The Iron Road and Roman Road 14/05/2023

Led by Andy

A group of seven met up  at Litts Garth house near North Stainmore on the old A66 for a 08-30 start on a sunny morning.


After leaving the road and crossing a few fields we came to Argill nature reserve where we were treated to a display of Bluebells as we walked down to and alongside the beck, ascending from the beck we arrived at South Stainmore church which was built as a school merited a short visit.


A bit of road and field paths took us past New Hall farm and up to the East end of what was Belah viaduct at 196ft high was the second highest viaduct in the country, only beaten by Crumlin viaduct at 200ft in South Wales. More details on Belah viaduct and others can be found on the website.


Following the course eastwards of the old railway formation we had a short break in a sheltered cutting just before what was  Barras station which had to be skirted as now private and not accessible, past the site of what was Mousegill viaduct which after the closure it was given to the army and they blew it up as an exercise!


Just before reconnecting with the trackbed we had a pleasant conversation with a couple who were fencing of a saxifrage flower to protect it as they said it was rare.


Back on track after clearing the first hurdle it was plain sailing passing the site of Bleath Gill signal box ( Snow Drift at Bleath Gill is available to watch on you tube, worth a watch), drawing ever closer to the A66 part of the trackbed was used to widen this road, fortunately a good fence separated the main road and our track. By this time the railway summit sign was in view and a group photo was taken there before resuming the walk eastwards for lunch in the next cutting below the site of an old footbridge, the trackbed on this side of Stainmore resembled more of a riverbed in parts than a old railway, that’s what 62 years of closure does!


On getting to the Cumbria/Durham border the “river” left the trackbed and on the Durham side it looked like a bowling green! However we had to clear the second hurdle and up to the A66 where there are four information signs, having read these we crossed the A66 to begin our return route, this took us along part of the old Roman road passing the site of Maiden Castle (old Roman fort) and down to and across the A66 again.


Onto  an unsigned footpath which  took us down to Blackhause Sike where we picked up a bridleway which we followed to Slapestone bridge and under the A66 to Banks Gate where we were questioned by some security staff as to our right to be there! As we where on a bridleway we certainly were entitled to be there so we pointed this out to him, don’t know if he was convinced but we carried on anyway passing the site of a Roman signal station and up to the site of Cabbish mine, developed for lead in 1850-1860s then reopened in 1905 for Barytes by 1920 had produced 21,000 tons, closed in 1930 so not much to see now, only the entrance to it.


After a few in and outs to follow the rights of way we once again went under the present A66 and emerged onto the old A66 from where it was a short walk along it back to the cars and finish.


Stats, Started 08-30 Finished 15-30  7-00 hours Mileage 15-75 Average speed 2-2 mph  Ascent 1,812ft