Once Upon A Railway

Today’s walk began at Rowlands Gill on a gloriously sunny morning. Myself, Elaine from Whitley Bay and Andrew from Monskeaton were all set fair for a Launchpad Wander!

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This was east, along the Derwent Walk. The last time I was here it had been winter and a very snowy landscape. It was so different today. There was greenery everywhere, masses of trees growing along the old railway. Both Elaine and Andrew were just bowled over (not literally I hasten to add!) by the beauty of our surroundings. I have walked this route on numerous occasions and the beauty of the place never fails to impress. I was just as bowled over as my walking companions!

In 1867 the Derwent Valley Railway began nearly 100 years of service, carrying passengers between Newcastle and Consett. Now it is a walk and cycle trail, taking in some really ancient woodland. There is all manner of wildlife to look out for, including deer, squirrels and badgers. The rich variety of birdlife includes kingfisher, nuthatch, dipper and heron. There is also of course the iconic red kites.

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These magnificent birds of prey were introduced to the area over 10 years ago. They are a majestic sight and a walking trail is named after them.

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Me, Elaine and Andrew walked along, enjoying a companionable silence. To right and left were deeply wooded slopes, masses of trees of every type, tall and slender and small and squat, some silky green and others covered in lichen and flowers. There wasn’t a breath of wind. It was so still, and sunny, and lazy as we walked along, chatting. The Derwent Walk was decidedly busy too, with a steady stream of cyclists and other walkers heading in both directions. There were quite a few dog walkers out too. The dogs love it of course, especially splashing around in any pools or ponds.

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I was really impressed by the continuing development work being undertaken both along the railway line and surrounding parkland. Tracks delved off right and left, heading down steep steps or climbing into woodland. It was all very tempting but I made sure we stuck to the route. Otherwise would add a couple of miles, easily, to the walk. There would, as it turned out, be plenty of opportunity to explore a forest later!

We walked on, our boots clumping on the railway’s old track-bed, twigs snapping underfoot, leaves crunching. Birds swept between towering trees, squirrels scurried through tangled roots and masses of wild flowers, long green grass. The scent of all those flowers on such a hot summer’s day was quite intoxicating.

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“Oh this is lovely,” said Elaine.

I looked at her and smiled. She was wearing a sunhat and had applied suntan lotion to her arms. “I’m bringing a sunhat next time,” Andrew said. “I don’t want it to stop me getting a tan though,” he added, studying his bare arms. We laughed.

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We reached Swalwell at mid-day and enjoyed lunch at a nice little pub there. Andrew had to leave us at this point, with some jobs to do around the house. Elaine and I though headed west on the second half of the day’s walk. This part of the route took us along the Rowlands Gill road to Winlaton Mill. We then followed a quiet leafy lane to Thornley Wood.

I had walked some of the woodland trails here in the past but had no idea these were so extensive. It was really beautiful, with tracks meandering through the great, green forest. The trees towered into a cloudless sky, swaying ever so gently in a cool, welcome breeze. The smells of wild flowers hung lazily in the air.

On we went, following a dusty white path through the trees and across meadows and then down, down a steep bank.
And there was quite a climb on the other side!

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Getting to the top, Elaine and I took breath and our water bottles were pressed into service again. There was just enough, I estimated, to see us back to Rowlands Gill, which lay to our west, couple of miles. I shaded my eyes and took in the scene. The forest was baking in the sun! In the hot, white glare, flowers were the brightest red, blue and yellow.

“Oh look!” Exclaimed Elaine. There were butterflies, loads of them, shimmering and flickering like silvery stars. There was also the lazy buzz of bees and ghostly flicker of wings as birds winged through the tall slender trees.

On the final part of the day’s journey now, we headed south along a path. This meandered ever deeper into the forest, the overhanging trees affording some welcome shade.

A sudden commotion drew our attention. A Labrador had gone charging into a pond – and dragged his owner with him! It was a family out for a walk and they all fell about laughing as Nev, the Labrador, splashed about and soaked his master!

We arrived finally back on the Rowlands Gill road and followed this into the town. The day wasn’t over yet though. I took Elaine to the country park where we purchased an ice cream each and then walked down to the banks of the River Derwent.

It was late afternoon, still very warm. But it was lovely and sheltered down here on the riverside. In fact it was great, sitting on the shore with our bare feet in the water. The river glided slowly past, a shiny emerald green and flecked with flowers.

It had been an idyllic day!

 

 

 

 

 

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