- Start: Rowley
- End: Rowley
- Country: England
- County: Durham
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub:
- Ordnance Survey:
- Difficulty: Medium
It's full steam ahead for a great walk along one of County Durham's old railway lines at Rowley
This months walk is testament to the importance of the railways to County Durhams role in the industrial revolution, and to their usefulness long after stations, platforms and tracks have disappeared. We begin the walk
at the car park for the Waskerley Way and Rowley Station. This is now a pleasant picnic area, and there is very little evidence apart from the tell-tale straight footpath running through it that this was once the site of a railway line and a busy station.
Rowley was part of the Stanhope and Tyne Railway, which was opened in 1834 to transport limestone from the quarries above Stanhope. Records show that the first passengers to pass along this route were accommodated in carriages attached to the mineral trains, with some of them even taking free rides within the mineral wagons themselves!
Rowleys railway station opened July 1st 1868. By 1896 there was a regular passenger service between Blackhill and Darlington. But by the 1930s, passenger numbers had declined severely, and in 1939 the passenger service
to Rowley was withdrawn, though goods traffic continued until 1966. In 1969 the line was finally closed, and a year later the track was lifted, leaving the elegant station to fall into a state of disrepair.
But there is a happy ending to the story of Rowley Station. In 1972, the station was acquired by the North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish, dismantled stone by stone, and reconstructed on its new site. The station was officially re-opened four years later, by Poet Laureate and railway preservation campaigner Sir John Betjeman. It now forms the focal-point of the museums North Eastern Railway exhibit, where it is presented as a station from 1913.
Go back to the entrance to the car park and cross over the road, onto the Waskerley Way. Follow this path as far as Middleheads Farm. Where the farm track crosses the path, continue on the Waskerley Way, straight ahead.
The path now comes to the Hownsgill Viaduct, an elegant structure designed by the engineer Thomas Bouch for the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company. It was constructed between 1857 and 1858, using almost three million white firebricks. It is 700 feet long and 175 feet high, with 12 arches, each with a span of 50 feet.
Walk to the end of the viaduct. At the fork in the path, go right, at the marker for route 14 of the National Cycle Network. At the bottom of the incline, go straight ahead. Alternatively you may wish to take a detour to the right and visit the Hownsgill Tearooms, which are open all year.
A little further on, the Waskerley Way ends, and you come to an intersection of three footpaths, all of them former railway lines. This is Lydgetts Junction, on
the site of the former Consett steelworks. The industrial heritage of this spot is commemorated by a sculpture of a smelt wagon, which is visible above you to
From here, you could take the Derwent Walk Railway Path, or the Consett and Sunderland Railway path. But take the middle of the three paths, straight ahead of you the Lanchester Valley Railway Path. This railway line, which opened to passengers in 1862 and closed entirely in 1965, was originally built to carry iron ore to the Consett steelworks.
Follow the path under the bridge, continue to the second bridge, and pass under that. Then take the narrow path immediately to your right, which doubles back on this path and goes up an incline. At the top of the incline, turn left onto the farm track. Follow this track towards High Knitsley Farm, and at the fork in the track go right.
At the bottom of the hill, ignore the first and second footpath markers, then follow the third marker, into the woodland. Follow the path along Beggarside Burn, until you reach the small footbridge on the left. Cross the bridge, and follow the path on the immediate right in the same direction, up a slight incline and away from the Burn.
At the top of the incline there is a yellow waymarker on a dead tree. Follow the path left, along the line of the wall. Cross the stile with the yellow waymarker, and continue along the line of the wall. Cross the next stile and continue up the hill.
When you reach the top of the hill, go through the metal gate near the derelict buildings, and follow the track up the hill. Go through the two metal gates ahead of you and bear right along the road. At the crossroads turn right and carry on along the road.
Just before you reach the cream-painted house on the right-hand side, take the footpath at the marker on the right. Follow the path until it brings you back onto the road. Turn right and walk a little way, before crossing over to return to the car park your final station stop where this months walk terminates.
Talk the walk
Start point: Rowley
Grid reference: NZ 0872 4787
Ordnance Survey Map: Landranger 88 - Newcastle upon Tyne
Length: 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometres)
Difficulty: Moderate (generally flat with one climb uphill)
Time: Three hours
Nearest Pub: The Fleece Inn, Castleside
Nearest town: Castleside
For more information about the industrial heritage of County Durham go to www.thisisdurham.com.