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The Weardale Way – Section 10

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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]

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Section 10 of the Weardale Way is 12 km (7.5 miles) from Page Bank to Durham City in County Durham. With the exception of a few lumps and bumps between Croxdale Hall and Shincliffe , this section is generally flat. Underfoot it varies enormously using farmland trails, quiet lanes and popular footpaths that pass through attractive parks and ancient woodlands, to wind its way towards the historic medieval city of Durham.

Starting from the car park at Page Bank Bridge to the north of Whitworth Hall (once home to Bobby Shaftoe of nursery rhyme fame), the trail follows the river along its floodplain, passing to the south of Brancepeth Castle (and the nearby church of St Brandon’s) and eventually under the arches of Croxdale Viaduct, another of County Durham’s many railway viaducts.

At Sunderland Bridge shortly after, the trail crosses the river and enters the grounds of Croxdale Park through an impressive set of wrought iron gates. At the end of a grand avenue of mature sycamores, a now little-used lane climbs past Croxdale Hall and its Norman chapel, towards the farm at High Butterby a couple of kilometres further on.

At High Butterby we turn left off the road to enter Shincliffe Woods, descending steeply through this dense, semi-ancient woodland to rejoin the river and continue towards the village of Shincliffe itself. Although the riverside trail is generally good it can be muddy and includes a fairly rugged, stepped, section.

On arriving in Shincliffe, we cross the busy A177 to continue on a well constructed footpath – still following the river – behind Durham University’s Maiden Castle sports complex. Beyond Maiden Castle Bridge is the massive, ancient and enigmatic mound of Maiden Castle itself (there are several ‘Maiden Castle’s’ in the UK – usually associated with hill forts – including by far the most well known one in Dorset). After this we pass what remains of Elvet Railway Bridge then cross Old Durham Beck via the Kingfisher Bridge.

Further on, Pelaw Woods towers over the footpath overlooking the stretch of river that serves as the starting area for boats competing in the annual Durham Regatta. Despite the fact that Durham is world famous for its dramatic sandstone gorge and peninsula, the high ground in this area is much less stable being moulded by glacial activity relatively recently in geological terms; as a consequence, landslips are quite common here.

Looking down the 750 metre-long course of the river we are treated to a wide, welcoming view of the city, with Durham Cathedral, Durham Castle and the spire of St Nicholas’ Church dominating the horizon. On the riverside opposite we pass the bandstand, the cricket ground and Andrew Burton’s sculpture of the Durham Cow before arriving at Baths Bridge which serves as the finish for this section of the Weardale Way.

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