Leader : David Burrow Distance : 8.5 miles.
The Iron Valley of Rosedale, steeped in history, home to relics of the area’s rich industrial heritage and to a plethora of Bronze Age burial cairns. We were to explore its delights on this Saturday in early May and the weather was just fine for the job. Sunny with a light blustery wind and conditions underfoot pretty good we could ask no more. The meagre turnout at our Darlington base need not have been cause for concern as those joining us at the moors road car park just along from the illustrious Sun Inn, boosted our numbers to a comfortable nine for the day.
The initial couple of miles had us tramping along a pleasant slightly descending path along the top of the ridge and which afforded magnificent views of the valley below as well as distant glimpses of parts of our walk to come. Early on the way we passed Kettle Howe one of the Bronze Age cairns mentioned earlier and settled in the shadow of another, Pike Howe, for our first sustenance break of the day where we contemplated our descent to the valley floor. A small hollow off track proved a convenient refuge from the wind.
After a restart it was only a few yards more before we turned left onto a slightly indistinct track to commence our downward journey: a drop of some 600ft lay ahead. The track was, well, a little challenging in places and this was not made any easier by the fact the designated route had been compromised by fences erected by some irksome landowner. However as usual necessity was the mother of invention and by judicious handling of a barbed wire barrier we were able to lock onto course and continue on our way passing close to and through a number of small holdings, including one displaying interesting topiary, until after about 45 minutes we reached the lowest part of the day. It was here that we realised, what we always knew anyway: what goes down must go up. A gentle rise took us through Hill House farm on Daleside Road, now like so many similar remote farms converted into self catering cottages for those seeking refuge from the madding crowds of urban living. Nearby too was School Row the last example of miners cottages from bygone days.
We were now close to the most outstanding and best preserved relics of the iron age the magnificent Calcining kilns of Rosedale East Mines. A nearby redundant stone wall provided a comfortable and convenient resting place for lunch.
Mining began at the East Mines in 1864 and with it a small community with chapel, school and cottages grew until at its peak it had a population of about 2000. The mines were traditional drift type and were driven up to 3 miles into the hillside with the ironstone being transported via the various moors railways to the blast furnaces of Ferrryhill and Consett. All operations at the mines ceased in1929.
We lunched for 30 minutes or so and then leaving the kilns in our wake we continued on our way contour hugging in the main interrupted only by small hummocks but all the time climbing gently and admiring the changing panoramas below. On the horizon we were always aware of the silhouette of the Lion Inn gradually getting closer as we rounded each bend and after about 90 minutes more gentle climbing we were almost close enough to touch it as we arrived back at the roadside parking lot. After de-booting and collecting our chariots we indeed did avail ourselves of the Inn’s pleasures and each enjoyed a glass of their best whatever our choice.
A good way to end a delightful walk on a bright Spring day in the company of friends.