out and about with scout. A 10 mile ramble in Teesdale from Barnard Castle to Cotherstone and back. (Circular route)


Bowes Museum

Sometimes the best experiences are those which aren't planned and happen on the spur of the moment. Certainly this was the case earlier this week when I found myself enjoying a pleasant circular walk starting and finishing in the county Durham market town of Barnard Castle. The catalyst for this was my daughter who was taking part in an event at the Bowes Museum. Naturally I was the designated taxi driver the question being did I drop her off and go back to pick her up later in the day, or did I leave the car at the museum and go for a walk? It shouldn't have been a question at all really if it weren't for the great British weather which had seen some torrential down pours over the preceding days. The day in question didn't look any better and I was in two minds, but in the end thought sod it and loaded my boots, haversack along with number one dog into the back of the car.

        I hadn't even thought about where I was going to walk and it was only after studying the map in the museum car park when I decided to follow the Teesdale Way from Barnard Castle to Cotherstone. In my mind I had half an idea I could cross the river at Cotherstone  and walk the return journey on the opposite bank. If I couldn't it was no big deal and I would simply retrace my steps back the way I had come. I also thought it looked to be about the right distance as I had six hours in hand before my daughter would be ready to go home. I'm not the swiftest of walkers and generally work on an average of two miles per hour on what I would call fair to normal terrain.

        The weather was still very much overcast as if it was trying to keep me guessing as Scout and I headed from the museum along Newgate toward the market cross, which isn't a cross at all. Not in the traditional sense  being an octagonal sandstone building incorporating a colonnaded veranda. Somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to recall my dad referring to it as the butter market, but don't quote me on that. Either way it's a fine building  sadly demoted to the role of roundabout and I would without doubt advise taking extra care when crossing the road for a closer look.

Barnard Castle market cross.

            I must admit I've always liked Barnard Castle, or Barney as we call it, and it has a lot going on for those visiting the area. There's the Castle which gives it's name to the town which is currently under the stewardship of English Heritage, Bowes Museum with it's many pieces of art including the world famous Silver Swan  along with its welcoming high street which I always find has an extra special feel to it at Christmas.

The Bowes Museum's Silver Swan

        Our route through Barnard Castle from the museum was along Newgate, turning left at the market cross down The Bank before turning right onto Bridgegate. This is in effect the main road which crosses the Tees on a narrow, traffic light controlled bridge in the lee of the castle itself. Once over the bridge we turned right and followed the A67/B6277 Lartington Lane for approx 400 yards to the point where we came across a sign for the Teesdale Way - see photo below.

This is the point where the Teesdale Way meets the B6277 Lartington Lane. (Image google maps)

       As mentioned previously my off the cuff plan was simple -follow the Teesdale way to Cotherstone and see where we go from there.. The first half mile or so involves walking along a tarmacked estate road before forking right into some riverside woods. I have to say for the most part this walk was well marked with yellow arrows pointing the way, although as always I would recommend taking a map. The Ordnance Survey Explorer series, map OL31 covers this route in its entirety.

    Once in the trees the route made a sharp climb to the left and I saw the stone pillars of a railway viaduct rising up before me. I instantly knew what I was looking at as I recalled tales told long ago by my father and grandmother of excursions across what was known as the Stainmore line to the lake district. I can particularly remember Gran telling me she didn't like some of the high viaducts such as Belah and the one across the Tees at Barnard Castle. 
        These stone arches are now all that remains of the once 130ft high Tees viaduct which comprised of five spans of stone and five spans of cast iron, costing the princely sum of £25,119 when it was built in 1860.

Stone pillars of the former railway viaduct.

The view across what would have been the track bed. Taken looking east to west on the return leg of the walk.

The viaduct in its heyday. Photo google images. (After some intensive searching I have to say)
        North of the disused railway line the Teesdale way wends its way through a mixture of fields and woodland and as I've mentioned before is well marked. There are the usual farm animals such as cows and sheep and dogs should always be kept on a lead. Something which is reiterated on signs on almost every gate. The scenery itself was most pleasant, especially as the sun deigned to put in an appearance. As far as the terrain went there were one or two ups and downs through Towlerhill Woods and Plantations, but nothing which was to taxing.
        It was on one of these short ascents when I looked back over my shoulder and saw a pond/small lake with a beautiful sculpture of what I took to be an Osprey on a small island. Unfortunately try as I might I can't find any further info on this which is a shame as I was quite taken with it.

The route taken followed the Teesdale Way  via Pinknell Wood, Towler Hill, Towler Hill Wood and Towler Hill Plantation.

        Much of the remainder of the route as far as Cotherstone was good going and involved walking across a series of fields before turning left onto a stone track (Demesne Lane) which led up into the village itself. Turning left on the main road we then walked the short distance to a small village green where we sat on a bench and had our lunch. Time taken from Bowes Museum to this point was a little over two hours.

One happy Scout April.

        Once Scout and I had laid waste to our lunch we retraced our steps north on the main road in search of the route down to the river which isn't immediately apparent and involves turning right down a narrow tarmacked road opposite the Fox and Hounds Public House. I have taken a picture off google street view and shown it below should anyone else follow my route/walk. Indeed if I hadn't asked a fellow walker I think I might have been wandering back and forth for quite a bit until I found it.

        Having taken the narrow lane shown above I followed it down a short descent and took the first left into a similar narrow lane. I then followed this past a small car park until I came to the River.
where I turned left and crossed the first of two foot bridges. One of which crosses the River Balder and the second which crosses the River Tees. Once over the second bridge a right turn was made and once again we were following the signposted Teesdale Way which apparently runs on both sides of the river.

The route follows the orange arrows across the footbridges and up onto the top of Cotherstone Crag

Crossing the Tees at Cotherstone

        Once across the Tees a right turn was made and we headed down stream back toward Barnard Castle. After a short distance the path makes a steep ascent through some picturesque woods onto the top of Cotherstone Crag. It then runs along a flat escarpment made up of arable fields on one side and the wooded Tees Valley on the other. The going under foot was good and we clipped along at a decent pace whilst taking in the views.I would however like to highlight a few issues for fellow dog walkers. The first being water. On the outward leg from Barnard Castle to Cotherstone this wasn't an problem with plenty of small streams criss-crossing the path. This wasn't the case on the return leg on the Eastern side of the river and once the climb was made onto the top of the ridge there wasn't a lot to be found. Fortunately I always carry a supply for Scout. Just something to note.
        The second issue was some of the stiles at field boundaries. In the main these were OK, but there were a few which wouldn't have looked out of place on an army assault course. There being one in particular where I had to pick up Scout and carry her over. Not easy when precariously balanced on  top of a six foot high stone wall. Luckily Scout isn't a big dog and we managed. It would have been a real problem if she was the size of a Labrador or Alsatian.
        On the plus side many of the stiles have a separate dog gate which usually involves pulling up a centre panel and allowing said dog to pass through.

The River Tees from the path climbing up past Cotherstone Crag

        Something else to note is the route markers aren't always as apparent as they were on the outward leg which in the main isn't a problem as the route literally follows the top of the ridge almost all the way back to Barnard Castle. The Teesdale Way does turn off the ridge and drops back down into the valley at a point approximately quarter of a mile south of  East Holme House. I chose to take the high road however,and followed the public footpath along the top of the ridge until it dropped down into the woods prior to Percy Beck.

The path along the eastern side of the Tees runs along the top of the ridge with open farm land on one side and woods/ a steep drop into the valley on the other.

The route shown with orange arrows following the ridge line and dropping down into the woods prior to Percy Beck

The descent through the woods is both picturesque and well marked and was a fitting end to an enjoyable walk. As was the view of the Castle itself from the aqueduct/footbridge.

Barnard castle itself taken from the aqueduct footbridge with a zoom lens.

The path emerged into Barnard Castle along the bottom of the castle walls and joining Bridgegate close to the bridge. It was then a matter of retracing our steps via the Market Cross back to Bowes Museum.

        Overall this was a very enjoyable walk of just a shade under ten miles and took me a total of five hours including a short stop in Cotherstone for lunch. In the main it involved following the Teesdale way both on the outward and return leg. Although on opposing sides of the river. There were a few steep climbs, but nothing too taxing. I suffer from Sarcoidosis and soon start to gasp for breath when the going gets tough. I had no such issues on this walk. That being said a modicum of fitness would be required along with a stout pair of walking boots. Also I would err on the side of caution and carry my own sustenance. 

         The route is for the most part well marked although as previously mentioned I would always carry a map. There were a few points where I was unsure and  had to double check where the path went. I for one don't like wandering around off route in farmers fields. Especially when I have a dog with me.

      On the day I parked in Bowes Museum, but only because my daughter was attending an event there. There are other car parks in the town however.