Even though County Durham is only an hour and half from home, it is a place that I have never explored. And now that I have been, I ask myself why? It's such a lovely place to visit.
The county has a bit of something for everyone, from coastal walks to railway heritage walks and a stunning National Trust estate that is there to be explored…and all possible in a wheelchair.
Here are six easy access walks in County Durham
The sea front at Seaham.
Grid ref: NZ 4287 4929
Seaham is well known for the smoothly polished multi coloured sea glass that washes up on the beach. Seaham and nearby Sunderland were home to many bottleworks and glass making factories during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The Londonderry Bottleworks, operating from the 1850s to 1921, were the largest glass bottleworks in Britain at that time. Waste glass from the factories was dumped in large amounts into the North Sea and for over 100 years the glass has by smoothed and shaped by the sea and has been washed up on the beach. There are many collectors of the sea glass who search along the shore at low tide for the hidden gems. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get down onto the beach as the ramps were very steep and didn’t want to get down and then find I couldn’t get back up again on my own. Instead I enjoyed a long walk along the cliff tops where I had glorious views out over the North Sea. It was here on the cliff top, in the Terrace Gardens, where Tommy sits on top of his ammunition box. Tommy is a statue of a First World War soldier by artist Ray Lonsdale. It is both a spectacular and thought provoking statue, which stands 9 feet 5 inches (2.87 m) tall and well worth a visit.
Tommy - Sculpture of a First World War soldier.
Grid ref: NZ 0139 5230
West of Consett, on the border between County Durham and Northumberland, is Derwent Reservoir. It was here that I explored the accessible walk in Pow Hill Country Park, which is a 5 minute drive from the visit centre at Derwent Reservoir. Right at the start of the trail is designated blue badge parking, making this walk very easy to access. The trail begins on a solid track through woodland which eventually opens up to stunning views over the reservoir. It is a linear trail of a mile in length and doable in a manual wheelchair.
Beautiful views across Derwent Reservoir
Derwent Railway Walk
Grid ref: NZ 099 493
The Derwent Walk is an extremely popular linear route between Consett and Swalwell, with fabulous views across the Derwent Valley. The walk follows the route of the former Derwent Valley Railway which once carried iron ore and passengers between Consett and the River Tyne. The solid surface track is ideal for manual wheelchair users. This route passes through woodland and meadow and alongside ponds and riverside areas. It’s is a perfect location for people who have a love of wildlife as it is home to many different types of birds, including green and great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch and sparrowhawk.
Enjoying the tranquility of the Derwent Railway Walk.
National Trust Gibside
Grid Ref: NZ172583
I was so glad that a Tramper was available to borrow from the National Trust as Gidside as the walk up from car park to the portico of Gibside's Palladian chapel is very steep. It is hard to believe that Gibside is so close to Tyneside as within minutes of leaving the car park you are in the middle of the most beautiful countryside. I absolutely loved the walk along the oak lined avenue to the hay meadows and then along the yew lined track. I spent half a day exploring the tracks around this enormous estate and reckon I did about 5 miles, so that cup of tea at the café was welcome refreshment at the end of my walk.
The Tramper available to borrow at National Trust Gibside.
Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens
Grid reference: NZ 218437
Easy access woodland walks and formal gardens can be found in the grounds of Ushaw Historic House, set the heart of the Durham countryside. Children will love discovering the secret doors to the fairy houses and wooden animal sculptures which are hidden along the trail. I managed the trail in my manual wheelchair, though it was quite difficult terrain in the woods and over the grassed areas. Worth a visit though.
The gardens at Ushaw house are a joy to explore.
Lanchester Valley Railway Walk
Grid ref: : NZ 178 464
I joined the railway walk at the carpark at Malton, which is 1 mile east of Lanchester on the A691 towards Malton. The whole 12 miles walk is flat and is along solid track, which is ideal for manual wheelchairs. From Malton I walked about 2 miles of the linear track, through woodland and alongside the river. Despite being so close to a main road, the walk was very peaceful and it is easy to see why this place is a haven for wildlife such as sand martins, kingfisher, dipper and heron.
A tranquil stroll through the woods along the Lanchester Railway walk.