Here is another post for my occasional series of Weardale walking routes. This route is approximately 7.5 miles, with some steep climbs and boggy paths, and a couple of tricky navigation spots. Well worth it for the ever-changing scenery and views.
If you want to try this walk, you will need to take an OS map (OL31) and know how to use it. The directions below should be considered as a general guide only.
Start at St John’s Chapel. There is ample free parking next to the Farmers Mart at the east end of the village.
Head north through the village past the primary school. Do not continue along the road as it curves to the right. Bear left past the school gates; there is a footpath on your right, through a private yard and a small field (usually full of chickens), then over a narrow footbridge. (If you have come to a ford with a broad footbridge, you have missed your turning. Go back to the school). You will now see some stone steps straight ahead. Take these and continue up the hill until you come to a road. Turn left, and walk gently uphill until you come to a crossroads (the left hand road is in fact just a track, and takes you to East Blackdene). There is a fingerpost pointing north at this crossroads. Take this path uphill, to the left of a house that has a tree with a treehouse in front of it, until you get to Levelgate quarry.
Levelgate quarry is your first navigational challenge. The disused quarry is basically a big hole in the ground, and it is easy to assume that the path (still uphill and northwards) is in the quarry field. Currently the correct gate is not waymarked, but hopefully this will be rectified soon (we know this because we took the wrong route here, and were politely corrected by the farmer). The Right of Way lies on the east side of the field boundary (and east of the quarry; on the right hand side as you look at it from below). This takes you to the open access land.
Carry on northwards, across open access land until you reach a bridleway. Turn left and follow this easy, if boggy, track bearing northwest, until you reach a road. You have now finished the majority of your climb. Turn right and follow the road a short way, looking for a track on your left that takes you through a small plantation (another bridleway). Notice that there are lots of purple stones – purple fluorite – on the path here. You can now follow this track for the next mile or so, along Race Head and Sedling Rake, enjoying the commanding views to your left. Look out for a junction where a footpath crosses the bridleway you are on. You will soon need to take a left turn, but not yet. The track, now marked on the map as Sedling Vein, will start to head down hill. You will meet a gate and will be looking down on some industrial spoil heaps.
From here you will see some lonely cottages ahead in the distance. Look out for a stone wall leading off to your left, heading towards the river valley. You will now need to do a bit of orienteering (and have your map in hand). The footpath wiggles its way to the left, but in reality there are lots of sheep paths here. Keep the stone wall on your left, and take a path that keeps track of the lonely cottages in the distance to your right. You will soon see a single house (marked on the map as Queensbury). Go around the house, bearing left, and you will come to a farm track. Follow the track to the road.
Turn right and walk down the road to Burtree Ford, and into Cowshill. You will see the Cowshill Hotel on your right. Cross the road here and go over the wall at the stile, opposite the hotel. Take the footpath through a quaint collection of houses. Keep the river on your left, and look out for a millstone with The Mill engraved on it. Cross Burtreeford Bridge and you will see a sign for the Weardale Way. You can now follow the Weardale Way all the way back to St John’s Chapel.
If you have time to stop, there are cafes and pubs in St John’s Chapel, there is the Cowshill Hotel in Cowshill, the Weardale Museum is in Ireshopeburn, and there are public toilets in Wearhead and St John’s Chapel.
The map above gives a rough guide to the route – but we suggest you follow the directions above while studying your own map. The photos below give a taste of the views along the way.
*this article was co-written with my Taller Half*