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Greta Gorge & Hoove / 2 days / 28 miles (45km)

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Date: 11 May 2006
Start / Finish: Barnard Castle. Long-stay free car park in the town (NZ 05155 16370).
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 30 Yorks Dales North & Central and 31 North Pennines.

Day 1Greta Gorge & How Tallon12.8 miles / 2010 feet (20.6km / 612m)
Day 2Hoove & Deepdale15.0 miles / 1140 feet (24.2km / 347m)

A circuit of the hills and valleys around Barnard Castle, visiting Hoove, our last unclimbed Marilyn in the North Pennines, and the lovely wooded valleys of Greta Gorge and Deepdale. The route follows the Teesdale Way to Rokeby Park and Meeting of the Waters, an inspirational location for artists such as Turner and Cotman.

Day 1 - Greta Gorge & How Tallon

The Teesdale Way (TW) heads out to the river from the southern end of the town. The TW waymark is a dipper and this was the first bird we saw from the riverbank, soon followed by the first ducklings of the year and the occasional statuesque heron. The TW crosses to the S side at Abbey Bridge near the ruins of Egglestone Abbey church and adjoining cloister. At Rokeby Park the Greta joins the Tees at Meeting of the Waters, though the imagery that inspired the famous artists could not be captured from this vantage point. The path crosses Dairy Bridge and passes Mortham Tower, a fortified 14th. Century manor house, and crosses the A66 via an underpass.

The Tees near Barnard Castle
The Tees near Barnard Castle (11 May 2006__09:39:24)
Egglestone Abbey
Egglestone Abbey (11 May 2006__09:49:52)
Meeting of the Waters
Meeting of the Waters (11 May 2006__10:54:51)

A footpath crosses a field to enter Mill Wood and climbs to a lane that leads to Wilson House. The farm track continues westwards past a reedy pool and enters the woodland path into Greta Gorge. Gill Beck enters from the L and is crossed on stepping stones, easy in summer, and the path climbs back high above the river at Black Scar. Guard rails are erected at the steep drop to the river, but the pervasive trees prevented us capturing the scale or character of the spot on camera. The path descends again to the river and undulates through the woodland to a footbridge over Gregory Beck and on to Brignall Mill.

In Greta Gorge
In Greta Gorge (11 May 2006__12:56:56)

There is a large footbridge over the Greta here which is where most people cross to return on the N side. We carried on westwards on the clear path and didn't notice any signs, but we discovered later that this section of footpath has been diverted. The reason became clear further round, we had to clamber up and down the steep hillside to pick our way around fallen trees, but we were soon back on a good path. The diversion sign for the reverse direction was just before a footbridge, pointing up some steps. Crossing this footbridge over a small side stream, an unsigned public footpath immediately branches L to Lodge Farm and the road.

Taking the minor road to Stang Foot, a lane departs L to Peak Hole and enters Stang Forest. The bridleway track branches off R and a tiny stream higher up provided very good water. Emerging at Black Hill Gate, we reached the open hillside and a discernible path climbs around Eel Hill to the ravine and rock outcrops at the head of Osmaril Gill. At the boundary fence we turned L for the final climb to the trig point of How Tallon, which gave distant but hazy views to the N.

Head of Osmaril Gill
Head of Osmaril Gill (11 May 2006__16:50:42)

Day 2 - Hoove & Deepdale

At dawn we heard a menagerie of early risers around us, the most varied ever including grouse, skylarks, curlews, plovers, lapwings, snipe, cuckoo and most unexpected, a small flock of honking greylag geese. Plus the sheep and lambs of course. The boundary fence and wall head W by a shooters track to climb to Cocker Hill, where stones protrude at the wall corner to form a stile. Curving around the head of Black Sike, the going is trackless but easy and there is a sense of remote spaciousness here. We picked up a good grassy track to the tall neat cairn on Arndale Hill and this continues to meet the road near Stang Top.

Cairn on Arndale Hill
Cairn on Arndale Hill (12 May 2006__07:42:22)

The sprawl of Hoove lies ahead, and by using fragments of mown shooters track, the going was never difficult. Crossing the head of Hurr Gill, we aimed for the middle of the large plateau and what is supposed to be the true summit with a spot height of 554m. Walking NE to the 553m trig point, it was impossible to tell by eye as usual, each point looks higher from the other. The views were muted both by haze and the flatness of the top.

Trig point on Hoove
Trig point on Hoove (12 May 2006__08:33:19)
Deep peat groughs on Hoove
Deep peat groughs on Hoove (12 May 2006__08:51:49)

A small section of stone wall can be seen N on the skyline, this lies atop the next checkpoint Elsey Crag, a low rocky escarpment with a good view of the moor and the hills beyond the Stainmore Gap. The centre of the depression in between has deep peat groughs like those on our familiar Kinder and Bleaklow, and are easy to negotiate in summer. On Elsey Crag, a metal gate in the wall indicates the start of the footpath which can be seen below as a good grassy track heading NE to the forest edge. Passing the disused Scargill Mine workings, the path ascends to Spanham East Hill and descends to the access track of Spanham Farm. This track gives easy walking to the lane leading to Gilmonby Bridge and Bowes.

Patchwork heather moor from Elsey Crag
Patchwork heather moor from Elsey Crag (12 May 2006__09:16:02)
Spanham West Hill
Spanham West Hill (12 May 2006__10:42:30)

Walking N up the lane from Bowes to Crag Bridge, the footpath E follows the farm track to High Crag and Low Crag farms. Passing Crag Pond, just beyond the wall corner on the R is the unsigned thin footpath through the young trees into Deepdale, another lovely wooded valley which was carpeted with flowers and alive with birdsong. The path emerges on the B6277 near Barnard Castle opposite a footbridge over the Tees which gives a good view of the castle down the river. A tarmac access track slants up R to the town.

Crag Pond
Crag Pond (12 May 2006__13:23:04)
Barnard Castle from the footbridge
Barnard Castle from the footbridge (12 May 2006__15:04:52)