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Sunday, 12 April 2009

Weardale Weeds and Slit Wood

Me and becky (adminfairy) and superdawg had a little Easter Sunday walk in Weardale up the rather lovely Slit Wood at Westgate.
I’m not entirely sure whether or not Slit Wood is named after Slit Vein or Slit Vein is named after Slit Wood. Slit Vein, I should explain is a 22km long mineral vein which runs along Weardale and has been dug and mined and generally messed around and, if you know how and where to look, it is easily identified. (It just needs somebody to point it out)
Any road up, as you’d expect (possibly), Slit Wood is intersected by Slit Vein which runs crossways to it. This means, of course, that Slit Wood holds lots of industrial archaeology…..

So we set off at a sign pointing g to “Weeds”. Is this the other end of the Weeds Wivverpool Canal I hear you ask. Don’t be daft say I, its nothing of the sort.
We enter Slit Wood at the ex-mill at the bottom (still has a wheel pit) and we ramble up the little gill beside a tumbling and occasionally gurgling beck till we reach Slit Vein, where there are the bargain stores, where each mining team stored it’s gains or ore before payment, and some interesting culverts in the beck, which I am honour-bound to explore. So – discarding boots and socks, I enter the frigid waters and splash upstream. But it gets too deep, so instead, I escape and we have a little brew-up in the hot sun. (yes – hot sun….)
In terms of weeds – so far Ive identified some Wood Anemone, Wild strawberry, Cowslip, Daisy. Coltsfoot, Pansy (not sure which type), Ramsoms and Bluebells not yet flowering, though. Oh, and dandelions, a much maligned but rather sophisticated and beautiful plant in my opinion. And lots of little white things, probably some kind of bedstraw… But its nice to see flowers flowering and lambs in the fields, and even an ex-hedgehog squashed on the road. Just like the mentalist bikers roaring up Weardale, and the now green hawthorn hedges they’re all good signs that spring has finally sprung. And willow-warblers in the woods too.
And so, post-brew we continue.
A bit further up, we exit the woods on to the moors and cross the beck where we find four 4wds stuck in the lane, which they have virtually destroyed. The crews of these four cars seem to be families of what my son-in-law would call “Pikeys”. I take pics of their registration numbers for forwarding to the County Council, but I’m not sure of their legal position in this lane. They’d have had to have driven on bridleways to get there, though.
An hour later, as we return on the “down” lane, they’re still where they were before – still revving up, still stuck. The shepherd who appears to be doing something vaguely obscene to a ewe, says that they’ve been there since this morning. He says that they don’t usually get stuck at that point.
I’m not unhappy that they are well stuck.
A bit later, we pass a little quarry which has an enormous boss of rock in it. The boss is the Slit Vein itself. The very man. The ironstone has been dug out from around the sides and the galena has been mined from the middle and what’s left is an enormous lump of quartz. For anybody who doesn’t quite understand the concept of a mineral vein – this is the place to visit.
We end the walk and go home via Boozebusters in Crook (all good walks should have beer at the end)
We’ve done just 6 miles and 800 or so feet of uphill and forty feet of paddling in two-foot deep water at not much above freezing (it felt) . Is that enough statistics?

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