Riverbanks and Woodlands

The riverbanks and ancient woodland that surround the cathedral are a fascinating place to explore all year round. They provide a scenic escape for locals and visitors to this historic medieval city, as well as providing a haven for many different types of wildlife.

Visiting the riverbanks

A short walk from Framwellgate bridge will bring you to the riverbanks, a green space filled with walking routes and paths perfect for exploring in the heart of the city.

Any time of year is great to enjoy a walk along one of the public footpaths and there are many benches along the way to stop and take in the views or sit and read a book. In the summer, stop for a picnic on the lawn areas beside Prebends Bridge or the Counts House for fantastic views while you stop to refuel and in the winter grab a hot drink from the Undercroft Cafe to bring with you on your walk.

If you're feeling adventurous, across the river from the city, the footpaths offer a more challenging walk and are a bit narrower with slopes and steps on the footpath next to the river. The setting of the river makes it suitable for many leisure activities including rowing, canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding.

Don't miss these local landmarks

Prebends Bridge

Originally, this was the site of a ferry, but was replaced by a timber bridge built on stone piers in 1574. The Great Flood of 1771 swept this away. The present bridge, designed by George Nicholson, was built between 1772 – 1778 and paid for by the Dean and Chapter. Today, the bridge provides much-used pedestrian access to and from the city and offers stunning views of the cathedral in its woodland setting.

At the end of Prebends Bridge on the footpath to the Corn Mill, you will see a large cone built of stone. This was originally one of the tower pinnacles at the cathedral's Chapel of the Nine Altars, removed during the 18th century. In the 1980s, it was installed it on the riverbanks as a folly.

Corn Mill (South Street Mill)

The mill began life as a fulling mill, but by 1462 it was grinding corn. The mill was rebuilt following the great flood of 1771. By the middle of the 19th century, it ceased being a mill and was used as a residence for Dean and Chapter staff.

The Fulling Mill

There was likely a Bishop's Mill here which was purchased by the prior around the 15th century. At this time there were two mills; the Lead Mill and the Jesus Mill. One mill was used for fulling, which is the process of cleaning woollen cloth. Traditionally, fulling was carried out by the fuller pounding the cloth with their hands, feet or a club. Cleaning the cloth eliminates oils, dirt, and other impurities and makes it thicker and better quality for sale. At this mill, woven cloth was cleaned in vats pounded by hammers powered by water from the weir. The money the priory earned was used for the upkeep of the Jesus Altar in the cathedral.

During the 19th century, the mill was used as a spinning mill and museum. In the 20th century it was used as a café and then the Department of Archaeology later the Museum of Archaeology.

The Water Gate

The Water Gate is a gateway in the city wall leading to Prebends Bridge. Originally constructed in the medieval era, the first gate was built further along the river. This joined the original Prebends Bridge, washed away in the 1771 great flood.

The Count's House

The Count's House is a classical Greek style summer house built around the 1820s. It is named after Polish ‘Count’ Joseph Boruwlaski who lived in a nearby Banks Cottage. Joseph was three foot, three inches tall and died in 1837 aged 97. His clothes are preserved in Durham Town Hall along with his violin and portrait.

Although named after him, Joseph did not actually live here. The house would have been a summer house at the end of his garden.