North Pennine Dales Walk - Frosterley, Weardale
Wed May 23 15:03:38 BST 2018
- Start: St. Michael & All Angels Church
- End: St. Michael & All Angels Church
- Country: England
- County: Durham
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: The Black Bull, Frosterley
- Ordnance Survey: Landranger Sheet 92: Barnard Castle and Richmond
- Difficulty: Hard
Frosterley marble has been quarried there for over 700 years. This month we take a walk around this beautifully sculptured part of the North Pennine dales Words and pictures by David Taylor
Michelangelo knew a thing or two about sculpting stone. His masterpiece, David, was delicately chiselled out of the finest marble from the Tuscan town of Carrara. History does not record whether he ever came to Frosterley in Weardale but if he had he may have been inspired to use the marble that has been quarried there for over 700 years.
ExceptFrosterley Marble, despite its name, isnt actually marble. Its a wonderfully fine-grained limestone that turns a deep black when polished. The decorative columns of Durham Cathedral are made of Frosterley Marble and, as the cathedral is a World Heritage Site, we shouldnt quibble too much about what its made of.
Frosterley Marble is still quarried outside the town, though many of the older quarries are now worked out. This month well be taking a tour round Frosterley and its surrounding area to see for ourselves the interesting geological features of this Weardale town.
Start in the grounds of St. Michael & All Angels Church. Inside, the font is made of Frosterley Marble and is peppered with the remains of long-extinct coral that give the rock its distinctive look. Take the path round to the back of the church and then out through a gap in the stone wall beyond. Turn left and follow the path as it winds through a cluster of houses. When you reach a footbridge over the River Wear, cross over and then climb a short but steep bank to join a path at the top.
Turn right at this point and follow the path through woodland. The path skirts around the edge of Broadwood Quarry. The quarry, owned by the Sherburn Stone Company, is still a rich source of Frosterley Marble. When you reach a fork in the path, turn left and continue uphill, keeping the quarry on your left.
Once the path leaves the trees you should see a disused quarry on your right. Although much of the quarry is now overgrown with grass, the depth of the hole is a reminder of how busy and productive the site must once have been.
On your left as you continue along the path you should pass two large lakes. Another result of the quarrying around Frosterley, these lakes are now home to birds such as oystercatchers and gulls. Once youve passed the lakes follow the path left and drop downhill gradually until your reach another footbridge. Cross over and then head north until you reach the ruined remains of Harehope Gill Lead Mine.
Lead ore once abounded in Weardale and was mined all through the Industrial Revolution. Little remains of this particular mine except the remains of a stone workshop, the mine entrance itself and the netty, conveniently near to Harehope Gill itself.
From the mine, head to pick up the Weardale Way path. Follow the path along the top of Harehope Quarry until you reach a farm track. Turn right and follow the track uphill to West Biggins Farm. Go through the farm, sticking to the route of the Weardale Way.
Once through the farm the path flattens out for a short stretch before it begins to wend its way uphill around the flanks of Harvey Hill. Continue climbing until you reach a gate at the top of the hill. Go through the gate and turn left.
The path now cuts across heather moorland. Although the moorland looks wild, it is managed as carefully as any city park. In early spring stretches of heather are burnt to encourage new growth and remove dead material. By later summer, of course, the heather is in full bloom and the moors are a riot of rich purples stretching to the far horizon.
The path eventually reaches a wedge-shaped group of trees on the left. Once youve passed the trees turn left and go through a gate. Cross diagonally over a farm field until you reach a gate in a dry-stone wall on the other side. Go through the gate and onto a bridle-way that meets up with Rushy Lea Lane. Follow the lane until it reaches the road that runs down Wear Bank into Wolsingham.
Cross over the road and follow it downhill for approximately two-hundred metres. Stop when you reach a track leading to Chatterley Farm and follow the track east. Before you reach the farm go through a gate signposted as a public right of way. The signpost is easily missed, and if you pass a large barn youve gone too far.
Continue downhill along the path until you reach another farm track. Cross over, and continue down until you reach the Wear Bank road once more. Cut through the trees along a path to the right of the road. At the end of the path, cross over the road and take the signposted path to follow the route of the Weardale railway west toward Frosterley.
The path is flat for this final section. On your right you have the River Wear, on the left the railway. Flat river valleys are perfect for railways, with no gradient to cause traction problems. And of course, the view for the passengers isnt too shabby either.
The Weardale Railway was originally built to transport limestone to Teesside. By 1993 the railway was no longer in use and the line infrastructure was threatened with removal. Fortunately the railway was saved and now volunteers run a service along the Wear Valley throughout the year.
Eventually the path reaches a road. Follow the road into the Kingfisher Country and Leisure Park to reach a caravan site. Go through the gate of the site, heading straight for the river, to pick up a public right of way.
Through the trees you should start to see the outlying houses of Frosterley. Continue to a road bridge over the Wear, cross over and then follow the path past a small industrial area. The path now takes you through the Batts and finally to the footbridge we crossed near the start. Find you way back to the church to complete the walk for this month.
Words and pictures by David Taylor
Start Point: St. Michael & All Angels Church
Grid Reference: NZ 026 368
Ordnance Survey Map: Landranger Sheet 92: Barnard Castle and Richmond
Length: 9 miles (8km) Time: 4.5 hours
Difficulty: Difficult. Some rough paths and steep climbs
Nearest Pub: The Black Bull, Frosterley
Nearest town: Frosterley
For more information about the Weardale Railway visit www.weardale-railway.org.uk