I’ll come clean straight away. I knew little about Darlington, even though I grew up not that far away in the 70s in Doncaster. I knew we had the A1 in common and trains and that was about it.
I’d passed Darlington in the early 80s en route to Sunderland Polytechnic, keeping it real on a National Express on the A1 and A19 I recall, but it’s a place I knew little about. Locals presumably speak funnily and are friendly – that was my stereotyping of the north east from 3 years there and no return since.
Last summer, however, in a pre-Brexit state of angst, we dropped a pin in a map in the north Pennines and rented a cottage in Westgate, near Stanhope in Weardale. That area – Daddry Shield, Wolsingham and St John’s Chapel was stunning. The walking was unbelievable in August – empty on moors and hills. It was only when we went to High Force to see the Tees that we stumbled on tourism and lots of tourists.
Like anywhere, when we’ve visited, I wanted to relocate to the area of Weardale immediately. I loved the scenery, the people, the property prices and the proximity to Durham and Newcastle. I felt winters would be good too, as Norfolk, apart from the “Beast from the East” which caused a week of snow in spring 2018, is pretty tame, weather-wise.
This Easter though, with Brexit still on hold, which I imagine it will be next year too, we headed out of Great Yarmouth and Norfolk – a mission in itself – to Darlington, or Darlo to go all local.
Now Hurworth on Tees is not really how I’d expected the north east to be, after 3 years of chapped lips and intimidation as a student in Sunderland! It was incredibly genteel, very well-heeled and yet unpretentious. Beautiful linear village, straddling the river Tees.
I wasn’t expecting a place with Tees in its name to be so marvellous. I had associated Middlesbrough with the Tees, until the splendour of High Force last year.
Hurworth has places to eat, drink, a small Spar shop, a beautiful burbling river, high property prices and empty rolling scenery. It’s not flat, but it’s not hilly at all, so perfect walking territory for me and my wife.
And boy did we walk.
10 miles plus every day taking in Neasham, Croft on Tees, Hurworth Moor, Hurworth Place and exploring by car the delectable towns of Yarm, Stokesley and Northallerton. We also popped into Darlington, which had the hallmarks, architecturally, of former glory and explored the property in the West End, which was pricey and beautiful.
So location was spot on.
Grace’s Retreat matched its surroundings.
Perfect holiday getaway.
First, it’s positioned high above the Tees on the side of Neasham Road, which wasn’t busy at all. There’s an electric gate to let the obligatory 4x4s in – we obliged with ours. Wonderful owners in Anji and John, who greeted us, yet never intruded but were always on hand for a short chat, which became long ones, as I felt the release from cabin fever of Norfolk, once exposed to warm natives.
The property has a large dining kitchen living area with all mod cons. Sky Q, fancy TV, a superb woodburning stove, which brought out the caveman in me and had to be lit. A dishwasher, washing machine, cuddly toy – you get the idea – think that conveyor belt on The Generation Game!
The bedroom was equally impressive – comfy double bed, fitted wardrobes, twin aspect windows and an ensuite shower room with as much power as the cascading Tees at High Force it seemed.
There was even a welcome pack of goodies for the weary travellers like us.
We loved it.
And in true Victor Kiam style (remember the Remington advert I think?). We loved it so much, I designed the website.
What bigger recommendation can I make for Hurworth, Neasham, Darlo and Grace’s Retreat?
Book it now – you will love it.
I’m a former teacher, copywriter and web designer. My word is my bond!