A murky morning with grey cloud greeted my eyes on waking, but a check with the weather forecast promised brighter conditions later, so I picked up Clive and we drove south into Durham. After a slightly circuitous route, we arrived at the lovely village of Staindrop with its linked series of village greens and the imposing St. Mary the Virgin church, standing proudly at the eastern edge of the village.
The interior was equally impressive, with several very large, imposing effigies lined up on our left as we entered through the south west porch with its stone arched ceiling. These tombs are of members of the main families associated with the church and the nearby Raby Estate – the Nevilles and the Vanes.
We spent some time admiring the other fascinating items within the building before leaving to start the walk, alongside the Langley Beck and behind the houses lining the main street. Emerging onto the green in front of these houses, we followed a narrow lane at the end of the street to emerge alongside the Raby Castle boundary wall, and over a series of stone stiles towards two estate cottages.
From here we turned south to cross the B6279 and then slightly west towards the lovely whitewashed steading of Scaife House, the fold yard bringing back memories of my childhood of my grandparents’ home in Drax. Our way continued southwards, across fields filled with inquisitive sheep, but after turning around the ‘V’ as described in the book, we went astray. Instead of arriving at Snotterton Hall, we found ourselves further west at Streatlam Grove having crossed the course of the old Roman Road.
We wandered around the outskirts of the farm buildings, up and down the rough, cow-full slope between the barns and the stream, before coming to our senses with regard to the direction we should be following (downstream !) We retraced our steps to the lane, crossed the stream and made our way south to the main road.
We quickly walked past the entrance to Dunn House Farm and then followed the footpath back to Sudburn Beck to join the prescribed route once more. Thankfully, the footbridge was intact over the watercourse, and we strolled east once more, chatting away as the streamside path led us back towards Staindrop. Field followed field, stile over tricky stile, so much so that our confrontation with a couple of very inquisitive horses confused both us and them. “Had we crossed under the main road, or not ?” Equine concentration waned as we traversed their field, seeking the correct path, and they eventually left us to our indecision. We finally decided to cross yet another stile and thus returned to the correct route.
Cleatlam Bridge was our next objective, which led us into a couple of grassy pastures with a view of St. Mary’s church ahead. Past Scarth Memorial Hall, and the former Wesleyan Chapel, we rapidly re-joined the main street and back to the car.
A friendly local lady suggested a good coffee shop, and so we rounded off an interesting and eventful walk with our usual coffee and cake, having thoroughly enjoyed our walk amidst Durham’s delightful scenery and the enigmatic effigies in Staindrop’s church.