PLANNING FOR THE WALK

This part of the website carries all the information that a walker will need at the planning phase of any walk on the Weardale Way. One of the most important starting point is to assess how far it is from point to point. To also know the nature of the terrain is helpful along with knowledge on locations where accommodation can be found. Below are a series of topic that will help you in this planning phase.


Walking Terrain
This has been divided into self contained section, and may be helpful for those who are undertaking only parts of the route.

Section Terrain
Roker to South Hylton The first section to South Hylton is mainly on urban pavement or riverside path. It is not until you have left the City of Sunderland behind and crossed underneath the Metro line that the surface changes to grass or riverside path. The last two miles may be at times muddy so at very minimum we would recommend a stout pair of good walking shoes for this section.
South Hylton to Chester-le-Street Starting on track this soon becomes a rough path along the side of the river then a mixture of fields, grass paths, minor road and woodland walks. At times there are inclines and descents although in general the walk is flat. Through the river side sections and the last two mile to Chester-le-Street the path can be muddy. Walking boots are essential and walking pools may be an assistance in parts.
Chester-le-Street to Durham Starting with a riverside walk and then some field walking this section does have a little more in the way of roadside walking, although the three sections are split with change and interest.
Durham to Sunderland Bridge Starting with easy riverside well surfaced paths the surface then changes to grass paths, some limited minor road walking and some riverside paths. We would recommend walking boots but apart from one riverside section the underfoot conditions are better to the section just passed.
Sunderland Bridge to Bishop Auckland This is almost all along the banks of the River Wear. Starting with sections of farm track, much of it runs along the edge of fields. Some of the tracks are very well worn and in wetter weather this whole section can be slippy under foot and quite heavy for what is a relatively flat section. We would suggest walking boots are essential and walking pools may give a sence of security against slipping.
Bishop Auckland to Witton-le-Wear The outlook is now noticably changing with a much more country feel to the walk. The paths are a little more inclined to gradients and the main surface is grass interspersed with small community roads. Walking boots are now the standard recommended for all of the remaining sections.
Witton-le-Wear to Wolsingham The path immediately it crosses the A68 road is onto mainly fields, forest tracks and riverside walks. The first section until the river is crossed is on easy pasture land. When the Way takes to its new route the walk is subject to more inclines and the terrain becomes more varies with forest paths and tracks followed by river bank trails.
Wolsingham to Stanhope This section is perhaps one of the most isolated section and can be exposed to the elements. The immediate section is a relatively steep ascent to Harthope then an elevated moorland walk. On this high point be prepared with waterproof and wind proof clothing and only venture on this section if you are confident with map reading and navigation. After some time at high level there is a steep descent through grazing fields towards the river level. The next section west of Frosterley is to some extend a repeat but this time the elevation attained is somewhat less and the end section is on gentle roadways or paths now close to the river.
Stanhope to Rookhope The initial section to Eastgate is very flat but enjoyable with most of it being along field boundaries. At Eastgate the walking changes both in terms of ascents and conditions under foot. There follows a gradual climb to Rookhope and the field surfaces are much rougher. Rather than ending the section along the roadway the new route takes up onto the hill then follows the line of a discussed railway, now a farm track and grazing, into the village of Rookhope.
Rookhope to Westgate This is the hardest walking challenge of any section. It is both over rough moorland and is not that clearly defined in parts. The walker needs to identify the direction from key point to key point and then make their best way across the sometimes reeded moorland. After a high level section there is a very fast descent by farm track and road to reach Westgate. On the high points be well prepared for inclement conditions and have stout waterproofed boots.
Westgate to Wearhead Riverside walks on track and field. No strenuous inclines and generally easy walking. The ground can be wet and at times muddy.
Wearhead to Killope Mining Centre A mixture of grass, rough ground and moorland or forest roadway. This is also a section that has the steepest inclines although none are for an extended period. Starting on fields beside the Killhope Burn the terrain becomes rougher and more demanding after Cowshill before converting onto a hard core track west of Heathery Bridge. Having risen to the south edge of the Killhope forest there is now a significant incline and relatively rough climb before crossing a narrow path into the forest above a disused quarry. Soon forest tracks are reached and this is the walking terrain to the competion at Killhope Mining Museuem.
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Accommodation Locations
The intention of this section is to assist walkers define where accommodation is available in relationship to likely end points for all of the sections of the long distance route. This details to be posted soon.
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Transport Options To and from Start and End Points
Roker can be accessed by a series of buses running from Sunderland Bus station. This is a 10 minute journey approximately.

Air connections are via Newcastle International Airport followed by a Metro ride to Sunderland - Park Lane metro station. The bus station is directly above.
Arriving by train in the North East, the mainline connection would be through either Durham or Newcastle. From Durham link with a bus to Sunderland, from Newcastle access the Metro to Sunderland - Park Lane.

Killhope is accessed by bus or car only. The public bus service is only available upon request and is supplied by Weardale Motors who operate the 101 service from Cowshill to Stanhope and forward to Bishop Auckland. If you complete the Way at Killhope a few of the 101 services from Cowshill can be sent the extra distance up to Killhope. This can be requested in advance by ringing Weardale Motors on 01388 528235.

Linking start and end points
This is no direct link but via a combination of buses this can be achieved. Improtant points in the interchange are Bishop Auckland, and Durham or Newcastle and then the Metro.

Linking along the route
There are a few modes of connection based around the metro network bus services and for part the Weardale Railway.
The Metro is very restricted and only assists walkers as far east as South Hylton.
Buses are the main form of connections along the length of the route and the following service may be of use.

  • Sunderland Park Lane Interchange to Chester-le-Street : Go North East Nos. X 8, 775
  • Chester-le-Street to Durham : Go North East Nos. X 1, X 22, X 50, 21
  • Durham to Sunderland Bridge : Arriva North East Nos. 6 with change to 723 or 724
  • Durham to Bishop Auckland : Arriva North East Nos. 5, 6 & Classic Bus No. 352
  • Bishop Auckland to Witton-le-Wear : Arriva North East No. 88 & return No 86 (limited service)
  • Bishop Auckland to Wolsingham and all points to Stanhope : Weardale Motor Services No. 101
  • Stanhope to all points west to Cowshill and on request to Killhope : Weardale Motor Services No. 101 (limited service)
Presently the Weardale Railway has only a limited service running between Wolsingham and Stanhope. Even so it could be helpful at this stage and as the line is extended eastward to Bishop Auckland it will open up alternative transport in places like Witton-le-Wear and connecting into bus and train service as Bishop Auckland.

Useful Contact Numbers


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Refreshments
This is a walk where you can rely particularly on the eastern sections to finding a corner shop or pub to satisfy your lunchtime or break requirements. The walker will only need by necessity to plan for a packed lunch and adequate liquids on sections west of Witton-le-Wear and especially when on higher ground between Wolsingham and Frosterley, Eastgate and Rookhope, Rookhope and Westgate and Wearhead to Killhope.
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Walking Kit
What the walker carries is to some extent a personal choice and a compromise between essential - desirable and space - weight.
For many walkers the ideal is to have the overnight luggage forwarded from place to place leaving you only with the need to carry the kit for the days walk. We list below what we feel you need in such circumstances.

Some of the kit relates to what you will be wearing, the balance what you will take in the rucksack.

  • The most important kit relates to walking boots and sock, without this being correct and walked in your chances of completion or of enjoying the Path are unlikely. This is a walk that needs waterproof good quality boots for some of the sections.
  • Clothing that provides comfort, warmth and breaks the wind is vital, along with waterproof jacket and leggings for the poorer weather.
  • Hat and gloves, there are thermal and waterproof varieties. Remember that almost all of the route is close to the sea and if the wind is off the sea it can be cold.
The next consideration is what needs to be carried.
  • Rucksack which is of sufficient size and comfortable to carry. A waterproof cover is worth including or at least a bin liner of poly bags to protect the contents from the rain.
  • Sufficient water as well as other liquid refreshment
  • First aid kit including some blister pads
  • Compass, maps and whistle for the section west of Witton-le-Wear in particular.
We believe the following are desirable items
  • Walking poles
  • Gaiters to protect your legs and trousers in muddy conditions
  • Insect repellent and sun block (dependent on time of year)
  • Folding umbrella - to some this may seem unacceptable and we would have fallen into this camp until walking with two very experience international walkers. They used them to shed off the worst of the downpours keeping the clothing on the body's trunk dry.
  • Camera and binocular - there is plenty of wildlife to see along the river banks
  • Spare battery for mobile phone if you have one
This should be taken as a guide only, you should plan for the unexpected weather, and the unexpected difficulty that might mean you be in the open for longer than you anticipated. For this reason also look at the Emergency Precautions section.
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Maps
The walk is generally waymarked for the entire way using a variety of signs and symbols. There are however some local marker posts at various point that will also assist you to navigate.
We would not advocate that the walker navigates purely by the waymarks but also carries up to date maps to a scale of atleast 1:50000 and the walker comes prepared with compass. The OS Landranger maps relevant to the walk are Nos.87, 88, 92 & 93.
Care does however need to be taken as maps may be still showing some of the original route which has been altered in parts, and we would advocate that along with the maps a walker accesses directional instruction based on O/S Grid References as detailed below.
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Weather
This can vary from day to day and area to area. Starting on the East Coast there can be a cold wind coming off the North Sea and at certain times this may also result in a mist that could limit visibility. As one moves west and towards the North Pennines rain and changeable weather needs to be considered.

For information on the weather forecast within the region you can call Weathercall. (This is a premium rate telephone service run by the Met Office.)
Relevant Region and Dial Number:
Durham, Nothumberland, Tyne & Wear Complete route 09014 722 068
Alternatively access the Met Office Website.
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Communications
Communications in the form of mobile phones are generally good along the length of the Way but they should never be relied upon as the only way that you can contact others or be found in the case of an emergency. Also remember that mobile phones rely on battery power and this can run out at just the incorrect time.
In addition to carrying a mobile phone all the main communities that are passed through have pay phones, but high on the Dales make sure that someone is aware of your walking plans and general timings.
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Emergency Precautions
The walk in the later stages takes you into more remote paths and locations, where you may not see others for some period of time. These are also areas where the terrain tends to be more uneven and demanding. Remember it is on this rougher terrain that ankle or leg injuries are more likely. Also remember that following Witton the walker can be in more exposed locations where wet or cold weather can be a problem unless you carry with you appropriate additional clothing. It is also at points west of Witton that the sections between communities extend and a walker should carry liquid refreshments and some high energy food.

It is always a sensible plan to leave a message or note with a trusted friend, who is not on the walk, telling them your walking plans and approximate times of arrival at key points.

We recommend that on the sections beyond Bishop Auckland there is a person proficient with the use of a compass and carries with then a set of appropriate maps.
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Ordnance Survey Directional Instructions
This route is mostly waymarked and is also defined in parts in the up to date Landranger maps. However even with these details it may be helpful to have a table of grid references with defined details for what to do at all key points along the entire route.
Walking Support (an associate business) has surveyed the complete route using GPS to plot all the key points. To obtain a copy of this directional instructions simply order on line and for the nominal payment of 2.90 you will be sent a return e-mail to your e-mail address with a Word Document attachment containing this valuable data.

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link to distance chart
Distances and Options
The overall distance of the walk as meassured by GPS navigation is defined as 77 miles from Roker to Killhope. If the walk is to be stopped at the original westerly point at Wearhead the distance would then be 72 miles.

There is no correct time in which to walk the route of stopping point, however we would recommend that it is at minimum a 5 day walk and could be split into a 6 or 7 day event dependent on the amount of time you want to spend at interesting location along the Way.

To assist you in making these decision Walking Support have produced a chart of distance from point to point. This can be requested as an "Excel attachment" by clicking here or you can click on the image to the right then print off the new screen image by simply right clicking on the object and then left clicking print.

Suggested 5 day walking.

  1. Roker to Chester-le-Street - 14.2m
  2. Chester-le-Street to Sunderland Bridge - 12.6m
  3. Sunderland Bridge to Witton-le-Wear - 13.5m
  4. Witton-le-Wear to Stanhope - 17.6m
  5. Stanhope to Killhope - 19.1m
The last two sections are the hardest based on the amount of distance, the rougher and significant inclines.

Suggested 6 day walking.

  1. Roker to Chester-le-Street - 14.2m
  2. Chester-le-Street to Durham - 6.8m
  3. Durham to Bishop Auckland - 14.2m
  4. Bishop Auckland to Wolsingham - 12.6m
  5. Wolsingham to Rookhope - 16 m
  6. Rookhope to Killhope - 13.2m

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