More about Low Burnhall
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Low Burnhall is made up of a patchwork of habitats: a couple of gnarled veteran sweet chestnut trees in a block of ancient woodland contrasts with areas of recent planting. This captivating woodland is a tranquil haven for people and wildlife, within easy reach of the city.
Low Burnhall’s new trees, planted between 2010 and 2012, are now establishing themselves and providing a buffer to the site’s precious ancient woodland, where native broadleaved species have flourished for at least four centuries.
Follow the trail along the banks of the River Wear and keep your eyes peeled for signs of otter. Although you’re unlikely to see one of these shy creatures in the flesh, you may come across evidence of their presence such as their distinctive droppings, or spraints, full of fish bones and scales, and their muddy slides down the river banks.
Birdlife is plentiful here too. Look out for statue-like heron scanning the water, and the brilliant blue flash of a kingfisher on the wing. In other parts of the woodland, listen for the piping call of the meadow pipit, or watch for kestrel riding the thermals high overhead. Why not hole up in the bird hide and see what other species you can spot?
As you follow the wood’s waymarked trails, you’ll come across many surprises. There’s a sculpture of a miner, originally fashioned from willow but rebuilt using more durable oak and hazel – a nod to the coal mine that once existed on the site; a stone circle and stepping stones; a willow tunnel; a pond formed from an old clay pit; and a viewpoint with stunning vistas across County Durham.
With its variety of wildlife and plants, range of scenic walks, and easy access from Durham City, Low Burnhall is a perfect place to explore with the family.
This 68ha (168-acre) woodland is located off the A167, part of the old Great North Road, 3.2km (two miles) south of Durham city centre. It is bordered by the River Wear to the east and the River Browney to the south. Most of the wood falls within the Burn Hall Conservation area, and is in an Area of High Landscape Value.
OS Explorer 308, Landranger 93, NZ266390.
Access and walks
The main entrance is at the car park just off the A177 (South Road). There are also five entrances from the A167 (Darlington Road). There is a network of maintained routes through the woodland, with informal play areas, seats, a viewing platform and the following signposted walks.
There is a good network of paths, rides and open spaces that have been created to allow visitors to wander freely across the site, as well as stroll along the riverside. Alternatively, there are three waymarked trails you can choose from: the 0.7-mile Wagon Way Trail (which has a grassy path suitable for pushchairs), the 1.4-mile Sulphur and Salt Trail, or the 2.16-mile Riverside Trail. Download the Low Burnhall leaflet (PDF, 1.1MB) for details.
The routes pass a number of points of interest. Look out for the carvings in locally quarried sandstone by sculptor Jason Turpin-Thomson, representing the wood’s wildlife and history. The works include a fish, railway tracks, and a bottle – a reference to the medicinal waters.
There is permanent orienteering course, set up in collaboration with orienteering club, the Northern Navigators. The course consists of 30 controls set out randomly over the site.
It’s possible to walk from Low Burnhall wood through adjacent woods and along the banks of the River Wear to Durham City, or follow a shorter route northwards to Durham University Botanic Gardens. The Weardale Way, a 124km (77 mile) walk from Killhope in the North Pennines to the mouth of the river in Sunderland, runs just south of the wood.
From Durham head south east on the A690 (Crossgate Peth). Then turn left on to the A167 (Darlington Road). At the Cock of the North roundabout take the first exit on to the A177 (South Road). The Woodland Trust car park is located immediately to your right.
The nearest train station is Durham.
The 6, 7 and X21 buses operate regularly to and from Durham along the A167. The nearest bus stop is just south of the public footpath leading up to the buildings at Low Burnhall.
The nearest public toilets are in Durham. Locations can be found at durham.gov.