Leader : Barry Lee Distance : 8.5 miles.
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Winston, a few short miles west along the A67 ,was the venue for our Saturday saunter, thus an easy place to reach it would be reasonable to say. Not so for two of our compatriots however who took a detour via Barnard Castle to reach the starting line.
Among the village’s claims to fame is its 11ft stone bridge spanning the River Tees which at the time of its completion in 1764 was the longest of its kind in Europe. Perhaps the most spectacular episode in its long life came when in 1988 a WW2 Spitfire was flown under its arch as part of a TV feature.
But today we were not flying –simply walking and after a short stroll through the village we set off NW across field paths which were to be the significant feature of the walk ahead of us. The recent snow had melted but in doing so had created conditions underfoot that were, well, muddy shall we say. We were up for the challenge.
After about 45 minutes of brisk tramping, including a pretty precisely timed elevenses, we reached the first significant ‘milestone’ of our day, the tiny hamlet of Little Newsham. Passing through we had a history fix when we encountered the 200 year old village forge where 30 years ago internationally known Artist Blacksmith Brian Russell established his business.
By now travelling due west we soon changed direction south to commence the second side of our triangular journey. Conditions underfoot remained ‘clarty’ with the proliferation of molehills contributing to the problem. Once called ‘Wantitumps’ they are the manifestations of moles refurbishing their dwellings, a sort of subterranean spring cleaning one could say.
As well as moles a constant on our journey was the regular presence of flocks of inquisitive sheep which without exception initially headed towards us ‘en masse’ in the vain hope that food was on offer.
More field tracks followed with occasional evidence in the form of disrupted rights of way that some local landowners were not over keen to accommodate groups of wandering ‘soles’ like ours.
Shortly, after crossing the busy A67, we arrived in Whorlton with its famous 183ft long suspension bridge over the Tees. And which is Britain’s oldest suspension bridge relying on original chainwork. As we passed along the main street towards the village green the line of old low terraced bungalows, with their long narrow allotment type gardens, provided visual reminders of times gone by.
The large tree dominating the village green with its memorial circular seat provided a convenient and comfortable spot for our mid-day (13.00 actually) break. The village is well known for its once infamous Lido which in 2006 was bought by a local man who hated day trippers so much that he bought the attraction – so he could close it down. Being a genteel and rather more elderly crowd we feared no such retribution resulting from our presence.
The third side of our triangle lay ahead and saw us follow the general line of the river although a little distant from it as we once again set off over fields until after briefly joining the Teesdale Way for a while we reached Highcliffe Waters with its newly constructed holiday chalets where we had a tarmac road underfoot for a brief spell, enough to rid our footwear of some accumulated mud.
Another half hour or so of comfortable travel and we were back to base after a pleasant and enjoyable few hours walking with friends. As the local Winston hostelry was closed we retired to the homely Foxhole in nearby Piercebridge for our traditional post walk gathering.