Walking Group

CONTACT: Susan Clarke
01325 730434
WHEN: 2nd Tuesday of each month
  See Calendar for dates and locations of events.

The following report encompasses what members of Teesdale U3A can achieve.


A Walk on the Wild Side

David Atkinson plotted and devised a fine walk. The group consisted of 13 hardy souls – we tried to entice one to stay behind but there were no takers! David and his daughter Helen had surveyed the route the previous week, had got lost in one part and had seen a dead otter. They estimated it would take 4 hours to cover the approx. seven miles. Final reckoning was 5 and a half hours, but, by Jove, it was well worth it. Thoughtfully, David had advised the group a few days in advance to carry extra food, drink and a walking pole. Good advice, indeed! A walk rich in geology, floral displays, history, topography, and the odd mishap – something for everybody. So, where was the walk?

We assembled near Barnard Castle at The Morritt, Greta Bridge on the A66 and were soon enlightened about the artists, poets and writers who have found great inspiration in this marvellous river sculptured landscape. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) in his poem “Rokeby” vividly evokes a verdant pastoral idyll:

‘O, Brignall banks are wild and fair,

And Greta woods are green

And you may gather garlands there,

Would grace a summer queen’

And it continues in similar vein for a number of verses.

At one point David indicated a shady pool on the Greta called ‘Hell Cauldron’ that was painted by John Sell Cotman in 1805. JMW Turner sketched the Greta (with a degree of exaggeration) in 1816 and pinpointed the small Brignall Church.

So, off we strode westwards into a stiff wind but quite dry, the Greta to our left and the terrain somewhat undulating. Our leader was a source of country lore, pointing out clumps of violets, the occasional bluebell and – several pyramidal ants’ nests two feet in height, ants are loved by grey partridges. A steep descent brought us to the remains of the old Brignall church and its wall- enclosed graveyard. Only the east end of the church remains, much of the stone being used to build the new church up the slope nearer the village in 1834. We did meet Robert Errington, or rather his grave – he died in 1842 and fine, iron palings still surround his grave. The name is significant because Erringtons are still tenant farmers nearby.

As we headed upstream on the north bank the topography became increasingly precipitous and careful footwork was needed. Corrugated patterns on sandstone blocks were indicative of marine action in the Carboniferous period. David pointed out some local folk lore features – a walled section on the opposite bank a possible Roman fort and a cave used by Wordsworth, but further research is clearly needed on these issues!

Some low, candle like flowers, pinkish-white called butterbur were discovered and the name wild rhubarb firmly put to rest.

And so a well-restored Brignall Mill was reached and a possible water driven generator caused some interest. Now we turned, having crossed the wooden footbridge over the Greta and headed downstream through fine stands of woodland. It was here we stopped for a lunch break, all suitably sitting on a moss encrusted log, viewing the babbling, peaty river. For a couple of miles the going was tough, eyes glued to the path. One lady tried to slide down a difficult section with predictable results, fortunately, being an intrepid soul, she soon recovered and her airborne spectacles were safely retrieved. One side stream was traversed by a bridge but a second, further on, had no such convenience. Gentlemen aided the ladies over slippery boulders until one such lady slipped causing her handler to sink with her in his arms below the surface! Thankfully, they saw the funny side. One member remarked, “It’s a good job we are still young!” (Although the ‘Heart of Teesdale, Landscape Partnership’ is aware of the need for a footbridge over Gill Beck, funds are very tight).

We finally emerged from the trees to cross pasture land to Crook House Farm and Wilson House. We were now on the metalled Barningham road, downhill and then for the last half mile into woodland and spectacular views of the Greta way down below. The final short section across pasture with grazing sheep and lambs brought us back down to earth you might say. We reached Greta Bridge and admired buildings in The Square.

This walk was longer and more challenging than usual but was well worth the effort for the frequent changes of landscape and, dare I say it, the variety of underfoot conditions. Grateful thanks are due to David for the planning and leading of the walk and his knowledgeable comments on all we saw, both great and small.