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Pelaw Woods Landslide Update – Sept 2014

Latest bulletin from Durham County Council on the Pelaw Woods Landslide (Weardale Way Section 10)

“…Despite our best efforts to get to a solution as soon as possible it is taking longer than anticipated but please be assured we are working our way to a result. 

As you’ll be aware we commissioned a detailed geotechnical survey which was carried out last winter and early spring.  With the scale of the landslide a full understanding of what is going on is necessary before working out the possible solutions.   The report recommended 2 options from a more expensive soil nail slope stabilisation proposal (approx. £750,000) to a simpler, but still costly (approx. £250,000) re-grading with more limited stabilisation works.  In terms of paths and public access, and whatever the landslide solution, we would be expecting the re-instatement of the riverside path, improvement of the main east-west path through Pelaw Woods (the one subjected to vehicles during the monitoring works over the winter), a re-opening of the terrace path (although this may end up with a dip as it may not be feasible to be able to build it up again in the vicinity of the landslip), and the replacement of the seat with the cathedral view.

Within the next week we will be appointing a geotechnical designer to come up with detailed designs and estimates of costs for the repair work.  This will be used initially to secure funds from the County Reserve and then for procurement purposes.

As the landslide is significant and it requires the spending of substantial amounts of public money the process of reaching the solution is protracted and we ask for everyone’s continued patience.   The question of timeframe is one that I can’t easily answer but assuming that funding is secured I would hope that works would begin within the next 6 – 12 months.  We realise that this is much delayed to what we have previously thought.”

Are our cows going rogue?

Cows enjoying the Durham countryside in the Lanchester valley © Metaforz Photography 2013My attention has just been drawn to this article from the British Mountaineering Council website. As a committed fellrunner myself I’d never come across anything like this before whilst running a race or even training and I was inclined to believe that the British public and particularly my missus  were guilty of over-dramatising the situation. However, a couple of years ago while walking a section of the Weardale Way, Diane (the missus) and I were caught up in a little situation that led me to review my opinion of our bovine friends.

On entering one of the many fields crossed that day we immediately noticed a group of  cows, some with calves, towards the other end of the field and a good way off the track. Diane was keen to put the dog on the lead but she’s well trained (the dog) and is rock-solid at heel (I’ve run hundreds of miles with her over her 12 years, over fells and through city centres and I trust her absolutely). I argued that in the unlikely event that the cows were interested it would be easier to just send her away.

Anyway, the cows (no bulls here) WERE interested and even I was slightly disturbed at the seemingly malevolent way they began to gather, focusing intently then slowly walking across the field towards us. Determined to win the psychological battle and against Diane’s protestations we carried on heading for the stile over the wall at the end of the track. As the distance grew shorter so the cows picked up the pace until it was pretty obvious we were going to be slightly short of our objective when contact was made.

I was still unsure as to whether or not the cows were just curious, perhaps they thought it was feeding time? But as they closed there seemed to be a lot of snorting going on and the vibe was not a good one. Then they started to trot – and I cracked: I ordered the dog away but she was sensing the pressure and seemed reluctant to go. Now the cows took over: as one they began to charge, heading for the dog. On the face of it this would seem to be a good thing, the dog would lead them away from us, then nimbly outrun them and return to us at the stile.

Unfortunately with the cows at a full, thunderous gallop the dog visibly panicked and, like a rogue missile (one with twenty cows in tow), started heading back to US! With few options, my tactic was to hold my arms up making what I believed to be farmer-like noises while Diane scarpered, making for the stile that was thankfully by now only about 20m away, faster than I’d ever seen her move before and closely followed by a shrieking dog.

I certainly wouldn’t want to recommend either of our solutions as a universal one for cattle confrontations but they worked for us: unthinkingly we might have been behaving like sardines (not the tinned ones) and the cows just couldn’t decide who to eat first. Most of the action is a blur but I do graphically recall a wild eye staring at me from about 2 or 3 feet away as this snorting beast skidded in front of me.

With legs turning to jelly and trying desperately to hold my rapidly fraying nerve I somehow managed to locate the stile using the eyes in the back of my head. I don’t actually remember climbing the stile but I quickly found myself standing on top of the wall looking down onto the backs of several tons of agitated beef all milling around trying to work out how they had let their prey slip through their cloven hooves.

But of course it wasn’t over yet: there were still several miles and at least an hour of hostile recriminations to endure from my thoroughly unimpressed wife while the dog, for her part, was pottering about like the previous 60 seconds had never happened. So what do YOU think? Are our cows going rogue or are we just imagining it?

Guided Tour of Neville’s Cross Battle Site

Join The Durham Cow this June for a spot of ‘healthy history’, exploring the streets, fields and vales around Durham’s very own battlefield of Neville’s Cross. Come and hear the story of this landmark battle that took place over 650 years ago in what today is some of Durham’s finest countryside – experience it before the link road spoils it all!

Two dates (one weekend, one evening) have been arranged:

SUNDAY 1st JUNE 2014 9.00 am at Neville’s Cross monument, junction of St John’s Road and Crossgate Peth (A690) Durham, County Durham (NZ 263420). Approximate distance & time: 5.5 miles/3.5 hours

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TUESDAY 3rd JUNE 2014 6.15 pm at Neville’s Cross monument, junction of St John’s Road and Crossgate Peth (A690) Durham, County Durham (NZ 263420). Approximate time: 2.5 hours (shortened route to finish before 9.00 pm)

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£3 PER PERSON; under-16’s free; dogs welcome but should be well controlled, preferably on leads, as the route includes arable farmland, riverside woodlands and some busy roads

Timings have been calculated on an average ‘relaxed’ walking speed of 3 miles per hour on roads, tracks and trails but please be aware that the route is undulating (very steeply in places) and can be very muddy depending on weather conditions. Regretfully it is probably unsuitable for persons of limited walking fitness or mobility. If you are at all unsure of your ability to cope with the walk please contact me beforehand. Well treaded walking shoes or boots are recommended together with rainwear and possibly a brolly (depending on the forecast). Although no long stops are planned there will be ample opportunity to eat so bring some sustenance if you need to! Please try not to be late: admin and an introductory talk should take about 15 minutes after which we’ll need to leave promptly – particularly on the evening. There should be ample parking in the streets near to the Neville’s Cross monument. Bus stops are sited on both sides of Crossgate Peth (A690) within view of the monument, serviced by Arriva routes 7, 43, 46, 48, 49, 49a (please check with the operator first).

Your guide will be Scott (Joe) Watson, author of ‘The Weardale Way – A Guided Tour along the River Wear through County Durham and Sunderland’ who is currently working on a new book about the battle.

HOW TO BOOK: Booking isn’t necessary but it would be great if you could indicate your intention to attend ideally through the comments box on this web page. Alternatively you could email or visit our facebook page If the dates given in this newsletter are unsuitable and you would still like a tour please let me know via any of the methods listed above so that I can gauge demand and try to arrange more suitable dates.

Hope to see you soon


Middle Greenlaws Level Mine and WW II Aircrash Site

Just added an article that discusses a location we visited on Sunday9th February 2014. Middle Greenlaws Level lead and ore works is also the site of the WWII aircrash that resulted in the loss of all seven of the crew of a RAF Wellington bomber. After reading an archaeological report in Durham County Council’s ‘Archaeology County Durham’ magazine I was keen to see the mine site for myself and can confirm that it is one of the most interesting lead mine sites in the dale. We’ve added it as a walk but bear in mind that both ends of the site can be visited, permission needs to be obtained from the landowner to walk through the site itself as it doesn’t lie on a public right of way.

‘Lumley Forge’ feature added

Just added a short article on the history of Lumley Forge near Chester le Street, Co. Durham that features on section 12 of the Weardale Way.

Site investigations continue on Weardale Way landslip at Pelaw Woods Durham

Latest news from Durham County Council Rights of Way team regarding the Pelaw Woods landslip site on the Weardale Way at Durham (also see map):

“Site investigations are ongoing at Pelaw Woods and during the week beginning 3rd Feb contractors will be setting up large heavy borehole machinery in the woods to install land slip monitoring equipment.  This is part of the larger study that is ongoing to determine what needs to be done to stabilise the land and get our paths back.  As the setting up of the kit is difficult and there are safety concerns we have had to agree to the temporary closure of the main east-west alternative path through the woods for a 5 day period starting Monday 3rd Feb.  This means that the only route through Pelaw Woods available for the week will be via Gilesgate using the north-south path from the Silverlink Footbridge to Old Durham/Maiden Castle   The situation for the week is shown on the plan attached.  Signs will also be erected on site. We realise this will create inconvenience and apologise for this.  We are committed to securing the long term future of all the paths at Pelaw Woods and thank you for your continued patience.”

We’ve changed our logo!

durham-cow-logoNot the first time either but it’s all part of settling into an identity that continues to evolve. The graphic in the centre is a representation of the Dun Cow panel high up on the Chapel of the Nine Altars at the eastern end of Durham Cathedral – with the addition of a tiny bit of artistic licence. We hummed and hah’d with something a bit more geometric but think that this best represents the core interests of the site in the history of Durham, Northern England and the Scottish borders. We like it and hope you do too!

Gallery Problems!

After a routine upgrade we seem to be having a few problems with our galleries so we’ve disabled them until we’ve had time to sort it out. We’ll restore them as soon as we possibly can.

My First Weardale Way Talk Safely Delivered

Well that all seemed to quite nicely. Although the room couldn’t have been claimed to be full, the curious souls who did me the courtesy of turning up to hear my debut talk on the Weardale Way at the Dales Centre in Stanhope last night actually claimed to enjoy it! After throwing out half my content at the last minute to shoehorn it into 50 minutes, we turned up at the venue to be beset with the obligatory projector issues. However, Ian, the organiser – who also kindly provided the projector – calmly overcame them with professional decorum and the talk started only a few minutes late with Diane at the controls, changing the slides. Despite using a very unprofessional pointer and failing to keep up with my notes, it all went very smoothly and the only interruption to the flow was Diane’s coughing fit which was so noisy that she decided to leave the room leaving me to turn my own pages! My thanks go out to everyone who attended, to those who kindly bought my book, to Ian Forbes, the organiser who made me feel very welcome and to Gerry Wilkinson for lending a virtual stranger (me) two books that were integral to the theme of the talk. Looking forward to the next opportunity and to hopefully renewing acquaintances.

A Flag for County Durham

I didn’t even realise that there was a competition to design a flag for County Durham but six have now been shortlisted – you can see them here. Personally I think a flag should be respectful and mindful of the heritage of the county but forward looking and inclusive. Portability (being able to use it in as many situations as possible without having to modify it) is also a handy feature. My own preference is for the last one in the slideshow (I quite like the version that harks back to the flag of the Venerable Bede but it’s too similar to Northumberland’s and personally I think there is more to County Durham than the cathedral and its knocker – and anyway it looks like the flag of some rogue African state).