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The Weardale Way – Section 08

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Distance: 7.9 km (4.9 miles) | Profile: Undulating | Going: Generally good, muddy in places. Sheltered on riverside trails, parkland and farmland | General Stores: Bishop Auckland [0.5k]

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Section 8 of the Weardale Way is 7.9 km (4.9 miles) from Witton-le-Wear to Bishop Auckland in County Durham. From the bottom of the railway embankment on the track south of Witton-le-Wear, the walk crosses the River Wear via Witton Bridge into the grounds of Witton Castle and thereafter undulates gently through woods and over farmland to the finish on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland.

Across the bridge and through a short section of woodland, we enter a wide expanse of parkland below Witton Castle that offers views across the river including Witton-le-Wear, perched on the far bank. Beyond the park is another short, dark section of coniferous woodland where we briefly rejoin the river as it runs alongside a rugged section that includes substantial concreted industrial remains.

Departing uphill through the woods and crossing several fields one of which was the site of a former brickworks, we arrive at Witton Park, a village that boomed and declined rapidly in the 19th century and which – like many in County Durham – shows few indications of its brief but heavily industrial past. One feature that remains is the area known as ‘Paradise’, now being rapidly transformed into a wildlife habitat and through which the trail passes as it leaves the village under the bridge carrying the Weardale Railway.

On a pleasant trail that rises and falls and which offers long views eastwards towards Durham’s limestone escarpment, we arrive at Escomb, a quiet, tidy but perhaps unremarkable cul-de-sac of a village with a hidden secret: the outstanding Anglo-Saxon church of St John the Evangelist that dominates the circular village green.

Leaving the village past the church, we continue on the trail as it runs through a wide floodplain alongside the river. Soon after, we enter woods at Broken Bank, crossing the stile close to a vivid orange-coloured stream emanating from the local mine workings: next comes a sharp climb through the woods and a section of path that is prone to subsidence and which in wet weather can be extremely muddy and difficult to pass (a local ‘workaround’ exists through the bushes).

We continue downhill towards the river and the stile leading onto the access road close to the grounds of the Bishop Auckland Rugby Club. The finish lies at the small car park on the right, 0.5 km further along the road.

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