The Weardale Way – Section 09
Distance: km (x miles) | Profile: Undulating | Going: Generally good, muddy in places. Sheltered on riverside trails, parkland and farmland | General Stores: Bishop Auckland [0.5k]
Section 9 of the Weardale Way is 9.6 km (6 miles) from Bishop Auckland to Page Bank in County Durham. Despite the fact that this section starts down a steep bank, the first half is gently undulating, becoming flatter as it meets and then follows the course of the river. Other than a steep flight of wooden steps in the woods at Furness Mill, the going is easy and relaxed in a quiet, sheltered and rural setting.
From the start in the car park, the route descends to cross Newton Cap (Skirlaw) Bridge then leaves the road to pass under one of Newton Cap Viaduct’s eleven imposing arches. Across the river is the area known as The Batts, one of the oldest parts of Bishop Auckland while further downstream is Auckland Castle (also known as the Bishop’s Palace). Later, where the trail crosses a pair of stiles, it also crosses the line of the important Roman supply route of Dere Street (that was guarded by the fort of Vinovia directly across the river at Binchester).
From Dere Street, the route takes us along the floodplain to Farnley Farm then climbs back up on an access road to meet the Brandon-Bishop Auckland Railway Path before turning away to skirt and then enter a short section of semi-ancient woodlands. From a spur in the woods, a flight of wooden steps conducts us steeply back to the river where a footbridge crosses the attractive sandstone gorge of Hunwick Gill.
The trail then continues alongside the river, past Furness Mill, joining a wide track that takes us to Pay Bridge. In full leaf and with a stiff breeze, white poplars usher us on towards Jubilee Meadows Park outside Willington where the trail continues under Jubilee Bridge. A bit further on, after passing between Lowfield Farm and the river, it makes use of an access track to reach the finish at the car park before the bridge at Page Bank.
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