a climb towards a bigger sky
There’s a great walk for a fine day’s workout heading North East up the C2C cycle route along Boltslaw Incline from Rookhope, as shown on the map here.
This follows the old mine railway, once the highest standard gauge railway tracks in Britain. In the 1903 OS Map, you can clearly see the extensive rail sidings in the village and the line heading up the very steep incline over Bolt’s Law taking the raw materials for processing in the Tow Law works.
The track from Terrace Cottage takes you past the little derelict bothy, up past the C2C route indicator installation and marked ‘Rookhope Trails’. Once through the farm gate, the walking route joins the actual old trackbed, which used to cross the Bolt’s Burn to run down to the village.
This is sheep pasture land and at this time of year the new-born lambs are kept on the lower slopes. The older ones and ewes not in lamb are scattered across the moorland. You’ll also come across the other wildlife of the Northern Pennines: Curlew, Dunlin, Red and Black Grouse and the sound of the Skylark lifting on its hunt for high-flying insects.
As you carry on up the long rising section of the Incline, it gets steeper towards the cutting at the top of the hill where you can clearly see the rough hewing of the stone to clear the path for the railway.
After that it levels off towards the old winding house and you can take a breather reading the display board showing pictures of the railway in its heyday and explaining how the rope-hauled system worked.
There are still remains of the buildings in the Winding House complex with some complete walls standing. The footings and stonework of what was the water tower to feed the boilers are impressive. Its not clear now what the source of that water was, though there had to be a continuous supply for the steam engine; we’ll have to check the old maps and see the lie of the land for any clues.
This was clearly a busy operation, as the big heap of clinker to the left of the track shows. On the way up the hill you see occasional stone blocks with iron fittings; these are what is left of the old rope-hauling system, guiding the ropes alongside the trains or waggons.
You can well imagine the welcome break from work as the information board describes the men ‘riding the empty waggons down to the village’ – and almost wish they were still here to do the same!
As for us, we carried on the flat for a way, passing a sheep pen on the right and being harrassed by Grouse who were obviously nesting. There are paths marked off into the wilder moorland which we didn’t take on this occasion – something for the next time up here I think. We just enjoyed the huge views and the enormous sky – with the sound of Curlew and chattering of Grouse all around.
If you’ve just stumbled across this article and fancy a stay in the Northern Pennines, we’d love to welcome you to Rookhope. You can see more and make an online booking on the Accommodation page; we look forward to seeing you!
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