On the last Sunday in June some of the Wear Valley Writers met at Harehope Quarry near Frosterley for a literary walk that would offer inspiration for our writing. We were led by one of our own group.
On Sunday July 28 at 2pm, another of our members will lead us round Vinovium, the Roman site on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland. He is a volunteer there and very knowledgeable about the site, so we look forward to an informative afternoon.
If you are a writer and interested in this idea you are welcome to join us.
The following report recorded my impressions of the day.
A tangled mass of leaves - every shade and every shape - hide the gurgling stream that is Bollihope Burn so very far below. The narrow river, brown as the earth, ripples peacefully between ancient stones for all the world as though it wasn’t hidden deep, deep down below the level of the path.
There is no sound from the nearby caravan park and the sun is behind a cloud. We are in a separate world where green hills surround us with remote farmhouses dotting their sides, stone-built and strong against the Weardale weather.
And so we start to walk, glad of our collars to pull up against the cold wind – uphill at first on an easy tarmac path then turning to a narrow track. Wild flowers are everywhere; pink and white Clover; Vetch; Ladies Fingers; Marguerites and grasses; Thistles and Star of Bethlehem. May blossom is in the hedges with the gentle hum of bees all round it. Silent sheep move in one field and brown and white cattle graze in another.
But it all changes as we clamber down uneven steps to a gorge and a dry-stone riverbed where the burn flows underneath the surface, appearing only in the harshest of winters. It is the result of weathering of the limestone. There are potholes and caves and resurgent streams – Karst scenery an information board explains.
As if to compensate for this harshness a square block of Frosterley Marble sits beyond the bridge, its fossil-rich limestone is 310 million years old. Sprinkle water on to it and see the mass of fish and strange creatures that are trapped inside.
From there we walk on to the viewing post and look out at the Quarry where men toiled their lives away in all weathers. We see the twenty layers of Rock they worked on, each one named; The Yard Post; the Whalley; Thick Cockle Beds; Thin Cockle Beds; Elsie; Dun Kits Bastard and so on. Nowadays there is peace and silence and we gaze out at the burn, framed by green trees and flowing to the distant hills.
As we clamber back to the footpath the breeze is lighter, the path downhill and the sun is warming the stone of the farmhouses high on the distant hills.