Weardale Way Section 13 (Mount Pleasant to Deptford)

Section 13 of the Weardale Way starts from the riverside at the end of Beatrice Terrace, adjacent to Mount Pleasant Lake, Sunderland and finishes at Deptford Terrace, Deptford, Sunderland. This section is an easy, sheltered walk alongside a now tidal river on good footpaths and trails that are way-marked as the ‘River Wear Trail’. Nearing the finish at Ford, downstream from the Hylton Bridge, the trail climbs steeply to join a busy, urban trunk road at Pallion which it follows to the finish of the section. THERE IS A GPS ROUTE FILE AVAILABLE FOR THIS SECTION AS A FREE DOWNLOAD FROM THE SHOP.

Distance 9.9 km (6.1 miles) | Elevation Gain  98 m/323 ft | Maximum Elevation 42 m/136 ft (Pallion) | Profile Undulating>flat>steeply undulating>hilly – ascending | Terrain Woodland, parkland, urban, farmland | Going Generally firm with potentially wet, muddy/v.muddy sections on trails, roads and tracks | Exposure Fairly sheltered with some exposed stretches | Hospitality & Refreshment Fatfield (PH); Pallion [0.5 km] (Most); Deptford (PH); Sunderland [0.5 km] (All)

Very soon after the start of the section, on Beatrice Terrace, it’s easy to leave the footpath and walk alongside Mount Pleasant Lake (you can rejoin the footpath, which is always close by on the left, at the end of the lake, or even half way along). On a now tidal river, the graceful arch of Victoria Railway Viaduct soon comes into view, quickly followed by the pleasant little village of Cox Green where the footbridge offers the last opportunity to cross the river for several miles.

This is about as far up river as pleasure craft go. The few resident boats are a reminder that the village, which is tucked away on the river, at the base of Penshaw Hill about a kilometre to the south, was a hub for the early coal trade and had a substantial boat-building industry. Leaving the village, the route continues along the river, climbing steeply through riparian woodland, past Wearside Golf Club and the well-established Washington Wetlands Centre on the opposite bank before arriving on a wide, gently shelving floodplain known as Offerton Haugh (‘haugh’ is from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘flat ground alongside a river’). In March 1644, during the English Civil War, a brief engagement, referred to as the ‘Offerton Skirmish’, took place between Scottish parliamentary and royalist forces on the high ground to the south.

Dutifully following the river, it makes it way around the haugh into woodland at Stony Heugh and past White Heugh Cottages (‘heugh’ is from the Anglo-Saxon for a steep hill or cliff) and under Hylton Bridge (which carries the busy A19) before arriving at South Hylton where the Hylton Ferry operated from the c14th until the 1950s. North Hylton, on the other side of the river, was a centre for several industries including ship-building, referenced today by the decaying hulks that lie alongside the village. As the river begins to widen significantly, the Weardale Way arrives at a water sports centre  where enigmatic piles stand silently in a stretch of river dominated by the sandy bluff of Claxheugh Rock and where, between 1838 and 1971, the Ford Paper Mill operated.

Claxheugh Rock is one of the most prominent and interesting geological features on the entire Weardale Way and provides breathtaking views up and down the river. It also presents a fair old climb, which can be be extremely muddy in poor weather. Over the top of the hill, the final couple of kilometres to the finish of the section, was given something of a facelift in 2018 with the addition of the handsome Northern Spire Bridge.  Finally, as the route enters, Deptford, comes the elegant Queen Alexandra Bridge, casting an evening shadow over the finish on Deptford Terrace and Webster’s Ropery on the riverside below.

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