Durham Walks - Barnard Castle
PUBLISHED: 16:38 12 June 2012 | UPDATED: 22:17 04 October 2012
This month's walk takes in the architectural and historic delights of Barnard Castle Words and pictures by David Taylor
This month we visit Barnard Castle, a County Durham market town with, perhaps, more than its fair share of architectural gems. What other town can boast a museum styled on a French Chateau, an historic Abbey, an ancient village well, a 12th century castle once owned by Richard III, and a house which offered hospitality to Oliver Cromwell?
The walk begins at the gates of the Bowes Museum. This imposing building was the brainchild of John Bowes, a wealthy businessman, and his wife Josphine, both avid collectors of art. The foundation stone was laid in 1892, but the museum was not opened to the public until 23 years later. It houses an internationally significant collection of fine and decorative arts, and is well worth a detour.
From here, cross the road, and walk a short distance back towards the town. Turn left into Parsons Lonnen, and then continue along the path and follow it as it bears left. Continue along the path as it crosses the field and goes across a track. Carry on walking and then go through the small gate at the end of the field, and follow the path along the edge of the fields until another gate brings you out at the road.
Walk a short distance downhill along the road until you reach a fingerpost. Follow the path from here that drops down towards the river. Keeping the river on your right, follow the path through a stretch of deciduous trees.
When you reach the road, cross the bridge, then turn right to head towards Egglestone Abbey. The abbey was founded between 1195 and 1198, by Premonstratensians, whose white habits gave them the name the White Canons. The abbey experienced mixed fortunes, and was often so poor it had difficulty supporting the requisite number of canons.
It suffered under Scottish invaders, as well as an English army billeted here in 1346, and was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540. The abbey is now owned by English Heritage and admission is free.
After your visit to the abbey, carry on along the track towards farm buildings, and turn left at the footpath marker. Walk past the farm buildings to a fork in the track, and bear left. Carry on along the edge of the field to the top of the hill and keep going, following the line of trees.
Edge right at the end of this field then follow the path left into another field, keeping to the line of the trees. Eventually, you will come to a stile on your right, with a yellow waymarker. Cross this stile and go straight ahead, following the line of the trees. At the end of this field, cross into the next one and walk diagonally across it until you reach the road.
Cross the road and go through the farm gate on the opposite side. Follow the path in a straight line, crossing into another field to follow the path at the southern end of a plantation of trees. At the southwest corner of the plantation, cross a stile into a field. Go diagonally across the field, to another stile, then go until you reach the village of Boldron.
Walk a little way through the village, looking out for the second Public Footpath marker on your right. Follow this path across the fields and you will eventually come to Boldron Well, also known as Athelstans Well. The earliest written reference to this ancient well is from 1768, and the current structure is thought to date from 1879.
Follow the path through the field and, at a farmhouse, go through the gate to its left. Keep going until you reach the road. Follow the road into Startforth, and turn right at the fork in the road. Follow the road through the village, until you come to a Public Footpath marker on your left, and follow this down a narrow lane. At the bottom of this lane, cross the road and, with the river on your right, follow it to the junction, and turn right across the river bridge.
To your left is Barnard Castle itself, after which the town is named. Founded by Bernard de Balliol in the 12th century, the castle at one time passed into the hands of Richard III. It too is now in the care of English Heritage.
Follow the road left as it becomes The Bank. At 30-32 is the oldest house in the town, Blagraves House, now a restaurant. It has a rich history: in 1484, Richard III gifted the house to Joan Forest, widow of Miles Forest, reputed to have helped dispose of the two young princes in the Tower; and in 1648, Oliver Cromwell slept here on his way to Richmond.
At the top of The Bank is the octagonal Market Cross built by Thomas Breaks and given to the town in 1747. Among other things, the building has served as a Buttermarket, giving it its alternative name. There are two holes in its weather vane, reputedly the result of a shooting competition in 1804, between a volunteer soldier and a local gamekeeper!
Turning right at the Buttermarket will bring you back to the Bowes Museum, a fitting end to this months walk, and our short journey through the architectural treasures of this popular market town.
Start Point: Bowes Museum
Grid Reference: NZ 055 161
Ordnance Survey Map: OS Landranger Sheet 92 (Barnard Castle and Richmond)
Length: 6.5 miles (10.4 km)
Difficulty: Good paths, though some inclines
Time: Three hours
Nearest Pub: The Old Well
Nearest town: Barnard Castle
For more information about Barnard Castle visit www.barnardcastlelife.co.uk
David will be back next month with a walk around Gateshead
The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of North East Life
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