Walking in Durham #2. Houghall, Low Burnhall and Croxdale

Toby Crewe

Houghall or Great High Wood

From here the walks I mention will start being less well known to the average student. Locally called Houghall (Great High Wood) is still plenty accessible and has amazing bluebells (catch them in May), with paths starting from the main road, not far from Maiden Castle, and also potential loops round to by the Botanic Gardens and Mathematics building.

Some of the woodland here can be quite boggy in wet weather, so bear that in mind. Also, as you wander around the wood, there is a trail of signs talking about the history of the site, from ancient times, its mining past, and more modern period being used during the construction of the science site and being planted as a woodland for the university. There is plenty of wildlife visible in the area, from birds and squirrels, all the way up to deer and foxes. There’s also a series of signs displaying the industrial heritage of the area, primarily of coal mining. A favourite of mine is the Pump House Tearoom right by the start of this walk, which serves some great food at reasonable prices in a woodland setting.

Low Burnhall

Low Burnhall gives some fantastic views

Neighbouring the woodland around Houghall, this nature reserve of 67 hectares has some spectacular views over the valley towards Croxdale and Shincliffe. This is another site with lots of wildlife, from deers again to owls, otters, and kingfishers. It’s also home to a collection of statues to mark interesting spots.

Getting here is straightforward, though can be a little far from the Bailey colleges. The easiest way is following South Road for a while past Josephine Butler until you see the signs for the car park. There are maps available for the tracks when you are there. Also, there is a mix of gravel tracks and more natural paths depending on what suits you.

If you want to make the most of this walk, I recommend going on a nice day with a book and a picnic; there are a few benches with wonderful views, ideal to stop and read for a while. Also, it is often nice to head down to the river, for a different take on the area.

If you are more ambitious, it is possible to head through the woods around Houghall all the way to Low Burnhall, though some of the route isn’t very clear, so check your maps ahead of time.

One of the sculptures around Low Burnhall, you meet plenty of dogs here

Check out this website for more information:



Probably my favourite walk to get lost in thought to, this route starts at Maiden Castle, crosses the bridge and follows the river past Shincliffe and towards Croxdale before looping back. If you fancy a full day of walking, it is possible to extend the walk by carrying on to the right instead of looping back to the left at the far end; this will take you to the historic Croxdale Hall, then Low Burnhall. I haven’t attached a map for the longer walk as I don’t think I can sufficiently capture the detail here to guide you properly.

This is largely around the valley visible from Low Burnhall woods, and skirts around a few farm fields. Due to its proximity to the river, in wet weather it is possible that the path will be flooded – and it’s boggy at the best of times – so check the weather, and take appropriate footwear.

This walk has a nice variety of open spaces, river walking, woodland, and more busy paths too. Once you have passed the bridge by the Rose Tree Inn it is quite quiet most days, so can make a lovely walk for two if you want a peaceful chat (or for one if you want some me time). There are one or two little benches for you to savour the moment on.

If you have time, it is well worth looking around Shincliffe. They have a very pretty churchyard, and some well reviewed pubs for a meal and a drink. A full lap of the village only takes a few minutes, so it won’t inconvenience you much, and it’s always nice to know an area better.

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Join Toby on his walk from the main campus to Low Burham Woods in this video

Toby Crewe

Hi, I’m Toby, and I’m a maths student at St Mary’s College here in Durham. I keep busy with walking, ultimate frisbee, and photography.

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