Leader : Michael Brownbridge. Distance : 8 miles.
Left click route and profile to enlarge
Catterick Garrison with a population of 13,000 is the largest British Garrison in the world. The population went up by 17 on Saturday when we arrived for our saunter around its environs that despite its proximity to our Darlington base were unfamiliar to most of us.
We parked up adjacent a terrace of small shops and food outlets at Piper Hill which including a Gurkha restaurant, a clear hint at the diversity of the resident military personal.
Once ready, we set off apace heading west alongside the busy A6108 and followed this for quite a while causing some at the rear to wonder if they should have brought their bus passes. No need as we soon turned right from the road and surmounted our first stile of the day into a field still remarkable verdant and occupied by a few sheep who were totally disinterested in our presence. Interestingly these ovine characters were all heavily marked with blue signifying perhaps they were destined for market or that they were unfortunately Everton supporters.
By now travelling due north the going was easy and the weather was spot on for walking so we soon reached the little settlement of Colburn almost hidden from the madding world not far distant. The village takes its name from the first settlers along the stream Colburn Beck which means “coal stream” or “cool, black stream” and is a mixture of Old English and Old Norse. Colburn Hall, a listed building stands prominently in the village.
Popping into Colburn after a field path was characteristic of the walk ahead which was to involve frequent small residential oases after field or woodland areas.
Turning about face, to use military parlance, we crossed the Colburn Beck and followed a somewhat zig-zag route over fields dealing with stiles and gates on the way. Ere long we arrived at another oasis, the village of Hipswell where our mid-morning snack was taken in the kids playground adjacent the church and the immaculately maintained Catterick Garrison Cemetery, which was opened by the War Office in 1930 as a purpose-made cemetery for the camp. Hipswell Hall a 15th-century manor house stands on the churchyard’s northern boundary.
After tramping our short way through the village and re-crossing the beck we returned briefly to the busy urban roads before turning off into light woodland and the outskirts of the Garrison training areas. A stretch of mixed open parkland and light woodland followed before we emerged onto the Garrison golf course, strangely sparsely populated on such a lovely day. So fortunately no shouts of fore and no flying golf balls interrupted our progress.
We exited the course through a gate into more open ground with the posted warning that we were entering military land. Indeed Michael told us that during his recce he had to avoid squaddies going about training, for whatever squaddies do. All that was needed was a camouflaged Captain Mainwaring to complete the scene.
A slightly elevated mound nearby (the only hill of the day) made for a convenient lunch spot so we all settled down in the lee of rather threatening spikey vegetation .
Two minutes soon rang out and we were on our way again passing through more military practice areas where spent cartridges were collected as souvenirs by some of our male companions– for purposes unknown.
We effectively exited the ‘danger areas’ into another oasis ‘Scotton’ in reality a suburb of the Garrison and which has been slowly developing to provide residential spaces for the increasing military personnel. We regularly met and passed the time of day with K9s taking their owners walking, it seemed at times perhaps there was a free dog with every new property.
Nearing home our final section took us on a lovely stroll through light woodland along the banks of Sour Beck where falling leaves provided a kaleidoscope of colour to shuffle our feet through. Soon though we emerged back to suburbia, and traffic, and retraced our steps along Catterick road to our waiting chariots.
An enjoyable pinta in the orchard of the Farmers Arms at Brompton brought to a close an enjoyable and very different walk around a military base.