May 042024

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
The path across Barningham Moor 1 The Grey Stones Rabbit-dropping counters on an ancient gaming board? The path across Barningham Moor 2 Stone wall guide across Barningham Moor golden plover on alert

At a cattle-grid just outside Barningham we were scratching our heads over which way to go when the farmer pulled up on his quad. While his border collie watched us with deep suspicion from the passenger seat, he not only pointed out the way over Barningham Moor, but gave us chapter and verse on local lore – ancient mounds in the fields, solstice alignments, old trackways, drove roads.

A contented man with an enquiring mind. We left him shaking feed nuts out of a sack, surrounded by Swaledale ewes. A narrow road ribboned away across the green landscape. Barningham Moor is famous for its nesting birds, and today the cloudy sky was alive with curlews, lapwings and golden plover circling and calling, their haunting cries the very sound of springtime in the northern hills.

A cuckoo called from a clump of trees, then flew across us to perch in a thorn bush and resume its communication. Four tiny curlew chicks scampered among the heather shoots as their mother flew a circuit and piped to summon them together.

Lines of grouse butts stood among the heather and bilberry, but this moor is just as much about the conservation of wild birds as it is about shooting. It’s a place of long association with human activity, too. Not far from the road stood the Grey Stones, a monument constructed during Romano-British times, a circular embankment some forty metres across with big stones erected around the rim.

Just beyond the enclosure a large grey boulder held ancient carvings, four wedge-shaped incisions in a line, and six circular holes or cups at one corner, their triangular pattern suggesting the gaming board of some long-forgotten pastime. We left a rabbit dropping in each cup in case some spectral gambler from antiquity should happen by.

Opposite Haythwaite Farm a stony track led away into the heart of Barningham Moor. We followed it for miles under the cold grey sky, circling back towards Barningham with crunching stones underfoot. A path along the beautifully maintained stone wall of Barningham Park, then a track through quiet grassy parkland to pass handsome old Barningham Hall and rejoin the neat street and immaculate front gardens of the village once more.

How hard is it? 6 miles; easy; moorland road and tracks. No dogs, please (ground-nesting birds).

Start: Barningham village street, near Barnard Castle, Co Durham DL11 7DW (OS ref NZ 086103)

Getting there: Bus 79 (Richmond-Barnard Castle) – 1 a day.
Road: signed from A66 at Smallways between Scotch Corner and Barnard Castle.

Walk (OS Explorer OL30): Walk west up village street. At top of hill, right bend; in 150m fork left over cattle grid (079100). Follow road for 1½ miles to Haythwaite Farm (058090). Opposite house, left on stony track for 1¼ miles to gate at fork (066077). Left here, keeping wall on right. In 1 mile pass railway wagon and grouse butts (077087); keep to wall to go through gate at far corner (081091). Down along wall to next gate; down to gate in wall at trees (085093). Right; left over stile to bypass Park House farm sheds. Half left to gate in dip (086095); follow wall past black shed, round corner and on. In 500m wall bends left (093096); follow it down to cross stile. On beside wall. In 250m, left through kissing gate (093098). Ahead on grass track to turn left through park wall at far corner (091100, yellow arrow). Through plantation, past Barningham Hall, down drive to Barningham.

Lunch/Accommodation: Milbank Arms, Barningham DL11 7DW (01833-621955,


 Posted by at 01:09

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