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The path through Castle Eden Dene, Near Peterlee, Co. Durham
The path through the ancient woodland of Castle Eden Dene, Near Peterlee, Co. Durham

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Route No. 388 - Saturday 29 January 2011
Dene Mouth, Castle Eden Dene,
Castle Eden circuit - 8km
Peterlee, Co. Durham . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer 308 Durham & Sunderland at 1:25000


Looking out to sea at Dene Mouth
Looking out to sea at Dene Mouth

We crossed under the coastal railway to the small car park at Dene Mouth, map ref. NZ454408. The car park was littered with discarded burgers, chips, packaging, cans, bottles and cartons. It was a disgusting introduction to the National Nature Reserve of Castle Eden Dene. The narrow road ends at the car park and we set off from the car park towards to sea along a gravel path.

There was a hard frost this morning and the forecast was for a bright but cold day. My wife and I drove up the A19 from home to Peterlee on the Durham coast. As the A19 approached the edge of Peterlee we turned off at the junction with the A181 and took the B1281 to the coast road A1086. Here we turned left and drove into Horden. In Horden we turned right off the coast road to drive through the housing estate.

Gravel path round the headland at Dene Mouth
Gravel path round the headland at Dene Mouth

The railway viaduct across Dene Mouth
The railway viaduct across Dene Mouth

Razor wired structure at Dene Mouth
Razor wired structure at Dene Mouth

Heading back down into Castle Eden Dene
Heading back down into Castle Eden Dene from the road

Some joggers had passed us on the climb up to the road and at the road they were waiting for the rest of their group to catch up. We crossed the road, dodging the fast traffic, and took the track on the other side back down into the valley. Part way down the slope the group of joggers passed us and disappeared ahead along the path.

This path led us around the foot of a small headland and back inland towards the viaduct carrying the coastal railway across the dene (valley). At the foot of the viaduct there was a large compound across the valley surrounded by iron railings and topped with razor wire. I have no idea what it was. We crossed under the impressive viaduct and continued along the track which climbed up to the coast road A1086.

Approaching the A1086 from Dene Mouth
Approaching the A1086 from Dene Mouth

Joggers disappearing ahead of us
Joggers disappearing ahead of us

Frosty path by Castle Eden Burn
Frosty path by Castle Eden Burn

Footbridge over Castle Eden Burn
Footbridge over Castle Eden Burn

Footbridge over Castle Eden Burn
Footbridge over Castle Eden Burn

Every twig was coated with frost and the trees up the valley side looked sugar-frosted.

The path followed the Castle Eden Burn up the narrow steep sided valley. The sun was low in the sky and had not cleared the frost from the southern side of the valley.

Boardwalk made slippy by the frost
Boardwalk made slippy by the frost

Broad track up Castle Eden Dene
Broad track up Castle Eden Dene

Gravel path up Castle Eden Dene
Gravel path up Castle Eden Dene

The path crossed and recrossed the burn on a series of substantial footbridges each with green painted handrails.

A group of ramblers we passed along the way
A group of ramblers we passed along the way

Another footbridge over the burn
Another footbridge over the burn

A substantial old beech tree by the path
A substantial old beech tree by the path
The track up Castle Eden Dene by the burn
The track up Castle Eden Dene by the burn

One of many huge boulders from the cliffs of the dene
One of many huge boulders from the cliffs of the dene

"Life-coaching" style message
"Life-coaching" style message

I'm sure it could be life changing for someone. The whole wooded valley is a remnant of ancient woodland and is a rare and rich habitat, very impressive.

At intervals along the path there were ironbound blocks each with a metal plaque set in the top bearing a "life-coaching" style message, such as "Every night listen to the light of the moon. Follow your own star".

Fallen tree across the burn
Fallen tree across the burn

One of a series of iron-bound inscribed blocks
One of a series of ironbound inscribed blocks

Yet another bridge over the burn
Yet another bridge over the burn
Overhanging boulder proped on clumns
Overhanging boulder propped on columns

Icicles hanging from a huge boulder
Icicles hanging from a huge boulder

Fungus on a mossy sapling
Fungus on a mossy sapling
The cliffs squeeze the dene into a narrow neck here
The cliffs squeeze the dene into a narrow neck here

Track climbing up towards The Castle
Track climbing up towards The Castle

Frosty coating on the dried flower heads
Frosty coating on the dried flower heads

We continued up the southern side of the valley to The Castle near the village of Castle Eden.

After walking up the valley for about an hour and a half we followed a path to the right, across the burn.

Track climbing up towards The Castle
Track climbing up towards The Castle

Track just below The Castle
Track just below The Castle

The Castle appartments near Castle Eden village
The Castle apartment near Castle Eden village

The Castle appartments near Castle Eden village
The Castle apartment near Castle Eden village

The scene from our lunch stop bench
The scene from our lunch stop bench

Fungus on a dead trree
Fungus on a dead tree (King Alfred's Cakes?)

We Drove down the coast road to Hartlepool to have a look at the water front there before returning home. Our walk had been about 8km and it had taken us about three hours including our lunch stop. I hope to return when my knees permit to explore higher up the valley where the "Ancient Tree Hunt" has recorded many big old trees.

The Castle itself is now a complex of up-market apartment, no public access. In the woods at the top of the bank near the castle we sat on a bench for some lunch in the sunshine. Then we made our way back down the valley to our starting point at the Dene Mouth car park. As we arrived back there were several sea anglers packing their gear into their cars.

Another large beech tree by the path
Another large beech tree by the path

Returning under the railway viaduct
Returning under the railway viaduct

Looking northwards up the coast from Dene Mouth near the car park
Looking northwards up the coast from Dene Mouth near the car park