Rookhope

The stretch out of Allenheads is almost the last tortuous ascent – and it drags on until you reach the summit at Currick. Then there is a nice stretch of gentle downhil al the way to Rookhope. You soon pass the boundary into County Durham, land of the Prince Bishops – palatinate rulers with absolute authority, equal to a sovereign within the princi- pality. They were granted such power because of the huge strategic importance of the area in the ongoing battle with the Scots.

On your approach you will pass the Lintzgarth Arch, an incongruous and enormous vestige of a bygone era, lying abandoned on the valley floor. The arch carried a 3km horizontal chimney across the valley which replaced the more conventional vertical type when it was realised that a lot of lead literally went up with the smoke. Consequently teams of chimneysweeps were employed to scrape the valuable lead and silver deposits from the chimney once a week. It was a dangerous and filthy job, done by children. Rookhope is another shrunken mining vil age. It is also charming, keeping the secret of its hiding place wel guarded from sight high above the Weardale Val ey. It is hard to imagine that this small group of dwellings was a hive of activity only a few years ago. In its heyday it supported a surgery, a resident district nurse, vicar, policeman, teashops, several crowded pubs and a busy school. The mining of lead, iron and fluorspar, smelting and the rail- ways totally dominated people’s lives.

Today the village is a welcome watering hole and resting place for weary cyclists before the final leg of the C2C journey down to the NE coast. Now there is only a pub (pleasantly refurbished), village shop, post office and working man’s club – but a splendid stop- ping off point, nonetheless.