Middleton-On-Tees to Langdon

The Teesdale Way has been a project of me, Kel and Dicko for sometime, if you’ve read my blogs before you’ll see we also have our work and walking mate Dicko with us, especially on the ‘ways’.  He’s a good bloke and we all have the same interests, i.e. walking, climbing and drinking. 

However, every now again you notice others joining us on our walks, it’s not too long ago we were with the 4th Durham Scouts on one of their adventures.  Occasionally, Sue, Dicko’s wife comes along to add her extraordinary gate opening skills and to encourage Kel that a daysack isn’t necessary when walking at low level.

So Easter Monday was booked for another chunk of the Teesdale Way and due to it being a bank holiday, Sue had graced us with her presence and a bag of Jelly babies.  However, Kel’s sister Alison (Ali) had said she’d come along too with her dog Bruce.  Let me describe Bruce for you, he’s a bloody massive German Shepherd!!  He’s still probably classed as a puppy but he’s 8 stone and his teeth are like diamonds.   But he’s soft as muck and a great dog who I love being around.

We met up at Ali’s and it was agreed I’d go with Ali in her car and Kel would stay in Dicko’s car with Sue, probably boring her by spotting Stobart wagons and discussing the difference between the light clusters of a Volvo and a Scania.  Lucky Sue!!  Ali kept up with Dicko all the way, probably due to the traffic training of them both,  to 2 a cattle grid at GR847309 on OL31 OS map.  Everyone was happy with the weather and the plan was for us all, including Bruce, cram in Dicko’s spacious Estate car and go back to Middleton-On-Tees and leave Ali’s car at the cattle grid at the end.

Ali had put all her walking kit in the roof box and was struggling to open it.  Everyone had a go but the stubborn ‘roof coffin’ would not open.  After about 20 minutes we decided we’d bomb down to Middleton and Ali and Bruce would do the first half of the walk, then phone Stuart (Ali’s husband) to pick her up at Low Force.  He was at their cottage in Frosterly a short drive away.

So, spirits were high and the cloud was low as we parked on the bridge near the cattle mart to cross the Tees and head west up the river which seems so’ beck like ’in comparison to the start near Middlesbrough.  Lambs were hopping about so Bruce was on his lead pulling Ali along the well-used path up the south side of the river.

Now, if you look at the map what you will see is a series of black lines that indicate fences/walls so anyone who walks on a regular basis will know this will either be crossed by a stile, gate, or just a thin opening in the wall to allow hikers though.  When I say a series, I mean chuffing loads of them!!  This is the funny bit; Kel took Bruce’s lead at the start.

She began with her usual ‘hop skip and jump’ usually accompanied with her no daysack days.  After lifting an 8 stone German Shepherd over the skinny stiles the beads of sweat were starting to appear.  Plus, no stile is the same, poor Bruce was being met by a dog’s version on the Krypton factor every 100 metres and trying to get him to work the wooded conundrum out was becoming amusing.

We hugged the river after Park End Wood and Kel still had control of the dogs lead and was being pulled about left right and centre by Bruce’s massive frame.  The river was becoming very appealing with little pools scattered which would be very inviting for sore hot feet.  The water was still a canny drop but the miles skipped along with excellent banter and Kel’s attempts to hoy a full grown German Shepherd over a wall.  My focus was to try and get a good look at a Dipper, I had been scanning the river banks since our start but all I managed to see were Wagtails rock hopping making the most of the low water level.

Low Force was welcomed as everyone’s tummy was rumbling and Bruce had had enough of the stiles.  Ali had arranged for her other half to pick up her and Bruce, due to her being unable unlock the roof coffin.  We, however, were unpacking our daysacks and tucking into our lunch and enjoying the Kayakers who were lining up to tackle the short but furious drop back into the Tees after paddling the pool above.  We sat on the North bank and were engrossed by the nervous looking canoeists as they tackled the well-known grade.  Its then when it happened, two Dippers screamed passed and only Dicko saw them, enough for me!

Low Force is a very popular spot, there were canoeists, hikers and the odd German could be heard from a few tourists.  Also at this spot is a very dubious bridge, it says on the sign posts at either end that only one person could cross at a time.  It looked sturdy enough but I wouldn’t like to put the signs to test.  All packed up and my daysack feeling ever so much lighter now Kel’s bait had been demolished, we queued up at the bridge until it was our turn to negotiate the creaky structure.  After passing a few nervous looking Canoeists, Low Force was roaring away in the distance as we carried on up the route, now quite close to the river side.  This part of the Teesdale Way is also a part of the Pennine Way, which was marked by the famous Acorn on the sign posts.  We started to rise away from the river again and it wasn’t long before the sound of low Force was replaced by the its big brother High Force which is about 2 KM’s further up the river.  Now, Kel and I came up to high Force in the car last year and did the touristy bit by remortgaging the house and paying the parking/entrance fees.  This time we were on the other side of the ‘force’ and quite some way up.  Let me tell you, if you’re ever going to visit this popular spot, do it from the south side of the river and incorporate it in a stroll.  I know these places of beauty must be financed so people can enjoy them, but I think the government should pay and not us.  Nearly on my soap box there !!  Anyway, looking down on this wonderful feature is breath taking and when the wind is in the right direction, quite intimidating too.  Photo’s completed and after Sue had been dive bombed by a couple of Chaffinches we had a look at the very top of the ‘force’.  Again, very intimidating but a sight to be seen.  I did mention to Dicko we could put a zip wire across the top for the Scouts but he reckoned some of the parents might disapprove.  Hey ho, at least I tried!

We plodded on and the landscape started to become more moor like as we etched our way past the massive quarry works just before Dine Holm Scar.  I don’t know whether I like these ‘warts’ on the countryside, as in the Lake District, but I guess it gives he locals a crust.  The first climb of the walk was up Bracken Ridge.  The ground was very boggy and we made our way down to the farm at Cronkley.  The information posts on route had promised me Golden Plovers on route, I’d seen my Dippers but wanted my first sight of this Plover.  As we passed an open gate I saw a couple of these gorgeous little birds ‘legging it’ into some heather.  Well pleased!!  I had, like most, wondered why moorland birds like Pheasants, Grouse and Plovers always prefer to run away from potential dangers on the ground.  But if you think about it, at certain times of the year, if they took to flight they’d be staring down the business end of a double barrelled shot gun so you can see their point.

We crossed the ever becoming ‘stream like’ Tees once again and past the fork at the base of Haugh Hill, again taking more girth from the mighty Tees.  After an aerial display from a few Lapwings obviously protecting their territory we crossed Sauer Hill Bridge with an amusing sign warning drivers of the dangers of speeding.   Intake Farm also brought with it some amusement, as we made our way through the farm a cheeky little horse came to the fence line of its paddock to greet us.  Passing through the ‘kissing gate’ out of the farm means you have to turn your back on the friendly foal.  As I passed through, the cheeky little pony undid the Velcro attaching my walking stick to my daysack with its teeth, obviously trying to build up its own hiking equipment the cheapest way it can.  Anyway, stick reattached and Black Beauty bollocked we joined the road back to the car, cleaning my boots in the small stream near the cattle grid.  As I climbed free of the banks of the stream I had to bend slightly only to see my precious iPhone leave the chest pocket of my jacket and in slow motion bounce off the grass inches away from the road and certain destruction.  Phone kissed and returned to my map pocket we de-kitted and jumped into Dicko’s trusty motor for the return to Middleton.

The Teesdale Way takes in Cow Green reservoir on our final leg of our quest so Dicko decided we should have a drive up before our customary post walk pint.  We approached the vast water and spoke briefly of the next and final section of the route.  We drove back down the small approach road with The Rose and Crown at Romaldkirk in our thoughts.  Suddenly we saw what appeared to be a Blackbird lying on the road motionless.  We screeched to a halt!  I’m as bird devoted as the next man, but I wondered way he’d made such a untimely stop.  “That looks like my gloves”, came from Dicko’s mouth as the car was crashed into reverse.  The whirling of the gear box came to a halt as I half opened the door to reveal my trusty walking marra’s gloves lying soaking wet on the tarmac.  The initial reaction from the occupants of the car was “Ehh, wtf!!” Then, as timely as Poirot himself, Dicko discloses his placement of said gloves and OS 31 map on the roof of his motor at the end of the walk.  On inspection, the map was tucked under the roof bars and would probably have made it back to Ali’s house in Woodham.  The gloves were wet but intact and everyone, even Dicko, laughed at the mishap and made our way to the pub for a well-deserved pint next to an open fire.

I’m looking forward to having our own doggy walking companion when we move house, Kel is digging her heels in!!

Beamish Bimble

March was an absolute scorcher and I was on days off mid-week. Kel was pounding the beat in the heat and I could tell by texts that she was gutted at being at work in the cracking weather. It seemed like ages since we donned our walking boots together and hit the hills. We’d had a good outing with the Scouts and I wanted more, everyone who hikes will know what I mean. I text her suggesting she put a day’s leave in and we get out in the countryside.

Now, due to some idiots in suits in London telling us that there would be a fuel shortage, I realised the lakes would be out of range so a look closer to home was on the cards. The good thing about the North East, like most places probably, has cracking countryside if you look for it. I’m starting to get my head around the NE (only took me 11 years) I noticed a bit of green on the map without those little squares I generally like to avoid. My finger was pointing towards Beamish! I’ve heard it’s a ‘cracking day out’, but I didn’t want the museum, I wanted the countryside. If you look at OS map 308 there’s quite a few of those trails that have green diamonds one after the other stretching across fields and forests, so I thought I’d have a crack at a couple. Planning a route used to be quite easy in the old days, the days before GEOCACHING!!!! I not only have to plan a route nowadays, I have to think about those little boxes en route. Hey ho, I planned it anyway and hoped for the best when I showed Kel when she returned in from work.

The morning after and the route ‘Geocache approved’ we loaded up the car, when I say loaded up I mean Kel put all her stuff in my daysack and sat in the car hoping I wouldn’t notice. The thing is, I bang on about safety equipment and carrying enough to last the night if needed when we’re in the hills, but Kel reckons we’re close to civilisation on these local walks, there’s no need for her to carry her daysack. Anyway we land in a small car park just outside the museum just off the A693 and we put our kit on. Or should I say, Kel put her boots on and I put the mother of all chocolate and sandwich filled daysack on plus 3 Sig bottles and a camera and two lenses. Kel skipped off into the woods and I followed into the little woodland between the car park and the little village of Beamish. I try to give my blog readers a bit of a walk to maybe try one day, so looking at the map, there’s a few confusing routes out of the car park but there’s a small one that handle bars the Great North Forest Trail. We took a little turn into the village then joined the GNFT near the village. Straight away we turned left onto the Tyne Wear Trail. Immediately we’re met by a ‘diversion sign!?!?’ Road works on the route so we followed and I made a crappy map reading mistake by thinking inside the box. Kel corrected me and after a quick Geocache detour we were plunging into the depths of Ousbrough Wood and have a look at the stream. It was quiet and only the birds to listen to. Kel had locked onto a Geocache and we pulled ourselves up from the stream to settle on a path. Ousbrough Wood is very quiet and there’s a good selection of wildlife. But if you carry on the Tyne Wear Trail it takes you over the top of the forest plantation which is in the middle of being felled, so the route is hidden. Anyway we struggled down the other side and joined the stream and the footbridge to carry on the walk. This is a great place to stop for a break with the sound of the stream trickling past. However, the GPS had locked onto a geocache and Kel was scratting around in the undergrowth and shouting directions for me to follow suit.

Five minutes later we were on our way but without finding the little box. We carried on the little footpath to the small road passed a lovely little collection of cottages called High Forge. The trail then goes through the wooded area on Beamish East Moor then a left on the track towards the pond in Mill Wood. Time for lunch! We sat down on the little beetle carving on the track and I off loaded the burden on my back. Now you may think, if you read my blogs regular, that I exaggerate about Kel’s love for food and the amount she packs on our walks. I sat and unloaded a Tupperware box stuffed with butties. Two bags of crisps, dry roast nuts, Salami sticks and god knows how many chocolate bars. This is accompanied by Sig bottles and my flask. I’ll tell ya, the bag is a lot lighter after lunchtime. I sat taking in the sunny weather while Kel did her normal ritual of walking off into the woods armed with her camera. I sat and enjoyed the peace! Moments later I heard the sound of the ‘Greater pissed off Pit Yacker’. I could her Kel cursing in the trees but I couldn’t see her. This normally means she’s fell over or sank into the mud. I looked down the path and saw her coming out of the trees looking through her camera complaining, “This lens wont Zoom in”, she stood turning the lens and pointing at me shouting, “it’s ****ing broken, it won’t zoom in”. She stood for a few moments more examining the poor little Lumix that was taking the brunt of so much abuse. I watched as she came storming back up the path and with a statement which I would chuckle at for the rest of the day. “I’ve got me fekin wide angle lens on haven’t I!?”

I packed the daysack and we set off up the west side of the pond towards Hedley Hall Farm. There’s a nice little family wooded area running NE of Ridley Gill. We felt good and were enjoying the day, chatting about our up and coming wedding and what take away we were going to get once we were home. We came into a clearing and saw a woman with a small child and a dog. We were about 100 metres away but the dog clocked us and immediately started barking. I thought it would stop once the woman had grabbed its collar and tried to pacify it, but the barking and the snarling continued as we passed. We had a little giggle at the woman struggling hard to control the very angry Pointer, we strolled passed and continued with the dog still snarling in the distance. About 50 metres past them and the barking stopped. Thinking the woman had calmed the Psycho pooch we carried on with our chat. I then heard the woman’s voice screaming the dog’s name, I turned and saw the dog hurtling towards us teeth showing. Before I knew it had gone for my right hand which was holding my map. I felt it grasp the map and I swung around to see its intentions. Unfortunately for the dog, so did my size eleven Merrell walking boots which trapped the ‘poor’ dogs paw. Needless to say it made a hasty retreat yelping and spitting the turf out of its mouth after it hit the deck trying to struggle away. I love dogs but they will get a kick if the owner doesn’t control them properly.

Hearts racing slightly and the woman’s words “Eeee I’m sorry” still ringing in the air we carried on through the woods and onto to Hedley Lane and across up to join the GNFT again on an old rail line. Taking a left towards Tyneside Locomotive Museum and continuing towards Causey. We hadn’t passed many people on this walk but that was to change as we headed towards Causey Arch. I had heard of the popular spot and Kel had said it would be something I’d like. It wasn’t a disappointment either; the crags in the depths of Causey Gill were a very pleasant sight. Plus there were a couple of climbers showing the various routes up to the tree root ridden summit. Then we walked the short distance to the old railway bridge where we climbed back out of the Gill to the edge of the woods. The bridge used to be the largest in the world of its kind and is a great feat of engineering for the time.

Anyway, we still had some distance to go so we passed the sewage works to east Tanfield Station and for a short time joined the small road leading to Tanfield town. We were turned left down the road which is still part of the GNFT then back into the fields shortly after this. From the top of field between the Tanfield Road and the A6076 you get a cracking view of Stanley and the weather was perfect to add to the occasion. We dropped down into Carrickshill wood where the wild garlic was over powering even this early in the year, it was also quite breathe taking the green carpet that lined our route.

Another Geocache found and we entered Hellhole wood and the home stretch back to our car and hopefully a pint somewhere. I was looking forward to the prospect of a nice friendly pub; however Kel’s phone was out and had locked onto more Geocaches. One was a short distance away on the Consett & Sunderland railway Path, well on the map it was a short distance. In reality it was a small scramble up a muddy bank which Kel negotiated like a teenager. If you remember from the start, I was carried everything in my day sack, which had my walking stick attached. I followed suit but failed to get under a small but very bendy branch which managed to lodge itself between by day sack and my stick (you know what’s coming don’t you??) I thought I was safe and sound at the top of the small climb, but as I stood, science took place. The branch which had been stretched to its limit, was deciding to straighten again. I thought Kel had heard my muffled groan followed by exceptional use of the English language directed at the timber terror which had propelled me back down the muddy knoll. But how wrong I could’ve been, I looked over the bank and there she was, marching as if on a bearing towards the little Tupperware box. I managed to struggle up the bank, this time avoiding the branch from hell and managed to catch up with Kel who was oblivious to my woodland treat, not noticing my dishevelled appearance and mossy knees.

“It’s under a fallen Birch” were her first words staring at her iPhone. I was still pulling the twigs out of my hair when she spotted the plastic box hidden under a fallen tree. “What out for ‘Muggles’!” she said. I looked for any members of the public wanting to destroy our new found Cache which was signed and replaced like an SAS trooper.

We enjoyed the last few hundred metres back to the car in the sunny weather which had been a welcome companion on our route. The little red Aygo was there waiting for our return and for me to have a look at my ‘IMap my Hike’ app, which I thought may have crept over the 9 miles I had promised Kel the walk would be. Hmmm slightly over at 12.9 miles!

A lovely pint at the Shepherd and Shepherdess, the end to a lovely walk!!