Leader : Arthur Dawson Distance : 8 miles.
The Bustling Tees
The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain: so goes the immortal Professor Higgin’s lines from My Fair Lady. Well some of it had travelled the 15000 miles or so north to the borough of Darlington as we assembled for Arthur’s Saturday walk around Barnard Castle. Whilst it was gentle the accompanying mist and threatening overhead clouds did not bode well for a dry day out. But we were all prepared so undeterred we set out more or less due west along the A67 hoping our fortunes would improve. Sir Alex Ferguson once said that eight players win football games so the assembled octet were at least in with a fighting chance of having a successful outing.
Our journey was not long, some 15 miles or so but passed some interesting places en route: Piercebridge with its Roman origins and the centre of the inspiration behind Henry Clay’s immortal Grandfather Clock andÂ Gainford with its simplistic name and once a popular spa and lido. They were though soon in our wake as we reached Barney and drove down the bustling Galgate to park up within a stones throw of the mighty Tees.
The town itself is not without history indeed it is steeped in it. It takes its name from the 12th Century castle it surrounds and the ghosts of those visiting literary giants Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens have left their marks and let’s not forget the magnificent French Chateau Bowes Museum which opened to much acclaim in 1892.
But it was the other major element of the town we were to explore on the day- the River Tees or to be precise its environs.
So suitably wrapped almost in swaddling fashion as a precaution against the elements we set off downwards towards the river and crossed the recently refurbished pipe bridge from where we joined the Teesdale Way for a short while before heading off into open country. We were now quite close to the old railway line which was abandoned in 1964 and now forms part of the Tees Railway Path. Conditions under foot were so far so good as the grass cover was pretty constant but no doubt worse was to come. The easy going soon changed to a gentle climb through light woodland and open fields until we reached the impressive Lartington Hall with a variety of ducks and geese heralding our arrival.
Built for the Appleby family around 1635 the hall now provides home comforts at a cost for those seeking a leisurely break from the humdrum of their daily chores. Rumour circulated that one of our male companions posed in his youth for the Adonis (The Greek god of beauty & desire) style male statues surmounting some gate pillars but the more astute amongst us cast serious doubts on this claim.
Shortly after leave the hall courtyard we passed under the disused railway and after briefly flirting with the village of Lathbury we indulged in a little road walking as we headed north to arrive at Cotherstone where a lunch stop was heralded. This delightful village green with its picturesque babbling brook was the perfect spot with the added advantage of comfy, though damp, seats for those in need of relaxation. We were now at half way house.
Originally within the boundaries of the North Riding of Yorkshire the village was transferred to County Durham for administrative purposes in 1974. Known in more recent years for its association with Hannah Hauxwell of ephemeral TV fame in the late 1990s the village still retains much of its charm.
Lunch was soon consumed and despite our leaders valiant though charitable attempts to offload his hot cross buns they remained encapsulated in his 21st century Tupperware for another day, we were off again.
A short half mile walk trough the village saw us make a sharp directional change heading initially south east up a slightly rising country lane and joining the Teesdale Way in the process. A little way along this lane a sign gave a salutary warning to those miscreants in our party should we stray from the designated path we had been warned.
It was not long before we began to descend to the banks of the river itself with slightly damp, muddy and uneven stone steps causing some concern, at least to the geriatrics amongst us. But we all made it. However there were times when Arthur wondered if he would arrive home with the same number of walkers he started with.
Having reached the riverside there was of course the inevitable climb out and a 20m or so short sharp scramble through light woodland was soon upon us. It was attacked with gusto and on reaching open skies again we paused a while to generate the puff expended during the climb. We were now nearing our journey’s end.
Circumventing another up & down we veered right to pass through a tight tunnel back under the railway and joined up with the track we had taken on our outward journey. From there it was the proverbial stroll in the park back, across the pipe bridge and then up the slight incline to where our resting chariots awaited. The dreary starting conditions were long forgotten and we finished the lovely day out in splendid winter sunshine.
As custom dictates we retired to the back room of the welcoming Three Horse Shoes to sample their best and to reflect on another grand outing in the fresh northern air.