Total steps: 14
Total steps: 14
Market Place, behind the Chapel
Find the start of the trail by crossing the road from the raised wooden walkway next to the estate map. Go straight ahead with the Walled Garden wall on your left and the Market Place café ahead of you.
Stock up on refreshments from the café or a book from the second-hand bookshop to take with you on your walk. There are toilets and baby change facilities here too.
At the doorway to the Walled Garden, take a left turn and head inside. The path leads you straight through the middle of the garden, passing apple trees and vegetable plots. The end of the path leads to large wooden gates.
The Walled Garden was originally used to grow fruit and vegetables for the Bowes-Lyon family who lived here. Its high walls protect growing plants and trees from strong winds, creating a microclimate that aids plant development. Step onto the lawn and meander round the flowerbeds to see what's growing. Take time to visit the pond in the far right corner. It was historically part of the garden design and is now home to great crested newts.
Once outside the large wooden gates of the Walled Garden, cross the road and via left to 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, continue through the shrubbery and walk down the flight of steps. Turn right along one of the original waggon ways in the estate and walk straight ahead to the Avenue Road.
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 – but now the field is mostly used for picnics, events and playing. As you continue along the road, you'll see another field 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.
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 to visitors, who would see a grand stables building, 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 you need to. 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.
After walking uphill through the woods for about 110yd (100m), you will pass a small building on your right (the woodland Bothy, home to Kate Cullen's Holistic Therapies). 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 towards the Avenue and Chapel. You should see the Chapel peeking through the trees if you look carefully. Just after the vista, re-enter the cover of the trees and find the trail turning to your left. Head through the trees to the top of the hill to cross small bridges and a 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 here. You're entering farmland here so make sure to read signs carefully.
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 to see 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 of 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 by going 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. This is still done here 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 with Whickham Golf course on your right. Carry on along a sunken pathway (a historic coal waggon way) and re-enter 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.
Old waggon ways
Gibside, with its grand features and impressive garden design, were paid for by the vast wealth George Bowes had amassed from coal mining. George owned many collieries in the area and was one of the North East's most important businessmen in his time. This waggon way was part of a network of tracks created to take coal from the mines down to the River Tyne.
Once off the forestry road, turn left and head down through Snipes Dene, 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 1 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, where you'll see a pond in front of you.
An 18th-century arrival
The original entrance to Gibside was actually through what is now the clubhouse of Whickham Golf course on Fellside Road. In the 18th century, carriages would have arrived through the stone gates (now in the Golf Club's 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 follow it, you have the option to add two more views to your walk. Take the path into the woods on your right and about 22yd (20m) 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, with the edge of Snipes Dene woods on your right.
Octagon Pond and 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, giving you four options for views: 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 down the hill when you are ready. After a few hundred meters you'll find the Lily Pond on your right-hand side. 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 river's 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. Take in the view to the Nine Arches viaduct to your right and the view across the meadow to the rear of the Hall. The path passes two adjoining tracks on your left and continues 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 1700s but only the base of some of the walls remain 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 and tends to have fewer 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 you might spot a dipper bobbing among the rocks. It's also one of the best rivers to see an otter, if you are really lucky. You can often spot red kites and buzzards overhead at this point too.
Turn right onto the road and head up the steps on your left to walk on the grassy Avenue in summer, or alongside it in winter (when it is closed due to mud and reseeding). 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 re-enters Market Place.
Avenue to the Chapel
The Avenue extends for half a mile, a grassy route flanked with 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 after George lived here, 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 ha-ha, runs along the length of the Avenue on the eastern side. This would have prevented livestock from venturing onto the Avenue. The Chapel is also worth a visit at the end of your walk. Its Palladian architecture is full of careful detail, with ornate bows and oak leaves carved into the stonework. its unusual three-tier pulpit is also a rare feature of a Chapel in this style.
Market Place, behind the Chapel
Stone and gravel estate tracks, woodland paths and grassy farm fields, steep in places and muddy after rain. There are three stiles, eight steps and three kissing gates. Follow the white and green waymarks along the skyline walk. Please note that the skyline walk takes you through farm fields which may have cows and horses.
Gibside, near Burnopfield, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE16 6BG
Blaydon 5 miles (8km); Metrocentre 5 miles (8km); Newcastle 8 miles (12.8km).
½ mile from Rowlands Gill.
Go North East 'The Red Kite' 45, 46, 47 from Newcastle (passing Newcastle railway station and Metrocentre). Alight Rowlands Gill, ½ mile (0.8km).
½ mile (0.8km) from Derwent Walk (National Cycle Network Route 14).
Entrance on B6314 between Burnopfield and Rowlands Gill; follow brown signs from A1, taking exit on to A694 at north end of Metrocentre.
Dogs are welcome on short leads.
Including 21 accessible parking spaces.
Including baby changing facilities and accessible toilets in the Market Place and Stables.
Second-hand book shop.
There are 21 accessible parking spaces and powered mobility vehicles and wheelchairs available to borrow (although not recommended for the Valley Views trail). Accessible toilets can be found in the Market Place and Stables and there's also a wheelchair and buggy-friendly shuttle bus.
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