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Looking across the steep wooded valley of the river Greta
Looking across the steep wooded valley of the river Greta

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Route No. 197 - Monday 2 October 2006
Greta Bridge, North Wood, Brignall Mill
Brignall Banks, River Greta - circuit 12km
Tees Valley, Barnard Castle.

Map OS Explorer OL31 North Pennines Teesdale & Weardale
Route Map on 'Landranger' base from OS Open Space service
Open this route in Google Earth


We had had a family weekend in a holiday cottage near Barnard Castle. When the rest of the family went home on Sunday evening ready for work on Monday we stayed an extra night ready for a good walk on Monday. It's just great being retired! (Well actually my wife had to have a day's holiday off work).

Looking back to Greta Bridge as we set off
Looking back to Greta Bridge as we set of

Heading up through the woods from Greta Bridge
Heading up through the woods from Greta Bridge

We cleared all our things out of the cottage and drove to Greta Bridge just off the A66 and parked in a little cul-de-sac next to the phone box at map ref. NZ 088130. We started walking at about 10.30am and headed along the minor road towards the bridge over the river Greta, Greta Bridge. It's quite ornate with turned stone ballustrades.

The view over Barningham from the road by Wilson House
The view over Barningham from the road by Wilson House

We turned left off the road to follow the public footpath at map ref. NZ 086131. The path led us roughly south west parallel to the river across a field to the edge of the woods. We climbed over the stile in to the woods and followed the path up the steep bank to the road at map ref. NZ 084125.

Hawthorn loaded with berries
Hawthorn loaded with berries

On the path round the top of North Wood
On the path round the top of North Wood above the river Greta

We followed the road up hill and round a sharp right hand bend to a sharp left hand bend at map ref. NZ 083118. Here we turned off the road to walk down the farm access road towards Crook's House. Just before we reached Crook's House we took the path to the right to go north of the house and follow the path across the fields to the edge of the wood at map ref. NZ 073114.

Showery skies as we walked around the top of North Wood
Showery skies as we walked around the top of North Wood
Bracket fungus on a dead birch
Bracket fungus on a dead birch

Heading down to the river Greta through the birch woods
Heading down to the river Greta through the birch woods

The path took us round the edge of the wood for a few hundred metres to a rickerty stile into the woods, where the path continued just inside the wood for almost 1km before it dropped down the bank to cross Gill Beck just before it joined the river Greta. This was easier said than done. It's quite a big beck and there was no footbridge. It took quite a while to persuade my wife that it was necessary to wade across, getting our feet wet. Eventually the crossing was done and we carried on along the path through the woods.

Gill Beck running into the Greta
Gill Beck running into the Greta

River Greta the colour of strong tea after the recent rain
River Greta the colour of strong tea after the recent rain

The river Greta is in a steep sided deep valley at this point and the path climbs up the valley side on a narrow slippy ledge with long steep drop to the river below. My wife was not happy! Apparently it was too dangerous to be enjoyable. The scenery was amazing with a great view down this steep-sided, tree-lined valley. At last we reached to footbridge over the river Greta at map ref. NZ 045112. After a short lunch break in the shelter of the trees, we crossed the bridge and followed the path around Brignall Mill to the Mill's access road.

Footbridge over the Greta at Brignall Mill
Footbridge over the Greta at Brignall Mill

Pleasant wide path just downstream of Brignall Mill
Pleasant wide path just downstream of Brignall Mill

Ash trees towering over us at Brignall Banks
Ash trees towering over us at Brignall Banks
Rockface by the path below Brignall Banks
Rockface by the path below Brignall Banks
Cave below Brignall Banks
Cave below Brignall Banks

We followed the road up the hill to the edge of the wood at map ref. NZ 049112. Here we turned right off the road to follow the path down through the woods to the river bank.

Looking across the Greta to the oaks in North Wood
Looking across the Greta to the oaks in North Wood

Hazel nuts by the path
Hazel nuts by the path
A hart's tongue fern at the edge of the path
A hart's tongue fern at the edge of the path
Masses of autumn fungus
Masses of autumn fungus
Masses of autumn fungus
Masses of autumn fungus
The ruins of St Mary's Church below Brignall village
The ruins of St Mary's Church below Brignall village

At first the path through the woods was wide and easy to walk but alas it soon reduced to a narrow slippy stony path which we followed all the way back to Greta Bridge, with the exception of a few fields along the way where the walking was much easier. We got back to our car at about 3.15pm. The whole route had been about 12km and had taken us four and three quarter hours to walk including our lunch stop.

Starting the last mile back to Greta Bridge
Starting the last mile back to Greta Bridge

The present day Brignall church just visible through the trees
The present day Brignall church just visible through the trees

To be fair to my wife it had been quite difficult underfoot for much of the way, but she did have a good old whinge about it. Where the car was parked there was a little apple tree in what seemed to be the roadside verge well away from the houses. The apples look to be ripe so I tried one and it was delicious, really sweet and crispy. My wife likes to drive so I was able to munch my tasty apple as we headed back home along the A66 towards Scotch Corner.

The finish - Greta Bridge in sight
The finish - Greta Bridge in sight
Apple tree loaded with fruit just where we parked
Apple tree loaded with fruit just where we parked