Greta Bridge to Bowes – 19 January 2019

Did you know that there are two rivers in the UK called Greta, one in Cumbria and one in Durham? The one in Durham has a small village and a bridge named after it and it’s the one we are headed to for the start of the routes. If you happen to be in a vehicle on the A66 you will cross the River Greta in one direction or the other without even noticing the river below you. But slow down time and look closely at the map and you will see an unnamed road just to the south of the A66 river crossing. This road is called The Street and it crosses the River Greta on a bridge that was constructed in 1773 by John Carr of York. A classic painting of the bridge by John Sell Cotman in 1806 can be found here.

Greta was an important staging post for coaches on their run up from London and on to Carlisle and Glasgow and had probably existed as a staging post for many hundreds of years. A long time before 1773 you would have seen Roman soldiers crossing a bridge to enter the fort that lies just to the south of the present bridge on the north bank of the river. There is also archaeological evidence that a ten-room mansio, an official wayside inn for those on government business existed on the north side of the present A66 road

Had you been standing on the bridge at the time of the painting by John Sell Cotman you would no doubt have had to dodge the many stagecoaches that came up and down the old A66 and into Greta to stop at any one of three coach houses that were there at that time. Had you been standing there at the end of January in 1838 you would have seen Charles Dickens get off the Glasgow mail coach with his illustrator Hablot Browne (Phiz) to research the poor state of private boarding schools in the area. The school Dickens subsequently used in his novel, Nicholas Nickleby was Bowes Academy in Bowes which became Dotheboys Hall in the novel and the man he met in Greta was the headmaster and owner of Bowes Academy, William Shaw who became the headmaster Wackford Squeers in the novel.

With the advent of the railways in the mid-1800s coach travel was in decline and the coach houses began to close down leaving just one remaining in the village, now called the Morrit Hotel and Spa. In the early 1900s travel by car became popular and Greta had a short revival but with the increase in vehicle traffic there came a time when a bypass was needed and in 1976 the existing concrete bypass was built and Greta retreated into an almost forgotten place on the map.

The once extremely busy, The Street now makes its way past the Morrit Hotel and Spa and then comes to an overgrown lane that would have once led out as a continuation of the A66 road.

All of our routes start from The Street with two of them going north to connect with the Teesdale Way for a short distance and the other two going roughly south-east before heading westwards to Bowes. From foot to horses and coaches to trains and cars and back to foot if you would like to join us for this walk you can contact us via our Contact Page and you can find the walk descriptions here and the GPS routes here.

We have been to Bowes via Greta Bridge five times before, the last two times being in April 2011 and April 2017 and in all those times no one has taken any pictures of the routes. So the featured image for this post was taken on the way to Middleton-in-Teesdale in September 2014.

Bowes Weather

Walk No. 2 Greta Bridge to Bowes 19 January 2019
Area: Teesdale Map: OL 30

7.5 miles Moderate
Start: Greta Bridge Grid Ref NZ088131
SW on footpath following River Greta – Scotchman’s Stone – Brignall Banks – Brignall Mill – Hundah – Mid Low Field – Gilmonby Bridge – Bowes

11 miles Moderate
Start: Greta Bridge Grid Ref NZ088131
North to Morthham – Dairy Bridge – Teesdale Way – Egglestone Abbey – SW to B6277 – Moorhouse Lane – Brignall Mill – Lodge Farm – Thwaite Green – Stone Close House – Scargill Low Moor – Minor road to Gilmonby – Gilmonby Bridge – Bowes

11.5 miles Moderate
Start: Greta Bridge Grid Ref NZ088131
North to Morthham – Dairy Bridge – Teesdale Way – Abbey Bridge – Barnard Castle – Deepdale Aqueduct – Footpath west following Deepdale Beck – Low Crag – Crag Hill – Nova Scotia – Hazelgill – East Stony Keld – Clints Lane – Bowes

12 miles Moderate
Start: Greta Bridge Grid Ref NZ088131
Hell Cauldron – Minor road and footpath south to Barningham – Brown Hill – Barningham Moor – Black Hill Gate – Hope Edge – Northwest on forest path to Scargill Mine – Spanham – The Combs – Minor road to Gilmonby – Gilmonby Bridge – Bowes

Pub – The Ancient Unicorn Telephone No. 01833 628576