First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
The trouble was – not how to find the Rose & Crown in Romaldkirk, but how to persuade myself to leave its warm and cheerful bar and go out into the teeth of a bitterly cold day. It’s so cosy in here, can’t I just …? No? Oh, all right, all right, I’m coming …
Once outside, wrapped like an Inuit on a particularly harsh day, I woke up and began to savour my surroundings. The trackbed of the old Teesdale Railway makes a fine marching route, and we got into a good rhythm stamping along its cuttings and up and down the gullies where the bridges used to be. The distant hills of Upper Teesdale were dissolving behind grey slides of rain, but that didn’t bother us in our weatherproof cocoons.
Beside the former Banklands Quarry we took to the narrow hill road that climbs steeply to the heights of Romaldkirk Moor. The dark conifer spinney at the crown of Scarney Hill seethed with wind as we went past. A wonderful view opened southwards towards the long undulating ridges of Stainmore Forest, and nearer at hand the landscape ranged away in big sedgy fields where tattered sheep grazed with their backs to the weather and fleeces streaming before the wind.
We speculated about a building isolated on the moor, as tall as a house, with ruinous stone steps going up to a front door ten feet above ground level. A sturdy old barn, or a fortified house from lawless times among these hills? The wind snapped off that chain of thought, driving us off the hill and down to the fields around Gill Field farm.
Gill Field and its neighbour, West End, were shuttered tight and silent. No dogs barked, nobody stirred as we slipped through the squeeze stiles and wicket gates, bowling along with the weather at our backs to find the level track of the Teesdale Railway waiting to carry us back to Romaldkirk. And when we got back there, and lifted the polished brass sneck of the door, and inhaled the scents of dogs and log fires and other weather-battered walkers in safe haven … well, contentment found us ready and waiting.
Start: Rose & Crown, Romaldkirk, Durham DL12 9EB (OS ref NY 995221)
Getting there: Bus service 95, 96 (Barnard Castle – Middleton-in-Teesdale).
Road: Romaldkirk is on B6277 between Barnard Castle and Middleton-in-Teesdale.
Walk (6¼ miles, easy, OS Explorer OL31. NB: online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): Cross B6277; up road opposite (‘Tees Rail Path’/TRP signs on lamp posts). Beside old railway signal, right (992220, TRP) and follow TRP. In 1½ miles, left along road at Banklands Barn (972232). Follow road for 1½ miles past radio mast (974220) and Romaldkirk turning (975218). At T-junction cross Hunderthwaite road (980210); follow farm drive to Gill Field. At farm (981203), through gate into yard; through squeeze stile at left corner of house; across garden and through wicket gate; half left to cross stile. Across large field to bottom left corner (986201). Left through gate; follow wall to West End farm (988200). Pass to left of buildings; right through 2 successive gates; half left to farm drive; left through gate; on along drive. In 650m, beside stone gatepost in a dip, right through gate (994203, yellow arrow). Cross field to kissing gate; left along TRP; in 1 mile (993216) follow signs into Romaldkirk.
Lunch/accommodation: Rose & Crown, Romaldkirk (01833-650213, rose-and-crown.co.uk) – perfect cosy base for winter walking.