Teesdale Way to Whorlton

After rain in the night, we set out on a clearing morning from Barnard Castle, following the River Tees downstream to Abbey Bridge and then following the Teesdale Way. A strong scent of wild garlic as we wandered down the river bank.

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River Tees near to Whorlton

A very pleasant stretch of woodland walking, then out on to more open country as we entered Rokeby Park, although the house – the inspiration for Sir Walter Scott’s famous poem – is not in view.

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The Meeting of the Waters

But below the house is The Meeting of the Waters, where the River Greta meets the Tees. A delightful spot. If there was a road anywhere near it’d be a honeypot for tourists. Fortunately there isn’t. You have to walk and make an effort to see it – and all the better for that. Above is Dairy Bridge which crosses a deep gorge of the Greta – a place that was painted by both Turner and Cotman.

Mortham Tower

On then through the estate parkland of Mortham Tower – the house a very attractive stately home, complete with Peel Tower. The path winds across fine and airy country, looking across fields to the River Tees. I find it quite interesting that many of the grand houses of the north preserved public rights of way. In some parts of Britain the landed gentry did all they could to keep the peasants (most of us!) out. Not here, happily.

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Whorlton Suspension Bridge

We crossed the River Tees on the Whorlton Suspension Bridge, which was opened on the 7th July 1831 – a toll bridge until 1914. We stood where, during World War Two, Winston Churchill stood to inspect troops training on an assault course on the steep cliffs of the northern bank, in those days when we fought fascism. The original toll house, still displaying its original charge board, stands empty on the far side.VLUU L110, M110  / Samsung L110, M110

Up a stretch of steep steps to Whorlton village, originally Querington, a very peaceful and attractive place, though the church only dates to 1853, when it replaced a chapel of ease, which dated back to Norman times.

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The Old Toll House

We returned to Barnard Castle, following the Tees upstream along the opposite bank to our journey out, though mostly high above the river, following the headland paths of fields. There were lots of sheep lazing in the sunshine and very long views across the dale.

On the Teesdale Way

At one point, the path crosses the Sledwich Gill, where the waters of a tiny beck have carved a very deep gorge through the limestone, making the parish boundary between Whorlton and Westwick, with impressive parish boundary markers made by the artist Richard Wentworth.

After several fields the Teesdale Way plunges back into woodland on the northern side of the Tees at Tees Bank Plantation.

Detail from a tomb in Barnard Castle Churchyard

A stretch of garlic smelling woodland brought us back to Abbey Bridge – another toll crossing in its day, where we crossed the road and took our original path back to Barnard Castle. At the Demesne, at the start of the town, we cut up through the churchyard, reading some of the ancient gravestones – the last resting place of men and women who would have known so well these same fields, woodlands and river banks.

Text and pictures copyright A and J Bainbridge



A Pilgrimage to the Ramblers Church


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Pilgrimage to the Ramblers Church:

A lovely warm day, a gentle mist burning off the harvested fields of this part of rural Lincolnshire. We walked this short walk from Tealby, a most attractive village set in the midst of the rolling downlands and wooded hillsides of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Walking past the parish church, we climbed through chalk and clay downlands to North Wold Farm, the tiny old farmhouse seemingly deserted and overwhelmed by modern farm buildings.

This is a landscape of very wide views, downland all around and the Lincolnshire plain beyond.  A tiny bit of quiet lane walking brought us to a path leading down to Risley Manor Farm, a very attractive set of buildings undergoing some restoration, including a new well-built boundary wall – the wall-makers were still at work. Nice to see craftsmanship in action – it is pretty rare in our throwaway society.

We turned on to the Viking Way long-distance path to Walesby, rambling across rough heathland and small stretches of trees and down on the edge of the high ground of the Wolds. We saw deer along the way, albeit in the fields of the deer farm.Lincolnshire 105

At last the old parish church of Walesby came into view. Since it was built the village has relocated itself off this hillside and into the valley. But you can still see the humps and bumps of the old medieval village. There are lot of antiquities in this area, including a Roman villa just a few hundred yards away.

The church (All Saints)  is a lovely ironstone red, now known as the Ramblers Church, the scene of an annual pilgrimage and ramblers’ church service. Inside it is a delight with its stained glass window celebrating ramblers and cyclists ( indeed we saw several of both during the course of this walk). There is a most attractive freestanding wooden pulpit, some white-stained box pews and a number of very good carved stone heads. On the hour the carillon and bells range out across the Wolds and the plain beyond.

We walked down into the newer village of Walesby to see the present church, which is simple and attractive.

Our way back to Tealby was along the Viking Way, once more past the Ramblers Church and Risby, then along the edge of the intriguingly-named Bedlam Plantation  and Castle Farm. Lincolnshire 114Lincolnshire 129Lincolnshire 147

On the way back we had a good look around Tealby church with its many monuments to the Tennyson d’Eyncourt family, all rel atives of the poet. Then down to the King’s Head pub (the oldest thatched pub in Lincolnshire) for a drink.

And congratulations on some very well waymarked rights of way and further congratulations to the local farmers who have made such a good job of restoring the lines of paths after harvesting.

If you thought that Lincolnshire was all flatlands, then do visit the Wolds. They are a revelation!


















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John Ruskin on Footpaths

In 1885 John Ruskin wrote a letter to the Pall Mall Gazette:Wray Castle and Brantwood 021

“Sir, Will you kindly help me to direct general attention to the mischief now continually done by new landowners in the closing of our mountain footpaths? Of all the small, mean, and wicked things a landlord can do, shutting his footpath is the nastiest…”

The picture above shows the view through Ruskin’s study window near Coniston…

Edward Thomas: Over the Hills

A hundred and one years ago today, the walker, poet and country writer Edward Thomas was killed in action on the opening day of the Battle of Arras during the Great War.

Here is one walking poem that tends to get missed…

Over the Hills

Often and often it came back again
To mind, the day I passed the horizon ridge
To a new country, the path I had to find
By half-gaps that were stiles once in the hedge,
The pack of scarlet clouds running across
The harvest evening that seemed endless then
And after, and the inn where all were kind,
All were strangers. I did not know my loss
Till one day twelve months later suddenly
I leaned upon my spade and saw it all,
Though far beyond the sky-line. It became
Almost a habit through the year for me
To lean and see it and think to do the same
Again for two days and a night. Recall
Was vain: no more could the restless brook
Ever turn back and climb the waterfall
To the lake that rests and stirs not in its nook,
As in the hollow of the collar-bone
Under the mountain’s head of rush and stone.

Edward Thomas