The River Wear runs mostly in County Durham and is a river of contrasts, from the high moors of the Pennines, through the famous loops around the historic cathedral and castle of Durham city, and the approach to the sea past the former shipyards and bridges of Sunderland. Wolsingham lies on one of the more rural stretches, one of the more ancient market towns of County Durham, and originated partly as a source of supply for the bishop’s castle at nearby Bishop Auckland.
Around fourteen of us gathered in a picnic area, a pleasant spot on the edge of the town. Setting off through the centre we crossed the river and “heritage” Weardale Railway, and soon began to climb with increasingly panoramic views up and down the valley. As well as running steam trains the railway provides transport for high-quality coking coal from a nearby surface mine, enabling fewer lorries to pass on local roads.
With increasing height we continued through farmland up to open moorland, and a panoramic path along the top of Sunniside Edge. We passed several motorcyclists going in the opposite direction, clearly with an event in progress as indicated by a number of marker flags. Our objective now was the Elephant Trees, a prominent landmark that had been visible miles away on the valley floor. With the last of the motorcyclists gone we sat down for our lunchtime refreshment.
After our rest the path took us downhill again towards the river. We crossed the Bollihope Burn, the site of a former area of quarrying which had been turned partly into an open quarry project and nature reserve, and crossed the railway again.
From here our route led close to the river back towards Wolsingham. We followed a more level path, with easy progress but a pleasing contrast to earlier, through woods and meadows looking their best at this time of year with the fresh spring greenery and other colours, and the attractive river nearby. A riverside leisure park with mobile holiday homes related facilities blended well into its surroundings, and looked to be a peaceful place to stay. Back in Wolsingham we recrossed the railway and the high street and were soon back at our starting point.
Thanks are due to Maddy for preparing and hosting our event today, to Ivor for some of the photographs, and as always to all our participants, both regulars and newcomers, who contributed to another enjoyable and convivial day.