Circular | 18.4km (11.5 miles) | Difficulty: Medium
This is a long but fairly leisurely walk along roads and through fields with few inclines. It has been rated as having a medium difficulty due to its length and its many potential problems regarding the accessibility of the route’s footpaths.
|Please note that the route given is a rough guide and should not be relied upon solely when planning a walk. Remember to plan ahead, get a proper map and ensure you have the right equipment.|
This is a circular route which is long but offers many interesting sights without being too demanding. The route mainly traverses river-side paths, fields and quiet country lanes. Walkers can start at either Winston or Piercebridge as there is parking near the bridges at both locations. There is more parking at Piercebridge but the route is easier to follow starting from Winston and heading anti-clockwise.
1: The route heads out along the South side of the Tees from the bridge at Winston. The footpath here is sign posted and follows a track before crossing a field where upon reaching another track which it follows to the left along the riverside.
2: The track eventually turns right and heads towards a small climb. Before the climb the route follows a path in the field to the left. This field can have cattle in sometimes so caution is advised. The path continues to another field where it may become difficult to follow in some places but if walkers stick to the right-hand side of the field they’ll eventually come to a gate that provides access to a track heading uphill into Barforth Hall.
3: The route follows the track as it turns and heads through the courtyard into the small village. Its worth noting that walkers cannot cross any of the bridges here into Gainford if they are wanting a shortcut. Walkers will then find a country lane which they should follow to the right as it heads slowly uphill towards the ruins of St. Laurence’s Chapel. The route continues to the end of this lane then heads right on the road it joins.
4: Walkers should now take the first lane to the left and follow it until it bears right. After the next bend the route heads South to the far side of the field. Walkers can either head through the gate here which is heavily overgrown and follow the hedge East or can stay on the current side of the hedge and follow it East to the next gate. The route continues East in the next field before heading through another gate on the North side. Walkers will then need to navigate to the gate in the South East corner of this field. There are markers along this section of the route denoting the footpath but many are faded. The markers now make it appear that the route heads through the field to the South but this is often full of horses and is sometimes roped off so instead walkers should continue ahead towards the farm and cut through the gate into the courtyard.
5: The route now follows the track heading East and stays on it as it winds along and eventually joins a quiet country road. Along this section walkers will pass several interesting sights including a pick-your-own site in the summer and Cliffe Hall. Eventually there is a signpost pointing out a footpath to the left.
6: The sign post points out a track across the field which walkers should follow half way across before bearing right and following the track on the right-hand side which leads through a few gates and across another field before eventually reaching a gate leading into a wooded area. There is a path from this gate that heads downhill through the wooded area into Piercebridge. The route crosses the bridge and heads into the village.
7: The route now heads South out of the village and follows the Teesdale way that continues along the riverside to the West. The route continues following this track as it skirts by fields for several miles. Before reaching Gainford walkers can see a path cutting across a field towards the main road but sticking to the left and heading round the corner of the field will reveal a small gate that the Teesdale way heads through. There is a path on the far side which again skirts by several fields before reaching the road.
8: Walkers can now follow the path at the roadside as it heads into Gainford. There is an option here to stick to the main road which is quicker and flatter but it is recommended that walkers go left through the village’s picturesque green before heading back uphill to the main road. The route follows the main road out of Gainford to the West.
9: At the top of the hill walkers have another choice. They can have continue on the roadside path but there is a signpost pointing down to the riverside which can be followed to reach Gainford spa, a fountain built on top of a spring. Walkers visiting this point of interest will then need to head up a track to the right at the spa back uphill to the road.
10: The route now continues along the row side as it winds downhill. Eventually there is a signpost for the Teesdale way pointing back towards the river.
11: The route heads up the small hill here and follows along the top of the old rail line bank towards the decommissioned West Tees Bridge. Before reaching the fenced off section of the bridge there is a path downhill to the right that leads to a riverside path. The route follows this path on the riverside all the way back to Winston bridge. There are chances to follow paths that head uphill to the village of Winston further on along this section before reaching the bridge.
At some places the route becomes difficult to follow due to lack of maintenance (and in the past being actively blocked by land owners despite being public rights of way – though this appears to have been rectified recently). This route could be followed any time of year, though some sections may become quite muddy they shouldn’t become impassible. However, due to the length of the walk and the option to stop off at several villages along the way, starting early is recommended. As the route passes through several villages like Piercebridge, Gainford and Winston there are plenty of opportunities to stop for food and places to jump and off the local bus service.
Route adapted from the Teesdale Way