Gibside valley views trail
See Gibside from a new perspective as you explore the estate and take in views and vistas across the Derwent Valley.
Cross the road from the raised walkway, post with Trail waymarker straight ahead next to estate map, grid ref: NZ171583
Find the start of the trail after crossing the road from the raised wooden walkway beside the estate map. Go straight ahead with the Walled Garden wall on your left and the play castle on your right.
Here at Market Place you have a range of facilities to use before you start if needed. This is the place to stop for refreshments from the cafe or shop to take with you. Toilets and baby change are found here too.
At the doorway to the Walled Garden, take a left turn and head through the door. The path leads you straight through the middle of the garden, passing apple trees and allotment plots. The end of the path leads to large wooden gates.
The Walled Garden is the first of Gibside's historic features you will come across on your walk. It was originally used to grow fruit and vegetables for the Bowes-Lyon family that lived in the Hall. Its high walls protect growing plants and trees from strong winds, creating a micro climate that aids plant development. Wander round the plots which are now used by local community groups to see whats growing. Take time to visit the pond in the far right corner which was historically part of the garden design and is now home to great crested newts.
Once outside the Walled Garden turn left, and just outside the small garden door, follow the path to the right, carefully crossing the road and head into the shrubbery. Follow the grassy path as it leads you to the Orangery ruin, with a field on your right. Wander around the ruin and take in one of your first key views. Look out across the back of the Orangery across the valley and Rowlands Gill. If you are lucky you might spot red kites soaring over the valley. Once you have explored the ruin, head left continuing through the shrubbery and walk down the flight of steps. Turn right along one of the original waggonways in the estate and walk straight ahead to the Avenue Road. (If you struggle with stairs or have a wheelchair or pushchair, you can take the level grassy path through Orangery field - the gate is in front of the ruin).
The Orangery, or Greenhouse, was originally built by George Bowes for his daughter Mary-Eleanor. She was extremely well educated for a girl of her time and developed a passion for plants. The Orangery was built for her to tend to her plants and with a view to inspire and enjoy across the Derwent River.
Turn left on the road, with the Avenue on your right. Continue straight ahead. Once you are past the woodland on your left, you will see Green Close field. There is a mound in the middle that would have contained a fountain of some kind as part of the historic a garden design, now the field is mostly used for picnics, events and play. As you continue along the road, another field will be seen in front of the ruin of the once great Hall. Follow the road as it bends to the right. The grassy dip on your left is known as the Hollow Walk. if you look across it, you should see your first glimpse of the Column to Liberty towering above the treetops.
For a closer view of the Hall, walk along the track on your left that heads to the Hall fence line. If you look carefully you will spot close to its story - historically, there was a third floor and the right hand side of the building was a later extension. Look through the windows to see the remains of the grand fire places that would once have warmed this family home, but it also contained the rooms and cupboards where Mary Elearor was held captive by her tyrant husband, Andrew 'Stoney' Bowes, who forbid her the enjoyment of being among her treasured plants as he gambled and sold off much of the estate. Spot the bullet holes across the sundial where soldiers used the Hall as target practice during the Second World War. The Hall lost its roof as the estate fell into decline and the remaining family descendants moved into other properties. The Trust is seeking funding to make the Hall accessible once again, but it will never be back to its former glory.
Continue up the hill under the yew trees and emerge with a lawn on your right in front of the grand Stables. This impressive first view was part of the design as George wanted to show off his wealth with visitors to his estate seeing a grand building of a Stables, rather than a working space. Continue to the top of the hill and at the junction turn right, following the road towards the Stables. Take the opportunity to have a look inside and have a rest if needed. When you are ready to continue, head up the hill into the woodland.
Head into the Stables courtyard to take shelter from the weather, rest weary legs, or grab a snack or drink from Carriage House Coffee Shop. Toilets and baby change facilities are also here. Horses can found in the Stables on occasion through the sumer months when another charity, the Magic Trust, offer horse driven carriage rides ot people with disabilities. The Stables is also home to Creative Studios (part of The Branch initiative - an opportunity for local creative artisans to develop their business within the grounds of the estate). Check out which of the businesses are in to see if there are any goodies you want to treat yourself too - art work, photography or handmade soaps!
After walking up hill through the woods for about 100m, you will pass a small building on your right (the woodland Bothy - home to one of the Creative Studio businesses) and a yurt on your left hand side. You will then see a grassed strip on both sides. This is another of the historic vistas that extends from the top at the Banqueting House (out of view) down across Park Fields towards the Avenue and Chapel. You should see the Chapel peeking through the trees is you look carefully. Just after the vista, reenter the cover of the trees and find the trail turning to your left. Head through the trees to the top of the hill to find cross small bridges and along boardwalk. At the end you will find a kissing gate. Go through the gate and walk straight ahead up the side of the field, keeping the fence and ditch to your left. Take care as there may be livestock grazing in the field. Please keep dogs on a short lead.
At the top of the field you will find a kissing gate to leave the field. Walk across the farm track and go through another kissing gate. Head straight up to the top of the hill but do not climb the stile in front of you. Remain on this side of fence and turn left. Follow the fence line keeping it on your right to the end of the field, where you will reach a third stile which you will need to climb to continue on the trail, emerging on a farm track.
Extensive valley views
As you walk through the meadows and fields,, take time to look around you to see extensive, far reaching views across the Derwent Valley. On a clear day, you can see the moorlands of the Pennines to the west and the rolling Cheviot Hills to the north.
Continue straight ahead along the track, passing the adjoining roads to your left. As you walk along the road you will pass several privately owned houses on the left behind hedges. The first of these, Hillhead house, was once the home to Gibside's land agent in the 18th-century. He managed the estate while the family were away. Continue to the end bend in the road but do not follow it round to the right, continue straight ahead into the field in front of you over the stile. Head into the meadow, keeping the fence on your right and carry on until you reach the stile at the end of the field.
Cut Thorn Farm
Cut Thorn Farm was the 'home farm' of the estate. In the 18th-century it used all the latest developments in farming methods. It bred the first herd of northern shorthorn cattle. George Bowes was so proud of his livestock that he showed off his livestock in the heart of the estate. We still do this today. You may spot cattle and sheep in Park Fields near the Avenue. For many years the fields were ploughed intensively to grow arable crops, but Gibside's tenant farmer is restoring them to wildlife-friendly meadows.
Once over the stile, continue into the woodland. Follow the path round to the left (Whickham Golf Course on your right), carry on along a sunken pathway (an historic coal waggonway) and enter back into Gibside's woodland through the gate. Follow the trail back through the woodland, carefully heading down the path to return onto the forestry track in Snipes Dene.
Gibside and all its grand features and garden design, were paid for from the vast wealth George Bowes had amassed from coal mining. George was one of the north east's most important business men in his time, owning over collieries in the area. This waggonway was part of a network of tracks created to take coal from the mines down to the River Tyne.
Once of the forestry road, turn left and head down through Snipes Dene - this is following the original entrance route into Gibside. You will notice that many of the trees in the valley beneath you (on your right) have been felled. These trees belonged to the Forestry Commission and now that they are felled, the woodland has been handed over to Gibside for management. The road continues downhill for approximately one mile, passing another farm track and the entrance road to the Banqueting House (now owned by the Landmark Trust and managed as a holiday cottage) so you can only visit it if you are staying in it. Continue to the bottom of the hill with a pond in front of you.
An 18th-century arrival
The original entrance to Gibside was actually through what is now the club house of Whickham Golf Course on Fellside Road. In the 18th-century, carriages would have arrived through the stone gates (now in the Golf Clubs car park) and headed in to the dark woodlands of Snipes Dene. The valley views trail follows this route back into Gibside. The entrance that visitors use today would have been the tradesmen's entrance, the back door!
As you approach the pond, the track bends to the right. The trail continues straight ahead but before you continue, you have the option to add two more views to your walk. Take the path into the woods on your right and about 20metres on your left is the bird hide. Pop in to see what birds you can spot on the feeders with Brick Kiln Field in front of you. When you are ready to leave, exit the hide and turn right to return to the trail. You can also take a better look at the Octagon Pond by heading onto the grassy area to your left. You will get views up to the Banqueting House from here. Back on the trail, head down the hill and take the track on your right to walk down the Hollow Walk (on your left) and the edge of Snipes Dene woods on your right.
Octagon Pond & Banqueting House
The Octagon Pond was part of the garden design, creating a regimented eight sided water feature. Now the pond edges are hidden behind the reeds and rushes that provide a home to a wide range of aquatic species, including more great crested newts. It would have had a fountain, and the slopes leading up to the Banqueting House would have been terraced with statues. The Gothic style Banqueting House would have been the venue of many a Georgian feast or party.
At the bottom of the hill, pass the path junctions first on your left and then on your right, and stop at the grassy mound on your left hand side. if you can, walk onto the top of it and look around. This mound is a key part of the garden design views giving you four vista options - downhill towards the Lily Pond, up over the treetops to see the top of the Column, back up the hill to see the Banqueting House, and across the Hollow Walk along the Avenue towards the Chapel. Continue when you are ready, down the hill. After a few hundred meters you'll find the Lily Pond on your right handside. Continue back down the track through the woods. It bends to the right, passing a fenced track on your left. Continue straight ahead, passing the track up the hill signed to the Column, and take the next path on your left down to the riverside.
Lily Pond reflections
Stopping at the Lily pond is always worthwhile. Enjoy the view up the hill to the Column and on a bright sunny day, admire its reflection in the water. This pond was also known as the mirror pond due to this lovely sight.
The path leads you to the rivers edge and follows it upstream with a large meadow on your left. There are several benches to take some time out to rest and just relax. Your surrounding views take in the Nine Arches viaduct to your right, and across the meadow to the rear of the Hall. What a beautiful view of the valley the family would have had from the windows and terrace when the Hall was lived in years ago. The path passes two adjoining tracks on your left and continue until it ends and heads up back on itself. At the first bend, you will see the remains of a building. This was the Bath House from the 1700's with only the base of some of the walls remaining today. Head up the hill (this is a steep path and has some steps at the top) through ice house dene and emerge back onto Avenue Road.
This part of Gibside is usually very peaceful with less visitors. Sitting by the river can be a great opportunity to try and spot some of the resident wildlife. A kingfisher might flash by, or spot a dipper bobbing among the rocks. Its also one of the best rivers to spot otter, if you are really lucky. Red kites and buzzard are often seen overhead at this point too.
Turn right onto the road and head up the steps on your left to walk on the grassy Avenue. Turn right again and admire the views of the Chapel in front and if you look behind, the Column in the distance. Continue to the Chapel and to keep to the trail, walk on the left hand side to walk down the gravel path. Turn right behind the Chapel and finish your walk as the path reenters Market Place. Time to rewards yourself with a cuppa or treat from the cafe or shop before heading off on your next adventure.
Avenue to the Chapel
The Avenue extends for half a mile, a grassy route under over 200 trees, including lime, oak and sycamore. Ironically, even though this is one of the most popular places for visitors, the trees were not part of the original design. The trees were planted at a later date to George's residence, blocking the clear views that would have existed form the Hall across to the livestock in Park Fields. There wouldn't have been any fences either, as the ditch, known as a HaHa, that runs along the length of the Avenue on the eastern side would have prevent livestock from venturing onto the Avenue. The Chapel is also worthy of a visit at the end of your walk. Its Palladian architecture is full of careful detail with ornate bows and oakleaves carved into the stone work. its unusual three-tier pulpit is also a key and rather rare feature of a Chapel in the style.
Market Place, behind the Chapel
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