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A family comprising an adult woman, adult man and two small boys under seven walking through green spring woodland
A family walking through countryside around Penshaw Monument in Tyne and Wear | © National Trust Images/John Millar
North East

Penshaw Monument's Lambton Worm walk

In local folklore, a fearsome dragon known as the Lambton worm once terrorised the villagers of County Durham. Uncover the myths and legends on this trail around Penshaw Monument and the River Wear to see where the worm may once have slithered.

Total steps: 7

Total steps: 7

Start point

Begin at the bottom of Penshaw Hill, just off the A183

Step 1

As you turn off the track to walk down the field, look over to your left. Can you spot the top of Lambton Castle sticking out from a large area of trees? This is where our story starts when a young boy called John Lambton decided to miss church one Sunday to go fishing on the Wear.

Step 2

After a day of not catching any fish John was about to give up, when he got a bite. He fought for ages to land his catch but rather than a giant fish, all he had caught was an ugly little worm, no bigger than his thumb. Can you spot any fishermen today? What do you think they will catch?

Step 3

John was just about to throw the worm back when an old man appeared. He warned him he must not throw it back or he would suffer a terrible fate. So John set off for home with the worm. On the way he passed a well and decided this might be a good place to get rid of the worm, so threw it down. Can you spot a well as you pass through Cox Green?

Step 4

As the years passed by the worm grew and grew until it was too big for the well. It had great big teeth in a great big gob and great big googly eyes. It left the well and went to live in the river. Can you spot a good lair in the riverside for a giant worm?

Step 5

Soon the local people noticed lamb and calves and even little children started to go missing. Once they discovered the giant worm they realised where they had gone. They sent all their bravest men to try and kill it, but the worm gobbled them up. As you walk back up towards Penshaw Hill can you spot any lambs or calves? If not, it might be because they’ve all been eaten!

Step 6

By now John had become a brave knight, fighting overseas. On hearing of the terrible trouble he had caused at home he hurried back. On the way he met a witch in the woods who told him the only way to defeat the worm was to make a suit of armour covered in spikes and fight the beast in the river so when he chopped it into bits all the pieces would float away. Are there any witches in the woods today?

Step 7

Sir John took the witch’s advice and successfully slayed the worm. Finally the little lambs, calves and children were safe again. As you get to the bottom of the hill look back behind you. It’s said that the worm got so large that it could wrap itself 10 times around the hill. Can you see some of the marks it left in the hillside?

End point

The bottom of Penshaw Hill, just off the A183

Trail map

Lambton worm walk at Penshaw Monument map
A map of the Lambton worm walk at Penshaw Monument | © Penshaw Monument

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