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 in County 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. THERE IS A GPS ROUTE FILE AVAILABLE FOR THIS SECTION AS A FREE DOWNLOAD FROM THE SHOP.
Stats at a Glance
Distance 12.6 km (7.8 miles) | Height Gain 32 m/105 ft | Maximum Elevation 75 m/244 ft | Profile Generally flat | Going Generally good, muddy in places. Sheltered on trails and road through farmland and woodlands | Supplies Gainford; High Coniscliffe; Darlington [1 km]
Now, well into the Tees Lowlands, the medieval village of Gainford, was built at a crossing point on the river. Once 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 around in 1603.
The village cross adjacent to the well-tended and expansive village green is the starting point of this section and, after leaving the village for a short time on road, the route takes to quieter trails using a tunnel to pass through the embankment of what was the Darlington to Barnard Castle branch of the Stockton & Darlington railway. Snow Hall, on the hill shortly after, was owned by the Raine family for almost 200 years. Next is Gallows Hill, believed to have been a baronial place of execution and the site of some gallows for that purpose.
Next up, after a few kilometres, is Piercebridge. The Roman fort here, which is free to visit, was known as Morbium (or Magis). It was built in the 3rd century to defend the bridge on Dere Street from Brigante tribes. A small town, known as a vicus, developed alongside it on the site of the present Tofts field. You can visit the remains of the Roman bridge on the other side of the river.
The George Hotel, a c15th coaching inn and the home to the actual clock associated with the poem ‘Grandfather’s Clock’ by Henry Clay Work sits on the riverbank over the bridge. The bridge itself marks the site of a large skirmish during the first period of the English Civil War. On 1st December 1642, a party of Royalists led by William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle, successfully defended the bridge of the time, against parliamentary forces under Lord Thomas Fairfax.
Out of Piercebridge, the trail continues along the river to reach the site of Carlbury Mill, destroyed by fire in 1889. This is followed by a short, wooded incline to the main road, the only climb of any significance on this section.
The road doesn’t last long, and arriving in High Coniscliffe the trail begins again, heading downhill just before the c12th church of St Edwin. The view over the shoulder, of the church atop the limestone promontory, is impressive. Now there is little else to detract from what is simply a pleasant walk, heading for the medieval village of Low Coniscliffe on the other side of the A1 motorway (a large meander in the river makes it possible to put in a significant shortcut if time is short). Although there are no extant remains, the site of the manorial hall at Low Coniscliffe can be seen from the trail shortly before entering the village.
Back onto the road again, out of Low Coniscliffe, the trail passes the Tees Cottage Pumping Station (opposite the new waterworks) which is now a heritage museum, before arriving at the finish of Section 8 at Broken Scar Picnic Area.