Only half of Footloose gathered on yet another sunny Wednesday morning to flex the leg muscles and exercise the lungs for a perambulation along the mighty River Tees.
With no Brian or Steve, the solitary pair of Geoffrey and David headed off deep into the Durham countryside, back to G’s old stamping ground. Barnard Castle was our destination, after the wonderful drive along the A68 through Tow Law, Witton le Wear and Staindrop.
Our first stop was to St. Mary’s church in the town centre, where the recently installed labyrinth attracted our interest, as well as the much older oak screen near the entrance, erected as a memorial to those men killed in the First World War.
We crossed to the parish hall for a delicious milky coffee and fruit scone (and Geoffrey met someone he knew !) before, rather belatedly, setting off on our walk, over the suspension bridge to head downstream through a wooded path towards a caravan park. We soon came to the first signpost indicating that we were on the Teesdale Way, something that that we would follow all day.
The track cut around the edge of fields, across grassy pastures and through woodland before leading us onto a quiet road adjoining the ruined Egglestone Abbey. Founded in the 1190’s by a French order of monks called the Premonstratensians, it struggled to survive and was closed at the time of the Reformation. We spent some time exploring the ruins, before rejoining the road for a little way, past the AbbeyBridge, and finally following the path down to the riverside. With the river running high and fast, swollen by the peaty water from the fells, we were glad that the path was wide and firm underfoot, because we shuddered at the thought of the 10–15 metre drop into the surging waters below.
Again we followed field paths and woodland walks, passing Rokeby Park on our right, until exiting onto a minor road close by the confluence of the Tees and Greta rivers, the ‘Meeting of the Waters’ as immortalised by the famous painter, Turner, in 1816. After admiring the churning, coffee coloured maelstrom for several minutes, we set off again, past the attractive house that incorporates MorthamTower, and headed due east. We passed through a miscellany of autumn fields, some still with crops awaiting harvest, some already harvested, in anticipation of the plough, and still others already planted with next year’s crop.
The path led us to the old toll bridge over the Tees, and then up a steep incline into Whorlton, where St. Mary’s church and our lunch stop beckoned. Courtesy of a hidden key, we were able to investigate the small, homely building before walking back towards the Tees to follow the path on the north bank. Woodland, interspersed with grass fields, epitomised this part of the walk, easy on the navigational skills and the legs, the terrain, being, for the most part, level and even. We saw a kestrel being mobbed by swallows, more cattle in the fields than previously, and the fine turret of Barnard Castle School over the treetops to our right. The brief rain showers in the afternoon did little to dampen our spirits and we quickly covered the final mile towards the town, missing our intended path however, towards the Roman Catholic church, and the tombs of John and Josephine Bowes. Nevertheless, we both agreed that it had been another wonderful walk and worth repeating in the future.