What a wonderful spot, situated in the heart of Weardale in the Durham Dales, Slitt Wood is a secret paradise to walk and not only take in the wealth of nature on offer but also some great deal of history from the area, a history that not only comprises industry of the last few hundred years but geology going back 320 million years.
This is a start point also for a 3 mile circular walk full of such variety. Not too strenuous but a perfect way to see nature in full variety in this part of the Durham Dales. I had a packed schedule but wanted to make sure I enjoyed and learnt about Slitt Wood as much as possible. The start point is a layby opposite the caravan park in Westgate, Weardale. Head up the path opposite the caravan park entrance and once you see High Mill, an old corn mill, you will enter into the woods.
As I wandered slowly, taking it all in, I was struck by the abundance, variety and scale of the waterfalls! This place was putting many a more well known waterfall walk to shame I can tell you, and I have done enough. The sound of water rushing down, the trees looking stunning in early Autumn colour and birds singing all around…. bliss!
Suddenly a flash of something jumping on one of the waterfalls caught my eye, then again. It was Sea Trout making their way up the river to reproduce. There was another one jump then realised there were lots trying to make a mammoth leap up a heavy flowing waterfall that must take so much energy to try and leap up. It was a marvel to stop, pause and watch.
it was time to move on up further along the path and into the wood. The ancient geological landscape is on full show. Shale is visible at river level in the bank opposite with huge sandstone deposits on top. Plus as you walk along you can see waterfalls of limestone. It is all here to see, a great window into how this part of the world was tropical and part of the equator millions of years ago!
Suddenly the woods opened up, and I could see the remains of man made buildings and structures….
It is hard to believe now but this whole area, especially in the mid 19th Century, was busy and full of industry. Slitt Mine was here and was working on the Slitt Vein, the largest vein in the whole of the North Pennines. On the picture above towards the right near the river you can see the hard stone area that was the washing area. This spot is packed with remains slowly being taken back over by nature.
Old shafts, brickwork, wheel pits and what remains of huge sandstone blocks that held massive hydraulic engines. Being there now it is very interesting to see and learn from what remains. But the contrast to today from being packed with lots of dirt, industry, manpower and noise… to now the dippers flying around the water, the calmness of nature and the flow of a clean beck. Remarkable to think about.
If you would like to find and do this walk, then a full map and more history can be found at North Pennines AONB website. I highly recommend doing this if in the area, a short enough walk for everyone but packed with so much!
After the woods the trees start to thin out and the hilltops come into view. Alas I had to return for new adventures myself from here, I am aching to get back and do the full 3 mile circuit, up higher, and to new sights on the geotrail for example an old ironstone quarry, the marks of the 19th century network of railway lines, the reservoir and more.
The Durham Dales keeps throwing so many surprises at me and I have so many more to show you, watch this space 🙂