the ownership of the local squire and were not melted down but on a stormy night, when one of the statues of an accompanying dog was destroyed, he tripped over one of them and gave them to the pub which obviously then changed its name!
We enter the wood at the top of the bank in the direction of Kibblesworth and head down through the wood to the old Pelaw to Consett Railway (now part of the Coast to Coast walk) and cross by the new bridge which l believe formerly served on the A167 in Low Fell to arrive at Peggys Wicket. We take the old road back towards Beamish Village and come to the memorial to those killed in the bombing of May 1st 1942. This raid has attracted a lot more interest recently as it was one of the biggest in the north east, killing 32 people – 11 at Wallsend, 6 at Longbenton and 6 at Beamish including the son of the Deputy Regional Commissioner. The most heavily bombed area was the Derwent Valley near Rowlands Gill where over 60 large bombs were dropped but the question is asked, why there? Indeed there were decoy sites at Gibside and Beamish but witnesses testify that the fires were not lit there that morning. It is widely thought that the target was Durham and the raid was a Baedeker Raid. These were retaliatory raids by the Germans after the destruction of some of their cathedrals and in the previous week Exeter, Bath and York had been attacked followed by Canterbury and Norwich the next week. That morning Durham City was covered by a layer of white mist and it is thought that in the dark the Germans mistook the bend in the Derwent River and the nearby viaduct as Durham and bombed it. The Beamish bombs were probably aimed at the railway to Consett.
We cross the A693 and enter Edenhill Plantation passing the cone statue of Colin Rose to arrive at the west end of West Pelton. Just along the road to the west was situated Twizell Colliery (1850-1934 ) which employed 400 people. The buildings here were demolished with only the Jingling Gate pub, now in disrepair, left to indicate the activity here. Twizell occurs several times in the north east and means a fork in the river (twist?). Other Twizells are near Ponteland and on the Till near Wooler where there is a famous bridge. We walk towards Twizell Hall and just before the entrance take a stile on the left to pass in front of the hall. After an awkward stile we cross the next field diagonally to the south-west to arrive at a gate and stile. We follow the edge of the next field to the bottom to drop into a dene and cross Twizell Burn by a footbridge. A steep ascent brings us into Craghead. Like most of these villages this was a quiet agricultural village until the mines opened. Some of the earliest Durham mines were in this area and Craghead opened in 1839 closing in 1969. A memorial to the mine gives the dates plus “Lest We Forget”. The mine employed 1500 people and a lot more information on Craghead can be found in the recent publication “Craghead Past and Present” by D. Rand and G. Nairn.
We go to the west end of Craghead and take the clear path to Hag Wood which we go through and continue in the same direction to Warland. Just down the road to the east is Holmside which is the oldest settlement here, being mentioned in the Boldon Book of 1183. Holmside is named after Holme which means “a plain grassy ground upon watersides or in the water” and was the ancient seat of the Tempests and Whittinghams. At a later date it became an estate of the Umfravilles. We proceed up Holmside Lane (however, at the time of writing in 2014, there is a Permissive Path at the end of the first field after exiting Hag Wood which heads west and arrives at the minor road to Holmside Hall at Peartree Terrace which eliminates some road walking) turning right at Peartree Terrace to Holmside Hall where there is ancient and modern to be found. This is an old manor house and has a moat whilst the modern is the seven wind turbines nearby. Good cross country paths take us back to Craghead over land passed earlier and which has evidently been subject to open cast mining. We go through the back of Craghead where some of the old mine buildings serve as scrapyards and come to the site of the old tip. Here there is excellent and extensive tree planting which has masked this tip to create a mixed wood with walkers paths through it. We emerge on the road close to where the colliery line crossed the road and then enter the Woodland Trust Fox and Parrot Wood which is 33 acres of newly created woodland. We now recross the Twizell Burn and follow the footpath downstream to arrive at the Grange Villa road which is immediately crossed to another footpath which takes us to the east of the village via a small park. Heading north we pass houses on our left to come to Roseberry Grange Municipal Golf Course. This was built on the site of West Pelton Colliery which was another significant mine in the area. Old maps show the highest point here as Roseberry Topping, identical to the well known one in the Cleveland Hills. The name is Viking and comes from Viking “Odens Beorg” (Odins Hill) and the nearby Ousborough Wood passed on Stage 1 indicates early Viking settlement here.
We now go under the A693 to Handenhold which used to be Handenhowl meaning hollow in the dene and drop down to the Consett to Sunderland Railway Path which is followed west back to the start, noting the gradient that the heavy goods trains taking ore to Consett had to climb.
The 2013 walk had been an excellent walk on a super autumn day starting at the Moorcock Inn near Littleborough where we were staying and after a brief climb up to the White House (where the Pennine Way was joined) we all had an enjoyable stroll along the Pennine Way to Stoodley Pike. With a clear sky there was great distant visibility as far as Wales. The route continued by dropping down to Mankinholes and then joining the Rochdale Canal which was followed upwards passing the Great Wall of Todmorden and slowly climbing to Summit where a welcome beer was taken. The route then followed a cross country route back to the Moorcock Inn. Despite being a 16 mile walk the going underfoot was consistently good and after the initial climb to reach the Pennine Way there was remarkably little climbing involved and all the participants arrived back in good shape. Indeed this walk is to be recommended for anyone wanting a varied and interesting walk in this area.
As a consequence, and with mainly the same group present for the 2014 walk, expectations were high for another enjoyable day when we met at the Masons Arms at Gargrave which, like the Moorcock, is a good place to stay with good accommodation, enjoyable and varied meals and well-kept real ale. The only fly in the ointment was that there was an adverse weather forecast for a wet morning and a showery afternoon. However all of us must have endured much worse forecasts while out on the Pennine Way and indeed it was a cheerful group who assembled at Gargrave station to catch the 9:30 train to Settle where the walk was to begin. After a short stop for provisions we commenced the steep climb up Banks Lane out of Settle which is the standard way to visit the famous Victoria Cave and after less than fifteen minutes, would you believe it, the rain stopped! By then we had left the bridleway of Banks Lane at GR 823641 where a distinct path heads north-east up a steep slope before easing up and turning eastwards. The scenery on the left up to Blue Crags and then Warrendale Knotts is top class and as a bonus we could also see Pendle Hill and the Lake District hills in the distance which boded well for the rest of the day. Soon we reached the junction of paths near Attermire Cave where the Victoria Cave can be reached by following the path under Attermire Scar. Our route however was Malham bound and followed the clear path east alongside a wall which then reached Stockdale Lane. This is followed in an easterly direction with the route passing to the north of Stockdale Farm. The hill behind the farm is Rye Loaf Hill which is 547 metres (1794 feet) high whilst the hill about half a mile further east is Kirby Fell at 546 metres high. Until recent times there was no legal access to these hills but fortunately they were included in the Open Access Area following the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW) Act of 2000 passed by the Labour government. We were now at Nappa Gate which was an important junction in former days – this was the site of Nappa Cross which was moved and can now be found in the wall to the north of the gate on the track leading to Langstar Gate. The Stockdale Road track proceeds straight ahead down to Malham reaching the road near Malham Cove. Our route was the lesser path down Pikedaw Hill and is described in Wainwright’s “Walks in Limestone Country” (Walk 32). This is a highly recommended book for all those who wish to walk in this area which ticks all the walking boxes. Wainwright warns of the danger of the shaft which is 75ft deep near Nappa Gate which gave access to the calamine mines, an ore of zinc oxide, which are all round here. The calamine was used in the manufacture of brass. The path requires a little care when wet but overall is a joy with Malham two miles below you in the valley. An enjoyable lunch was taken in Malham, sitting in warm sunshine which was certainly far better than forecast and indeed summer conditions. We were now on the Pennine Way which gave a very pleasant afternoon walking the seven miles back to Gargrave giving a walk of about twelve and a half miles in total, on what is probably the easiest section of the Pennine Way.
The section of this walk from Attercliffe to Malham follows the line of the Craven Fault, which marks the southern edge of the Limestone Dales, and this is illustrated and observed when descending from Nappa Gate where the land to the south is gritstone and wetter underfoot conditions compared to the limestone to the north. This geological fault runs from Austwick near Clapham and winds through Stainforth, Malham, and Kilnsey, terminating at Grassington. As far as l know there is no named walk or guide to follow this scar which is in superb countryside throughout, although there was a good description of this 45 mile walk in the Great Outdoors Magazine of March 1989 by Mick Chambers.
2015 is to have many walks celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Pennine Way from several organisations such as the Ramblers Association, Friends of the North Pennine AONB , The Wainwright Society as well as the Pennine Way Association which are currently being organised and will be detailed when available on the PWA website and those of the other groups involved.
Distance: 10-11 miles
Map : OS Explorer OL31 (North Pennines – Teesdale and Weardale)
Start: Village Hall Car Park at East end of Bowes (GR NY996134)
It’s a fair bet that if you asked the general Co Durham public the whereabouts of the River Greta most of them could not tell you once you had left the south-west corner of the county. The Greta is arguably the best river in the county as throughout its short length every yard is a pleasure. It rises just over the boundary into Cumbria just to the south of the A66. In earlier times this was Westmorland and the old name has been preserved in the name of the old county town of Appleby. The watershed here separates England into east and west with streams falling eastwards ending up in the North Sea via the Tees and those to the west into the Irish Sea via the Eden. The first 8 miles or so are quiet but for over 100 years this section of the river echoed to the thunder of trains struggling up to the top of the Stainmore Pass assisted normally by a banking engine. There was a large sign on the summit erected by the LNER which stated Stainmore Summit Height 1370 feet. This is happily preserved at the National Railway Museum. The only building was Spital Cottages at the side of the line. The first place of real interest is Gods Bridge where the Pennine Way crosses the Greta by a natural stone limestone bridge which is all that remains of a much larger cavern. The railway stayed close to the river until just short of Bowes. Nowadays there is a good footpath on the south side which carries the Bowes Diversion of the Pennine Way past West and East Mellwaters farms, West Charity Farm and Lady Myres, all of which have attractive meadows before crossing the river by a foot bridge into Bowes. This bridge exists due to the foresight of certain officers in Durham County Council who had plans drawn up for a bridge but not the funds to build it. When the old Countryside Commission had some spare funds to release for an immediate start on a project they were able to start immediately and secured the necessary funds to build this and a smaller one at Levy Pool a few miles to the north on the Pennine Way.
There has been settlement here at Bowes for centuries because of its strategic importance in the crossing of the Pennines at Stainmore. The Romans built a fort here called Lavatrae and nearly a thousand years later a castle was erected on top of the old Roman site. Today the keep built by Henry the Second in the 12th Century survives and is protected.
We start the walk at the east end of the village and walk up the main street now happily bypassed. On the right is the only pub remaining in the village called The Ancient Unicorn which dates back to the 17th Century and is reputedly haunted. Charles Dickens stayed here when he was doing his research for Nicholas Nickelby and the scandal of the “Yorkshire Schools”. One of these was Shaw’s Academy which was further up on the left and became Dotheboy’s Hall in the book.
Near the top on the left is the church of St Giles parts of which go back to the 12th Century. The graveyard contains the remains of several of the unfortunates who were at the school but a much more interesting grave is that of Roger Wrightson and Martha Ritson who were the central characters in what is known as the Bowes Tragedy. Roger was from a family who had the Kings Head pub (now no more) and fell in love with Mary Ritson from the George pub (now the Ancient Unicorn) but as landowners the Wrightsons believed themselves to be of higher status than the Ritsons and forbid the courtship. This was carried on in a clandestine manner for a year when Roger fell ill with fever. He asked to see Martha and this was reluctantly agreed to by the Wrightsons on the proviso that his sister was present all the time. Three days after the meeting Roger died leaving Martha distraught with grief and within 24 hours she died of a broken heart. They were buried in the same grave at the west end of the churchyard both aged 20. Some time afterwards John Ritson paid and worked on improving the road which is now the A66 to generate greater business for his hotel but this failed as the stagecoaches took advantage of this and continued on to the softer climate and inns of Greta Bridge.
We now pass the keep and follow the Pennine Way across two fields and down a track to the footbrige. On crossing we head east after a short distance passing West Pasture and West Gates to arrive at Gilmonby. This was the old suggested route before the bridge was built unless there was drought conditions. We take the footpath from Greta Farm towards Whorlands and follow the tarmac to Quarry Hill where the tarmac ends and continue on the white road to the open access land. Here three routes separate off and we take the most southerly of the two bridleways onto Scargill Low Moor. At GR 021106 a footpath leaves to the left and then almost immediately a footpath goes to the north past Stony Close House and Thwaite Green to meet the Stang road which goes over to Arkengarthdale. Here we turn right and past Lodge Farm into Thwaite hamlet noting the packhorse bridge and the attractive chapel. A short bit of road towards Scargill follows for half a mile before a bridleway is taken on the left which leads down to Brignall Mill where we rejoin the Greta and cross it. Brignall Mill has won several environmental awards for energy conservation and is a beautiful spot. We leave the mill by the access road to the top of the bank and at the edge of the trees is a footpath heading west above the river. This is an excellent stretch of walking for about 1.5 miles back to Rutherford Bridge and the Stang road.
Downriver from Brignall Mill the river twists through a superb wooded gorge with a continuous footpath on the north bank and one on the south bank which goes to Crooks House near to Barningham. These are superb paths but carry an element of danger in wet weather as there are some dangerous drops down into the river as well as fallen trees. It would take virtually the whole Durham County Council footpath budget to restore them and currently this is not feasible. The northern path passes the superbly located abandoned St Marys Church of Brignall Village which is thought to have been a camp of the Brigantes who ruled this area prior to the arrival of the Romans, hence its name. The Greta then reaches Greta Bridge on the A66 and the excellent Morritt Arms named after the local landowner, before continuing through another superb section of Rokeby Park to join the tees at the Meeting of the Waters made famous by the painting of Turner. From Rutherford Bridge the footpath continues upstream passing Hundah, East Lowfields Farm and West Lowfields back to Gilmonby Bridge where it is then a short walk back to Bowes Village.