Weardale Way Section 12 (Chester-le-Street to Mount Pleasant)

Section 12 of the Weardale Way starts from the east pier of the now demolished Old Lumley Bridge, opposite Riverside Park in Chester le Street, County Durham and finishes at Mount Pleasant Park (end of Beatrice Terrace), Mount Pleasant, Sunderland. This part of the route brushes the southern outskirts of Washington, where medieval Washington Village and the Old Hall contrast with the F-Pit museum which introduces a more industrial feel to the remaining sections. Before steam-power, horses hauled waggons laden with coal from a multitude of nearby pits to staithes on the tidal River Wear, from where keelboats transported it to colliers waiting downstream at Wearmouth. The undulating route is quite sheltered and makes a pleasant walk at any time of year. Although it can still be muddy in wet weather it makes use of very good trails. THERE IS A GPS ROUTE FILE AVAILABLE FOR THIS SECTION AS A FREE DOWNLOAD FROM THE SHOP.

Distance 9.1 km (5.6 miles) | Elevation Gain  119 m/390 ft | Maximum Elevation 55 m/181 ft (Lumley Burn between Lumley Forge and New Lambton) | Profile Undulating – descending | Terrain Woodland, farmland, parkland, urban | Going Generally firm with potentially wet, muddy sections on trails, tracks and roads | Exposure Fairly sheltered | Hospitality & Refreshment Chester le Street [0.5 km] (All); Lumley Forge (PH); New Lambton (PH); Fence Houses [0.5 km] (All); Bournmoor (Ga); Fatfield (PH)

From the east abutment of Old Lumley Bridge with the spire of St Cuthbert’s Church visible on the skyline in Chester-le-Street, the route heads downstream along the river before departing through a golf course, as it circles Lumley Castle. Crossing into Lumley Park Wood behind the castle, it follows Lumley Park Burn upstream on Waugh’s Way, a local trail, past Garden House and, ignoring the next bridge,  continues uphill on what can be a muddy section in winter, past The Manor House and over the A1(M) via a footbridge to reach an often busy, narrow lane. To cut out a tight hairpin bend further down the hill, the route uses a short flight of steps to get back onto the road.

This is Lumley Forge where there’s an option to turn left before passing under the bridge and continue on a track at the level of the burn. However the slightly longer, published route continues uphill, under the bridge, uphill to the Smiths Arms public house, then turns left, on a higher trail parallel to the lower track and passing back under the bridge. The two options join together before emerging from the wood at New Lambton at a busy main road. Across the road, the route turns right towards Fence Houses, then left shortly after, onto a footpath, becoming a trail before crossing a quiet road onto a railway path from where Penshaw Monument, the most visible and (in my humble opinion) imposing north-east landmark, can be seen in the distance.

Approaching the railway bridge which carried the now redundant Leamside Line, the route leaves the track, switching to the field boundary alongside the decommissioned railway, to reach the main road (A183) between Shiney Row and Chester-le-Street (there’s a garage and shop on the roadside, not far away). Diagonally across the road is a waymarked access road, off which a track continues through Biddick Woods, past Biddick Hall and under Chartershaugh Bridge, all the way to the road at Mount Pleasant. To the left is Fatfield Bridge, over a now tidal River Wear, with Worm Hill (associated with the legend of the Lambton Worm) beyond that. The finish of the section lies across the road on the riverside, at the bottom of Beatrice Terrace alongside Mount Pleasant Park.

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