Leader : Barry Lee Distance : 9 miles.
Left click on route map or report pictures to enlarge.
Recorded in the Doomsday Book as ‘Brennigston’ the little village of Burneston was to be the host for our Saturday ramble. So on a bright, sunny but blustery morning we left Darlington and travelled the few miles south down the bustling A1, still very much ‘work in progress’. Peeling off just past Leeming we met up with fellow members at our rendezvous in the car park of the village’s only hostelry “The Woodman Inn”. We were by then 18
At the 2011 Census the village had a population of 311 and an average age of 46, so our visit added significantly to both those statistics.
All suitably garbed in our walking gear we turned right from the car park and strolled for a short while along the main street travelling SE past the ancient church of St. Lambert after which we turned right onto grassy fields the like of which were to be our walking carpet for most of the day apart from the mud and the bovine slurry– but more of that later. After about a mile and a half of gentle grassland, populated intermittently by inquisitive sheep and totally disinterested cows, we encountered our first taste, well taste is probably not a good choice of words, of bovine effluent when we entered the confines of Brickyard Farm. It became clear from this initial encounter that boots would definitely need a deep clean at the end of the day.
Having negotiated our way through the farm yard under the watchful eyes of corralled cattle we set out again over more level grassy fields and having to negotiate what was to become a plethora of increasing difficult stiles at every field boundary. At each challenge it became clear that while the local farmers were aware of their legal duty to ‘rights of way’ they were not over enthusiastic in making such provision comfortable. But we are made of sterling stuff so the wooden barriers were tackled with aerobics, acrobatics and gusto.
Soon we came across what was to be our only real dive into woodland on the day when we happened upon House Close Wood. Due to the dilapidated state of the supposed stile we were obliged to negotiate the double wire boundary fence with the degree of difficulty and discomfort being in direct proportion to the length of one’s legs. It was probably a little generous to call the area a ’wood’ as it was in real terms a small copse reminiscent of the type beloved of Captain Mainwaring and his cohorts.
Shortly after our exit from the copse we encountered Oak Tree Farm where we again experienced agricultural detritus of a sort underfoot and were warned to get on our way by an archetypecal barking farm border collie . With time passing and appetites requiring sustenance we paused in the next windy field to partake of our pre-packed lunches.
Soon our allotted break time was over and we set off again to negotiate more challenging stiles and pass through the outskirts of the small village of Well, with its nearby Roman Bathhouse site, then on to its nearby sister village Snape– where we met a man on a horse called Lulu– the horse not the man that is, although you never know these days. He was dressed to kill and indeed in former times that would have been his day as we later discovered the local hunt were on exercises in the surrounding fields. Snape has a little more evidence of its history than some of the neighbouring settlements with its 15C castle, now two private residences. The word Snape is old Norse for ‘a boggy tract of uncultivated land’-’nuff said.
The final leg of our expedition took us due East from Snape across a familiar landscape of grassy, sometimes muddy, terrain with field boundaries now generally protected by gates rather than stiles although it has to be said that considerable amounts of agricultural twine had been squandered in attempts to make opening them difficult.
On this last stretch we saw Lulu again albeit from afar when in the near distance we witnessed the hunt in pursuit of nothing more than the wind and regardless of political opinion they certainly added a dash of colour and interest to our day. Ere long we were back to base. A nine mile stroll through open windswept countryside with nary even a small a hill climbed all day, a rare walking day indeed.