Updated: Feb 18, 2021
By John King
As a keen photographer, I enjoy getting out for a walk and particularly like finding old railway tracks, hence why I am a volunteer at Bowes Railway and Colliery site museum in Springwell Village.
I was aware there was a rail track in Lanchester, near where I live, and found a set of footpaths last year and decided to revisit during lockdown. I even discovered that the old Railway House, a five bedroom beauty is up for sale at only £650,000 !
I have mapped out my circular route in case someone else would like to try the walk for themselves.
Total distance is 3.45 miles (Longer route) 2.3 miles (Shorter route)
They are mostly along good footpaths and over rights of way, but about 1 mile of the longer route is on the B6296 about 1/3rd of which has no footpath. Please take care.
Routes and Guide
Park your car in Lanchester and make your way to the old Lanchester railway station (closed in July 1965) which is on the right of the B6296 road. This is the same road that you come down if you choose to do the longer route. The station is easily accessible and is now a nice private house. Walk the former track-bed, alongside of the old railway platform. As you follow the path there are built up mounds on the left, now tree covered. It looks like landscaping, but this was the old track-bed that led into a small goods yard.
After about 200 yards the path starts to slope down where once a railway bridge crossed over the next road. The remains of the stone abutments and railings are still visible alongside behind the bushes. Cross over the road and continue the path beyond.
After approximately ¾ of a mile the path widens out where it was necessary to have two lines running alongside each other because this is near the junction of the main line and the former Lanchester colliery which was behind where the present house stands. It had no connection to the colliery. According to an old Ordnance map the colliery wasn’t very extensive, originally opening in 1880 but underwent being bought and sold several times meaning it closed and opened every few years. It was finally closed in 1950.
Another sign of a railway junction is on the opposite side of the path in the shape of a small squat railway signal box. It looks in good structural repair and is securely locked up. Obviously now it has no specific railway purpose, but when it was operational it would have controlled the level crossing, points, and signals to allow trains to enter and leave the colliery yard.
Continue on to where the track gently bears to the left and in the distance, there is a bridge over the line, walk towards the bridge but when you are about 200 yards away, here we divert up the left-hand embankment and over a style into a field marked as a ‘right of way’. It
is a short but stiff climb to the next wall which is incomplete, so just continue onwards. Now that the incline has eased, it is pleasant walking. These fields usually have sheep or young heifers grazing, but they are not a problem. After wet weather, this top field can be very muddy underfoot so good walking footwear is needed. Walk on to the wall in the distance and turn right through a gate system designed to hold cattle and sheep.
This leads to another gate and the roadway. If you choose to do the shorter route turn left here and walk about a mile downhill towards Lanchester where you will come across the railway path again, turn right here to pass Lanchester station house and the end of the trail.
If you choose to cover the longer route, instead of turning left after leaving the field, turn right and pass several farm buildings on the left. About 200 yards further on, there is a road on your left with a sign ‘Not suitable for HGV’s’. Walk down here and follow the road through the farm and other houses. There is a good view of the valley and Lanchester to the right. It is a good surfaced public road which is about 1 mile long and eventually passes through the yard of Lanchester Dairies then curves back to the B6296. Turn left towards Lanchester. Some of the right-hand verge is wide enough for a footpath, otherwise take care of traffic approaching.
The road now descends and is very easy walking and you will come to a layby on the right. There is a notice here erected to tell you that you are at the south west corner of a Roman fort called ‘Longcovicium’ dating from around AD160 and occupied until approximately AD400.
In front of you are ramparts about 10 feet high which is thought to be the remains of a watchtower and behind this housed a Roman fort and a Hypocaust. It has only been excavated in a small area but completely surveyed with Geophysics and they have a good idea what is underneath. Unfortunately, as the notice points out, it is on private land so you cannot explore on foot. Some of the artifacts from the site (Stone pillars and a Roman altar) can be seen inside All Saints church in Lanchester.
The road now starts to descend more steeply for about ½ a mile and at the bottom you come to the entrance of the path to Lanchester Station where we started the trail.