I went to sleep last night with the sound of the River Tees rushing and I awoke to that. Unzipping the tent door, it was dry and I was hopeful for the day ahead. My plan was to get to Kirkby Stephen by tomorrow, so I would need to put some effort in either today. My aim looking at the map was to get to Tan Hill Inn. It would put me in striking distance of Kirkby Stephen and also complete my aim of getting the middle section of the Pennine Way done, that would just leave the Northumbrian section to do at some point.
The best bit of sleeping next to a river is that you can just pop down the bank to get the water. Now you may say that water is water, but this was nice water, a bit brown, but that is the peat from the hills.Breakfast was a beef noodle concoction, and after washing up, the tent was packed away and I was on the go. The path followed the river for a while, then crossed over pasture land to the Langdon Beck.
Cattle are animals that worry me at times, they move in mass and can be nervous. On the way I passed a Bull warning sign and it said to try not to walk through the herd. On walking down through a field, the herd was spread across the path. Now what should I do, should I just trek on through or take a wide berth round them.
As I got nearer, they started to get restless, so it was the latter course of action. Of course, it being in the outdoors, it also meant through boggy ground. Soon I was at the wall on the other side of the herd and able to continue on my way.
Langdon Beck is a substancial tributary of the Tees, and the path followed it to where it joins the Tees and then to a bridge. Looking along the route past Cronkley Farm it was up hill again, so much for the assumption that following a river is flat. Behind the farm were a number of rams, and the path climbed up a little crag, to an area with small juniper bushes.
By now the rain had come, and looked liked it was to stay,I would just have to out up with it, and hood up I continued onwards.
After the crag the path drops back down to the Tees, passing more Juniper bushes, and for a while it was a walk on lovely level turf, passing a quarry on the other bank.
At Bleabeck Force a small bridge was crossed, and the path started to become more well used and constructed.
The river also got faster and rougher and soon the roar of High Force was heard.
From the path it is possible to get very close to the top of the falls, which boils and roars as it drops down.
Getting back to the path, it was tree and fern lined, which dropped water on me as I went past. A viewing area allowed a view of the whole falls, an impressive sight.
The next bit of the trail was about 2 km to Low Falls, but is just seemed to be longer, and each time that I came to a waterfall, I would look at the map, and find out that it wasn’t where I was going.
I was a bit demoralised by the time that I got to the old suspension bridge at Low Force, so decided to go for breakfast at the BowLees visitor centre. I was glad that I went, somewhere warm and dry, and a breakfast that i would like to have again. I took my time, had a chat to the staff there, and then went on my way walking the short distance back to the Pennine Way.
I felt rejuvinated, and in the distance could make out the mound of Kirkcarron on the horizon. That is where I would be heading and it was the above the turn towards Tan Hill Inn. The path went through farmland and followed the river at times, and then started to climb again, a positive sign I felt, as it meant that I was making some headway.
Near a small climb I met a couple from Buckinghamshire, who were also walking the route in sections. They were having an easy day, but were aiming to get to Dufton eventually but not today. I said my goodbyes and continued onwards.
At times, the mound of Kirkcarron felt like it was getting no closer, and the map just seemed to have no progression. Then I saw a group of teenagers up ahead. Walking behind a group gives me the incentive to pass them, and I picked up the pace, whilstling as I went. By the time that I reached them, one of them held the gate open. I suspect that they were doing some type of outdoor expedition as they seemed to shadow me for a while through part of the day. At Middleton-in-Teesdale, the way meets a road. Now I could have been tempted to sample the delights of the town, but I had a destination to reach, so it was up the tarmac that I went. The easy going river side walking was now in the past, and it back to the hills and moors again.
The path climbs up the grassy flanks of Harter Fell, and at times I had to stop to check my route, there being a number of paths, and I did not want to wander off route on a sheep trod. Looking back a rainbow framed Middleton, and I was soon at the top, where there were more teenagers.
Passing through Pin Gate, I now had the descent down to Lunedale and Grassholme Reservoir. Up there, the weather was strange, I must have been right on the edge of a weather front, as on one side it was sunny whilst the other it blustered with drizzle.
Soon though it was dry, but the path led down through muddy fields and on reaching a wall above Grasshole Farm, I just couldn’t get over and fell back in to the muddy depths. It felt a right effort to get over, but I did in the end.
At Grassholme Reservoir, I stopped for a while, changed into my windproof top and had some wine gums. On the Harveys Map, I was working my way down it towards Tan Hill, but still had a way to go. Setting targets in my mind the next one was to reach Baldersdale. It meant crossing a broad boggy ridge.
Here I started to meet some Pennine Wayfarers on their way north. Two heavily laiden ones, recalled knee deep bogs further back, whilst further on, another just seemed to have his sleeping bag strapped to the outside of his rucksack. As I gained height, the views opened out, and to the east I could see the North Yorkshire Moors, whilst behind me where the wild interlands of the Pennines. The ridge was crested and I was soon down at Hannah’s Meadow in Baldersdale. It is a lovely spot.
Between Baldersdale and Tan Hill, was the subject of moors to be crossed, and then the A66. The route led past Clove Lodge, which the guidebooks seem to give as a destination point, after it I started across the broad boggy moorland that is Cotherstone Moor.
Here and there was patches of Spaghnum which was crossed with out a lot of trouble. It can’t be nice crossing the moor in the mist, but for me it clear and at Race Yate I started to drop down towards Deepdale. Here I ran out of water, but I had in my mind maybe I could I rest a bit at the shooting hut next to the stream, which is meant to have a room for walkers.
As I descended I could see the hut and two figures coming towards me. Turns out they were also on the way, they recalled how the bogs leading up to Tan Hill were treacherous and deep, with ‘Brian having gone in up to his waist’. That made me think, and at the hut there was a sign which also gave details of a bad weather route up to the Inn, I kept it in mind.
The shelter was locked apart from the room at the end for walkers. It was bare, and would be useful in bad weather. There is also a loo at the back. Seeing that made me decide not to get any water here, and I started to climb again over more moorland.
In the distance I could hear a low rumbling, it was the A66, and on reaching Ravock Castle, I could see south towards the hills rising up from the Stainmore Gap, I’m sure I could see Tan Hill, but it looked a long way away. I would have to pick up the pace, in order to get there today.
At the A66, the path runs through an area covered with rubbish then goes through a tunnel under the road and drops down to Gods Bridge, a natural limestone bridge over a stream.
It was now 1700 and I had two and half hours of daylight left. It was time to start digging in, especially on getting to Trough Heads it started to rain and the clag moved in. At Bog Scar, I lost my concentration for a short while, and nearly ended walking over the cliff. Luckily I didn’t, and soon found the path leading down to the bridge over Sleightholme Beck.The path leads up a road, which after the empty and for sale Sleightholme Farm becomes a track. It must have been a road at sometime, I began to wonder why it wasn’t used by transport. In the distance I could make out Tan Hill, and with the light dipping and in the rain, I had a decision to make, should I follow the boggy route, or take the bad weather alternative. The latter would mean more height, a longer route and some road walking, but walking through deep bogs in the dark is not fun, so I decided on it. I’m glad that I did, even before I reached the point where it begins I started to misinterpret things. I thought I saw a walking group and it was an old railway carriage, whilst what I thought was a cow was actually a sign.
The route follows the Sleightholme Moor Road, and climbs up to 470m near to Great Cocker. I really pushed myself up that track and must have done quicker than 4km /hr. It was dark when I reached the top, so my headtorch was on. I was hopefull of reaching Tan Hill quickly, but that was not to be, the road seemed to go on for an age, and after a while my right heel started to hurt, later on, wet cold and what I suspect was hypoglycaemia I started to wonder across the road and what I thought was the inn was actually a grassy tussock. I went from road sign to road sign, trying to keep going, when the road started to climb again, what a sod I thought, but I just had to carry on. I switched the GPS on and it was 450m to the Inn. It felt like the longest 450m I have done for a long time, and with much apprehension I saw the golden glow of the lights from the Inn. I stumbled up to the door, took my rucksack off and left it in the vestibule, then entered the pub. A fire was roaring away, and I was glad to sit down and have something to eat. I asked about camping and was told it was £2. After eating I headed back out, and round the back of the pub to a craggy area, where I put the tent up. To the east I could see the lights of Darlington and Middlesborough, and for a while I just laid there with the tent door open.