Weardale Way Section 11 (Durham to Chester-le-Street)

Section 11 of the Weardale Way starts from Baths Bridge in Durham City and finishes at the east pier of the now demolished Old Lumley Bridge, opposite Riverside Park in Chester le Street, County Durham. Although this section is mainly flat, it includes a short, steep descent into the Wear Gorge at Finchale Priory about half-way through. The going is easy, mainly on relatively quiet roads, none of which have footpaths. The section after Finchale Priory, approaching Great Lumley is quite busy and relatively narrow, again with no footpath. It’s less comfortable than I’d like it to be but I’ve used for many years without any problem. The section of the trail from Framwellgate Bridge to New Lumley Bridge is also waymarked as ‘Cuddy’s Corse’ and follows the same route. THERE IS A GPS ROUTE FILE AVAILABLE FOR THIS SECTION AS A FREE DOWNLOAD FROM THE SHOP.

Distance 13 km (8 miles) | Elevation Gain  131 m/430 ft | Maximum Elevation 75 m/246 ft (Great Lumley) | Profile Undulating>flat>steeply undulating – descending | Terrain Woodland, farmland, urban, parkland | Going Generally firm with potentially wet, muddy sections on roads, footpaths and trails | Exposure Fairly sheltered | Hospitality & Refreshment Durham (All); Finchale Priory (RK-seasonal); Great Lumley (PH/GS); Chester le Street [0.5 km] (All)

Leaving Baths Bridge on the north side of the River Wear, the route heads under New Elvet Bridge, then passes the permanent mooring site of the Prince Bishop river cruiser, followed by Brown’s boathouse, and Elvet Bridge (the oldest bridge in Durham which once incorporated the gaol, or ‘house of correction’). A little further downstream is the soaring Kingsgate Bridge, on the eastern approach to the cathedral followed by the riverside folly known as The Little Count’s House. On the right, at the top of the ramp to Prebends Bridge, is the entry onto North Bailey known as the Watergate. The bridge itself offers an iconic view of Durham Cathedral and the Fulling Mill which should really be studied from the western end where you’ll find the inscription of Sir Walter Scott’s eulogy. Off the bridge, the trail continues alongside the river, past South Street Mill (yet another iconic photographic opportunity) then under Framwellgate Bridge, (at which point you can expect to find and follow waymarks for Cuddy’s Corse) followed by Milburngate Bridge and past the last (or first) of Durham City’s ten bridges, Pennyferry Bridge with the even newer council HQ and passport office opposite.

On the left, shortly after the bridge, is the bottom of Sidegate, a steep, cobbled lane off Framwellgate Peth, on the northern outskirts of the old city. A bit further along, on the same side, is the entrance to Crook Hall, one of the oldest and most historic dwellings in the city. Take time to draw breath as there’s a well earned lull on a quiet access road, along the river’s floodplain before a short climb to Frankland Farms where the route uses an access road stub before switching to a woodland trail through The Scogs. This skirts around Low Newton Junction Nature Reserve the eastern end of which is indicated on the trail by four tall, concrete posts which once supported the gates of the railway junction. Further east, not far away, behind the trees, is Brasside Pond, a wildlife haven even more tranquil than its neighbour. An access road then guides the route between two prisons – Low Newton Prison on the left and the stark concrete walls of Frankland Prison on the right. Reaching Frankland Lane, the main road through Brasside, the route turns right and left to continue on a long, relatively quiet lane, past the squat, sheltering bunkers of Brasside Ammunition Stores, to the ruins of Finchale Abbey, deep in the Wear Gorge. Within Finchale Abbey Park, past the ruined abbey itself, is a long, wooden footbridge, spanning the river, linking the park with a long flight of stone steps that helpfully assist the climb up the steep sandstone walls of the gorge.

Cocken Road, at the top of the steps, is an attractive but busy lane without a footpath. Not far away is the junction with Cocken Lane which is a little bit quieter but busier than you’d like it to be. Again there is no footpath but, taking reasonable care, the journey past Charles Pit Cottages to reach the trail over the fields to Great Lumley is tolerable.The trail skirts the village, using the footpath on Cambridge Drive to reach Front Street, the main road through the village, from where it bears left, crossing the corner diagonally towards a wooden sculpture by a bench on the road side. Back onto a distinct trail, it descends through the fields – with long views towards Chester-le-Street and Lumley Castle before entering the final section of woodland past Durham County Cricket Club’s Riverside Stadium and the boathouse of Chester-le-Street rowing club on the opposite bank before passing under New Lumley Bridge to finish the section at the east abutment of the long demolished Old Lumley Bridge.

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