Leader : Ian Bagshaw. Distance : 5 miles.
Iron, Steam, Coal and Countryside. 7th November 2018
Can you believe it ? at 8am the leader telephoned a likely walker to make a decision as to whether we should go because of the poor weather forecast. We decided that we would go to ED Walker Homes and see whether anybody else turned up.We were delighted to find 4 other members at the start which meant that there was no decision to be made. At Escomb Saxon Church (built in 670 AD) our confidence was rewarded as we found that Heather had come to join us lowering our average age considerably.
Our walk set off directly from Escomb Church along The Weardale Way but only briefly as we took a left turn over fields and the railway line to Woodside. The railway Line is The Weardale Line and we learnt that the train had been running until very recently and would reopen for the Santa Special.
At Hecklewood Neuk Farm we met a very friendly farmer who wondered if we were lost !! It transpired that we actually knew more about the paths over his land than he did ! He repaired his own stiles and made his own gates.
Our destination was Phoenix Row where on the morning of 27th September 1825 there ran the first passenger train. 12 wagons of coal left Phoenix Pit, For the first short section of this historic journey the wagons were horse drawn before being hauled by stationary steam engines and finally by George Stephensons Locomotion.The track bed is still present and we much enjoyed this historical part of our walk. In Phoenix Row we spotted some carnivorous plants growing on the window sill of a house we were passing. The owner came out to see us and told us to take care that we were not eaten !! He also told us of some other historical areas that were to be found nearby but we did not explore further.
We crossed the road at Low Etherley and continued up a delightful footpath which is part of the dismantled railway. A left turn took us onto a track which took us across fields which run or in our case walk parallel to Etherley Road. We could not help but notice how well the track was preserved and provided with proper gates and no stiles – this was a real benefit to Keith who was out walking with us for the first time since February. We continued on to Etherley Moor avoiding a cow and her calf in a field near Wigdan Wall Road. No rain so far but the sky looked a little threatening but Marg was confident that all would be well. Out of Wetherley Moor we took a Bridle Way directly North which brought us to a well graphitised bridge over the Weardale Railway again.(Unsure how to say a lot of graffiti ??)
Once over this bridge it is short walk before a left turn which brings the walker very quickly back to Escomb Church.The distance is supposed to be 5 miles but because of a detour near Phoenix Row our trusty GPS recorded just over 6 miles.
The pub in Escomb seems to be always closed so our leader took us onto the A68 and onto Witton Le Wear where we visited Low Barns which is a County Durham Nature Reserve not only a Nature Reserve but it has a café which serves substantial pots of tea to weary walkers. This was just what we needed. It started to rain on the way home but snugly protected in our cars.