Decided at short notice to get away after a few weeks at home getting some maintenance completed on the house and gardens. This time travelled back across the Scottish Border down the M8 and left at Penrith to join the A66 and onto a campsite just north of the village of Cotherstone. Doe Park is a beautifully set out campsite, very tidy with some clean facilities and surrounded by some very picturesque countryside.
|The friendly family run Doe Park Caravan Site.|
Cotherstone was originally part of the North Riding of Yorkshire but was transferred to County Durham in 1974 and the architecture of the village reflects that. Most people who own property here do not seem short of a few bob as there has been extensive renovations but all done to a very high standard and all in keeping with the original style and materials of the area.
Originally a railway run from Middleton-in-Teesdale to Barnard Castle which like many other railway lines have been converted into walking paths and/or cycle tracks. From Doe Park you can walk to the old track and then across the Viaduct that crosses the River Balder just north of Cotherstone were originally there was a railway station that is now a private residence. There is also a short cut from the back of the site down into the village which has a wee Post Office that doubles as a general store were you can also get a newspaper including the local Northern Echo that describes itself as ‘The Great Daily of the North’ and is to be fair a good read.
There is a bus service from outside the campsite that will take you into the town of Barnard Castle. Named after the castle Barnard Castle is a bustling wee market town full of antiquarian shops and old pubs and the main town in the Teasdale area. There is plenty here to keep visitors busy including the medieval castle itself. Now in ruins the castle has a long history dating back to the 12th century when Guy de Baliol built a timber castle here overlooking the River Tees. Rebuilt and redesigned many times throughout history this English Heritage site is well worth a visit. Incidentally the castle/town was named after Guy’s son Bernard that was pronounced Barnard.
|View from the Castles fortifications.|
|View from the Castle to the River Tees.|
Also in the market town is St. Mary’s Parish Church, which also dates back to when the castle was originally conceived. Interestingly in a lecture by Alan Wilkinson on the 6th July 2003 he points out that ‘to build a castle that is to be an administrative centre, a fortress, and also an aristocratic family's home requires a very large work force. Then it requires a staff ranging from professional administrators to those doing more menial jobs. Some employees would be resident within the castle and others would be housed outside the walls’ From all these people living outside the walls came the village and a village community needs a church hence in 1130 the building of St Mary’s Church began.
There is too much to see in the town of Bernard Castle in just one day so the following day it was decided to return, again using a bus because of the bad weather. This time it was the Bowes Museum that warranted our presence.
The French chateau style building was built to house a self indulgent collection of fine art put together by the museums founders John and Josephine Bowes, John providing the money and his French spoken wife providing the vision. 125 years since opening the museum it houses ‘the most important collection of European fine and decorative arts in the North of England’. The collection includes paintings by El Greco, Van Dyck, Canaletto and Goya, also iconic objects like the Silver Swan musical automation, which can still be seen working at 14.00 hours each day. Also it houses an award winning fashion and textiles gallery, a large collection of ceramics, glassware and an interesting range of historical furniture including a writing desk attributed to Marie Antoinette the last Queen of France before the populace took their revenge during the French Revolution.
|One of many works of art.|
|Marie Antoinette's writing desk?|
The Bowes were an interesting couple. John was the bastard son of the 10th Earl of Strathmore and his mistress Mary Milner and although he did not inherit his father’s title did make a fortune from breeding and racing horses, and because of his ownership of County Durham had extensive coal mining and farming interests. His first wife Josephine was the daughter of a Paris clockmaker and was an actress when Bowes met and fell in love with her. Both had a passion for collecting art that was eventually housed in the purpose built Bowes Museum that was opened in 1892.
This part of County Durham is ideal for some leisurely cycling with some quiet back roads that give you a chance to see some of the areas wonderful countryside. Because of the bad weather we were unable to use our bikes as much as we had planed but an afternoons ride to Balder Head allowed quality if not quantity. Heading south out of Doe Park cross over the bridge at Cotherstone and turn right at the signpost for East Briscoe. Carry on to the first of the reservoirs, Hury Reservoir. Be sure to stop and have a look around. From here carry on up the hill until the road junction, turn left and continue along this B road taking in both the Blackton and the Balderhead Reservoirs and on to the end of the public road at Balder Head. On the way back via the village of Hunderthwaite be sure to enjoy the views down the valley from the dam at the eastern end of Balderhead Reservoirs.
|Looking down on Blacton Reservoir.|
A grand wee break, despite the weather, in a very beautiful area south of the Scottish border. Doe Park, County Durham is well worth a visit, surrounded by rolling green fields full of sheep and cows the campsite is a credit to the people who run it. I don't mean to repeat myself but it's worth restating that the facilities are first rate and the site itself is very clean, well laid out and very restful. So next time your looking for a few days away give this site and the area some serious thought.