Well to Thornborough Henges Circular Walk via Nosterfield Nature Reserve
Approximately 5.5 miles. This is a pleasant and easy walk across country and along quiet country lanes. It is advisable to wear long trousers in summer as there may be some overgrowth of long grass/ nettles in places.
Refreshments available at the Freemasons Arms in Nosterfield, or at the Milbank Arms in Well.
The Thornborough Henges are considered one of the most important ancient sites in Britain – often called the Stonehenge of the North. It consists of three henges aligned with the stars of Orion, a complex of three circular mounds with ditches and banks that was in use for over a thousand years. Historians believe that this man made prehistoric structure had an astrological significance – it is the largest ritual religious site on the British Isles.
From the Milbank Arms, cross Church Street and take the path by the side of Well Bank until you reach the point where the road curves steeply round to the right. Go straight on following the footpath sign and following a well worn path between the houses, with a white house on your right.
Go through two metal gates approximately 100 metres apart, and follow the track for 200 metres past a large gap in the hedge on the right. The track dips down towards a field and you will see an opening into a field, up a slight incline to the right. Go up the incline and follow the path all the way along the left hand edge of the field. At the corner of the field turn right and walk a few feet, you will see an opening into the copse of trees on your left. Turn left here and you will find a kissing gate along a short path.
Go through the kissing gate, and follow the path straight on until you reach the lakes and bird sanctuary. You will pass a bird hide to your left. As you reach the path that goes down to the lakes there is a path to the right, but follow the gravelled route straight on between the lakes. You will go up an incline at the end of the path. Turn left -notice a sign giving details about the area on your left. Follow the path round to the right and you will reach the end of the path with a drystone wall ahead.
Turn left and then turn immediately right to go through the bushes through a clearly defined outlet to reach a grassy farm track. Turn left again and follow the track for approximately 200 metres, past a large metal farm gate, until you see a single metal gate on the right. Go through the gate and continue to follow the path until you reach a wooden seat, at which point follow the path round to the right. You will reach another metal gate, and after going through that you will reach a main road.
Cross the road and, veering slightly left, go through an opening in the fence with a metal gate a few feet ahead. Go through the gate and follow the path straight on, round to the right, until you reach another metal gate. This will take you onto a quiet country road. To the right you will see the first houses in Nosterfield, and to the left the road curves round to the left.
Turn left, follow the road and after approximately 200 metres you will reach a wood on your left hand side. If you wish to enter the wood you will find the first of the three Thornborough Henges a few feet inside the wood. It is a very large circular depression in the ground, overgrown by trees and bushes.
Continue to follow the road past the wood on your left, and you will reach a crossroads with a large house on the left hand side as you reach it. Cross the road, and go straight on to follow the well -worn track, with fields on your left and fields below the level of the track on your right. At the point where the track curves round to the right to enter a field, go straight on following a narrower but still clearly defined track.
At the end of the track you will reach a T junction to a tarmacked road. There is a sign on the right hand side for the West Tanfield closed Landfill Site. Turn left here and follow the road for approximately 200 metres. You will see the second of the Thornborough Henges on your left – it is by far the largest of the three, a raised earthwork in the field. The Henge is open to the public, access is through a wooden gate. The site is well worth a visit.
The third of the Thornborough Henges is accessed through a wooden gate opposite the entrance to the second henge. It is less accessible as you have to cross farm land to reach it, and there is much less of the structure left.
Once you have visited the Henges, retrace your steps to the sign for the West Tanfield Landfill site and turn right down the track. Follow the track back to the road, cross straight over with the large house now on your right, and follow the tarmacked lane back towards Nosterfield, past the wood containing the first Henge on the right.
Continue on the lane until you reach the village of Nosterfield. Go straight on past houses on the right and the left, and you will reach a T junction with a small village green to the right. The Freemason’s Arms pub is on your left.
Turn left , cross the road in front of the Freemason’s Arms, and you will see a wooden fence with a stile and a footpath sign. Go over the fence, and cross the field diagonally to the right. Continue in this direction across the fields, crossing 4 stiles in close proximity to each other, until you reach the edge of the field. You will see the lakes straight ahead. Follow the path between the lakes again and retrace the first section of the walk back to Well.