Leader : Elaine Anderson. Distance : 8 miles.
Left click route and profile to enlarge
We have a lot to be grateful for to the railways.. They take us to places far and wide, sometimes on time, when we travel the country visiting family and friends. But when their normal lifespan or usefulness is done they are reincarnated and we use them again as delightful walkways that take us through sometimes remote countryside with often a hint of history thrown in. Today’s walk promised just that.
Starting from the carpark of The Black Horse, a former coaching inn built in 1820, our general line of travel would take us on and off the old Deerness railway track.
In the mid-1850s the famous 19th century Darlingtonian Quaker Joseph Pease, obtained permission to mine coal near High Waterhouse, which was a farm on the Brancepeth estate. The land was then owned by Gustavus Russell Hamilton-Russell and his wife Emma Maria, descendants of Sir Frederick Hamilton of Dromahere. There were initial difficulties in the mining, but Pease’ sinkers eventually located coal and the Deerness Valley Railway was born.
So without more ado we set off, 16 in total with the hope that 16 would return.
An abrupt left turn from the car park saw us almost immediately onto the railway path through what was to be the first of a series of delightful tree shaded bowers. The fast approaching autumn had generating leaf colours galore while leaving overhead greenery evidence of departing summer.We followed the track almost due south for about a mile and a half until reaching the outskirts of the former mining village of Stanley Crook where we left the railway on its way to Billy Row and we turned due East initially across open fields but soon plunging back into woodland again where in places angry gorse bushes waited in ambush to deliver a swift ’smack in the gob’. Limbo dancing skills were also called upon occasionally where holly bushes, already red with berries warning of fast approaching Christmas, did their best to delay our progress.
But having survived the onslaught we again emerged into open fields and settled down in the lea of drystone walls to enjoy our mid-day repast. The weather by now, despite a prevailing wind, was pleasant so in the company of resident but disinterested sheep we had a pleasant rest. The views north, south, east and west were spectacular, with the scars of previous mining activity long given over to Mother Nature again.
Soon our time was up and orders to move on rang out and we headed out due north on what was effectively the start of our return home. Once again we were quickly in delightful wooded copses and we briefly conjoined with the old Roman Road heading North East from Weather Hill Wood. A little road walking followed as we passed through West Brandon, itself a former mining village but with an important medieval history to tell. It was not long from there that we encountered Waterhouses Wood again, a sign that our circle was almost complete and after a brief encounter with the outskirts of the neighbouring Esh Winning we arrived back to base-, sixteen in total to as usual enjoy a post walk beverage in the homely local Black Horse Inn.
A really lovey walk, evident if it is needed, that you don’t need to travel far to enjoy great walking and great countryside.
An interesting by-line about Esh Winning is that the Waterhouses passenger station was actually situated there and was burned down in 1914 by a leader of the local suffragette movement Connie Lewcock.