On Saturday 29th December 2018, my sister in law, Alison, who runs the company ‘Journey to Discovery’ had organised a Christmas ‘Bobble hat’ walk in the Durham area. She told me a few days before that quite a few people had shown interest and she double checked with me if I was still coming because she had almost 16 people told her they were coming, and she wanted my help.
We all met up at Sunderland Bridge which is near Croxdale on the River Wear. Most had fulfilled the brief and were sporting Christmas Bobble hats, except me, no way was I gonna wear one. I’m from the old school that head wear is for practical purposes. I wore my trusty Berghaus ‘Dut’, which once the winter sun got out was swapped for my peak cap.
Ali gave everyone a briefing and forms that needed to be signed and before long we were on the footpath NE under the A 167 then through the woods to Croxdale Hall. The route is fairly clear and it continued to Croxdale Woods.
At this point the group also consisted of 6 or 7 dogs so the group was pretty lively and at points were stretched out a good few metres, but that’s why Ali wanted me there, ‘Tail End Charlie’ to pick up any stragglers.
The route swang east around Butterby Woods up to High Butterby Farm where a group photo was taken and Ali’s stash of Christmas cake was consumed. I had a little look at the path we were about to take down into Shincliffe Wood and it was muddy and there were quite a few twigs and branches poking down into unsuspecting eyes, especially for the taller of the group so warnings were given to watch feet and eyes.
The route drops quite quickly as it joins the Wear at the bottom of the slippery path but even though there were a few slips and near misses but all backsides were clear of mud and no eyes had been popped out, bonus! I must say, this stretch of the route I have walked a million times and I never get bored of it. The Wear has a good selection of birds using it and this is where the path stays level so you can look about at the scenery instead of staring at the floor in case you end up on your arse.
Ali had explained in the joining instructions a refreshment break would be taken at the garden centre in Shincliffe which I think was a good place, well, that or The Rose Tree pub and I think it was ideally placed for some of the tired legs and feet at the rear of the group.
Sat in the centre’s café it was quite clear that people were in very good spirits and everyone was getting on fine, even the ones who had just met were talking like they’d known each other for years and a good deal of hilarity could be heard.
After a good break, it was time to make a move for the route back, not before Milo the Cocker-Poo helped out the staff at the garden centre by watering a few of the ornamental plants. Back on the track we walked in on, we took a left turn east up to West Grange then went on to join Strawberry Lane which is a clear route through the farmland and a great view across the area.
We were a good few miles into the walk at this point and we had regained the height lost in Shincliffe Wood on the route in when we took the steep path back up through the woods to West Grange. The slower of the group, who had struggled on some of the hills were still laughing and joking, even though I know some had a couple of feet problems and tired legs.
Strawberry Lane took us south for a good distance, passed Pigeon Plantation to a 4 way junction in a small copse. A turn right west, passed High Croxdale all the way back to Croxdale Hall to re-join the first part of the route back to the start.
This walk was really good craic, I made a few friends and actually spoke to people I didn’t know socially, which is not like me.
Ali showed great form on this walk, she has a great ability to make people feel at ease and can control with out being controlling, if that makes sense.
Another great route not too far from my doorstep!