Southeast Durham

Go for a big dumb run over the weekend as part of my training for the Fellsman 2023. The twist: it's been snowing for a few days, and a couple of inches of the stuff sat thick, lumpy, packed-down & churned-up on the footpaths and byways of East Durham.

Out of Wingate and through the back lanes to the Trimdons was simple enough. I take the long way round a field containing some horses who were a bit too interested in me, and get spit out on the road through Fishburn and into Sedgefield. Cross the A689 on the far side of Sedgefield and then start beating my way down an overgrown embankment through the empty fields. Fantastic sense of solitude here, especially in the light fog: no sound of cars, no distance hilltop villages, no footprints in the snow, save those of rabbits and foxes.

A short road section follows: barely any verge, here, and a surprising amount of traffic in both directions. Frustrating. Arrive eventually at Grindon, and run obliviously past the nearly millenia-old ruin of St. Thomas à Becket's Church. Thomas à Becket probably never came here, but his name lends a storied austerity to the crumbling walls. Apparently the church was still active into the 1800s, and shows up as such on the oldest OS Maps (the subsequent editions all mark it as a ruin).

Also missing from those oldest OS Maps: the railway path I'm taking home. The Castle Eden Railway was built after these maps, and was closed not a hundred years later, leaving us with the lovely old railway path walkers (and aspiring ultramarathoners) enjoy today. I briefly detour south to see the old railway house at Thorpe Thewles—now transformed into a café—and scarf a flapjack & cola. I briefly consider continuing south to see the site of the old viaduct, demolished in the 1970s but (I'm told) stunning in its day. I'm getting cold, though, so I turn northward on the long trip home.

What's to say about a railway path? Some sections are snowier, some are slushy and waterlogged. I follow another trailrunner's footsteps for a while, but their disappear at some point and I don't see them again. Come by and by to Hurworth Burn Reservoir and do a little stretching. Put some music on and eke out the last couple miles to Wingate with difficulty. House is cold (no boiler) so I curl up next to the electric radiator and get warm.

See the full activity on Strava.


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