North Pennine Walks
Gilmonby Moor & Citron Seat
Date: 7th December 2014
Distance: 9.5 miles
Ascent: 990 feet
Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: NY996135
A fine walk contrasting lovely river and beck scenery with sweeping views and wintry weather on Citron Seat, highest point of Gilmonby Moor.
Route Summary: Bowes - Gilmonby Bridge - Mill Force - Swinholme - Huggill Force - West Plantation - High Green Fell - Gilmonby Moor - Citron Seat - Seven Hills Tarn - East Mellwaters - Cardwell Bridge - Pennine Way - Swinholme - Bowes
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: The Greta valley runs south of the A66 from the Stainmore Gap east until it meets the River Tees below Barnard Castle. Historically the valley was part of the North Riding of Yorkshire but, like Teesdale and its side valleys of Lunedale and Baldersdale, was ommitted from the Yorkshire Dales National Park when the latter was formed in 1954. In 1974 the valley became, for administrative purposes, part of County Durham and was later incorporated into the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1988.
With such a confused identity it is perhaps not surprising that the area isn't particualarly well known to walkers - the notable exception being Pennine wayfarers. However, as I discovered on this walk, there is some truly lovely country to be explored here - fine river and beckside scenery, waterfalls and lonely moors.
Starting from Bowes I set off down the small lane heading for Gilmonby. Without crossing Gilmonby Bridge I turned off to head west on a path along the river. I soon arrived at Mill Force, an attractive but modest pair of waterfalls. While the right of way climbs up a steep bank just before reaching the waterfalls I attempted to follow the river on a thin path through a ruined wall (presumably part of the old mill). This soon proved to be impractical and so I retraced my steps past the waterfall, up the steep bank and then followed what was a slippery and muddy path through to emerge in a riverside pasture.
Climbing up the pasture back towards the A66 I then took the Pennine Way past the house at Swinholme back down to the river which I duly crossed at a footbridge. Before reaching Lady Myres Farm I doubled back to join another bridleway that took me into open access land. Within 50 yards I left the bridleway to tramp across a couple of depressions to reach the steep sided Hug Gill so that I could view Huggill Force. It was an impressive waterfall but with the gill in shade and a low sun directly behind the waterfall conditions were not ideal for photography. Anyone visiting should be aware that the sides of the gill are very steep and care does need to be taken.
Returning to the bridleway I then followed a country road east, past West Plantation, to reach the bridleway the I hoped would lead me all the across Gilmonby Moor to the trig point on Citron Seat. Virtually the moment I stepped on to the bridleway there was a dramatic change in the weather. One moment it was sunny and blue skies and the next the wind picked up and it began to snow. Matters were made more difficult when the 'bridleway' soon disappeared into thick heather. Up to my thighs in heather I came across a forlorn guidepost, the only evidence of a bridleway having existed.
Matters underfoot improved once I'd crossed a stile over the wall on Eller Beck Rigg and I joined a wide track. For the next mile I was walking directly in to the wind and snow. Just when I began to think that the rest of the walk was going to be a write off and my camera would remain firmly in it's case the cloud suddenly began to clear and the snow shower abated. This was a wonderful moment, the surrounding moorland suddenly revealed itself including the shapely West Spanham Hill, Citron Seat and, north of the A66, the moors above Teesdale.
The trig point on Citron Seat sits just to the north of the wall, fortunately a stile just below the final rise to the top meant that I didn't have to try and climb the wall. Enjoying a measure of shelter from the wind I stood by the trig point while warming myself up with soup from my flask and enjoying the far reaching views across Stainmore Forest and to the moors north of the A66. To the south-west the cloud was slowly beginning to clear over Water Crag and Rogan's Seat.
Continuing west on the north side of the wall I crossed back over via another stile to reach the terminus of the bridleway as marked on the map. From there I followed another wall north before heading away to visit Seven Hills Tarn. The earlier snowfall had left patches of white under the heather and perhaps this is the reason that over the next mile I saw about 4-5 voles scurrying from out of my way. Normally they would have been invisible on the dark ground but the snow made their quick movements much more noticeable.
Seven Hills Tarn is situated in a small bowl surrounded by a series of heathery bumps, in truth there were probably a lot more than seven. Just after reaching the highest of these the sun came out again and I was able to enjoy beautiful sunshine for the remainder of the walk. This included a series of pleasant encounters with the River Greta and its main subsidary, Sleightholme Beck. The highlights of this section were the lovely stone bridge over the Greta at East Mellwaters and the confluence of the waterways just beyond Cardwell Bridge.
I concluded the walk with a visit to the remains of Bowes Castle. Built on the site of the former Roman fort of Lavatrae all that is left of the castle is the ruins of its impressive keep. This was an interesting end to what had been another enjoyable walk. Certainly after this I plan on investigating some more of the area.