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Thursday, 18 February 2010


A few miles up the road is Cockfield Fell. It is the "largest scheduled ancient monument in England...almost 350 acres in size.The fell has a rich historic past, which includes Pre-Roman settlements and industrial evidence that dates back to the fourteenth century." This comes from a pamphlet issued by the local history trust.

We love it up there. You can see for miles (20-30) on a fine day. The place is riddled with historical sites and cushioned with lovely scenery and the only sound is the bubbling of the waters of the Gaunless River and the calls of the birds. We can catch a bus to the top with our free bus passes and then walk the miles home, downhill and on good paths.

So we did that a couple of days ago. The footpath along the riverside follows the path of the Haggerleases branch of the Stockton to Darlington railway, which enabled coal, coke and stone to get to the markets to the east.

Sir Thomas Bouch designed and built the tragic Tay Bridge, which collapsed in a gale in 1879, a year and a half after it was opened, killing 75 people. In 1862 he had designed and built the viaduct (shown below) over the Haggerleases line which linked the rail network of northeast England to the northwest of England (Blackpool etc.) via the Stainmore Gap.

Until after WWII a double rail-track ran across this viaduct but during the 1960s it was all "de-commissioned" and not only was the railway removed but the GIANT PILLARS which supported the line were blown up.

It needed no gale this time. Apparently the Territorial Army was "given" the viaduct for ordnance practice. They did a thorough job and it is now impossible to go to Blackpool for a holiday by train, from the north-east of England. So many of us have relatives who remember that excursion as an annual holiday and on a recent walk along the old West Auckland rail-line we met Alf Robinson who used to live in one of the engine-drivers cottages in our street and drove (as engineer) across the Stainmore gap.The whole area is riddled with iron and coal mines, with coke ovens and works, with railways, tramways and even an attempt at a canal.This pic shows the layers, exposed near the river, of mining rubbish. Yellowish colours are rusts from the iron mining and waste, red colours are too but they also indicate the old clay layers between the coal layers which made the local red bricks and the cinders from the coke works.

On the left of this pic are the pillars which were not blown up so you can see the immensity of them. The whole line has now been closed and all the mines in this area have too. The A66 has replaced the Stainmore Gap railway line and the greenness has taken over. But these enormous, brick pillars remain on the northern side of the Gaunless at Lands Viaduct and piles of bricks and rubble lie to the south.

We walk on for a few miles before we reach the floodplain of the Gaunless and approach home.

Often via the Blacksmiths Arms which still does a friendly face, a crack and a pint of Sam Smith's "Old Brewery" bitter, for £1.40 with no muzak, TV or food!

Cheers Gillian

1 comment:

chillsider said...

A down hill walk, and a pub that is open at the end, perfect.
We usually end up banging on the door because it is a Monday and they are taking a rest day. Timothy Taylors out of reach
[The rust layers are so gorgeous].