Barnard Castle is a historic small town lying on the River Tees in the north east of England. It is home to the Bowes Museum and the ruins of a Norman castle. It is a busy town seen as the Gateway to the Tees Valley which lies to the west.
Barnard Castle made national headlines in May 2020 when the Chief Advisor to the UK Prime Minister was stopped by police when driving in the town whilst the country was in the middle of a strict national lockdown. He later told a press conference that he undertook a short drive from his In-laws home nearby, to the town, to test that his eyesight was okay after a short illness, before driving back to London. His actions and reasons for breaking lockdown regulations provoked a media and political storm. The town became the butt of many jokes and friends enquired, when told we were visiting Barnard Castle, if we were going there to get our eyes tested! The locals have had the last laugh though, as there are now a multitude of novelty gifts available, commemorating this infamous event!
We were there to enjoy a walking break with our friends and colleagues from our local Ramblers Group. After a couple of days in Barnard Castle (we went up early to reconnoitre a walk we were leading) we moved to our cottage in Staindrop, a village a few minutes drive away. This break was one delayed from 2020 by the Pandemic.
Twelve members of the group met for our first walk, a circular route from Barnard Castle, the weather mild with intermittent sunshine as we walked through the woodland area of a local nature reserve, eventually emerging into green fields at Lartington. More typical dales walking, fields and stone wall stiles, and a lovely lunch stop beside the River Tees before heading back to Barnard Castle.
The full group had arrived by Sunday (29 people)and we all gathered in a rainy Barnard Castle for the programmed walk, a 14 mile route following the Tees to its junction with the River Greta and through the Greta Valley woods. There was a point on the walk where the Tees and the Greta meet. Several enormous boulders and slabs of rock lay in the water forming pools, some flowing, some still, with lovely reflections of green in the still waters. The leaves were just starting to turn their autumn shades of yellow and orange, in a month the scene would be spectacular.
Towards the end of the walk we passed through the village of Boldron. This village is the site of a well that allegedly has never run dry. The well has a long history, being referred to as “an Ancient Well called Athelstan Well” in the “Plan and Apportionment for the 1768 Parliamentary Act of Enclosure of Boldron Moor”. The current structure was reportedly built around 1879 and although the village no longer relies on the well for its water supply it is still active and a site of local historic significance. As our group followed the path through the field and gathered around the well to read the information boards and inscriptions, one or two young cows ambled slowly over, curious as to why these humans were loitering in their field. They did not seem to pose a threat but nevertheless we slowly and carefully moved towards the stile at the corner of the field , not wishing to antagonise them. Drama over as they eventually lost interest in us and resumed their task of eating the field!
Boldron Well and Residents
There are a wide variety of walking trails in Teesdale, from gentle riverside walks to more rugged hillside tracks and moorland trails. On a number of walks we encountered all three and in the main we were blessed with fine weather and blue skies.
We opted for a rest day to enable Lyn to start her on-line writing course so I took the opportunity to visit local landmarks, High and Low Force waterfalls for some photography. We had seen both from the south side when out on our walk a few days earlier, but I wanted to photograph them from river level for some more dramatic images. The land around High Force is privately owned and a charge is made for access which is understandable as it is a popular destination. However the path is only open at certain times, and I got there too early, to find the access path closed. I did not have time to wait around so headed back to the the slightly less dramatic Low force waterfall for some images. There were few people around, which was a blessing and managed to get a few good images.
Images of Low Force – Teesdale
Later the same day we visited Egglestone Hall Gardens near Barnard Castle. It was a small garden on a sloping site with a large wall along one end and down one side. Nevertheless there was plenty of interesting things to see. A lovely interlude.
All of the Ramblers group breaks rely on volunteer leaders to map out and lead walks and ours is no exception. We had volunteered to lead a walk as part of this holiday and so the day dawned bright and breezy and our group of 10 (others were doing a longer walk) set off from the Bowlees Vistors Centre in Teesdale. through the woods and up a steep climb out on to the moor. It was a largely uneventful lead, save for one gent who observed that he never had any knee problems walking in Norfolk, but he was in agony because we had led him up a few hills and his knees could not cope. He spent much of the walk popping painkillers, which was not a good sign.
Us on our pre walk recce
Images of the group on our walk
Scenes from our walk
The walk concluded in glorious sunshine and thankfully no casualties, save for a couple of sore knees. It was a very enjoyable day out and the start for us of leading more walks on these away breaks. However, the weather was about to change, more in part 2 to follow.