I had the pleasure one evening last week to join a guided tour with about 15 others around Witton le Wear. Although this is a village near to me, I had never spent a great deal of time walking round it, so there were a lot of places being seen for the first time.
Our guide was the local village historian Anne Yuill, who was very good at providing information about the places we saw. We began inside the village church of St. Philip & St. James, with some excellent history of the church and village. Outside again, we also were told about the Methodist Church opposite and the former Board School building (1874), now the Community Centre.
We then proceeded westwards along the High Street to the oldest Public House, the Dun Cow, built in 1799. This was followed by Witton Towers, a substantial building, part Mediaeval, originally known as Witton Hall, which has now been converted into 18 apartments. One of the early owners, Henry S. Stobart was tragically killed in 1880, having been struck by lightning, when fishing nearby.
The road through the village was originally part of the main road, the A68, until the new bypass was built in the late 1960s. The walk then turned eastwards and southwards down Clemmy Bank towards the River Wear, passing under the railway bridge, next to which was originally sited the first railway station. This was demolished when the new second railway station was built on the North side of Station Road at the eastern end of the village.
Walking on down from the railway bridge we approached Witton Bridge crossing the River Wear. There have been numerous bridges, all wooden, built across the river during the last 700 years, but all were damaged or broken by flood water from the river, this area being renowned for such events. The current stone bridge was constructed in 1788, and has withstood all weathers since.
Anne then took us eastwards along a beautiful riverside walk, observing the river changing from fast flowing to a mill pond. A few hundred yards downstream brought us to a flat expanse of ground, formerly the cricket field. This was also the site of the first church in Witton-le-Wear, but again because of the problems with flooding was replaced by the later one in the High Street. Exiting the field took us uphill towards the railway level crossing on Low Lane near the site of the second railway station. The third station and platform is situated just a few yards away, and plans are now afoot to extend the Weardale Railway heritage line service into Bishop Auckland itself.
Making our way eastwards back into the village we passed the building that was originally a grammar school, and then the other Public House, the Victoria. Nearby was the old Post Office, and a few yards away an old BT telephone kiosk, cleverly converted into a bookstore, with a defribillator. Excellent idea. Briefly looking at the new Witton Hall (built by the renowned George Reynolds), we returned to our starting point by the church, and thanked Anne for her excellent and enjoyable walk - about 2 leisurely hours.