By Dom and Margaret Cuskin
From Washington Village NE38 7JZ to Princess Park NE38 7TU.
Our walk is approximately 3.8 miles.
My wife and I set off on our walk early in the morning, rain or sunshine, it’s good to be out.
Leaving home, we make our way through the village of Washington, which is usually quiet, and we pass the cenotaph which is still adorned with wreaths of poppies from the last Remembrance Sunday.
Making our way south along The Avenue, we pass the Old Blacksmiths Forge on the left. The forge is famed locally for its connection to the capture of the highwayman, Robert Hazlit. The story goes that in 1770, Margaret Banson, a wealthy lady who was returning home in her carriage late one evening from Durham, was held up at gun point by the highwayman. Despite the terror, Margaret was no push over and managed to give him only a guinea, although a postman further along the road was not as fortunate, losing his horse and bags. Hazlit was later arrested and subsequently hanged after being spotted by a local village lad, while having his horse shod by the blacksmith where he regularly visited with his distinctive grey horse. He is said to haunt the Blacksmiths after placing a curse on it. The full story can be found online at www.wearsideonline.com. Now it is an excellent restaurant and has been for many years.
A little further along on the left, we pass a building, known locally as the Church on the hill.
Holy Trinity Church stands on an oval mound which we have been told, suggests the re-use of a pagan site.
Rounded churchyards usually have Celtic origins. There are good views of the village from the top.
As we continue along, we pass Washington Old Hall the Ancestral home of George Washington now a National Trust property.
Then a little further along the road we pass the gateway to Dame Margaret’s Hall an impressive Grade 2 listed building. The property originally belonged to Sir Issac Lothian- Bell and his wife Margaret and whose granddaughter, Gertrude Bell CBE became the well-known writer, explorer, and Middle East expert, believed to have been born at the hall in 1868. The hall has since been converted into apartments with beautiful views of the large grounds surrounding it.
On the opposite side of the road is Glebe Park and we often hear a woodpecker strumming in the trees. When we reach Glebe Methodist Church, we cross the road and follow the footpath ahead. After a short distance we cross another road and turn right at Thirlaway’s general store, then into Oxclose Road which joins a narrow footpath between the houses. Further along the path we pass Biddick primary school and after a few hundred yards, we cross another road and continue straight on through an underpass and enter Princess Anne Park (NE38 7TU) which she opened in 1974.
Turning right up a short, but steep bank, we reach a stand of pine trees and from here we follow the red arrow trail which takes us through steep green meadows. On our left, just out of sight, we can hear a waterfall below us.
Sometimes we take a flask and enjoy a coffee before we start heading back home.
We are looking forward to the spring when we will be able to explore several of the rough tracks through the woodland. As it is, we have enjoyed seeing lots of wildlife such as grey squirrels, and yesterday we startled a large Heron which had been feeding in the burn at the side of the path. In the woods we spotted chaffinch and goldfinch. As we near the bottom end of the park where the burn flows round an oxbow, there are some beautiful old oak trees.
I like to sketch so I often take photographs on our walks to draw when we return home. Continuing to follow the red arrow trail through the park, it leads us back to the Primary school we passed earlier, from here we retrace our way back to the village.