This route combines river-side paths, moorland tracks and roads to cover a section of upper Weardale between Westgate, Northgate and Eastgate. The route features one significant incline and is mostly flat otherwise. However, the often overgrown and muddy sections along some of the riverside paths make the route very difficult in places.
Circular | 15km (9.36 miles) | Difficulty: Medium
|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.|
The route can be started at either Westgate or Eastgate. Starting at Westgate and heading clockwise is recommended as it allows for the one significant incline to be immediately taken care of. In some places the path is often overgrown (either because these parts of the route are not well travelled or upper Weardale plants grow very quickly) which can make finding where to go difficult and how to get there even more difficult. In addition to this some sections can be very muddy and steep, even during the driest days of summer, making some sections near impassible, luckily these parts of the route can be skipped if needed.
1: The route starts in Westgate village hall’s car park and makes its way across the bridge to the centre of the village. From here it follows a road pointed out by a sign giving directions Northward to Rookhope. This road heads uphill some distance and in some places the climb is quite steep giving a quick ascent out of the village. Though there are other paths out of the village in the same direction, taking the road allows for muddy fields filled with cattle to be skipped. As the road turns left the route follows Side Lane heading East.
2: After passing through a gate and becoming a farm track, Side Lane bends Northwards. The route turns right at the first gate on the wall to East. The track along the top of the fields here leads walkers to the edge of Heights Quarry. Upon reaching the trees there is a marker post to the North which shows where the path crosses the small valley of a stream. Here the route follows the path as it heads passed the entrance to the quarry. There is a diversion past the quarry offices which takes walkers along the road. Where the diversion track ends the route crosses the road and heads through the gate on the North side of the road (Note: the footpath marker is currently missing from the gate). There is a clear track here which continues along the edge of the quarry.
3: The track leads to a crossroad of tracks. The route follows the one straight ahead heading Northwards. The track here is incredibly overgrown with both long grasses and trees (walkers should be careful as there are old railway sleeper to trip over along here) but can be followed easily as it continues along the route of an old sunken cart track. After a short while the track leaves the overgrown section, here walkers can see the Heights Quarry in full on the left. The route continues Northwards along the track which carries on following the old cart track for some distance as it winds across the moorland and past derelict homesteads.
4: Eventually, just before the track reaches a small woodland, the route follows another track crossing it downhill. After passing through several fields and gates and heading through a farmyard the track reaches a road which should be followed South for a short distance before reaching a sign for a footpath on the East side of the road.
5: Here walkers have a choice. As the next section can be incredibly overgrown and muddy it can be skipped by following the road South into Eastgate. The road isn’t too busy but walkers should remain vigilant of fast moving traffic along here. If walkers decide to opt for a challenge they should follow the footpath which follows a small beck down to the Rookhope Burn. Along most of this route the path is incredibly muddy along the steep slopes of the Burn’s banks. Walkers in some places will need to hold onto trees to avoid slipping down making progress slow. In some places the mud may make it impossible to pass some sections (even on dry days as it appears cattle wander down to the burn here and churn up the land) meaning the only option may be to turn back or climb to the top of the banks and skirt along the edge of the riverside woodland and the neighbouring fields. There is also a section of this route which involves passing through a field of tall ferns where the path disappears – the best option for walkers here is to push on through the ferns (minding their footing) until they reach a fence, then follow the fence towards the burn to find the style to cross it, then follow the treeline at the edge of the ferns to reach where the track becomes visible again. Eventually the track takes walkers through a caravan park then down the road into Eastgate.
6: Walkers here have the opportunity to stop for a well earned break (especially if they took the footpath by the Burn) at the Cross Keys pub. From here the route follows the A689 East until the first road heading South is reached. The route follows this road as it crosses the old Weardale railway then the Wear before reaching another road. Walkers should then follow this road West for some distance. Though this road is quiet, walkers should still remain vigilant of traffic.
7: The road eventually passes a caravan park, before this there is a footpath heading towards the Wear. The route follows this footpath as it crosses the bridge to the other side. The path heads West and can be overgrown in parts (though nowhere near as bad as in earlier sections of the route), Walkers should keep an eye out for the footpath markers which can often be hidden on walls and fences away from the tracks through the undergrowth. The advice here is to head West in parallel to the river in each field along this section if ever the signage is unclear. After several fields walkers will find themselves back on the bridge at Westgate.
The village hall at Westgate is the simplest place to park at for this walk. For those wishing to take public transport there are bus links for both Westgate and Eastgate in addition to plans for the Weardale railway to be extended to Eastgate. Both Westgate and Eastgate have pubs which can supply food and drink during or after the walk.