|OS Route Map →||GPX Route file →|
Date: 19 Apr 2018
Start / Finish: Stanhope. Roadside parking.
Maps: Explorer 307: Consett & Derwent Reservoir.
|Day 1||Collier Law, Horseshoe Hill & Bolt's Law||9.5miles / 1694 feet (15.3km / 516m)|
|Day 2||Boltslaw Incline, Rookhope Burn & River Wear||8.5miles / 413 feet (13.7km / 125m)|
A 2-day route around the moorland hills north of the attractive town of Stanhope, a new area for us, mainly on easy tracks and paths.
The outward high moorland section arcs around the moors of Stanhope Common, visiting the three Dewey 500m summits defining the high points of these rolling hills that stretch into the far distance to emphasize the vastness of the landscape.
The return section descends the Boltslaw Incline to Rookhope and joins the Weardale Way, first following Rookhope Burn to Eastgate then the River Wear back to Stanhope.
The moors are intensively managed for shooting and have a rather different character from our grouse-worrying treks farther west and elsewhere that we walked years ago. The heather is cropped and burned for a plentiful supply of new young shoots and supplemented with many grouse feeding units, a tamer and much easier landscape than those knee-deep excursions.
The route leaves the A689 (Front street) via Union Lane, ascending to East Lane and the road end at Jollybody Farm. A gate on the left of the farmhouse gains access to the estate tracks, the main track crossing Rogerwell Hush and descending right to cross Crawley Burn. The track climbs steadily, with open spacious views accompanied by the familiar voices of grouse, curlew, skylark and plovers, to the 500m contour where we turned right to the trig point of Collier Law. The mast shown on our mapping was demolished in 2013.
The main track continues westwards and descends around the southern edge of the old Millstone Quarries where pools have formed.
The track descends to join the Waskerley Way as it heads northwards to the car park at Fell Haven and the B6278. The continuation track north-westwards via Wilkinson's Cut is a cycle route with a prominent sign warning of closure days for cyclists in the shooting season. This contouring track follows the route of the old Weatherhill and Rookhope railway that ran from Waskerley to Rookhope. At Meadows Edge we ascended on a side track to the hill road and took the access road a short way along to the summit area of Horseshoe Hill. A side track heads for the trig point across rather squelchy ground today with two masts in the background.
Returning to the cycle track via the masts and access road, we continued to a prominent large sheepfold and struck out north-westward over cropped heather to locate the fence junction and trig point of Bolt's Law. From the nearby cairn in the near distance were the dams and twin chimneys of the Sikehead Lead Mines. A flat area of cropped firm ground near the summit made an excellent pitch.
Dawn brought a clear sky and chilly wind as we struck camp and returned to the main track and headed southwards to the top of Boltslaw Incline and the consolidated remains of Bolt's Law Standing Engine, built by the Weardale Iron Company to generate power for hauling rail wagons of limestone and iron ore on the incline.
At the bottom of the incline where the track doglegs left, an unsigned stile leads directly ahead to a path avoiding the buildings and emerging on the road through Rookhope (public toilets). The Post Office / general store was just opening and we bought some extra refreshments.
Crossing Rookhope Burn we joined the Weardale Way (WW) on the low level route that initially follows the burn and ascends SSE to Smailsburn farm (this variant starts just after crossing the burn and is unsigned, only the high level branch straight ahead to the hillside is waymarked).
Just after the very muddy farm and the deep cleft of Smail's Burn, the main waymarked WW track continues ascending to a plantation but our route was the WW line that branches off and heads eastwards back down to Rookhope Burn. This is again unsigned and not evident on the ground: where a small stream comes down from the plantation ahead and crosses underneath the track, we spotted a vague line across and descended the hillside to a fingerpost on the valley road. A short way up the road is the footbridge to the eastern bank.
The Rookhope Burn section to the road head above Eastgate is an attractive open woodland walk that passes the remains of the Brandon Walls lead mine and ore works.
The WW resumes through Eastgate caravan park following the main drive to its eastern end. For nearly a mile the WW is then sandwiched between the River Wear and the railway, a narrow strip of very muddy land heavily churned up by cattle with several feeders whose immediate environs don't even bear thinking about. Though much of this is avoided by walking at the river edge, the line is sometimes forced up onto the morass. Today the top layer of the mud and slurry was quite dry and firm but after rain this would be grim.
The WW crosses the railway line and arrives at the flooded quarry at Stanhope Bridge.
The WW follows the verge of the B6278 and the riverside drive of Unthank Hall to a footbridge over the Wear. We crossed it to the Stanhope riverside walk that leads east and up to the main street.