Weardale Way Section 10 (Page Bank to Durham)
Section 10 of the Weardale Way takes you from the car park by the bridge over the River Wear at Page Bank, between Spennymoor and Brancepeth, to Baths Bridge in Durham City. This section is generally flat with the exception of a short climb on an access road past Croxdale Hall. It’s followed shortly after, by a steep descent on possibly muddy steps in Shincliffe Wood. It’s just as well that the going offers good progress as there’s quite a bit to see on this section including the first view of Durham’s magnificent skyline.
Stats at a Glance
Distance 12 km/7.4 miles | Elevation Gain 95 m/312 ft | Maximum Elevation 95 m/310 ft (High Butterby) | Going Generally firm with potentially wet, muddy sections on roads, footpaths, trails, footpaths and tracks through parkland, woodland, farmland, urban | Exposure Fairly sheltered | Supplies & Hospitality Croxdale (Ho) [0.5 km]; Shincliffe (Ca; PH); Durham (All) | Start Page Bank Bridge NZ 233355 | Finish Baths Bridge, Durham NZ 278425 | Grade Moderate | GPS File
The original Page Bank Bridge was converted from rail to road in 1947 long after the closure of South Brancepeth Colliery in 1931 (see also Section 9). A short distance along Stanners Lane, on the other side of the river, is Whitworth Hall, once the home of Bobby Shaftoe of nursery rhyme fame who, for a time, was romantically involved with the daughter of the owner of Brancepeth Castle.
The trail however, visits neither location but follows the river along its floodplain towards the grandiose brick arches of Croxdale Railway Viaduct and the East Coast Main Line. After passing beneath the viaduct and the distant gaze of Burn Hall (on a hill to the north) the route crosses the River Wear for the only time on this section via c16th Sunderland Bridge, before entering the grounds of Croxdale Park. Apart from a delightful avenue of sycamores, you’ll find Croxdale Mill, on the Croxdale Burn, and Croxdale Hall – the historic seat of the Salvin family. Behind the hall, alongside the trail, there’s a good view of an important, Grade I-listed Norman chapel.
At High Butterby, the route leaves the lane to enter Shincliffe Woods and descend steeply back to the river (conditions underfoot will depend very much on the weather). Irrespective of the conditions the path through the woods is pleasant one which undulates steeply in places. After passing Shincliffe Hall you arrive at the village of Shincliffe itself which offers a couple of convenient hostelries alongside the the busy A177.
On the other side of the A177 and across the river is Durham University’s Maiden Castle Sports Complex. Beyond that is Maiden Castle Bridge (also known as ‘Noisy Bridge’) which is overlooked by the densely wooded mound of Maiden Castle itself – site of an Iron Age promontory fort. A bit further along the path, by the rugby club, is the east abutment of Elvet Railway Bridge which once brought miners and their families into Durham for the Big Meeting. The area on the trail side of the river is known as Old Durham where there was yet another colliery. Old Durham Beck is crossed via Kingfisher Bridge with Old Durham Gardens located just off the trail to the east.
Around the sharp bend beyond Durham Rowing Club’s boathouse is a 750 metre stretch where the annual Durham Rowing Regatta is held and where you get your first sight of the Durham skyline complete with cathedral, castle and the elegant but by no means original, spire of St Nicholas’ Church. The promenade on the opposite side of the river is known as The Racecourse, containing the bandstand and a couple of sculptures, one of which is the Durham Cow (from which this site takes its name). In 2013 – back on the trail side – part of the steeply sloping Pelaw Woods slid into the river, a combination of coal measures geology and persistent wet weather. Not only is the rapidly approaching Baths Bridge the finish of this section, it also marks one of the finish lines in the regatta.