Start: Killhope Lead Mining Centre
I have made numerous comments on this walk when discussing the Weardale Way and how the first waymarked route was established in the 1970s and recently whilst digging through some old files I came across the original route description by Alan Earnshaw, the Secretary of the Association of Fell Ramblers and Wayfarers. What now follows is a synopsis of the the original guide from the late 1970s…
The River Wear and its surrounding hinterlands must rate as one of Britain’s most important workshops and the area itself played an important part of our heritage and indeed development. Contrary to popular belief the industries did not confine themselves to just the lowlands, in fact the high fells and dales were just as industrialised around the turn of the century. When our association planned the Wear Valley Way we were not aware of the unique nature of the area, but as we transferred the route from paper to the actual walk we found that we had created a bleak way of moorland beauty.
The extent to which industry had penetrated the area chosen for our walk added, we felt, an interesting feature that could not be ignored, throughout the walk we would be reminded of the labours men had put in to fuel the industries of an industrial revolution. Today many of these places are little more than crumbling ruins, but still they bear in impressive testimony to the extent of industries in the upper Dale.
The walk starts from Killhope Wheel which is situated at the old Park Level Mill on the banks of Killhope Burn some distance above Cowshill, on the A689 Stanhope to Alston road. The crushing plant that once handled the lead ore from a number of seams in Cowshill has been a popular tourist spot for a number of years and accordingly has several amenities which encouraged us to use it as the walks starting point.
Leaving the Wheel behind we enter Weardale Forest, access is gained by a footpath several hundred yards up the A689 road (access is also gained by the forestry road which leaves the picnic site near the ford – however the Forestry Commission reserve the rights to refuse access along this track). The forest was planted from 1954 onwards and hides a good deal of the old lead workings and spoil heaps, but some of the old ‘hushes’ and turf built dams can still be seen. At the first of these dams (Kidd’s Dam) the track heads along a fire break and comes out at Cowhurst Hush. This, the largest ‘hush’ in Weardale was created like most other ‘hushes’, water was gathered in turf dams which were released when full, the escaping water tearing earth and vegetation away and exposing the lead-bearing rock below.
After crossing Cowhorse a series of good paths leads the walker into the village of Cowshill. From the village the Allendale road is followed for a short distance before a bridleway leads past Cogley and on to Burtree Fell. At a point where the county boundary is reached, the walk leaves the bridleway and heads over an undefined track to Sedling Fell and Black Hill before reaching Race Head which at 1918ft is the highest point of the walk. Below Race Head a bridleway leads into the metalled road going down Middlehope Bank. Near the bottom of the bank are some very interesting privately owned lead mines, one having a very quaint method of drawing ore to the surface. By using an old van lifted off its wheels the pit head gear is operated direct from the prop shaft. Crossing Middlehope Burn the road now starts to climb to Scarsike Head. At the junction with the Rookhope to Westgate road turn right and after a short while the Way leaves the road by way of a footpath over Red Road and Smailsburn Common which in turn leads us to Rookhope.
Rookhope still remains the centre of the local mining industry and is the home of Swiss Aluminium Mining (UK) Ltd who operate the large Redburn Mine. The walk leaves Rookhope up the old railway line, access to which is gained by a footpath near the public toilets. The railway climbs over 600ft in 17,000 yards and reaches Bolts Law Winding House (ruins). This point was the highest standard gauge railway line ever built in Britain. For the next six miles the line now snakes over Stanhope Common and comes out near to Wetherhill Engine on the B6278 road. From Wetherhill the Way crosses Collier Law and East Colliers Law Moss before reaching Rogerley Hill TV mast. From here a metalled road leads down to the outskirts of Frosterley.
Leaving Frosterley the Way passes the Tilcon Quarry at Harehope before climbing a road used as a public path (RUPP) which leads to a farm. Beyond here a path leads up to Harvey Hill and then to the old lead and copper mine shafts on Pikeston. Going by way of Doctors Gate we reach the ruins of Metcalfs House which was an old coaching inn on the Teesdale-Weardale pack route. A path now leads through Hamsterley Forest and along the banks of Ayhope Beck. From Low Redford a choice of routes is offered and the walker will eventually arrive at Bedburn from where a series of paths lead through New Hall and Park House before eventually coming out on the Hamsterley road near to the A68.
Walking down to the A68 and climbing a bank on the opposite side of the road will lead to Witton Castle. Inside the Castle grounds a further path heads down towards the River Wear and Holme House which affords excellent views of Witton-le-Wear Nature Reserve. Another path leads from here along the river bank to Witton Park. Beyond Witton Park a clearly marked path leads all the way to Escomb and then on to Newton Cap on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland.
The last lap of the walk takes to the old Durham to Bishop Auckland railway line and this should be followed all the way to Hunwick. Just beyond the old Hunwick Station a path leads down to the River Wear and then along the river banks all the way to the district boundary at Jubilee bridge near Willington. This is the site of a picnic park and you can take a well earned drink at the refreshment caravan situated here in the summer months.
With the Wear Valley Way the association of Fell Ramblers and Watfarers have attempted a mammoth feat. Hours of consultation were spent with landowners, public authorities, private companies and government departments. During the winter months of 1978 over 200 letters were sent out to every possible person, group or authority who were concerned with the walk. This has been followed by hours of voluntary work, waymarking, building cairns and repairing stiles and gates and whilst most of this work is already completed we still have a good deal of work to do before the walk is officially opened in August.
Following the Inaugural Walk on August 4th 1979 the walk will become a recreational path. That means it will be a path that will accommodate walkers who want to undertake the challenge of the full 46 miles in a 24hr period, or for those who want to do the walk a section at a time over a period of weeks or even months. badges and Certificates will be awarded to all those who complete the walk.
There has been replies from Alan Stewart an ex DCC Ranger and Mike Knipe a current Ranger who has a link to this site. Both have copies of the original book which was published in 1983 by Discovery Guides Ltd of Middleton in Teesdale and printed in Cockfield. The ISBN number is ISBN 086309 016 8 and has chapters on the history of the Wear Valley Way, places of interest on the route, lead mining in the dale and the route plans as well as a appendix on Wear Valley dialects.
There is another book on the Weardale Way by Ken Piggin (JKE Piggin) from a slightly later period which takes the Wear Valley from its source to its mouth and which was published on Dalesman Books. Ken wrote several books including the Nidderdale Way which is an excellent walk. Ken Piggin’s is the best book on the Weardale Way and is in my opinion a better route than a later book published around 2000 on a lowland route. I have searched for a copy at a reasonable price but have been unsuccessful with all prices asking over £20 I`ll just have to keep rummaging around the charity shops etc.
The Weardale Way is an under promoted walk within the county and it would be good to see an updated book on the walk as well as a series of leaflets on a suitable website to complement the route similar to those produced by Hampshire C C on the Test Way.
Distance: 13 miles allowing for minor diversions
Map: OS Explorer 304 – Darlington & Richmond
Start: Eppleby village, North Yorkshire
The original plan for this walk was to be a linear walk from Piercebridge to Richmond but plans had to be modified when we decided to use one car. The consequence of this was that we found ourselves in Eppleby Village with a plan to look at Stanwick Camp on a circular walk. There is easy parking at Eppleby on the roadside as the road is quiet.
The walk started badly with a navigation problem. We generally have a poor opinion of the waymarking in North Yorkshire and indeed there is a problem here. At the south end of the village shortly before the last houses on the right heading south is a footpath sign. Look carefully as a few yards away there is another one on the opposite side of the track leading into a field. The OS map indicates that the path heads south but following this brings you to Forcett Beck where there is no bridge. Looking round you can see if instead you had gone across the field and headed south east towards the farm houses, some of which look like holiday accommodation, you will note a bridge which can be crossed. After crossing now head south to climb the embankment of the old railway, opened as long ago as 1866, which carried limestone from Forcett Quarry which is passed later in the walk, then head on the embankment to the right in a south west direction for about 100 yards to a stile on the left. Cross the stile and follow the path south alongside a hedge through horse land to pass the buildings to the left to arrive at a tarmac road at the east end of the village of Forcett.
Immediately on your left is a big embankment and this is part of the fortifications of the famous Stanwick Camp. In this area are nearly six miles of ramps and fortifications which can be seen on examining the landscape. In some places these fortifications can be sixteen feet high. Nearby information boards give additional information on this fine site which is one of the largest Iron Age fortifications in the UK. The name Stanwick is thought to derive from stone wall settlement and this whole site was the headquarters of the Brigantes in the early days of Roman occupation. They appear to have been on relatively easy terms with the Romans and much work was done on this topic by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in the 1950s.
Head eastwards along the road for about 200 yards and take a path in the field on your right. On the ground this path is easier to follow round the field edges, where there is also horse traffic, to a stile in the south east corner and then follow the path with appropriate instructions to miss a wet section to reach the church of St John the Baptist of Stanwick St John, which is entered by a stile. This is a 13th century church built on the site of a Saxon church and then modified and rebuilt by Anthony Salvin in 1868. This architect is met on other walks near to his home base near Durham city. The church is a Grade 1 Listed Building by English Heritage and is situated within the earthworks of Stanwick Camp. It is currently closed for regular worship and is maintained by the Redundant Churches Trust who do a superb job here on both the buildings and the grounds.
Leave the church by the main gate and cross over Kirk Bridge and then take the path east along the river bank accessed by a difficult ladder. You soon cross over to the other bank and follow the clear track all the way to Aldbrough St John which deserves some of your time. This is a spacious village with large greens and seats as well as a good pub open at lunchtime. Particularly noteworthy is the fine three-arched pack horse bridge with a span of forty eight feet. The bridge has parapets but there are indications that the original bridge has kerbs of six inches. The bridge was on a pack horse route linking Tyneside to Lancaster, going westwards from here to Marske, Hawes and Ingleton. Leave Aldbrough to the south west on a minor road to Park House and follow the Scots Dyke through Langdale to a tarmac road which is the access road to High Langdale. Here turn left along the road until you reach a stile on your right and a clear path heading up the field. This is not as shown on my map but is obviously a legal diversion which makes less use of the field. There are clear waymarks and good stiles to West Lane and there is the option of looking into Melsonby.
Now comes two miles or road walking on West Lane and and then passing Carkin Grange to Limekiln Plantation where you turn left on Brick Kiln Lane and pass through Tile Sheds Farm. The products of the Tile Sheds are evident everywhere here with the red pantile roofs reminiscent of Southern France. In over an hour here we were only passed by three vehicles. Now head west to East Layton passing St Cuthbert’s Church and also the Palladian Country House of Forcett Hall on your right. At Hall Farm head north on the road to Forcett Quarry which has been supplying limestone to industry in the area for over 150 years. The way to the west of the quarry arrives at New House where the footpath heads diagonally across a field to a gate. Virtually opposite is the access road to Layton Fields Farm where there is a diversion to keep walkers away from cattle. A sensible diversion in an attractive area.
The way is clear following waymarks and stiles under Foxberry to the village of Caldwell where there is a very good gastro pub also serving good ale. Note the dovecot and the fountain at Caldwell. The path to Eppleby is well marked at Caldwell and crosses open access which is Caldwell Common. Towards Eppleby the situation deteriorates at GR 170135 where some hedges have been taken out to enlarge a field but if you head due east you will pick out the route with little problem where the path joins one from the north to cross a small stream and from then on it is good going back to the village of Eppleby, coming out near the shop and coffee rooms. A new waymark in an enlarged field near to the pylon would be very useful!
This is quite a good walk if you are wanting to stride out and is generally good underfoot, in quiet countryside, free from commercialism.
Distance: 11 miles
Map : OS Explorer 315 – Carlisle, Brampton, Longtown & Gretna Green
Start: Lanercost Road end of Brampton
A cold damp day with a sea fret and cold east winds and the promise of a sunny day over the Pennines made for an easy decision where to go and with only limited discussion there was total agreement that we should head for the sun! As usual in these circumstances the weather improved fast as soon as we got through the Tyne Gap and at Brampton we got out of the car to the promised sunny weather.
We decided to walk the section of Hadrian’s Wall from outside Brampton to Greenhead and then get the hourly express bus back (currently no. 685) from Greenhead to Brampton. Hadrian’s Wall Path is not a particular favourite of mine, although it attracts thousands of visitors, but it does have its moments and to me this stage is arguably the best. It has fine views throughout, is in good open country and is generally much quieter than the next section east which it shares with the Pennine Way and Wainwright’s Pennine Journey as well as many one-day visitors. The opening section of Hadrian’s Wall Path from Bowness can be pleasant albeit with a substantial amount of quiet road walking but the extensive views across the Solway and the big skies plus the abundant birdlife make this a good day for many, even though there is no Hadrian’s Wall to see. The second section from Carlisle to Hayton Gate where we pick up the National Trail today is a peaceful walk through arable countryside and it is just after Hayton Gate that the Roman interest really becomes visible.
There is an excellent route out from Brampton which starts at where the road to Lanercost leaves the A6071 at the eastern end of town and a footpath here heads initially north to a cottage and then east up onto the ridge. This section has fine views north to Scotland and passes through superb beech woods with many fine trees owned by the Woodland Trust, before descending diagonally down across a field to emerge at a road and the route is waymarked throughout. There is a footpath sign where you emerge on to a road which directs you to the right to Quarry Bank Burn and Lanercost. This was not marked on our Explorer map as a right of way but all the signs say it is a right of way, and indeed this is a very nice old path which follows the burn, again through superb beechwoods. After passing the small quarry specialising in the red stone of the area the path rejoins the road at Lanercost Bridge, built by four stonemasons in 1724 and which was in use to 1962 before being replaced by the new one alongside. The old bridge was refurbishes in 1998 by Cumbria County Council with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund but it is worth mentioning that it was replaced because of its lack of width and not its capacity to carry heavier loads.
Ahead of you is Lanercost Priory which is worth a visit and also boasts a good tearoom. Sadly the Bridge Inn which was at the side of the old bridge, and in the past had very good food, is no more and is now a bed and breakfast establishment. Just after the abbey the road turns sharp right and here we leave it and have a choice of a footpath to Hayton Gate. This is in fact a surfaced road leading to the farm and there is an alternate bridle way a shade further west from the same point which passes to the west side of Abbey Gills Wood to pick up the Hadrian’s Wall Path.
I do not propose to put much here on the route as this is well covered by the various guides to the Hadrian’s Wall Path although you pass the highest standing part of the wall at Hare Hills soon after joining the trail. It is generally thought that this was reconstructed during the 19th century. There is an excellent seat for lunch near the top of the hill at Banks with fine views of the Eden Valley and the more distant Lake District hills. Leaving Banks you have wide views on either side noting the end of the Pennine Chain to the south and its highest point hereabouts which is Cold Fell. Birdoswald fort, known to the Romans as Banna, is top class and the new bridge at Willowford is in a superb setting. This was the first bridge to be erected on this site since Roman times. Equally interesting, close to Gilsland which is passed by the south, is Poltross Burn milecastle which has been well preserved, including a surviving flight of stairs in spite of the construction of the nearby railway in the 1830s.
After this the path follows close to the Vallum and after Longbyer farm you reach the B6318 road. Go right along the road and after 200 yards you will see the Pennine Way coming down over the golf course to your right and joining the Hadrian’s Wall Path. Turn in front of the row of houses to cross the river and here you leave the Hadrian’s Wall Path and Pennine Way and follow the cycle way into Greenhead.
I have not included the bus times as they are liable to change. However take care as the express bus does not enter the village and stays on the A69. This is reached NOT by taking the road up higher up from the pub but instead going along the street to the left which has a “no exit” sign. This takes you along a path to the A69 and the bus stop east. To get back to Brampton use the underpass to reach the bus stop west. The timetable is on the wall in the Greenhead Hotel which not only serves good local real ales but also does good bar food and is open all day. The trip back to Brampton is all on the A69 and at 50mph takes about 10 mins. It is worth mentioning that during the summer there is a special bus for walkers which goes at least to Birdoswald and east of Greenhead past all the honeypot places such as Crag Lough and Housesteads. For those who want a lot more of the history of the wall there are several books but the best is the classic of 1863 called “The Handbook of the Roman Wall” by J. Collingwood Bruce which is beautifully illustrated. My copy is a newer version which is the seventh edition dated 1914.
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.