Autumn in Hamsterley Forest

Hamsterley Forest & Blackling Hole

Walk Summary

A lovely autumn walk through the colourful plantations of Hamsterley Forest visiting the waterfalls at Greenless Hole and Blackling Hole with a fine return high above the valley of Euden Beck.

Distance: 7.1 miles
Total ascent: 910ft
Walk Rating: *****
Parking: The Grove Car Park, Hamsterley Forest
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

Hamsterley Forest is the largest forest in County Durham and as well as being a working forest is also a popular location for recreational activities, such as walking, horse riding and especially mountain biking. I've been meaning to go for a walk there for a long time but as most of the routes were in the plantations I'd kept it to one side for a day when the weather wasn't great. As it happened that day turned out to be my birthday. By happy coincidence, my birthday being in November, it was also the most colourful time of the year to go for a woodland walk.

The main features I wanted to visit on the walk were the waterfalls at Greenless Hole and Blackling Hole. There is a car park at Greenless Hole but it is accessible via a very narrow little road so I decided to start a bit further up the valley at The Grove car park. From the parking area we headed south on the main track. As mentioned above November is a great time for woodland walking and the autumnal colours certainly didn't disappoint.

"We timed our arrival at Watson's Pike perfectly. Against all expectations blue sky began to appear and the sun came out."

After an enjoyable mile or so along the track we crossed a bridge over Spurlswood Beck at about grid reference NZ058283. Following a thinner path on the east bank of the stream it climbed up briefly away from the beck before dropping down to a footbridge. This was a superb spot with a lovely waterfall on a side stream immediately below the bridge. From here I made a detour down to see the small waterfall at Greenless Hole.

Continuing on the same side of Spurlswood Beck, on a path not shown on the map, we soon reached Blackling Hole. The waterfall was much larger than I'd expected and was really very impressive. After taking photos from various angles we took the bridleway climbing out of the valley to finally leave Spurlswood Beck behind. For the next stage of the walk we basically followed the course of the bridleway as it climbed out on to more open ground to reach the track passing Pennington Cottage. Instead of turning right towards the cottage we instead turned left until we came to a T-junction. Turning right again we then followed this track through the plantations to reach a junction of tracks at the 389m spot height, the highest part of the walk.

Crossing straight over we passed below a standing stone to continue in the same direction. At a junction we then turned right on the track passing around the top of the colourful surrounds of Acton Beck. I'd expected the rest of the walk to be within the confines of the plantations but much to my delight the following section above Acton Beck and Euden Beck was largely open on our left. This meant we enjoyed fine views across the valley towards the plantations on Black Hill and of the moors above. The views were enhanced by sunshine accentuating the golden colours of the trees.

After a good mile of excellent views the track became enclosed again as we passed some tall Scots Pine. It was then a short and easy walk on the same track back to the car park we'd started from.

This walk far exceeded my expectations. I'd been partly put off visiting Hamsterley Forest by reports of cyclists ruining it for walkers. Perhaps it was because it was a weekday but we only passed one cyclist during the course of the whole walk. The waterfalls were both lovely and there was also a lot more variety in tree species than I'd expected. The colours of the forest were quite magical and the open views above Euden Beck were another added bonus. The fact that it was also a rare chance for Lisa and I to enjoy a walk together meant that it was a birthday walk to remember.

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