I had a different 17-mile walk planned which would have started at Hawes, but there having been a heavy snowfall over the last few days, and with pictures of huge snowdrifts appearing on-line, I opted for a low-level trundle between the 7th Century Saxon (Anglian, really…!) Church at Escomb and St Cuthbert’s Cathedral at Durham. The church at Escomb is one of the oldest stone builkdings in Britain and is built from stone robbed from the nearby roman fortress at Vinovium, just outside Bishop Auckland. One stone has the inscitption “LEG VI” upside down and there’s also an arch pinched complete from the fort.
Most people doing such a walk would probably have entered both buildings, but having LTD with me, and covered in clarts (mud), I thought they probably wouldn’t have let me in. So I stayed outside.
The seed of an idea for this walk was sown by a member of Crook and Weardale Ramblers (he knows who he is). Apparently, there’s a chap going around doing pilgrimages between significant eccesiastical locations and, for County Durham, these two churches are pretty significant.
The route is simple. The Weardale Way passes Escomb Church and follows the River Wear all the way to Durham. Its then a simple matter of walking uphill from the river to the cathedral. The distance is 15 miles, but by starting at Escomb School and having to walk to Durham bus station, I managed to increase the length of the walk to just under 17 miles, which was my training target for March.
Apart from a few minor diversions which don’t appear on my OS map, and a couple of fallen trees, the main difficulty was mud. Mud at Brocken Banks, just outside Bishop Auckland was the worst and a lack of waymarks makes decision-making about how to progress with any digity at all quite difficult. Many walkers will have encountered rocksteps. At Brocken Banks there’s a mudstep, only overcome with some difficulty and a young ash sapling. Here, there is quite a strong possibility of falling backwards into a soft and splodgy landing.
Other places had no waymarks at all and the mud of the Croxdale woods was specially clarty.
It might be better in summer, apart from the additional hazard of cattle, I should think.
But it’s a good walk and those of a religious bent might consider giving it a go. There’s enough to make a rambler sufficiently smug and a bit pious about overcoming any hardships which might be encountered.
Logic seems to be calling me to extend the route to Jarrow and then, maybe, to LIndisfarne. If I get the time I might do this at some point.