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!!