The railway quadfecta

Wingate, which is the town where I live, lies at the crossroads of three historic railways: the Stockton & Hartlepool to the north, the Stockton & Castle Eden to the south, and the Ferryhill & Hartlepool cutting right across town from the east to the west (or west to east). In the olden days, these railways carried goods—and more importantly, coal!—between the villages and collieries that dot the rolling countryside and the industrial ports on the coast.

Nowadays, the railways are pretty much all gone, save the electrified East Coast Main Line cutting straight through County Durham, and the Durham Coast Line, built back in the day with barely any grade to obviate the need for the wibbly-wobbly interior lines. And so, as coal mines closed and goods traffic dried up, the railways connecting County Durham were pulled up and converted to public footpaths.

This is sad news, because railways were part of the lifeblood of the North East of England; but it's good news for the enterprising long-distance runner living in Wingate, because it means that they (i.e. I) can cover long distances with relatively little effort, thanks to the easy grading required of old-timey locomotives.

I've run east from Wingate to Hartlepool on the old lines any number of times. I've also done the route north on the Stockton & Hartlepool a few times, including two back-to-back half marathons a few months ago, and a recent hairy detour through a farm where I got chased off by an ornery collie. I've lately done the route south to Stockton a couple of times as well—at least as far as the old Thorpe Thewles station house, where kindly locals serve millionaire's shortbread to slimy long-distance runners. I have never, however, run west from Wingate, towards Ferryhill, where the Ferryhill and Hartlepool joins the (as yet extant) East Coast Main Line.

Until tonight. Ghyll and I strap on our running shoes (well, I do, anyway) and cast off across the East Durham night, passing first through Deaf Hill, where much of the path of the railway has been obliterated by post-colliery landscaping. Cross the field where the slag was heaped and I'm back onto the railway path proper, past the medieval settlement of Garmondsway, past the quarries with their signs warning Danger Drowning and Deep Water. I run under the A1, where slick graffiti lines the walls of the cathedral-like underpass, and Cornforth, where the rails never got torn up, where hawthornes and bramble grow between the colossal railroad ties. Eventually we come to the massive railway junction at West Cornforth, where in former times the rails looped and crisscrossed like highway interchanges, but where now the stalwart Main Line runs lonely through the bottom of a dene. Ghyll and I clamber down the side of a stone bridge onto an ancient track leading across the bottom of the dene, and over a modern steel bridge over the Main Line. Ghyll bravely vaults a final stile before the steep climb up to Ferryhill, where Sam meets me in the village square and takes me home for some risotto.

Running Durham Railways



Dynomight writes about, it seems, whatever comes to mind; and they do a darn good job of it.


Spain: Friday

Breakfast in Los Montesinos, lunch in Torrevieja, out for a run and then dinner on the coast.