Our October walk started on the edge of Darlington, at a meeting point perhaps a bit less remote than for some of our events but in an area nevertheless not without interest and facilitated and supported by people living nearby, with local knowledge and enthusiasm. Twelve of us gathered at the appointed time and after a chance for brief greetings and introductions we set off.
We were very soon into open countryside, crossing the river Skerne on an attractive ancient-looking stone bridge, and we noticed a series of tall new wind generators, some complete and others still under construction. Along the way we met up with another local walker who, along with one of our own group, turned out to be quite knowledgeable about the area we were passing through. A new bypass road was planned, we learned, across the northern side of Darlington, to take traffic to and from Teesside, intersecting our present walking route and bringing to an end the peaceable nature of the area. Enjoy this open space while you can, appeared to be the message!
With the towering windmills receding we entered an area of ancient woodland, and turned into an equally ancient trackway known as Catkill Lane, with some muddy and thorny bits but an interesting contrast to the previous part of our route. A few more fields and paths eventually brought us to an ancient- looking group of dwellings next to an ancient duck pond (complete with a very realistic-looking duck) where we stopped for our lunchtime sandwiches.
Suitably refreshed we continued further along quiet roads, trackways and across fields, with views towards the town and across the main railway line which helped along with the guidance provided by our walk coordinators to give us a sense of bearing and direction. We passed an interesting small bridge which appeared to cross nothing at all, but then reached the river Skerne which was some way beyond.
Now following the river we noticed how its course across the fields had been artificially straightened, interfering with the natural flow and leading to several places where weeds and gravel had accumulated, and perhaps leading to an increased possibility of flooding at times of heavier flow further up the valley. We skirted the edge of part of the Tees Community Forest, one of twelve in different parts of England, we were told. These forests had been created in the 1990s, mostly on “brownfield” or otherwise underused land lose to towns; although this one was potentially compromised by the proposed bypass had had encountered earlier.
In due course our riverside path brought us back to the ancient bridge we had crossed earlier in the day, and from there it was another five minutes or so back to our starting point.
After dispensing with muddy boots we were transported across the town to George’s house where his partner Peter had kindly prepared and offered welcome tea and cakes, and we had a chance to put together an outline programme of walks for next year. With several of us able and willing with suggestions we succeeded in drawing up a varied list of events all over NE England for adding to the club magazine and website in due course. And naturally there’s nothing like tea and cake to keep us happy and loquacious after a good walk!
At the end of the day we thanked Ivor and George for organising the walk for us, Peter and George for their hospitality and for facilitating the planning meeting, and I’m grateful also to Ivor for once again supplying some of the illustrations to this article.