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Saturday, 2 May 2009

Weardale walk with many, many people.
















This could be the last walk before the 2009 TGO Challenge, or, maybe not….
Once upon a time, not too long ago, I used to act as a “steward” on Durham County Council guided walks and today, I decided to join one such walk. I did this mainly because it was advertised at a fairly beefy 15 miles (most DCC walk are a lot shorter than this) , and I could just be a punter on the walk
So I turned up at the bridge over the River Wear at Stanhope, slotted the knipemobile onto the grass verge and joined around 30 other people for this trundle around the Weardale Moors. I recognised several of the walkers and all of the three stewards. Two other TGO challengers were on the walk – Doug, who, along with me is a member of the Harold Shipman lookalike club, and his son, who was sporting a heavy-looking “practise” rucksack. These two will be TGO first-timers this year. Doug understands the alcohol-based TGO sub culture full well. I think that might be why he’s going.
Anyway – Our route today took us firstly along by the River Wear up to Eastgate.
Here, we completely ignored the inscribed Roman stone by the bus stop – created and set by a Roman cavalry officer from Lanchester (Longovicium as it was then) in honour of the god of woodland, one Deo Sylvano (Sylvanus), on the occasion of the killing of a large wild boar. As a Roman cavalry officer, he would have had the use of a horse, presumably and, I conclude from this that its quite unlikely that he created the stone whilst waiting for the bus to Crook. He wouldn’t have had time anyway. (It’s a replica, the original is in the British museum. They took our stone. (They terk arr stern)
Eastgate, I should explain, along with Westgate and Northgate (there’s no Southgate) are the boundaries of the Bishop of Durham’s base for hunting in Weardale. This consisted of a park area and a lodge which was more or less created every year.
It was almost the site of a significant battle where an English army of some 30000 troops faced a large Scottish army on the other side of the Wear for a few days. Apart from a Scottish commando raid on the King’s camp, no significant fighting took place, and, one morning, the Scots had gone to Teesdale and were heading for home towards the Tyne.
Onwards and upwards by the Rookhope Burn, through small farms with chickens, horses, goats, sheep, ducks and donkeys… and by small limestone gorges and old lead mines, we progressed till we came to Rookhope.
I noted that Rookhope’s pub is open all day, does hot drinks and meals. This may prove vaaaaaary useful for later walks…
So then we climbed the Rookhope incline. This is well-known by coast-to-coast cyclists and is a 600 foot climb up a hill on a dismalnlted railway line. The mineral trains were hauled up this hill by a steam engine and a winch which is, as you’d expect, at the top. The engine house is derelict and ruinous and the boiler lies forlornly rusting in the heather on the moors above.
There followed a long and mind-numbing plod along the level railway line which contours for several miles. The views are good, the crack was good, but the plodding was dull. WE ended up at Parkhead – an ancient (dismantled) railway junction which now has a bungalow, a derelict sandstone quarry and a café. The café is excellent and is the must-stop place for the cyclists and is well used.
After teas and cakes, we fair sailed down the track into Stanhope, this time using the Crawleyside incline (the same as the Rookhope one, but shorter) and a short walk through the old limestone quarries back to Stanhope where crossed the stepping stones by the ford, which, since the advent of satnav, has been the scene of lots of rescues…
Fab little jaunt. I’ve done this walk many times and I always enjoy it. (most of it)14 miles but only 1200 feet of climbing. That will just have to be enough walking for the Chally. I was pleased with my speed up the incline which I decided to climb as quickly as I could. I’m still alive. The ticker held out. The legs worked. The heart rate may have hit 85 bpm….which could be a 2009 record.

2 comments:

fatdogwalks said...

You couldn't resist doing the "online" steward bit, could you Mike (lol).

Thoroughly enjoyed the "walk" without having all the exertion of actually having to do it.

mike knipe said...

Ooer, I wouldn't want to come across as a "steward". I don't do many of these walks nowadays as I've done most of them a few times and quite a lot are a bit too "agricultural" for my taste in countryside. I do enjoy the company of some of the actual walkers, though and there are some characters.
One or two of the stewards need to get out more, though...