Deepdale is a side valley of the River Tees on the south bank opposite Barnard Castle a short distance upstream from the castle. A public footpath runs it's length. The first mile is a deep narrow valley with mature mixed woodland covering the sides. The valley floor is mostly open habitats with ponds, fen and meadow. Deepdale Beck is a fast-flowing stream running into the River Tees. There is a small car park off Lartington Lane close to a footbridge over the Tees. Deepdale Wood and the Ray Gill woodlands from this point for about two kilometers onwards are managed as a nature reserve.
The first kilometer from the car park has a flat wide (2m) surfaced track. After that you reach a ford over the Ray Gill or, 50 metres to your right, a footbridge over the Ray Gill. Public footpaths continue up the Deepdale and Ray Gill valleys, the easiest to follow being if you stay on the north side of Deepdale. The other paths ford the streams.
While any time of year is worth a visit, the best times are winter and spring through to early summer as viewing is very good until leaves and vegetation become too dense. There are winter bird feeding stations at the entrance and at Brightwoods Forest School, further along the main track.
There are over 250 bird boxes, mostly used by Blue Tits and Great Tits, but also over 25 pairs of Pied Flycatcher, plus Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Tree Sparrow.
Other regulars throughout the year are Dipper, Nuthatch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Grey Wagtail, Treecreeper, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Great Spotted Woodpecker. Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard are regular overhead sightings. Deepdale is one of the few locations in County Durham for seeing Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - look for them in winter flocks of tits, especially near the bird feeding station.
Birds you can see here include:
Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Common Wood Pigeon, Common Cuckoo, Common Swift, Eurasian Skylark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Northern House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Common Wren, Dunnock, European Robin, Common Redstart, Eurasian Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Sedge Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Wood Warbler, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, White-throated Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, European Pied Flycatcher, Common Magpie, Eurasian Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Siskin, Eurasian Linnet, Northern Redpoll, Lesser Redpoll, Common Crossbill, Eurasian Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Eurasian Nuthatch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Tawny Owl, Chaffinch
Roe deer, fox, grey squirrel and stoat are frequent, as are the smaller mammals typical of woodlands. Otters are regular visitors from the River Tees.
There is an excellent woodland flora, with extensive stands of bluebells, wood anemones, dogs mercury and primroses. Several nationally rare species such as Bird's Nest Orchid, Shrubby Cinquefoil, Wood Barley and Downy Currant are present, as well as locally uncommon species such as Toothwort, Yellow Star of Bethlehem and Large Leaved Lime.
Deepdale has a rich fungi flora, which has been recorded by a local group.
The town is a pleasant location to visit any time of the year - as is Deepdale. It's sheltered location makes it ideal for both visitors and wildlife.
Access and Facilities
Deepdale is close to Barnard Castle, County Durham, England
OS grid reference NZ0416
Barnard Castle is a delightful market town at the entrance to Teesdale in County Durham. The town is on the A67 around 14 miles west of Darlington and the A1. The River Tees loops around the town in a horseshoe bend. The town lies at the centre of numerous country walks. There are plenty of shops in the town and ample car parking - mostly free.On entering the town, head for the 'Post Office corner' and turn along - Flatts Road passing between the Post Office and a small park with a monkey puzzle tree. Follow to its end then dog-leg left and right into Raby Avenue and park up. There is loads of parking available along both roadsides or in the town centre.
Walk back to the dog-leg in the road and take the metalled road down a slight bank and on reaching the edge of the woods after a few yards turn right again and head down the hill. Many birds and squirrels feed freely in this section. The bungalow immediately on the right has a bird table and all manner of birds make use of it. Follow the path down to the river checking the mature trees for birds. All the normal woodland species can be found either here or in Deepdale.
At the bottom of the hill you'll see a bridge across the river, locally known as the "Silver Bridge" or the 'pipebridge' a wide footbridge - the decking covering water main pipes makes an ideal spot to sit a while. Downstream you have good views of the castle and a weir. Upstream the river is straight for just over a mile. Kingfisher, Dipper and Grey Wagtail are regulars and in Spring Common Sandpiper and Spotted Flycatcher often give close views as do Swift, Swallow and Martin. Looking upstream check out the area of stones on the right. Wagtail and Dipper frequently feed there as well.
Crossing the bridge pause before descending the steps as the trees on either side often contain dozens of birds of several different species, giving excellent views.
Descend the steps and walk to the road, Lartington Lane, crossing the road and into Deepdale just to your left. There is a small car park here, enough for 4 to 6 cars. Deepdale is a small valley carrying a tributary of the River Tees which begins life a few miles upstream in the Pennines. Don't be deceived by it's small size, it regularly spates and the valley floor can be flooded. The whole of these woods, for about a mile are a haven for a myriad of bird species.
Starting off at the entrance watch out for Treecreeper to your left. Blackcap to your left and right. Wagtail and Dipper on the stones of the stream bed. Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler are common throughout the length. Into May and Bullfinch are often seen on the thorn bushes as the flower buds are ready to burst. Follow the well made track through the valley floor. After 200 metres there is a winter bird feeding station, which usually has many woodland birds and, rarely, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, though nesting LWS are usually further upstream. Great Spotted Woodpecker are fairly common. Always be on the lookout for Kestrel and Sparrowhawk perched in the trees as they seem to like hunting along the valley floor.
The path runs for about a mile until you reach a shallow ford across the Ray Gill, with an alternative footbridge to your right from which there is a path that leads to Raygill Farm. Ray Gill is a wooded valley with several sites for roosting/nesting Owls and again the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, though they are all very difficult to spot. Throughout the wood, a large number of nest boxes have been installed since 2012 to boost numbers of woodland birds. Footpaths lead upstream along both sides of the Deepdale Beck, alongside extensive streamside alders. The southern path eventually fords the beck, to join the northern path, and this ford can be tricky if the beck is in flood.
From the Ray Gill bridge you can go further up into the wood, and then either retrace your steps back through the valley bottom or take the path from the Ray Gill footbridge that heads up the north side of the valley and leads you back to Lartington Lane and then down to the pipe bridge. This path can give closer views of the birds as you overlook the trees, but you are in the main looking into the sun. Towards the top of the path Green Woodpecker can occasionally be seen. I have had my closest views ever of them in the wood edge.
Retrace your steps across the pipebridge over the Tees and back up the hill into Barnard Castle.