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Barnard Castle and the River Tees

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Barnard Castle and the River Tees
Author: clairesharpuk, Published: 22 Jun 2014 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Barnard Castle and the River Tees Walking Guidestar1 Barnard Castle and the River Tees Walking Guidestar1 Barnard Castle and the River Tees Walking Guidestar1 Barnard Castle and the River Tees Walking Guidestar0 Barnard Castle and the River Tees Walking Guide
County Durham, Barnard Castle
Walk Type: River or lakeside
Barnard Castle and the River Tees
Length: 4 miles,  Difficulty: boot Barnard Castle and the River Tees Walking Guide boot Barnard Castle and the River Tees Walking Guide
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A 4 mile circular walk from the market town of Barnard Castle in County Durham. At first glance the walk seems to be a simple stroll along the river and back, but in fact there’s plenty of extra interest. There are several old mills, churches, an enormous chateau, the ruins of an old abbey and Barnard Castle itself to enjoy along the way.

The walk is relatively flat with just a few gentle slopes and one steeper but short slope up to the castle. The walk follows a mixture of tarmac pavements and riverside paths through grazing pastures and woodland. The latter can get fairly muddy and can be very uneven underfoot. There are some gates and kissing gates along the way plus two stiles and two stone squeeze gaps. The wooden stiles have gaps alongside suitable for most dogs to pass under, although the stone squeeze gaps are quite tight so broader dogs may struggle. Several of the large open pastures you cross are likely to be holding sheep (and possibly cattle). Approximate time 2 hours.

Barnard Castle is located on the north banks of the River Tees, opposite Startforth, and about 21 miles south-west of the county town of Durham. The walk starts and finishes from the Galgate pay and display car park which is alongside Morrisons supermarket and the library, and accessed from Galgate. The price is £2.50 for 4 hours (correct June 2014). Approximate post code DL12 8EJ.

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Walk Sections

Start to Demesnes Park
Start to Demesnes Park

Start point: 54.5443 lat, -1.9231 long
End point: 54.5399 lat, -1.9229 long

Do NOT exit the car park into Galgate, instead make your way to the large area of car park at the side of Morrisons. Standing with the side wall of Morrisons on the right, head to the bottom left corner of the car park and take the small alley between stone shops, signed To Town Centre. You will emerge out a main shopping street, Market Place.

Turn left along the pavement, signed for the Bowes Museum. You will come to the large circular structure at a road junction, the old Butter Market or Market Cross. Turn left (still signed Bowes Museum) and you will see St. Mary’s Church on the right. Cross over the road with care to enter the church grounds, and take the paved footpath which runs to the right of the church.

The path swings left behind the church and you will emerge to a T-junction with the old school building ahead. Turn right, down a couple of steps, and the tarmac slope will lead you down and out to the end of a quiet road. Keep ahead passing a few stone cottages and then, where the road bends right, turn left under the height restriction barrier to enter the park, Demesnes Park.

Demesnes Park to Woodland
Demesnes Park to Woodland

Start point: 54.5399 lat, -1.9229 long
End point: 54.5313 lat, -1.9017 long

Keep ahead on the stone track through the centre of the park. The path leads you out through a tunnel of trees and here you will pass between the old stone buildings of Demesnes Mill. The former corn mill dates from the 1400s which continued to grind corn until the 1930s.

Beyond the buildings, pass through the narrow gap by the wall and keep ahead on the path signed as the Teesdale Way. Shortly, a gate leads you into an open pasture (probably holding sheep, and maybe cattle). Simply keep straight ahead along the path with the River Tees running to the right. There are some nice shallow sections down to the right, ideal for a paddle.

Further along, the path swings left and passes through a single wooden gate. Here you will see two arrows marking a fork on the path. Take the right-hand branch (passing immediately to the left of the derelict stone barn and then swinging right back towards the river). In the field corner, pass alongside the gate, continue past the sewerage works on the left and take the gate ahead into the next large pasture.

Follow the riverside path, passing through a pair of pastures. Go through the next gate ahead and you will see an obvious fork in the path. Take the right-hand branch, heading downhill towards the woodland. Pass through the kissing gate to enter the woodland.

Woodland to Egglestone Abbey
Woodland to Egglestone Abbey

Start point: 54.5313 lat, -1.9017 long
End point: 54.531 lat, -1.9053 long

Follow the narrow path through the woodland. Take particular care on this stretch as the path is uneven with rocks and tree roots, and the slope down to the river on the right is fairly steep. You will emerge out via a squeeze gap in the stone wall, to a pavement alongside the road.

Turn right along the pavement and follow it across the road bridge, Abbey Bridge. Take care as the pavement becomes very narrow in places. Immediately after the bridge, turn right along the side road, with the river down to the right. Follow this quiet lane with some stone ruins visible ahead.

After passing some stone cottages on the right, the road forks. Take the left-hand branch and follow this uphill to reach the entrance for the ruins of Egglestone Abbey on the right. Take time to explore the abbey. The abbey was founded in the late 1100s by the Premonstratensians who, due to their white robes, became known as the White Canons. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is managed by English Heritage.

Egglestone Abbey to Caravan Park
Egglestone Abbey to Caravan Park

Start point: 54.531 lat, -1.9053 long
End point: 54.5349 lat, -1.9187 long

When you’ve finished exploring the abbey, make your way back down to the road to the junction by the stone cottages. Turn left to continue on the lane with the river down to the right. The lane descends to cross Thorsgill Beck, then climbs and begins to swing left.

Within this left-hand bend fork right onto the signed footpath, through the (very slim!) stone squeeze gap. Turn left to continue on the riverside path with open grass pasture to the left and the river through the trees on the right.

Cross the wooden stile into the next open pasture. Continue along the right-hand edge of this for some distance, passing through gaps within the hedgerows along the way. As you enter a wider section of pasture, look across to the right where you will see a large chateau on the opposite hillside, the Bowes Museum.

The museum was purpose-built as a public art gallery for John Bowes and his wife Josephine Chevalier, Countess of Montalbo, who both died before it opened in 1892. It is home to a nationally renowned art collection and its iconic piece is a silver swan automaton. The clockwork mechanical life-size silver swan rests on a stream of glass rods with silver fish. Every day at 2pm the mechanism is wound up and you can see the swan looking left and right, preening its back, catching one of the fish and then swallowing it. If you’re not able to time your visit to see the swan in action, you can find a video of the musical clockwork spectacle on YouTube.

Follow the path down to the bottom right-hand corner where a stile leads you out to a tarmac access lane. Turn right along this, heading downhill, and it will lead you into the Caravan Park.

Caravan Park to Footbridge
Caravan Park to Footbridge

Start point: 54.5349 lat, -1.9187 long
End point: 54.5388 lat, -1.9259 long

The path through the caravan park is not well-signed and twists and turns, so pay careful attention to this next bit. At the first fork, keep right. Follow this path swinging right and then take the first left. At the T-junction turn right and a few paces later you will see yellow arrows marking two paths. Ignore the path to the left, instead stay on the tarmac lane through the caravan park, swinging right. Turn sharp left at the junction and, immediately after the last caravan on the right, turn right onto the fenced stone footpath. Phew, you’ve made it!

The stone path swings left and continues with the River Tees running once again on the right. Where there is a break in the trees on the right, you will see Demesnes Mill on the opposite bank. Look closely in the river and you will see the mill race, the stone structure that was built to direct the water flow to power the wheel.

The path continues passing a row of pretty stone terraced cottages on the left, with beautifully carved tall gate posts. You will emerge to a crossroads of paths. Turn right to cross the green metal footbridge across the river.

Footbridge to End
Footbridge to End

Start point: 54.5388 lat, -1.9259 long
End point: 54.5444 lat, -1.9229 long

You will emerge out with Mill Court on the right, a woollen factory from the 1800s which has recently been converted to private housing. This was the heart of the industrial area of the town in the 1700s and 1800s with several weaver’s houses and woollen mills.

Keep straight ahead along Thorngate, taking time to appreciate the striking stone terraced houses each side. Ignore the first road off to the left (Thorngate Wynd), take the next left (Bridgegate). Swap to the right-hand pavement as soon as it is safe to do so.

Continue to the traffic lights by the bridge. Here, go ahead onto the (first paved and then tarmac) path uphill, with the walls of Barnard Castle on the right. Stay on the path closest to the castle walls and at the top of the slope you will come to the castle entrance on the right.

Set on a high rock above the River Tees, Barnard Castle takes its name from its 12th century founder, Bernard de Balliol. It was later developed by the Beauchamp family and then passed into the hands of Richard III. The ruins are managed by English Heritage (entrance fees apply) and dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds. Take time to explore should you wish.

Keep ahead on the path which leads you past the Methodist church, with its tall spire, on the right. You will emerge to the end of Galgate. Turn right, passing in front of the church, and keep ahead onto Horse Market. A little way along, use the pedestrian crossing to swap to the left-hand pavement. A few yards later, turn left down the small alley (Star Yard) to reach the car park where the walk began.

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