• Start: Cotherstone village green
  • End: Cotherstone village green
  • Country: England
  • County: Durham
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: Fox and Hounds, Cotherstone
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Landranger 92
  • Difficulty: Medium
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From the village of Cotherstone to Barnard Castle and back "“ the Tees here is far from its birth high in the Pennine Hills

Thinking about stuff is a valuable distraction to actually doing useful work. Take the subject of northern rivers for example. I can think about them for ages and thus avoid getting anything else done. Such cogitation does eventually come in handy though, particularly when you have to write an opening paragraph to an article.
One of the pathways such thinking has led me down is how like a human life a river actually is. A river starts off small and insignificant. An enthusiastic babble, running where the moment takes it without a care in the world. Then comes middle-age when things slow down and theres an inevitable expansion in width. Finally, of course, theres the ultimate destination. The North Sea. Thats when the analogy starts to fall down, it has to be said.
This month were following the banks of the River Tees from the village of Cotherstone to Barnard Castle and back. The Tees here is far from its birth high and west in the Pennine Hills, but that doesnt mean that its about to settle down in a comfy chair for a quick snooze. There is plenty of life and vitality to be found here, as well soon discover.
Start at the village green in Cotherstone and follow the main road north until you reach a lane running downhill opposite the Fox and Hounds pub. Walk down the lane following the signs to the river. Once you reach the river cross a footbridge over the River Balder where it meets the Tees. Continue along the footpath through woodland until you reach the Tees footbridge. Cross over and follow the Teesdale Way signs right, toward Cotherstone Crag.
The Teesdale Way is a 160 kilometre walk starting in Cumbria and ending in Redcar on the Yorkshire coast. Take comfort from the fact, as you climb this next bit, that all the really steep parts of the walk are far behind you in another county.
The path will take you up around the crag and away from the Tees to follow a line of trees bordering farmland. Continue along the path crossing the various stiles and ladders over the dry-stone walls of a number of separate fields.
Eventually the path will take you to West Holme House farm. Take the path to the south of the farm. At a fork in the path, take the route on the right that takes you south of East Holme House farm. About half a kilometre past the farm, follow the path downhill to the Tees valley floor and into Tees Bank Wood. Follow the path along the river until you eventually reach a footbridge across the Tees on the outskirts of Barnard Castle.
The most striking view from the bridge is that looking north east. High at the top of the valley, overlooking the river, is the castle that gives Barnard Castle its name. The structure is Norman, built in the twelfth century by Bernard Baliol, son of Guy Baliol who came across to England with William the Conqueror in 1066.
For hundreds of years exciting things failed to happen to the castle, until 1569 when it was laid siege to during the Great Rebellion. After eleven days the supporters of Queen Elizabeth inside the castle gave in to the insurgents camped outside. The loyal subjects for want of provisions, upon honourable terms, being allowed to depart with arms, ammunition and baggage.
Now the castle is in the hands of English Heritage and makes a pleasant detour for an hour or so if youve the time to spare. The only thing you will need to lay siege to is the ice-cream concession, unless, of course, youre thinking seriously about that middle-age spread I mentioned earlier.
After walking across the bridge, turn right and go through a gate marked as a public right of way. Once through the gate follow a track along the River Tees until you reach Pecknell Wood. Leave the track, following the signs for the Teesdale Way.
The path continues uphill to the top of the valley where a strange stone structure stands. This is the western end of a railway viaduct which once stretched across the Tees. The procession of young trees that now runs west across farmland from here is a distinctive clue as to the route of this old line.
From the viaduct continue along the edges of a farm field to a track leading to Towler Hill Farm. Turn left along a track near the farm. Turn right at the end of the field and walk down to Towlerhill Wood.
Follow the path along the edge of the wood until you reach a path that cuts through the trees and crosses over Grise Beck. The path now climbs briefly uphill. Once at the top it is possible to see West Holme Farm again on the other side of the Tees.
Keep on following the wood until you reach Cooper House Farm. From there walk along the track west to Mire Lane. At the end of the lane turn right onto the main road through Cotherstone.
Were getting near the end now of course. In the sense, hopefully, of almost completing this months walk. From the road it is a short stroll back to the village green. Some kind soul has put seats there. I dont know about you but they do seem inviting. Wake me up with a nice cup of tea if youre passing.

Walk facts

Start Point: Cotherstone village green
Grid Reference: NZ 013 194
Ordnance Survey Map: OS Landranger 92
Length: 6.8 mls (11km)
Difficulty: Moderate (generally flat but some steep climbs)
Time: 4 hours
Nearest Pub: Fox and Hounds, Cotherstone
Nearest town: Barnard Castle

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