26. The Thornley Tread
Meeting Point: Demesne Mill Picnic Area, Wolsingham, DL13 3DG
We start this stage of The Big Smile trek at the top of Hedleyhope Fell, following a path across open land towards Sunniside, and making our way towards the hamlet of Thornley. We cross Thornley Beck before climbing up to Tow Law - some 1,000 feet above sea level, and the site of the old Weardale Iron and Coal Company.
From here, we return to Hedleyhope Fell, one of the largest examples of mid-altitude heathland in County Durham. Managed by the Durham Wildlife Trust, this area is home to a myriad of bird and animal species, including slow worms and common lizards, as well as twenty species of butterfly.
A stage of undulating hills, fringe moorland and heathland, it is a quietly alluring and enjoyable part of the Trek.
Distance: 18.9 km (11.74 miles)
Difficulty Rating: ★★★☆☆