Bishop Auckland - Bellburn Wood - New Coundon - Auckland Park

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Bishop Auckland - Bellburn Wood - New Coundon - Brack's Farm - Auckland Park

The walk starts from the wide, grassed area of the town alongside the River Wear called The Batts, from where it follows a pleasant riverside walk before rising to pass through fields next to the historically important Binchester Roman Fort. Shortly after, the route enters a long, broadleaved wood on a delightful path crossing and recrossing a stream. The path emerges from the wood to intersect the popular Auckland Walk railway path that runs along the edge of Bishop Auckland Golf Course before it terminates at a new housing estate on the edge of town. A pleasant field-path brings you back to the marketplace in Bishop Auckland, where the walk concludes with a visit into Auckland Park past the entrance to the Bishops' Palace, to view the unusual, castellated Deer House featured on the cover of the OS Explorer Map 305.

Bishop Auckland is a market town that owes its existence to the siting of an early hunting lodge built by the early Prince Bishops of Durham in the area known as Auckland Park. The lodge was gradually enlarged and improved upon by subsequent bishops before finally in 1832 taking on the status of a palace and becoming the official residence of all Bishops of Durham right up to the present day. The palace is also the home since 1756 to a collection of thirteen large paintings depicting biblical patriarch Jacob and his twelve sons painted by the Spanish artist Zurbaran. The palace and paintings were recently the subject of a good deal of interest when the Church of England commissioners made known their intentions to sell the paintings, much to the annoyance of the local population who feared that the collection would be purchased and permanently removed from the palace, possibly by an overseas buyer. A passionate ongoing campaign by locals with support from the Northern Echo newspaper brought the matter to the attention of the broader public and as a result, a wealthy north-east-born philanthropist stepped in to produce a happy ending by purchasing the paintings for a reputed fifteen million pounds, with the stipulation that they remain permanently in the palace.

During the 18th and 19th Centuries the town grew rapidly and prospered, mainly through the influence of coalmining in the area. Newgate Street, the long, straight main street in the town, follows the line of the old Roman road (Dere Street) that passed through Binchester Fort and connected York with Hadrian's Wall and the North.

The Roman fort (Vinovia), located a little under one mile north of the town, was built in the late first century AD and was established to guard the point where Dere Street crossed the River Wear. It has one of the best-preserved examples of a Roman military bath-house in the country, featuring sophisticated under-floor heating. The fort was garrisoned by soldiers from all parts of the Roman Empire, including a large cavalry unit from Spain. Only a small part of the original fort has up until now been excavated, but there are plans in the summer of 2010 to start extensively excavating the remains of the fort and the adjacent civilian settlement that still lie buried beneath the surrounding fields.

England - North England - Durham - Wear Valley

18/09/2010 - Daniel Pendery

Lovely family walk. We went in the autumn when the leaves in the wood were gorgeous. Would probably go again.

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