Hamsterley Forest

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Hamsterley Forest lies between Weardale and Teesdale in the centre of the Durham Dales. The mainly man-made, 5,000-acre forest is the largest in County Durham and was created in the 1930s by jobless men from the shipyards and mines of the North East during a period of mass, countrywide unemployment. Centred around the valleys of the Euden, Spurlswood, Ayhope and Bedburn Becks, it comprises a mix of broadleaved and coniferous woodland. This is very much a vibrant working forest, for in addition to the 20,000 tons of timber felled each year the forest is also geared up for a range of leisure pursuits, with a large network of tracks suitable for walking, cycling, orienteering and horse-riding.

For the less active there are several grassy picnicking areas, as well as a play area for children next to a sandy riverside beach. A four-mile long, surfaced, scenic drive passes through the forest and for half its length runs alongside the Bedburn Beck, a tributary of the River Wear. There is a visitor centre that includes a giftshop, tea room and toilets and information on the diverse flora and fauna to be found in the forest.

The whole of the forest lies within Open Access land and is in two distinct parts. The smaller eastern part includes the visitor centre and is where the majority of the recreational activities are located. The far larger western part is a much more isolated area where most of the serious felling takes place. The narrow neck of the forest where the two parts join in the inhabited area called The Grove, is where some of the oldest broadleaved trees in the forest were planted way back in the 19th Century.

This is a circular walk, with the whole route lying entirely within the confines of the forest. The walk starts from the visitor centre and passes through dense, mature trees on surfaced roads and forest tracks in the eastern and southern parts of the forest, before emerging into a huge area of coniferous saplings in the western part, where the track borders the edge of the forest, giving extensive views across Eggleston Common. The walk then rises to the highest point of the forest before dropping down to the Euden Valley. The long, mainly flat walk back along the valley of the Euden Beck is among a mix of mature broadleaved and coniferous trees. In the narrow part of the forest the walk encounters houses, in contrast to the uninhabited area of the western part of the forest. The final section of the walk through the north-east corner includes a couple of short, steep ascents with a long, straight, flat section and a final short descent back to the visitor centre.

The terrain is undulating with a couple of long ascents and descents. The large western section of the forest provides a couple of good opportunities for panoramic views. All of the tracks are well-signposted (colour-coded for walking and cycling) and without exception are well-maintained and ideal for walking at any time of the year.

The forest is dog-friendly, with no awkward stiles to negotiate and no areas containing livestock on the route. Owners are not asked to keep their dogs on leads at all times, but are expected to be able to keep close control of their pet, especially when other woodland users are in the vicinity.

By taking advantage of the short cut between Waymarks 4 and 18 (a distance of 350 yards), the length of the walk can be reduced to 4.5 miles.

England - North England - Durham - Countryside

Features

Birds, Butterflies, Flowers, Gift Shop, Hills or Fells, Nature Trail, River, Tea Shop, Toilets, Waterfall, Wildlife, Woodland
24/04/2019 - Jill Dixon

20/4/19 great walk. At point 13 of the guidance the red arrow is pointing in the opposite direction to where you need to walk. Still turn left. At point 22 work is underway and the pathway fenced off. Hopefully this is only temporary due to work constructing a new road from the visitor centre.

08/06/2015 - Joyce Hindhaugh

31.05.15. This was a great walk to do on a windy day. There was only a very short stretch on the outskirts of the forest where we were a little exposed. Undulating and enjoyable. Easy to follow instructions. Distance accurate. Thanks!!

23/05/2011 - mark pallister

We did this walk on Sunday 22/05/2011. It's a really nice varied walk with some excellent views. I would say that it's very hilly, both up and down, but worth the effort.

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