A cairn on Stanhope Common

Stanhope Common and Crow Coal Hill

Walk Summary

An enjoyable 9-mile walk from Stanhope featuring an extended section above Stanhope Burn and then across Stanhope Burn before returning via Crow Coal Hill and the road descending past Green Head.

Distance: 9.0 miles
Total ascent: 1270ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Roadside, Stanhope
Route: Download Actual Route [GPX]
Download Recommended Route [GPX]

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Walk Report

Like many people my holiday plans for the summer had been ruined by COVID-19. Instead of a two-week break in Madeira we were instead having a one-week staycation in Stanhope, Weardale. I'd left it late to book a cottage and by the time I did nearly everything had gone in the places I'd initially been looking. Fortunately I found a fairly cheap cottage in Stanhope. The location suited me as there are a number of walks I've been wanting to do in the area.

Unfortunately, the weather over the first couple of days was murky and miserable. It was not until day three that the cloud finally began to lift off the tops. We'd taken our dog for a lunchtime walk down by the river and I noticed the cloud lifting and even a couple of patches of blue sky appearing. Returning to our cottage I got my walking gear out and set off about 12.30 in the afternoon on this route.

"The purpling moors looked fantastic, unfortunately though the early promise of sunshine had given way to overcast skies. There was barely a breeze and this encouraged the local insect population to harass me for quite some time."

The main aim of this walk was to bag another trig point, in this case the one on Crow Coal Hill. I chose a rather roundabout approach by heading up the valley of Stanhope Burn before taking a shooting track across Stanhope Common. Only then did I plan on turning south and heading for the trig point. The route started from the door of our cottage on Chapel Street. The Durham Dales Centre car park was only a few minutes walk away so that would make a good alternative starting point.

Taking an enclosed path I climbed up to reach what seems to be an old trackbed running below Ashes Quarry. Turning left on this the path soon passed into some woods before reaching the B6278 next to a renovated engine house. Crossing over I continued on a good track that headed up the valley of Stanhope Burn. For a while the burn itself was well below the track on the left. To the right were the remains of numerous old quarries.

Eventually the track came alongside the burn. Shortly afterwards it passed some old mine buildings. Here a track crossed the burn and this would be my recommended route to avoid a stream crossing (see alternative route above). Instead I continued on a thinner path through purple heather on slightly eroded bank. This carried on until I came level with a stile on the opposite side of the burn. There was no footbridge and the opposite bank was a few feet high. I couldn't be bothered to re-trace my steps to the track so instead I took off my socks and boots and carefully forded the stream. Once safely across there was no obvious path. Climbing up the grassy bank I found a stile further to the left than shown on the map.

The next field, belonging to the slightly odd looking Hope House, featured ducks, geese, chickens, sheep and horses. Picking my way across the field trying not to upset any of its inhabitants I realised the right of way on the map was on the other side of a fence. Following the outside of the fence I came to a gate by a small hut. Turning right through this I then turned left immediately through another gate to exit the strange environs and on to a proper track.

The next couple of miles of walking was very straightforward. Following the track north-west over Stanhope Common it then swung north and then south-west. The purpling moors looked fantastic, unfortunately though the early promise of sunshine had given way to overcast skies. There was barely a breeze and this encouraged the local insect population to harass me for quite some time. At least though I could enjoy the gradually changing views of Collier Law, Horseshoe Hill and Bolts Law.

Eventually the track led me to a shooting house tucked away in a bower of trees and bushes. It was a surprising find in such a remote spot. There was an inviting table and bench outside and so I stopped and ate a late lunch. Another half mile or so of climbing up the track I finally reached the brow of the moor between Long Law and Long Hill. The next section of the walk was pathless but there was initially some interesting features to guide me. The first was a prominent cairn and then a sheepfold on a small knoll. Beyond the sheepfold a thin path led to another cairn above a small stone shelter.

From the second cairn I followed a trod for a short distance before making a beeline for the top of Long Hill. The 512m spot height, marked by a single solitary rock was the highest point of the walk. From the top of Long Man Hill I headed south-west across easy ground on to Shank. Turning more directly south I passed over East Slate Quarry Hill. Along the way I picked up a quad track which led me all the way to my objective - the trig point on Crow Coal Hill.

Although the skies had been largely cloudy I was lucky enough to catch some sunshine and patches of blue sky for the remainder of the walk. The view from the trig point was a good one with nearly all the main summits above Weardale visible. From the trig point I continued following the quad track as it descended south-east over Black Hill and down to a road.

I'd initially been planning a more intricate return via Mount Pleasant, Pease Mire and Noah's Ark but instead opted for a much more simple route by following the road minor moorland road all the way back down to the valley. It was a nice descent with the highlight the view across the ruined farm of Bewdley.

Eventually I came to the main road running through Weardale. Turning left I headed back to Stanhope with one brief detour to view the imposing front of Stanhope Old Hall. It was then an easy walk back to the start. Along the way I grabbed a photo of an OS flush bracket on the corner of the Grey Bull pub and a further benchmark on the outside of the Community Centre.