Having a fairly packed diary, me and LTD did the reccy for this walk the day before the walk. This is probably not such a good idea, by the way. It was 11 miles and, on the reccy, stupidly windy, but after Doctor’s Gate, it could have been classed as “wind-assisted”. It was mucky. It was clarty. It was sloppy. In many places.
On the reccy, it all went fairly well – we almost stepped on a hare and LTD came within a couple of feet of a roe deer which, distracted by some sweet grass and, probably, deaf to pedestrian traffic by the wind roaring in the trees, we surprised it. LTD has never seen a deer before. I think he thought it was a big dog. After a brief staring match, the deer wandered off, with little sign of panic or hurry.
On the day, Eric and Neville stewarded and 32 people, plus Bailey the doglet turned up. This is quite a lot of people for one of my walks. Inevitably, all wildlife had disappeared long before we got anywhere near. We did see some snowdrops, though, and the weather included blue skies and clear, long-distance views. And there’s a hint of warmth in the sun if you can escape from the breeze which seeps a gripping cold into the bones. Brrrr (shiver)
We’ve done this route three times before as a winter guided walk. It’s eleven miles, so it’s timing is for when the daylight is just that little bit longer. It’s often muddy. There was deep snow once. Not to be done when the river’s in flood.
For the interested – the walk leaves Wolsingham by the three-heart-attack hill* up to Chatterley farm. Excitements include lots of contours, frisky cows in summer, a cracking view of Wolsingham, a hare (see above) and a tricky stile which cannot be surmounted with any dignity. *I’ve decided to categorise hills by the number of heart-attacks which may be expected whilst attacking these hills for a 65 year-old codger who’s forgotten to take his bisoprolol this morning. This one is a “three”. Three is significant.
A long road walk follows on a quiet lane, passing St John’s Hall, famous for the daffodil-breeding Backhouse family who produced the Weardale Wonder – a rare daffodil to be seen, at the right time of year in Wolsingham church yard.
On to Doctor’s Gate – so named for obscure reasons and having a track well-beloved by 4x4 drivers, if 4x4 drivers ever love anything sufficiently to avoid destroying it as a road suitable for anything other than 4x4’s
Over the rough moor to Stanhope Road quarry with it’s big pond (how deep is this I wonder?).
Down through Hoppyland, a farm/settlement with a long history, to Harthope Mill, the site of the mediaeval bloomery of Byrkeknott, later a mill and, much later, a cattle shed.
Up the hill, past the snowdrops to the soppy pastures around Shipley and then down through the woods and forestry (and deer) of Black Banks followed by a riverside ramble back to Wolsingham. There’s a map below.