On Countryfile this Sunday: County Durham

This week on Countryfile the team go back to Matt Baker's home County Durham. Emma Pocklington looks at what is on offer in this historic county




1. Whitworth Hall Country Park
Home to the Shafto family for over 300 years this historic park is now the perfect place for a family day out. Wander its modest 73 acres and admire the woodland walk, the Victorian walled garden and Britain’s most northerly vineyard. Whitworth Hall is also a great place to experience some wildlife with tame deer and an ornamental lake home to a variety of birds.

2. Raby Castle
The Neville family built Raby Castle as a fortress in the 14th century on land previously owned by King Cnut. Now acclaimed as one of the finest medieval castles in the country Raby is home not only to some impressive architecture but also a vast art collection and gives a unique insight into medieval life. As well as the castle there are walled gardens and a deer park to be enjoyed.

3. Binchester Roman Fort
Still only partially excavated this site houses the remains of a great Roman fort and bath house built around 80AD. While much of the building and the surrounding settlements lie underground there is still a great deal to see. Binchester boasts an impressive, intact under-floor heating system, which is around 1,700 years old.

4. Beamish Museum
For some more recent history visit Beamish open air museum and explore life in the Edwardian, Victorian and Georgian times. Focusing on life in the north east of the country Beamish offers visitors the opportunity to go into a real drift mine, visit miner’s cottages and local shops and ride on a steam train. There are plenty of people around to fill you in on historical ways of life and a whole range of events throughout the year.

5. Durham Castle
Declared a World Heritage site in 1986 Durham Castle is still a fully functioning building. Home to a museum as well as University College Durham Castle has over 100 resident students and as such can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Steeped in history the Castle stand on a hilltop overlooking the city of Durham, side by side with the city’s impressive cathedral.


1. Weardale Railway
As a part of the acclaimed Stockton and Darlington line this scenic rail route offers some of the finest views in the country. Sit back in 1950s coaches, travelling beside the river, and look out over the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Meander from the gateway to the dale to a historic market town on the route from Wolsingham to Stanhope.


Wild North Discovery’s badger watches are a great way to spot this elusive creature

2. Wild North Discovery
Book a holiday with Wild North Discovery of just take a day to join them on some of the many experiences on offer. Take part in wildlife treks or deer, osprey or badger watching in the Pennines. Learn the art of bush craft or pick up a new skill learning greenwood turning or willow basket making. The options are endless at this fantastic centre and bookings can be made for individuals, families or large groups.

3. Real Birder Tours
See the wild birds of County Durham with experienced local birder Nick Mason. With itineraries available for individuals or groups this is the ideal way to see some fantastic wildlife, with something to see at any time of year.

4. Beamish Wild Ropes
If you’re looking for a more adventurous way to enjoy the great outdoors in County Durham then look no further than Beamish Wild Ropes. Enjoy a two-hour adrenaline pumped career through the trees or opt to keep your feet on the ground and take part in archery, tractor rides, den building and the woodland maze.

5. North of England Trike Tours
What better way to explore the beautiful landscape of the county than from the back of a three-seater chauffeured trike? With gear provided and an in-helmet intercom you can enjoy a scenic tour with an informed guide from a pick up and drop off point of your choosing.

Places to see

1. Escomb Saxon Church
Very little is known about this tiny Saxon church, except that it is one of the most complete of its age in the country. No one is sure as to the origin of this remote site and there is even more speculation over the site’s name. As well as its mysterious history Escomb Church has many interesting features to see including tapestries, Roman inscriptions and a sundial.


High Force is a dramatic and imposing sight

2. High Force Waterfall
A trip to County Durham would not be complete without a glimpse of High Force waterfall. As England’s highest drop of uninterrupted water it is a spectacular and breathtaking sight.

3. Barnard Castle
Founded as a busy market town in the shadow of Bernard de Balliol’s castle this picturesque town is still a popular centre for trade while holding on to its historic routes. The Bowes Museum and Market Cross are places of specific interest and the whole place is alive with that curious past common to British towns with legends and tales aplenty, such as why there are two bullet holes in the Market Cross weather vane.

4. Middleton in Teesdale
Not far from Barnard Castle on the north side of the Teesdale is Middleton in Teesdale, a large village with a history in lead. The arrival of the London Lead Company in 1815 and the subsequent expansion of the village can still be seen in many of the buildings dotted around the centre.

5. Westgate
Westgate is a tiny village popular with walkers visiting County Durham. Close to Slit Wood and an Area of Special Scientific Interest this remote place has many beauties of offer.

Wildlife and Nature

1. Pow Hill Country Park
This country park is a rare commodity in modern Britain being comprised mainly of moorland. Due to drainage many of the upland bogs created by the peaty ground of moorland areas have been lost but Pow Hill remains as a successful centre for wildlife. See red squirrels, adders, lizards and slow worms as well as stunning views across the Derwent Reservoir.


Water lillies are just some of the many species at the Botantic Garden

2. Durham University Botanic Garden
With species of plants and flowers from across the globe the Botanical Gardens are a great place to visit at any time of year. With everything from glasshouses to wildflower meadows, insects to modern art the gardens have attractions for young and old. There are exhibitions and craft weekends on throughout the year, and rare sheep can be seen grazing the meadows during the summer.

3. Eggleston Hall Gardens
Praised as a secret garden for plant-lovers Eggleston is a nursery garden styled on the plant collections of the Victorian age. Among its many features Eggleston includes an old churchyard, a moorland stream, a working potting shed and beehives to add to its tranquil, bygone air.

4. Moor House – Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve
Situated in the North Pennines this nature reserve is not only in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but is also one of the largest in England. Straddling the Cow Green Reservoir Moor House features some incredible rock formations, as well as plants that arrived here at the end of the last ice age.


5. Hamsterley Forest
Experience the great outdoors at Hamsterley Forest and see this vast site on foot, by bike or on horseback. With 2000 hectares of mixed woodland to enjoy this is the ideal place to idle away a sunny afternoon with a range of trails and treks starting out from the visitor centre.