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In the Durham Dales
We’ve been on a lovely jaunt - a midway-between-birthdays
New experiences all round. First stop on Saturday morning was to deliver Bruce to kennels. He packed a toy duck and his meals for a two-night stay.
We then headed south, via a coffee and ice cream stop in pretty Corbridge. Quirky blue velvet seating in the ‘Emporium’ certainly contrasted with the old stone walls circa 1756. Nonetheless we savoured our salted liquorice ices (yes, really).
After a meandering drive on through Northumberland and County Durham we arrived at our hotel for the night. I’d hopes for clean, quiet and comfortable but it delivered much more. When I was shown up to our room I was asked if we’d like fresh milk and brownies. Brownies? Extra points for that offer.
We had time to stretch our legs by Derwent reservoir and watch ducks shepherding their little fluffball chicks along the water’s edge, before returning for a meal in the hotel bar with friends who’d driven over to meet us.
Next morning we were off promptly to the rendezvous point for our guided off-road tour of Weardale and Teesdale.
You may know that Hugh (Mr Tart) is an offroad driving instructor, most often found teaching anyone from archaeologists to windfarm engineers, gamekeepers to agricultural employees how to handle their vehicles safely and considerately across challenging terrain. So Sunday was a ‘busman’s holiday’ pleasantly devoid of responsibility.
After the safety briefing, five drivers followed our leader throughout the day. We drove sedately and carefully along byways, through fords, up and over heather-clad hills, past old lead-mining sites, in and out of tiny dales settlements. It didn’t quite rain but we were in the clouds at some points, then down in the valley floors in the sunshine. Progress was slow, requiring concentration and we stopped often. It was blissful to be out in the dales, to watch pheasants and grouse on the high moors, lapwings wheeling in the thermals over our heads, and tiny lambs in the upland fields. We drove up to Coldberry End, through Ireshopeburn and Garrigill, St John’s Chapel, and our last green lane was at Frog Hall. There we stopped by the stream to spot fossils in the exposed rocks.
Some of the dales towns are believed to predate the Norman Conquest in 1066. Lead mining was the main source of employment for several hundred years but silver, fluorspar and ironstone were also mined here. The small spoil heaps have long since grassed over but you can identify them easily.
A day of good company, great trails, fresh air, wonderful place names and new (ancient) landscapes. We met scarcely a handful of people on the unmetalled sections of the route, and only one other vehicle. We did no damage, left no litter, and took only photographs.
Then we drove home to the Borders in the evening. We’d been away just thirty six hours.
Collected Bruce this morning and heard tales of his games with the other dogs. His first kennels stay was a success and he’s catching up on sleep as I write this.
Green lanes is a catch-all term for unmetalled roads. The expression has no legal meaning but under modern Public Rights of Way law, a Byway is open to all users and all types of traffic. As they are unsurfaced, they are often only passable by pedestrians, horse riders, trails bikes and 4x4 vehicles.