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Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Lead Mine Trail

bolts law summit
The knipemobile is on the waiting list for an operation and so was unable to provide transport today. But I managed to prevail on Maggie to take me and superdawg to Edmundbyers so I could walk the Lead Mine Trail to Cowshill.
It was a wet start. This was followed by a damp middle and a soggy end. Luckily , I had brought an umbrella which was in use for most of the day.
moors at edmundbyers
The Lead Mine Trail is really three circular walks but the main spine of the route follows the line of a pre-railways packhorse route from the mining grounds in Weardale at Cowshill and Rookhope towards the Tyne. The packhorses travelled in trains of up to around 20 ponies and carried smelted lead ingots and, probably returned with supplies for the Dales people. Packhorses went out of business after railways and improved road systems were introduced in the early to mid 19th century.
in the groove
Much of the route is bridleways, but there’s some roadwalking and , illogically in my view, a section of public footpaths. The footpaths could easily be converted into bridleways and, thereby giving owners of ponies the opportunity to follow this ancient horse route. There was one illegal cyclist, but , to be honest, I couldn’t see what detriment he was causing. Conversion to a bridleway wouldn’t do any harm to the economies of Cowshill, Rookhope and Edmundbyers either….
Any road up – me and the dawg set off in the rain from Edmundbyers on my adopt-a-path route – a nice groove in the heather which gives easy and quick walking for a few miles.
the flue
After crossing the Blanchland – Stanhope road, the actual paths and the guide map (wot I bought from Stanhope Tourist Info centre) – disagree on the route. So I got lost for a bit.
There was a dam with a goose and three gooselets on it. They squawked in goosejabber at me…..  The photo I took wasn’t very good, so you’re not getting to see it…
the flue chimney
Then I had lunch inside the chimney, out of the drizzle , then I got a bit lost again and, eventually found a good path heading straight for Bolts Law summit. The chimney, by the way, is the terminus of a long flue which comes up the hillside from the North. The long flue was constructed so that lead fumes would condense-out lead which could then be removed by a small person (i.e. a child) with a pick and a bucket.
Bolts Law is a cracking summit with a trig, a cairn and big views North and East – a fine spot to watch the sun come up, I think – more of which a bit later.
The trail then drops down to Lintzgarth and climbs back up through a nature reserve to join a long section of tarmac. There was no traffic, though, which was nice.
road to rookhope
As the rain got its act together, we passed over Race Head at 580 metres, our high point, and down through the mining grounds to Cowshill.
Anybody intent on collecting a few bits of purple flourspar would be well advised to visit the footpath just above Cowshill. Its illegal, mind, and you could get into bother collecting pretty stones like that..
As I arrived in Cowshill, I could hear the bus reversing and, so, with a lot of luck, me and superdawg were transported swiftly back to Crook for the cost of just over four quid.
It was very wet.
It was 14 miles and 2400 feet of uphill.
Did I mention how wet it was?
Its an interesting walk but you need to sort out the transport logistics. Sunday buses from Cowshill are every two hours and the pub was closed…. 
And the walking is very easy – just one very short boggy bit.


The Odyssee said...

Sounds a really interesting walk Mike. Shame it was so wet. Yes you did mention it somewhere.

Hope the diagnosis on the vehicle is not serious.

Mike Knipe said...

There may well be a car rant coming up. Its going to be expensive....
Didn't mind the rain, really....