Teesdale Way Section 8 (Gainford to Darlington)
Section 8 of the Teesdale Way links the village of Gainford to the outskirts of the sprawling borough town of Darlington within the ceremonial county of Durham. Pleasant villages with inviting pubs and cafes neatly punctuate this section. The walking is easy and the landscape consists of narrow river terraces with limestone bluffs smoothed by glacial drift, as evidenced by the small boulders and rocks which abound, particularly after Piercebridge. Alder, oak, ash and willow are found along the banks of the river which begins to meander noticeably.
Stats at a Glance
Distance 12.6 km/7.8 miles | Height Gain 32 m/105 ft | Maximum Elevation 75 m/244 ft (Gainford) | Going Generally good, muddy in places. Sheltered on trails and road through farmland and woodlands | Hospitality & Supplies Gainford (BB; Ca; GS; PH); High Coniscliffe (PH); Darlington (All) [1 km] | Start Village Cross, Gainford NZ 170168 | Finish Broken Scar Picnic Area, Darlington NZ 258139 | Grade Easy | GPS File
Now in the Tees Lowlands, the medieval village of Gainford, was built at a crossing point on the river. Having once been the site of an Anglo-Saxon monastery, the present Church of St Mary dates from the c12th but includes Roman, Saxon and Viking stonework. Gainford Hall is a fine example of Jacobean architecture, being built for the clergyman John Cradock some time around 1603.
The village cross, situated next to the well-tended and expansive medieval village green, celebrates Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. A short distance out of the village, the route takes to quieter trails using a tunnel under the embankment of what was the Forcett Railway which serviced quarries across the river. The remains of Gainford Mill, on of several on this section, lie almost hidden on the riverbank while Snow Hall, dominating from hill shortly after, was owned by the Raine family for almost 200 years. A bit further along is Gallows Hill, believed to have been a baronial place of execution.
The site of a second mill announces the trail’s arrival in Piercebridge. It is best known for its Roman fort then called Morbium (or Magis), which is free to visit. It was built in the 3rd century to defend the bridge on Dere Street from the local Brigante tribe. A small town, known as a ‘vicus’, developed alongside the fort on the site of present-day Tofts Field. You can also visit the remains of the Roman bridge on the other side of the river.
The George Hotel is a c15th coaching inn, across the bridge and is the home to the actual clock associated with the poem ‘Grandfather’s Clock’ by Henry Clay Work. The bridge itself marks the site of a significant skirmish during the first period of the English Civil War. On 1st December 1642, a party of Royalists led by William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, successfully defended the bridge that existed at the time, against Parliamentary forces led by Lord Thomas Fairfax.
Further along the trail, out of Piercebridge, is the site of yet another mill – Carlbury Mill – destroyed by fire in 1889. This is followed by a short, wooded incline to the main road, which is the only significant ascent on this section. At the c12th Church of St Edwin in High Coniscliffe the trail descends gently back towards the river. It sits on a promontory of Permian limestone having left the much older Carboniferous bedrock behind. After an easy walk on the looping riverside trail (where there are a couple of obvious shortcuts) it passes under the A1M motorway to reach the medieval village of Low Coniscliffe. Although there are no extant remains, the site of the manorial hall can be seen from the trail shortly before entering the village.
Out of Low Coniscliffe, the trail takes to the busy A67 to enter the outskirts of Darlington and past Tees Cottage Pumping Station, once Darlington’s waterworks and now a heritage museum. The finish of Section 8, at Broken Scar Picnic Area, lies only a few metres further on.