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Bolam - Heighington - Shildon - Lutterington Walk

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Bolam - Heighington - Redworth - Shildon - Hummerbeck - Lutterington

The walk, though suitable for any time of the year, is best experienced in late May when the route encounters the ancient Brusselton Wood and reveals one of the best bluebell displays in the area. 

At roughly the halfway point the walk passes through the Locomotion Museum and the Timothy Hackworth Museum, collectively forming the Shildon Railway Museum, an annexe of the National Railway Museum. Shildon is considered by many to be the 'Cradle of the Railways' and both museums reflect the rich railway heritage of the town and are well worth a visit. The main exhibition hall where the big locos are housed is probably out of the question on this walk because of time constraints, but the buildings encountered on the route are all accessible, particularly the 'Welcome' building No.1 housing Hackworth's original <i>Sans Pareil</i> steam engine. The <i>Sans Pareil</i> was an unsuccessful competitor to Stephenson's <i>Rocket</i> during the famous Rainhill Trials of 1829, to decide which engines would be used to pull the trains on the soon-to-be-opened Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

Just beyond Shildon the walk encounters the historic Brusselton Incline, where in September 1825 wagons full with coal (and some people!) were hauled up the incline from West Auckland using ropes pulled by stationary engines at the summit, then lowered down the east side of the incline where they were coupled up to the waiting passenger train at the bottom of the incline at Shildon, to become the world's first passenger train to be hauled by a moving steam engine (George Stephenson's <i>Locomotion No 1</i>). The train then made the inaugural journey on the Stockton to Darlington Railway, all the way to Stockton at a top speed of 12 to 15mph, witnessed along the route by a reputed forty to fifty thousand excited onlookers. 

The bulk of the walk is fairly flat; where there are ascents or descents, they are very gentle. The first half of the walk to Shildon is mainly field and track terrain, with some walking on minor roads. The next section to Hummerbeck comprises mainly footpaths and stony lanes. The final lap back to Bolam is almost entirely along quiet, surfaced lanes with a small amount of field- and farm track walking. Like all field-walking however, be prepared for plentiful supplies of glorious mud if tackling the walk during the winter months.

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