Parts of Whinfield are surrounded by some beautiful countryside which we
feel is so important to our residents giving them a chance to see what nature has to
offer whilst at the same time offering the scope and opportunity to improve ones health
& well-being. Proximity to living near open green spaces for those living in urban areas
such as Whinfield has shown to reduce stress levels and it is therefore hugely important
to promote these areas which although not directly in our ward do sit on our doorstep.
There are areas such as ‘Skerningham Countryside Park’, as well as the many
accessible public footpaths, bridle paths and permissive paths like Muscar House Farm.
Skerningham Countryside Park is a beautiful area of woodland & hedgerows
covering many acres and home to a wide range of wildlife and species as well as plant
life with many accessible walkways and public footpaths as well as historic routes which
are so important to the area’s heritage. It is actually the only publicly accessible
woodland to the north of Darlington and offers walkers both beauty and tranquillity in
equal measure. This area has been highlighted & included in Darlington Borough Councils
‘Green Infrastructure Strategy’ and it is therefore very concerning that this area
therefore could be lost if plans go ahead for the ‘Skerningham Garden Village’ or the
Northern Darlington Link Road which has been currently muted by The Tees Valley Combines
Authority (TVCA) (see Local Plan page for more details).
We also have on our doorstep a scheduled ancient monument, ‘Ketton
Packhorse Bridge’, which is a grade 2 Listed structure. It was originally built to
provide a crossing point on the ancient Salter’s Lane. Today the bridge stands well away
from the River Skerne where water once flowed under it and sits on open agricultural
land. A map from the 1860 shows the bridge still sitting over the Skerne, but soon after
this map was drawn mill owners down stream in Haughton and Darlington decided to
straighten the river so that it flowed quicker in order to spin their millwheels faster.
This in turn moved the water away from Ketton Bridge.
There is a mention of a bridge here as far back as 1294 by the Durham
monks, but today’s bridge dates from the late 17th to the early 18th Century and is
built from sandstone. The iconic bridge is situated near to Ketton Hall and can be
reached via various public footpaths, ancient byways and walkways.
A large amount of prehistoric flints were found around this area in the
19th Century, dating as far back as the Mesolithic period some 12,000 years ago.
Green Lane must also get a mention along with Salter’s Lane whose name
was derived from the Salt trade and its routes. For centuries salt was a very
important and valuable commodity that wars were even fought over it, people were
paid with it and fortunes were made from trading it. With the introduction of modern
farming methods much of the old Salter’s Lane has been ploughed up, but it can still
be roughly traced running through Ketton and over the Ketton Packhorse Bridge to
join the Great North Road at Harrogate Hill.
Salter’s Lane wasn’t the only access route that was used in ancient
times to get to Ketton as Catkill Lane was also used. The north end of Catkill Lane
is on the Great North Road in Aycliffe (where the Traveller’s Rest once stood) and
the south end having run through Ketton where it met the Roman road near Sadberge.
To this day, a footpath called Catkill Lane run’s from Petty’s Nook past Catkill
Plantation to Salter’s Lane at Ketton.
Other areas of interest and close to the Whinfield ward are our
neighbours in Great Burdon. Great Burdon has a long history and in 1541 Henry VIII
bequeathed the village to the Prior and Covenant of Durham, known today as the Dean
and Chapter of Durham. From that date right up until the Second World War villagers
paid rent to Durham’s Clergy. The village originally consisted of 3 farms, a
blacksmith shop, a pub and several cottages. Records show that in 1872, most of the
village was rented to John Feetham who at the time resided at Toft Hill Farm.
Today some of those old buildings still stand. The mill which is called
Mill Batts Farm is one of the oldest buildings in the village dating as far back as
the 12th century. Until the 1920’s a mill race diverted the river Skerne to work the
mill. This method was eventually changed by Mr Jones (whose descendants still live
there today) who installed a 22 h.p oil engine. The mill was used to ground corn for
many of the farmers in the area. Today the mill is not in use but still stands and
is Grade 2 listed.
The blacksmith’s shop (which still stands) remained a going concern
right up to the 1970’s. Today the front exterior remains the same but the
interior has been completely refurbished and is now a private dwelling.
The pub in the village was called the Black Horse and following the
retirement of the last landlord the building was turned into a private dwelling. The
the corner of the village called Cargoot Farm still stands today and although the
of the farm remains the same the interior has been modernised extensively. The large
facing the green was rented for years by the Blair family. A number of old buildings
demolished in the village to make way and improve the local road network but it
remains a very picturesque village.
Haughton is another of our neighbours, a village until 1930 when
extended its boundaries. Haughton Le Skerne stands approximately 1½ miles north east
Darlington and lies on the banks of the river Skerne. The village dates back to at
1050 when it was recorded as Haltun which translates in old English to ‘farmstead on
haugh’, haugh being a piece of flat land near a river. Later when the area was
the Norman French the term ‘Le Skerne’ (river) was added. Remains of the old
village still exist in the form of earthworks in one corner of the village, whilst
St.Andrews church is the oldest building in the village today dating to c1125 and
associated rectory which dates to c1200s.
We still have surrounding the village green a number of Georgian period
properties all of which are listed. In the 19th century, a flax mill once stood in the village; it was
later turned in to a shoe thread factory but has long since vanished. In the middle of the
village stands Haughton Methodist Chapel which is a small Wesleyan Chapel built in 1825, a
latter addition to the building was the Sunday school room. In recent times the chapel has
been completely refurbished and updated, the old pews were removed and two rooms created and
a kitchen. Since 1977 the building was granted Grade 2 listing.