The Weardale Way – Section 13
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 13 of the Weardale Way is 9.7 km (6 miles) from Mount Pleasant to Deptford in Tyne & Wear. This section is an easy, sheltered walk alongside a now tidal river on good footpaths and trails that are way-marked as the ‘River Wear Trail’. Nearing the finish at Ford, downstream from the Hylton Bridge, the trail climbs steeply to join a busy, urban trunk road at Pallion which it follows to the finish of the section.
After leaving Mount Pleasant Park and passing under the imposing Victoria Viaduct, we arrive at the charming riverside village of Coxs’ Green that was once a centre for boat-building and where for the first time on the River Wear we encounter pleasure craft at their moorings indicating a change in people’s relationship with the river.
Continuing through the village and alongside the river, we next pass the long established Washington Wetlands Centre on the opposite bank before eventually arriving on a gently shelving floodplain at Offerton Haugh (‘haugh’ actually means ‘the flat ground alongside a river’). During the English Civil War a skirmish between Scottish parliamentary and royalist forces occurred on the high ground nearby.
We continue to follow the river as it meanders past White Heugh Cottages and under Hylton Bridge (which carries the busy A19) before arriving at South Hylton, once an important river-crossing before Monkwearmouth Bridge was built downstream in the last few years of the 18th century and which marked the beginning of the majority of boat and ship building yards on the river.
Next, as the river continues to broaden, we come to a wide, flat area of land directly below the dominating bluffs of Claxheugh Rock. This was once the site of Ford Paper Mill, a large industrial complex that squeezed itself tightly up to the walls of the rock. Years ago, the riverside from here onwards, although relatively passive now, was once heavily populated with all kinds of industry including the shipyards previously mentioned.
A stiff ascent on a narrow trail around the side of the rock is followed by a long pull up its slopes (presenting an excellent panorama of the river behind us – especially if you detour to stand on top of Claxheugh Rock) before passing under the Metro railway line to join the busy trunk road that leads to the finish of this section at Queen Alexandra Bridge.
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