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The Weardale Way – Section 04

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Distance: 10 km (6.2 miles) | Profile: Hilly descending to flat | Going: Strenuous, exposed and at times indistinct first half with an easy flat section to finish | General Stores: Rookhope; Stanhope

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Section 4 of the Weardale Way is 10 km(6.2 miles) from Rookhope to Stanhope in Weardale, County Durham. This section of the Weardale Way traces the previous day’s early steps leaving Rookhope and the Rookhope Borehole behind to ascend the rough and boggy ground of Smailsburn Common, another stretch of the trail that can be challenging both navigationally and physically.

At the top of the common (which is really an area of enclosed fell) we can look to the north-east, beyond the village, at Bolt’s Law Railway Incline (part of the Middlehope and Stanhope Railway) and to the north-west at Redburn Common (where the line of the chimney can be seen that once led poisonous fumes away from the Lintzgarth Smelt Mill in the valley). This area of Weardale is strongly featured in one of its most memorable poems and ballads, ‘The Rookhope Ryde’.

Descending to the valley the trail follows the Rookhope Burn through the woods and past the abandoned Brandon Walls Lead Mine, eventually arriving in Eastgate (the ‘east gate’ of the Bishop of Durham’s hunting park), which is noted for its outstanding ‘must-have’ accessory – a roman altar – incongruously sited next to the bus-stop. At Hag Bridge shortly afterwards, we meet for the first time, the tracks of the Weardale Railway heritage line (although no services yet run as far as Eastgate) and renew our acquaintance with the River Wear.

The trail continues, flat now but over rough and potentially very muddy ground, between the tracks and the river to Greenfoot Quarry, the Little Whin Sill and Stanhope Bridge. From here it’s just a few hundred metres to the finish of the section at Stanhope Ford and nearby Unthank Hall.

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