I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Weardale is glorious walking country. It’s relatively unknown outside of the North East and consequently relatively untrodden. That’s a good thing but also something that limits its prosperity. The villages are small and not so affluent as other parts of the North East and a bit more tourist money would probably be a good thing for local businesses.
Anyway, do try and explore Weardale if you get the chance – you won’t be disappointed.
Our walk began in the small village hall (?) car park hidden behind the Hare & Hounds pub and then over a small bridge. From here we walked back to the main A689 road and then headed north, threading our way up a narrow lane and then a footpath squeezed between two cottages.
Picking up the narrow valley of the Middlehope Burn we continued northwards and upwards along a good footpath. Spring can come late to this corner of the country and there was still a sprinkling of flowers amongst the hedgerows and the stream bank; primroses and mountain violas shining against the intense emerald green of mosses.
We passed through the remains of Slitt Mine with some impressive stonework still standing, an information board showed the extent of the lead mining operation here in the late 19th century. Now it is a peaceful spot and a good place for a picnic stop but in its heyday it would have been noisy, smoky and dangerous.
Continuing on along the burn-side footpath we passed further evidence of the areas industrial past with grassy hummocks covering up crumbling walls and foundations. It was a clear, dry day and the wide open spaces were filled with birdsong and the gentle sound of the Middlehope Burn tumbling over its rocky stream bed. It really felt like Spring had arrived and we were enjoying the burgeoning daylight and the [slightly] warmer temperatures.
Our walk then took us up a long uphill section of farm track to avoid the usual route which had become waterlogged, muddy and very boggy. This detour added about one mile onto the walk and as it was all uphill, it was a bit of a slog and we stopped at a suitable stone wall to enjoy our lunch, serenaded by a skylark.
After our fortification we continued the walk, on a minor road, that brought us slowly back down into the broad valley of the River Wear. The farm track on the final stretch down to the river was stony and uneven and a bit of a test of ageing knees but we survived.
The final leg of the walk took us alongside the Wear on a particularly beautiful stretch of river complete with elegant waterfall and comfortable seating spot.