Sunderland Bridge and Croxdale Hall 11th November

ladies in woodland

Autumn 2018 has been a delight. It started early with a chilly stretch of weather in early October and that kick-started the colour change in the trees. Dry and still weather followed with cool nights and so we had an extended period of Autumn colour before wind and rain tore leaves from the trees.

This walk took place in the last hurrah of reds, oranges and yellows and took us around the gentle countryside bordering Durham city. We started on a road that is now a cul-de-sac but once took traffic over the old River Wear crossing at Sunderland Bridge. It makes an excellent parking spot.

We were joined on this walk by an old friend; Cathy. After a break of a few years, she has re-joined the Group and brought along her two dogs. All three of them were very welcome.

We started out heading North East along a metalled estate road bordered by pasture land and overlooked by a big house. This road took us away from the River Wear and parallel with the adjoining Croxdale Beck before we took a footpath off to the right and into a lovely stretch of mixed woodland. Low sunshine sliced through the tree branches and backlit the beautiful Autumn leaves overhead; it truly was a lovely stretch of walking.

autumn beech

Emerging from the woodland we came upon a farm with its associated barns and outbuidlings. A few ducks and chickens scratted around outside and there was a couple of apple trees laden down with late season fruit. A steep footpath took us back down into woodland and after about half a mile we stopped for lunch.

After lunch the going was nice and easy, through woodland paths, open pasture and country lanes for about a mile and a half. We could then see the village of Shincliffe coming into view and we approached it from the south west, walking past the garden centre and up a farm track.

This brought us into Shincliffe Village itself and we had a very enjoyable stroll along the main street eyeing up the lovely old houses. This is a popular spot for well-to-do local professionals and is a very pretty village. A few years ago we enjoyed nosing around even more when the village held an open gardens day and about a dozen residents opened their gardens for charity.

autumn woodland

Passing the Seven Stars Inn at the end of the village, we crossed the busy A177 and walked uphill to High Shincliffe before crossing back over the A177 after about half a mile and entering woodland once again. Our return loop brought us around the rear of Croxdale Hall and its spectacular stone barn; quite a sight.

Retracing our steps along the estate road we were back to our cars.

7 miles



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Wylam and Ovingham walk 28th October

wylam woods

Although the weather forecast was a bit threatening, this walk escaped all but the briefest of showers and we enjoyed a glorious Autumn day.

Starting out at the Tyne Riverside Country Park car park, on the Prudhoe side of the Ovingham Bridge, we headed off along the excellent riverside pathway.  We were following the Tyne eastward on this first stretch and the excellent footpath is popular with dog walkers, cyclists and joggers as well as us ramblers. The river snakes sinuously here, in large broad bends and the trees cloaking the northern shore were ablaze with Autumn colour.

After about half an hour we could see glimpses of the old railway bridge between the trees and soon enough we reached Wylam Railway Bridge. It’s a beautiful bit of cast iron engineering and spans a slight bottleneck in the river at this point between two bends. Crossing the bridge, we were now walking on an old railway route just below Wylam village.

wylam bridge

Instead of following the route eastwards, we took a steep path to the left and we were soon amongst the houses of Wylam itself. This short stretch of pavement walking past many fine houses was the sharp turn of our walk and after climbing into stunning woodland, we were heading westward once again. We stopped here for lunch and enjoyed fabulous views over the Tyne valley richly decorated into reds and yellows.

wylam bridge from above

After a half mile of woodland walking we reached the edge of Wylam village itself and zig-zagged north west and upwards across pasture and arable fields for nearly a mile before reaching the outskirts of Horsley village. After another short stretch of pavement walking we were back amongst farmland and heading down across a large field full of black cows.

The final mile of the walk was another series of zig-zags following field boundaries and overgrown lanes before returning to Ovingham village itself and crossing the Bridge back to the cars.

8 miles

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An afternoon walk around Haydon Bridge, 14th October

Haydon Bridge

This turned out to be the first proper Autumn walk of our 2018 programme. The weather was crisp and clear and the leaves had started to change colour; this all contributed to a lovely afternoon walk in the Tyne Valley.

We started out near the cemetery at Haydon Bridge just under the A69 bypass. Sounds idyllic, right? Actually it is quite a nice quiet little spot with a spacious parking area and access to a couple of footpaths and a nearby playground(!). We walked through Haydon Bridge itself, noticing the crumbling remains of a high wall or maybe an old bastle before crossing the South Tyne. Continuing through the town we negotiated the level crossing over the Tyne Valley railway line and headed up into the surrounding countryside via a narrow lane.

Crossing a sloping sheep pasture we came upon Old Haydon Church, a beautiful little church that once served the original settlement of Haydon before it migrated downhill to straddle the South Tyne. This is such a quiet and peaceful place with a tunnel of yew along the pathway leading to the old church. Inside it is simple and almost austere but a lovely place for a bit of quiet contemplation. The church was built using stone nicked from nearby Hadrian’s Wall.


Leaving the church, we followed the minor road through a nearby farm hamlet before descending a very steep field back down into the town.

4 miles

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Sunday 7th October Finchale Abbey walk

finchale abbey

This was yet another lovely walk and the first one this year with a decidedly Autumnal feel to it. We started in a skinny little parking lane by the side of what seemed to be a Formula 1 practice track! Cars whizzed by at a terrifying speed, literally inches away from where we were lacing up boots and hauling on rucksacks.

Thankfully, from the parking lane we dipped straight into woodland, following a path down the slope to the side of the River Wear and stunning views across to the ruins of Finchale Abbey. We explored the ruins for a while, marvelling at the rugged architecture before heading back up through the trees and onto Cocken Lane. After ¼ mile we headed left down the footpath that led us into open farmland and from there into more deciduous woodland. This stretch took us through the lovely Cocken Woods; I love walking in woodland and this part of the walk was beautiful with the first tints of Autumn showing in the trees and the low sunlight slicing through the branches. Gradually descending a shallow slope, we stopped for lunch at the side of the River Wear, its meandering loops giving us a great spot to enjoy our sandwiches.

After lunch we headed back though the woodland before breaking out into arable farmland with Great Lumley in the near distance. After a couple of miles, we reached the village and paused to take in the expansive views of the area from a convenient bench.

The return loop of the walk was back through the large arable fields of the area, at this time of year looking bare and cold. There were a few sprouts of green from early sown winter wheat and overwintering oil seed rape but otherwise bare soil was dominant. After a couple of miles, we picked up Cocken Lane once more and completed the 5 miles as we returned to our cars.

5 miles




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Waters Meet: 29th September

Waters Meet

Part two of Kev’s double-header was a short sprint more than a long distance walk. Like the 60m sprint at the indoor athletics.

We started out near the bridge at Warden and then dipped between the few pretty houses and picked up the footpath that leads down to the river bank of the South Tyne. After only about five minutes along the path we reached the confluence of this river and the North Tyne at a place known locally as Waters Meet. It’s a lovely spot with the two rivers making an almost symmetrical ‘Y’ shape as they meet and tumble seawards.

There was a fisherman standing at the exact meeting point of the two rivers, casting optimistically for salmon that are making their way upstream at this time of year. In a perfectly timed comedy moment a large salmon leapt from the water behind him as he cast his line obliviously in front of him.

We left him to his enjoyment and headed off through the sandy riverside grassland towards Hexham. As the footpath cut through a small copse and reached the cycle path by the Tyne Valley railway line, we headed back to the start. This section was easy going on tarmac that soon became a single track rod leading back to Warden.

We rewarded our exertions with a drink in the Boatside Inn.

2 miles

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Walwick Fell walking: Sunday 23rd September 2018

Walwick Fell 

We started off the new programme with an afternoon walk courtesy of Kevin Hilton. Starting out on a sunny day we left from Kev’s house in Newbrough and followed the road up and through the village. And up. And up. The road became increasingly steep as we headed further from the village and then narrowed, finally ending abruptly at a gate that led into the nearby fields. To be honest we were puffing and panting a bit as we had kept up a relentless pace for the first mile. A slightly flatter section thankfully followed across sheep pasture allowing us to catch our breath.

After a quick sandwich break by the old Roman vallum we set off across more fields, testing our style climbing skills as we crossed a fair few stone walls. A slightly nervous time was had as we crossed a field full of skittish young cows but we escaped unscathed only to be flash mobbed by a bunch of boisterous young bullocks in an adjacent field. Luckily a stone wall kept them at bay. The sharp eyed young naturalist in our group spotted some morels growing in the drip line of some beech trees and spent 20 minutes gathering forage for her supper.

Heading back downhill to Newbrough we passed the roofless ruin of an old farm cottage that was being refurbished by a young couple. Sleeping in a caravan they were slowly rebuilding the roof despite having no access road, no mains electricity, water or drainage. They look to have a long hard slog ahead of them.

A steady descent brought us back down into Newbrough and a nice cup of tea at Kev’s house.

4.5 miles


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Rambling in Rowlands Gill; February 18th


derwent valley

Do you think it’s best to get a steep climb out of the way early in a walk or wait until the end?

For this walk we were straight into it from the off. Starting out in the Derwent Park car park at Rowlands Gill we climbed up to the main road and then up again to haul ourselves up Busty Bank. It’s a pretty steep stretch of road and worth taking gently rather than at full tilt.

Taking a left into Burnopfield we continued our walk upwards through houses that overlooked the valley below. Their tidy front gardens were just bursting into life with snowdrops sprinkled around liberally and neatly clipped hedges. A footpath led us through the small estate and brought us out, via a kissing gate, to nearby pasture.

A well fenced and signposted footpath carried us almost due North across fields fringed with deciduous woodland and dotted with sheep. We were high up here and enjoyed great views across the valley towards the sprawl of Tyneside. Resting by a wooden post and rail fence we enjoyed lunch on what was a surprisingly mild and still day for mid February.

The walk continued across fields before meeting woodland as it dipped slightly at a point where several footpaths intersected. We continued northwards, parallel to Fell Road on a quiet minor road (West Lane then Hillhead Lane) edged with hedgerows. Returning to field walking, we traversed a steep grassy slope for 200m before re-emerging onto Fellside Road near to the Woodman’s Arms where we stopped for liquid refreshment.


After that short break we continued for a short while on Fellside Road before striking out West down Clockburn Lonnen; a minor road through woodland and scattered housing. We walked on this route for about half a mile before picking up the route of the Derwent Walk. This excellent walk follows an old railway line and has good dry underfoot conditions and was flat! Another mile or so brought us back to Rowlands Gill and we were able to rejoin our cars as the clouds gathered.

6 miles

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