Weardale Way Section 2 (Cowshill to Westgate)
Section 2 of the Weardale Way starts from Burtreeford Bridge in Cowshill and finishes at the Candle House on the junction of Front Street with Scutterhill Bank in Westgate. This section of the trail is gently downhill, sheltered, and pastoral, untypical of the terrain normally experienced or sought this far up the dale. This section makes for a relaxed walk at any time of the year.
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Stats at a Glance
Distance 7.3 km/4.5 miles) | Elevation Gain 12 m/39 ft | Maximum Elevation 365 m/1198 ft (Cowshill) | Going Generally firm & dry on trails, tracks and lanes through farmland, riparian woodland and urban | Exposure Fairly sheltered | Supplies & Hospitality Cowshill (Ho); Wearhead (GS); St John’s Chapel (Ca; GS; Ho; PH) [0.5 km]; Westgate (CS; GS; PH) | Start Burtreeford Bridge, Cowshill NY 853405 | Finish The Candle House, Westgate NY 907380 | Grade Gentle
Leave Burtreeford Bridge from the southern end and follow the signs for the Weardale Way, through the gate and up the track of ‘Mellon Isle’ (there’s a decent view of Burtreeford Falls from the trail in winter, when trees have lost their leaves). After a single steep descent, the trail follows the Killhope Burn gently, through fields, to Wearhead which you leave via Wearhead Bridge. Not far upstream, the Burnhope Burn – flowing out of nearby Burnhope Reservoir – joins the Killhope Burn to become the River Wear.
Across the bridge, on the downstream side, is the site of the former Wearhead Station, now occupied by a private house, This was the terminus for Weardale Railway where a turntable was installed to turn trains around. After a brief stretch of riparian woodland, the trail breaks cover, crossing fields towards Waterside Farm with a good view of the long redundant West Blackdene Railway Bridge. Through the farm and onto the road, the route crosses the bridge over the river at West Blackdene, turning right immediately afterwards, onto Anita’s Way along the river, past a picturesque ‘sluice’ in the Five Yard Limestone.
Beyond West Blackdene Mine Bridge there’s Coronation Bridge, across which you’ll find the Weardale Museum, High House Chapel (which claims to have been the world’s oldest Wesleyan chapel in continuous weekly use) and a commemorative stone altar to John Wesley who preached sermons there. Gaining access to the bridge involves a very tight squeeze but you can pass under it if you decide to continue along the river without visiting the museum.
Pennine Lodge is an inviting place to spend some time, by the limestone slabs on the river which create a natural ford (there’s also a footbridge). Moving on, the trail enters fields via a stile in the stone wall, eventually passing through a small farm and into more fields beyond where there’s an option to divert off the trail into the pleasant, and well served village of St John’s Chapel.
After a short distance on a quiet lane, you arrive at the A689, the main road through the dale. Although you could carry on down the A689 direct to the finish in Westgate, the route crosses the river, using steps off Daddry Shield Bridge to gain the riverside trail that leads to an isolated row of houses at Windyside. What was the old track bed of the railway leads across more fields, past a footbridge and stepping stones over the river, eventually onto a lane granting access to Westgate via Shallow Ford and its accompanying footbridge. Across the lane is another gate, from where the trail once again takes to the the old track bed of the Weardale Railway until stopped by a blocked portal at Haswick’s Bridge. After scrambling up the bank to the road it’s a short, easy stroll into Westgate and the Candle House.