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Winston and the Spitfire Bridge – 17th March 2019

Winston is a pleasant village between Darlington and Barnard Castle, featuring a church with a commanding position overlooking the Tees valley.  A surprisingly large number of people gathered at the planned meeting point bright and early for our walk.  It turned out another group had arranged to meet in the same place at the same time, and in the confusion I’d almost joined the wrong group before realising what was happening!  The exchanges however were convivial and we had the opportunity to exchange details of our respective organisations and programmes before each group set off on its planned itinerary.

Twelve of us GOCers proceeded initially through the village, and then we were off into fields and woodlands.  The wind from the west was against us but the sunshine was bright and springlike, and we enjoyed increasingly wide views north towards Staindrop and Raby Castle.  We passed through Little Newsham with its picturesque chapel.  A short way beyond we reached the derelict settlement of Morey where we paused briefly for coffee.

Turning south we climbed very gradually to cross the main A67 road and then through more fields where we saw spring lambs, a sure sign that spring was progressing.  We passed through Whorlton, a peaceful village with houses around a green.  Historically Whorlton is close to an ancient crossing point over the river Tees, as we had seen on a previous visit to this area.  The present suspension bridge, opened in 1831, is the oldest in the country still supported by its original chains.  We walked past the church and down a steep path to the river, where we stopped for our lunchtime sandwiches.

The next part of our route followed the river, which along this section was characterised by rapid flows over limestone slabs, overlooked by wooded cliffs.  We saw kayakers in the distance, a bit more adventurous than us.  On the opposite bank was the site of the Whorlton Lido which closed a few years ago.  There’s still a 15in-gauge railway there which opens on six days each year.

We climbed steeply to gain height to the top of the cliff.  We then followed the valley with panoramic views in some places, across the river valley and eastwards back towards Winston.  We noted another prominent building, Stubb House, in the distance.  A group of wooden holiday homes, unoccupied at this time of year, looked like an attractive place to stay.

Shortly before arriving back at Winston, we passed the Spitfire Bridge, so-called following a Spitfire plane flew under the arch in 1998 for a television film.  The stone arch cross the Tees was the longest of its kind in Europe when it was completed in 1764.

On arrival back at our starting point we found the other group had already returned and left.  After changing our not-too-muddy boots we proceeded on to the nearby village of Piercebridge where a welcoming teashop provided suitable refreshment.

Thanks are due to John for facilitating another enjoyable and lively walk, and once again to Ivor for some of the illustrations to this report.

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