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The nature reserve at the head of Tunstall Reservoir
The nature reserve at the head of Tunstall Reservoir

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Route No. 462 - Tuesday 27 March 2012
Wolsingham, Tunstall Reservoir,
Waskerley Beck circuit - 11km
Wear Dale, Co. Durham . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer 307 Consett & Derwent Reservoir
& Explorer OL31 North Pennines


Setting off from the Demesne Mill car park in Wolsingham
Setting off from the Demesne Mill car park in Wolsingham

Waskerley Beck by the car park
Waskerley Beck by the car park

Footpath by Waskerley Beck
Footpath by Waskerley Beck

Footpath leading away from Waskerley Beck
Footpath leading away from Waskerley Beck

My wife's two sisters still live there so their husbands, John & George are meeting us in Wolsingham for today's walk. We met at the Demesne Mill car park next to Waskerley Beck at map ref. NZ076375. It was another perfect day with clear blue skies, warm sunshine and a light breeze. We set off along the path following the beck upstream. After about 800m we crossed a tributary called Thornhope Beck, and about 50m further on the path turned left to follow the hedge line at the edge of the field out to a road at map ref. NZ067383.

My mate, Jim, and I have managed to get our wives to agree to the two of us having three days walking in Weardale this week. It's an area that neither of us has walked before so we are looking forward to seeing some new country. We are staying at the pub in the village of Eastgate on the River Wear at the confluence with Rookhope Burn. Today is the second day of our trip to Weardale. My wife comes from the North East.

Footpath by Waskerley Beck
Footpath by Waskerley Beck

Footpath by Waskerley Beck
The footbridge over Thornhope Beck

The remaining half of an ancient ash tree
The remaining half of an ancient ash tree

The road at map ref. NZ067383 and opposite the drive to Fawnless Hall
The road at map ref. NZ067383 and opposite the drive to Fawnless Hall

The path into the fields by Fawnless Hall
The path into the fields by Fawnless Hall

Fawnless Hall seen from the footpath
Fawnless Hall seen from the footpath

Following the path to Park Wall
Following the path to Park Wall

We exchanged pleasantries and they took the path up the drive to the hall. We took the path climbing up the hillside along the edge of the fields. We followed this path climbing steadily for about 1.4km to a ruined farmstead at Park Wall, map ref. NZ056393.

On the opposite side of the road there was a path up the drive to Fawnless Hall and just to the right of the drive was a path across the fields heading straight up the hill side. As we crossed the road two gentlemen of similar vintage to ourselves were approaching along the road.

Following the path to Park Wall
Following the path to Park Wall

Following the path to Park Wall
Following the path to Park Wall

Ash tree by the ruins at Park Wall
Ash tree by the ruins at Park Wall

Approaching the ruined farmstead at Park Wall
Approaching the ruined farmstead at Park Wall

Tall ladder stile to reach the ruined farmstead
Tall ladder stile to reach the ruined farmstead

The track towards Jofless Cottage
The track towards Jofless Cottage

The track through High Jofless farm
The track through High Jofless farm

Reaching the road near the dam
Reaching the road near the dam

Before we reached the far end of the wood the two gentlemen caught us up. They were also heading for Tunstall Reservoir but were walking more quickly than I can manage these days and they disappeared along the track ahead of us. We continued along the track to High Jofless farm. Following the path through the farm buildings we turned right past some barns then out of the buildings we turned left along the side of a small wood. All the while the path was descending gently and after another 600m we came to a road at map ref. NZ063406 near the dam of Tunstall Reservoir.

A tall ladder stile over a high dry-stone wall led to the ruin and a few hundred metres away to the left were the two gentlemen we had seen at the road also approaching the ruin. Once over the wall we turned right to follow the path along the edge of some woodland.

Track by the woods towards Jofless Cottage
Track by the woods towards Jofless Cottage

A first glimpse of Tunstall Reservoir
A first glimpse of Tunstall Reservoir

Two walkers we encountered several times today
Two walkers we encountered several times today

The track through High Jofless farm
The track through High Jofless farm

The Tunstall Reservoir dam
The Tunstall Reservoir dam

Leaving High Jofless farm and turning to follow the path beside the wood
Leaving High Jofless farm and turning to follow the path beside the wood

Tunstall Reservoir seen from the road
Tunstall Reservoir seen from the road

The road by the reservoir
The road by the reservoir

Entering the picnic site
Entering the picnic site

We had a very pleasant break here watching the ducks and geese on the reservoir and the fly fishermen dotted around its edge. The water was very clear and George noticed a toad swimming near the edge, which I tried to photograph. You can tell it's a toad/frog but the photo was not really successful.

We followed the road past the dam and alongside the reservoir for about 700m to a picnic site off the right hand side of the road next to the reservoir. The two gentlemen walkers were already sitting at a picnic table enjoying both their lunch and the scenery in the spring sunshine.

Greylag geese on the reservoir
Greylag geese on the reservoir

Lunch by the reservoir
Lunch by the reservoir

Tunstall Reservoir
Tunstall Reservoir

Following the road from the picnic site
Following the road from the picnic site

The path around the reservoir
The path around the reservoir

The track across the head of the reservoir
The track across the head of the reservoir

The path led us to a track crossing the head of the reservoir. The small lake to the left of the track is kept as a nature reserve and we leaned on the bridge parapet for a while to watch the birds on the water that included a pair of great crested grebes.

After our lunch we set off again along the road around the reservoir and we did not encounter the other two walkers again. After a few hundred metres we crossed a stile on the right to walk along a path around the edge of the reservoir.

Leaving the road for the path round the reservoir
Leaving the road for the path round the reservoir

The path around the reservoir
The path around the reservoir

Nature reserve at the head of the reservoir
Nature reserve at the head of the reservoir

A perfect day at the head of Tunstall Reservoir
A perfect day at the head of Tunstall Reservoir

Path along the reservoir back to the dam
Path along the reservoir back to the dam

Larch tree coming into leaf
Larch tree coming into leaf

Path along the reservoir back to the dam
Path along the reservoir back to the dam

A little further on we saw another toad swimming in the clear water at the edge of the reservoir so it seems to be a successful breeding ground for toads. We followed the path down the length of the reservoir and about 200m before we reached the dam the path began to climb.

We turned off this track to follow the footpath down the other side of the reservoir and after about 100m we came across a large female toad on the path carrying the much smaller male toad on its back towards the water's edge.

A pair of toads heading for the water
A pair of toads heading for the water

Path along the reservoir back to the dam
Path along the reservoir back to the dam

Toad swimming near the water's edge
Toad swimming near the water's edge

Looking across the Tunstall Valley from the path near Backstone Bank farm
Looking across the Tunstall Valley from the path near Backstone Bank farm

The steep climb up to Backstone Bank farm
The steep climb up to Backstone Bank farm

The gulley about 1km from Backstone Bank farm
The gully about 1km from Backstone Bank farm

Instead we turned right at the farm to follow a track along the valley side at a fairly constant height. After about a kilometer the path crossed a little wooded gully and we found a place to sit for a drink before continuing on our way. We followed the path for about 1.5km across the fields to Baal Hill House farm at map ref. NZ074385.

We joined a track part way up the wooded hillside and followed the track climbing steeply to Backstone Bank farm at map ref. NZ069408. From the farm there is a path heading straight up the hillside that John would have liked to use but it crossed far too many contour lines for my liking.

The path from Backstone Bank farm
The path from Backstone Bank farm

Heading for Baal Hill House farm
Heading for Baal Hill House farm

Cows and young calves at Baal Hill House farm
Cows and young calves at Baal Hill House farm

The track towards Wolsingham from Baal Hill Ho farm
The track towards Wolsingham from Baal Hill Ho farm

The track towards Wolsingham from Baal Hill Ho farm
The track towards Wolsingham from Baal Hill Ho farm

Path off the road back into Wolsingham
Path off the road back into Wolsingham

Returning to the Demesne Mill car park
Returning to the Demesne Mill car park

We followed the road for about 100m across Waskerley Beck and turned into the Demesne Mill car park where we had started. The whole route had been 11km and it had taken us almost five hours to walk including our stops. John & George headed home and Jim & I headed for our pub lodgings for a shower, a few pints and a nice pub meal.

The path skirted around the farm and then headed down the hillside to a minor road on the edge of Wolsingham at map ref. NZ076378. At the road we turned right and walked along the road for about 50m. Here we turned left off the road on to a path across the fields to the road in Wolsingham.

Looking back to Baal Hill House farm
Looking back to Baal Hill House farm

Reaching the road at the edge of Wolsingham
Reaching the road at the edge of Wolsingham

Road bridge over Waskerley Beck in Wolsingham
Road bridge over Waskerley Beck in Wolsingham

Returning to the Demesne Mill car park
Returning to the Demesne Mill car park