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Jun 2012

Map - OL31 - NORTH PENNINES - Teesdale & Weardale.

Distance 8.5 miles Strenuousity 4.

County Durham Coat of Arms

Who doesn't need a holiday so how about a trip to the good ol' USofA? Somewhere off the beaten track, though, what about Deadwood in the Badlands?

Who doesn't need a holiday?

Don't like the sound of that? Slaughterville? Bloody Springs? Pass that Scandinavian atlas over will you.

Combine a trip to Hell in Norway with a round visit to Rövhålet in Sweden. Wait a minute, the Berlitz™ phrase book says that translates as 'Butt-Hole', Nej tack!

The distant Australian relatives won't be getting a visit anytime soon. Burrumbuttock has good transport links but no one's going anywhere near no Chinaman's Knob.

No, it will have to be something closer to home, somewhere deliberately less horror and innuendo laden. Crapstone? Aren't they all a bit? Otherwise, it'd be a crag or a cliff or a mountain. Dull? Ugley?

Killhope? At least afford all ye who enter here the courtesy of doing some abandoning first.

Killhope is in County Durham's Upper Weardale, the valley through which the River Wear runs on its way to the North Sea via Durham and Sunderland.


It's the site of an old lead mine and has evolved into a popular, themed tourist attraction. It's fun for all the family and well worth a visit, they say, and they'll even provide the wellies.

The name's not as off-putting as it seems. A valley with kilns for burning limestone and not a less than 50% chance of seeing the surface again back in the day.

There is a nearby town that's a reminder of a family tale that probably isn't true.

A late uncle dabbled in local politics for a while back in the 70s. He represented minority causes and aligned himself accordingly with the Conservative Party, this being North-East England.

During a supposedly heated discussion, a rival Labour councillor boasted irrelevantly...
'At least
we have a town up here named after one of ours.' (Peterlee).

Without a breath, uncle retorts... 'And where is that again?... Crook?'

Yes, he was a bit of a daft Tory but it would be nice to think that was true.

The small, attractive market town of Wolsingham is only about seven miles west of Crook and 15 miles east and downstream of Killhope.

There are a couple of eateries here, Café\Bistro Number 10 goes all Gordon Ramsay™ over Pegotty's more traditional tearoom and bakery. Give them both a go, no complaints here with either the preamble BLT or the post VAT-free pasty.

NORTH PENNINES - Teesdale & Weardale

Dust off your OS OL31 for this circular eight-and-a-half miler. It's south up onto moorland to return clockwise via the River Wear. It's a lovely day and with one yet to be seen, there's a good feeling about clocking a kingfisher, yeah right.

There's free parking to be had in the Demesne Mill Picnic Area. It's off the B6296 and just before\after the town 'centre' as you arrive\leave.

Wolsingham - Demesne Mill Picnic Area

It's clearly signed to prevent you having to ask for directions to De-mess-nee? Dem-eez-nay?[1]. If really stuck, you could just ask about the private land around some old medieval lord's manor house, or something.

Exit the same way you drove in and turn right to head towards downtown Wolsingham.

[1] Actually pronounced De-main and comes from Old French. Your old History teacher might be disappointed you didn't remember but it's a new one here as well. Ah, Domain, now I see Mr Bennett.

Bear right at Café\Bistro Number 10 and walk along the main road passing the Barclays™ on the corner. After not too long, you'll need to cross over and follow this sign to Hamsterley.

Wolsingham - Sign to Hamsterley
Wolsingham - Bridge

Follow the Causeway to the bridge over the River Wear and cross to reach the railway station.

Below is the single track branch line providing a frequent passenger service between Bishop Auckland to the south-east and Stanhope to the west. A couple of choo-choos also run every Saturday and Sunday provided by a heritage partnership with the Weardale Railway Trust.

The minor road twists violently, not really, uphill but keep an eye out for traffic as you follow it up.

Wolsingham - Way Out

After a short distance, there's a lay-by on the left, opposite the track to Ashes House Farm. The map suggests an off-road path beyond the gate but given that it simply rejoins a bit further up, nothing wrong with sticking to the relatively quiet road.

It's a bit of a puffer but some light relief was provided by a couple of perky parents and a straggling emo with an iPod™...

'There's no way you're staying in being all existential. Wash that mascara off, we're going out as a family to walk down a road.'

After a quarter of an hour or so of what was, quite frankly, a bit of a struggle in blazing sunshine, there's a broad track on the right to Carr Farm, currently just sold.

George F. White has a bit of a monopoly on the real estate in this area and given the reasonable well-to-do-ness in these parts, some of George's prices are 'F-White-ning'.

Near Wolsingham - To Carr Farm

This is Rushy Lea Lane, which was read as Rustie Lee Lane. Although there weren't any annoying Caribbean cooking antics in the two dwellings along this track, quite a few curlews decided to pipe up and take to the air.

These were the first in-the-feather, so to speak, but eluded any snaps and disrupted the zoom.

Near Wolsingham - Rushy Lea Lane

No, the only other thing of mild interest was the strange traffic calming beyond this gate. This is looking back at it here, not far after the second house.

Soon after the gate, look for an indistinct path next to the wall heading to the top-left. Don't stay on the main path beyond the overly grand claim of a Quarry (disused) or you'll have to backtrack or plodge left upwards.

There was an indicator on the destination gate in the form of a warning of Cows With Young written in felt-tip on a red, plastic lid.

Near Wolsingham - Warning Gate

Sure enough, the next field had some cows with young in it as well as a flock of potentially less life-threatening sheep.

Mildly wary, make for the clear track opposite that runs parallel to the wall and trees. Turn left onto it and head up to the gate with a matching lid.

Near Wolsingham - Track

It's suspected that Mrs Farmer is running Tupperware™ parties at home. Where else would she get them so cheap to be so wasteful?

Beyond the second warning gate lies moorland and the end of the ascent.

Take the broad, sandy track on the right. It either doesn't rain a lot up here or the Darlington branch of Wickes™ decided it wouldn't\couldn't deliver the materials for the farm extension any further.

Near Wolsingham - Moorland
Near Wolsingham - The Elephant Trees

The solitary clump of trees in the distance mark the next point. They're known locally as the Elephant Trees because, from a distance, they resemble an elephant herd[1].

Generations of 'courting' couples as far back as the '50s have engraved their loving intentions in the bark. There's a new word for it nowadays but the Dog(ging) Trees sounds nowhere near as exotic.

[1] Sorry but it's just not being seen.

Another feathered-first along this stretch, the lapwing. The name had been heard but this was thought to be a small garden bird.

Not the case, big as a pigeon with a crested head, the lapwing has its own distinctive warning shot as with the curlew. It wasn't until later that a search for 'birds with hats' confirmed identification.

It was either this strained snap or a copyrighted pic of Carmen Miranda.

Vanellus vanellus
Near Wolsingham - The Weardale Way

Soon before reaching the Elephant Trees, the leftmost of a double gate on the right is what's wanted where there's a Weardale Way pointer to confirm.

Take a diversion to the trees if arboreal graffiti is your thing before heading down and slightly left through the field.

The views so far have mainly been of moorland to the left and the occasional glimpse behind and over the wall on the right are also nice enough.

On the way down however and with the sun behind, a fantastic view over Frosterley and beyond opens up.

Near Frosterley - View
Near Frosterley - Haematopus ostralegus

At last, some familiar birdage here, a pair of oystercatchers. In keeping with the day, they'll let you know you're there by making a right racket.

Given their preferred choice of starter is I'll have the mussels, it's not entirely known why they hang out halfway up a moor. Turns out it's a seasonal thing when the little breeders head up here where their nests aren't nearly so noticeable.

The path remains obvious and after a gate, the main part of the flooded Harehope Quarry is seen. There's a better view of the place a bit further on past the soon to come farm although visits appear to be by appointment only.

Near Frosterley - Harehope Quarry

The water might also go some way to explaining them oystercatchers?

Another gate greets having passed under a small electricity pylon network.

Near Frosterley - A Gate
Near Frosterley - Horses

A pair of friendly horses in the field beyond although the one in the pyjamas was slightly less forthcoming.

This is looking back, again, to gaze at from whence you came, why not?

Enter into a nice-looking farmyard where the chickens are less bothered by the barking dogs than you are. A few farming folk were milling around an outdoor table being prepared for a celebratory buffet.

Near Frosterley - West Biggins Farm

Now, it's known to be a public right of way because the OS OL31 says so but you too might want to try and pass through such situations surreptitiously.

That's why it can't be confirmed if the red lids were missing off the tubs of sausage rolls and the vol-au-vents.

After leaving the farm, the track continues straight on and down giving you a better idea of Harehope Quarry. Continue past some rusty mechanisms then look out for the less obvious path on the left down to the railway line.

Near Wolsingham - Rusty Mechanisms
Near Wolsingham - Class 141 Railbus

Good timing here as the instantly recognisable Class 141 Railbus rolls past. Had this been a Saturday, it might've been a choo-choo.

Finally, the River Wear is met and remember that good feeling about seeing a kingfisher? Well, first impressions aren't encouraging. No suitable banks for burrows and the amount of fresh looking debris suggests some recent turbulence.

Near Wolsingham - The River Wear

Follow the path to a rather smart-looking caravan park and take the Tarmac™ road at the first opportunity. This will avoid having to scramble up betwixt a pair of sturdy tree trunks when the river path runs out, emerging to the bemusement of quite an audience.

A game of 23-a-side football was taking place and not so much jumpers for goalposts more like Union Jacks for corner flags. This is where they celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, you see, although there's a fair chance this won't be happening on your visit.

Near Wolsingham - The River Wear

There is some access to the river as you follow the road out. There are high banks and plenty of overhang but the noise from the nearby kickabout combined with the chimes of 'Land of Hope and Glory' scared any off, probably.

It's not known if it was the faint strain of a willowy branch or the sudden, calming breeze that compelled SlyBob to turn. Turn we did, and there, motionless and magnificent... the kingfisher!

Near Wolsingham - Kingfisher

That's right, some airbrushed artistry on the entrance signage to the... Kingfisher Leisure Park!

A narrow road bridge here links the caravan park to the A689. The map shows a less distinct path on the opposite bank that looks to hug the river more closely than the current path.

Near Wolsingham - Bridge

That plan was soon scuppered as it's reserved for anglers, anglers and caravanners, actually. Buy a static plot back there and the owners will throw in a year's permit for access to the path.

Since the sales office was closed, it was decided just to stay this side of the river and follow the well-trodden Weardale Way.

The path now veers away from the river and the appearance of a fence to prevent cows with young going for a dip means a diversion is pointless. A cow with young saw SlyBob coming from a distance and stood firm, eyeing us suspiciously as we passed.

A bit more of a warning would have been nice but clearly all the local lids had been used up.

As the path heads back to Wolsingham, look right for the lion lurking in the undergrowth where the words 'lion' and 'undergrowth' are used in the same way that 'Jesus' and 'toast' are often seen together.

Near Wolsingham - Panthera leo

The camera died at this point probably due to curlew zoom strain. There is, however, a brief dalliance with the river again before arriving at the bridge you crossed earlier.

That was one enjoyable stroll and this place is spectacular in the sunshine so come and enjoy. It's relatively unspoilt, though, so just like the farmer's gate, keep a lid on it.

Fauna Saw...

What Number Behaviour  
Bunnies Dozen Bouncing.
Chicken Half-a-dozen Unflappable.
Cow Lots With young.
Curlew Quite a few Making quite a distinctive din now that you ask thank you very much.
Horse 2 One ready for bed.
Kingfisher 1 Sketchy.
Lapwing Several See curlew.
Lion 1 Wooden.
Oystercatcher 2 See curlew.
What's What
 Harehope Quarry
 Killhope Lead Mining Museum
 Weardale Railway Trust