Diversion of Pennine Way at Knaresdale

The Secretary of State confirmed the creation of two small diversions on the PW near Knaresdale on 11th August 2009 and a consequent extinguishment of part of the PW by NCC followed a few days later. The PWA was fully consulted on these matters some two years ago and felt that the new route was an improvement on the existing route although the reason for the diversion was to move the route away from Burnstones.

The first diversion is just to the North-East of Side House at GR 673548 and diverts the PW to the West of a small disused quarry and eliminates a short descent and ascent.

The second diversion commences at the viaduct on the North side of the Thinhope Burn, through a kissing gate and follows the exact line of the Maiden Way on a better surface for 240 metres to a further kissing gate at GR 674545 where it rejoins the existing route. After some of the wet surfaces near Whitley Castle this improved surface will be appreciated.

The Maiden Way (which the PW follows from here to a point just over 1500 metres North of the Glendue Burn on the A689 West of Lambley) was a Roman road from their base at Kirkby Thore to their base on Hadrian’s Wall at Carvoran just off the PW to the North-East of Greenhead.

Whilst for most walkers the opportunity to go on diversions are limited, the one mile diversion here to Lambley and its magnificent restored viaduct,in dramatic surroundings, is well worth a visit! For those opting to walk on the South Tyne Trail, instead of the official route, it is even less as they walk along the road from Bowden Banks where the trail is left for a short distance.

Frank Duerden in his Great Walks PW book makes reference in this area to the fact that the South Tyne valley was the major drove route for Scottish cattle from the Highlands, which were then taken to Falkirk, and them moved South along the South Tyne. They then generally moved them down Teesdale on the South bank before crossing lowland County Durham and the Tees, between Darlington and Stockton. They then ascended up to the Cleveland Escarpment and South on a route now followed by the Cleveland Way from Sutton Bank northwards, before continuing South on gentler terrain. However Knarsdale also was on another later drove route which crossed the hills to the West, passing near to the RSPB Geltsdale Reserve to Croglin. This was used for the transport of cattle and sheep going to fairs on Tyneside and possibly in the reverse direction to Kirkoswald Auction Mart. Those walkers who appreciate real solitude should try to walk this route!

Observant readers may here note that the hamlet, as well as the Knars Beck, are spelt without an “e” whilst the parish of Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh has an “e”. The church at Knarsdale contains the grave of a Robert Baxter, a local shepherd who died in 1796 after eating some food he found on the moor. During that time I cannot see it being poisoned food put out for hen harriers, which after a great struggle against criminal gamekeeers or egg collectors now breed in this vicinity. Frank Duerden, who again supplies this information, quotes the inscription on his gravestone which is as follows:
All you that please these lines to read,
It will cause a tender heart to bleed,
I murdered was upon the fell,
And by the man I know full well,
By bread and butter which he`d laid
I being harmless, was betrayed
I hope he will rewarded be.
That laid the poison there for me.

The suspicion was never proved but it makes for an interesting story, as does the story of the ghost of Knarsdale Hall. The story goes that the owner (who was middle-aged) acquired a young wife with her parents consent, as still happens in many countries currently. However some time after arriving in the household she struck up an illicit relationship with his nephew. Ultimately they were found out by his sister and fearful that she would expose their secret he murdered his sister dumping her body on a stormy night in a nearby pond. Her ghost was seen at times to cross the hall and go to the nearby pond!

If any members have additional information on either of these macabre talesl would be pleased to hear from them!

At Knarsdale also is the Kirkstyle Inn which is open at lunchtime in summer (up to the end of October) for food and refreshments with real ale on tap. Walkers are advised to check by the phoning in winter (Tel 01434 381559) but the detour is only a matter of 5 minutes from the viaduct over Thinhope Burn on the PW and the pub is adjacent to the church as well as very close to the hall.

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