2019_01_30 Hardwick Hall

Leader : Ian Bagshaw.          Distance : 7 miles.

Bishop Middleham and Hardwick Hall. 30 January 2019.

Bishop Middleham is nearer to Darlington than one might think and in 30 minutes we were at our starting point – or at least most of us where whilst the remainder did a tour round Bishop Middleham looking for the starting point !! Possibly they realised that Bishop Middleham Castle used to be one of the principal residences of the Bishop of Durham – not now as the castle is just a pile of stones!! They may have realised that Middleham means a middle settlement or a farm and they may have realised that the old Roman routeway ‘Cades Road’ runs through the middle of the village.
It was a glorious bright sunny crisp morning as we set off towards Hardwick Hall on what was planned to be a 6 mile ramble. 10 Club members without a care in the world. The noise of traffic on the A1(M) was a little intrusive but we were spared the noise of the steam trains that used to travel along a line to Bishop Auckland pre Dr Beeching !! Dry underfoot but plenty of ponds but no birds as the water was frozen and no self respecting duck would attempt a landing !!
Ian Robb kept us well informed about the Bishop Middleham signalbox which used to be in the vicinity and the waggonway which was associated with coal mining. We imagined both.
On reaching the walkers gate at our entry to Hardwick Park we enjoyed our elevenses.
In the 18th Cent John Burdon set about designing the Hardwick Estate into his own pleasure gardens. It fell upon hard times and became overgrown and not attractive. Thanks to a grant from the lottery fund it is now transformed and we were excited at the views of Hardwick Hall Hotel and the surrounding grounds. Arriving there just after noon it seemed a good time for us to take lunch. Here there were birds in abundance that were strutting around letting us know that they were hoping for an odd crust. Pity to disappoint them but there were so many and the sight of a crust could have been a massacre of feathers.
We took a track up the front of Hardwick Hall and then back down the rear of the building. Smart right turn and we were skirting Sedgefield Golf Course complete with an odd hardy golfer!! Over the greens and into the trees where our well waymarked path brought us eventually to a Baily Bridge over the upper reaches of the River Skerne – yes that River that all Darlingtonians know and love. Les has scouted the Skerne from Source to R. Tees and passed on some most interesting information.
On the horizon we got our first glimpse over Bishop Middleham again and it was still sunny, a little warmer and just 2pm.
On reaching the cars we had only managed a modest 5.1 miles but it was a lovely walk, we had some lovely conversations – Brexit was hardly mentioned and we did not unearth any Roman remains as has happened in the past – Statue of a Roman God.
There were 10 of us out on this walk but I now notice that I have already mentioned this but not that there are two pubs in Bishop Middleham and that they were serving Afternoon Tea at Hardwick Hall not that we availed ourselves of either of these ‘comforts’.
(On the ‘recce’ we did clock up 6 miles but we went via the Castle remains but ended up climbing a wall which we decided not to do on todays ‘real thing’.

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