Half of Footloose set off via the southern regions of Northumberland through to the northern fringes of Durham. A longish trip, but we finally arrived in Romaldkirk and parked adjacent to one of the village greens with the sun shining and spring, at last, emerging from its winter sleep.
We entered the church of St. Romald, often called the ‘Cathedral of the Dale’ and named after the saintly son of a Northumbrian king. It is a lovely building with an interesting mosaic floor in the sunken chancel that was laid by Italian skilled workers in 1890-4, woodwork by the famous craftsman Thompson of Kilburn (The ‘Mouseman’), and the remains of the old three decker pulpit, as well as some beautiful stained glass.
We left the churchyard and walked past the King Edward VII village hall out of the village towards the Tees Railway Walk. Before setting off along the old trackway, we had a coffee stop on a suitably placed bench, and then headed south. This was good, easy walking, and we quickly covered the next couple of miles towards Cotherstone, passing some interesting remnants of British Rail on the way.
Cotherstone church, dedicated to St. Cuthbert, is a stark contrast to St. Romalds, being built as a chapel-of-ease to that church in 1881 with a tall, narrow tower and a single chamber nave and chancel. The spire was added sometime soon after 1911, in memory of Dame Elizabeth Scott.
Cotherstone village was lovely in the spring sunshine, with masses of daffodils lining the small stream that wound its way through the village green. We crossed over to the eastern fringe of the green and made our way between two substantial houses to emerge onto a narrow lane, and then turned right through a gate along a footpath over grassy fields to the Quaker Meeting House. It being lunchtime, we availed ourselves of a thoughtfully provided bench overlooking the Friends graveyard, which was full of narcissi in several varieties. A truly peaceful spot.
Having satisfied the inner man, we set off on our return journey, joining the Teesdale Way as it followed the river northwards. Sometimes close by the water, sometimes high above it, the path crossed stiles, spanned footbridges, and wound its way through woodland and over fields.
We re-crossed the River Balder (last seen on the old railway path) near to The Hag, and continued our stroll along the western bank of the Tees. We crossed a delightful stream on stepping stones, marvelled at the fascinating carved metal parish boundary markers (seen once before on the Barnard Castle and Whorlton walk in September 2011) and after passing some attractively renovated cottages and negotiating a tricky stony path en route, we came to Low Garth farm.
Here we left the riverside path to cross several grassy fields before emerging onto a walled track and back into Romaldkirk village. It had been another dry, windy day, with only a few spots of light rain, and we drove back home very content to have spent several hours in gorgeous countryside.