The Lonely Hiker

Through sodden peat and dusty track

His trusty boots and laden back

No fell runner, no mountain biker

He has no name, he’s the Lonely Hiker.

From Dale to fell, from far and wide,

His pounding stick, a limp in his stride,

With a love for snow, but he pines for sun,

He waits for Spring and Autumn to come,

Whatever the weather he’ll don his kit,

Munro or Wainwright, he’ll bag it.

But now and then, he’ll stop and gaze,

Looking over the hills, his eyes will glaze.

It’s not from the pain from a nagging knee,

This pains invisible, from injuries you can’t see,

It’s not from now, it’s days that have been,

From a stolen youth, from his days in green.

But with his head he gives a shake,

Looks at his map, which route to take,

Thoughts don’t linger, they come and go,

But stay with him, no one is to know.

So back to the hill, there’s miles to go,

The shadows lengthen, it looks like snow,

Many contours crossed, many a stile passed,

Every turn is etched in a knowledge that’s vast.

But when the miles are done and It’s time to rest,

a bag of pork scratchings and the landlords best,

So tip your hat, he might even like ya,

You’ll know it’s him, the Lonely Hiker.

Langdon to Dufton, last leg of the Teesdale Way!

The day was upon us and the last leg of the Teesdale Way was in our sights.  We had to drive to Langdon Beck to drop one car off and then drive to Dufton where we planned to start the walk.

We arrived at Dicko’s with tired eyes but excited about the day ahead. We’d forgone our usual ‘Greasy Spoon’ breakfast and I felt better for having just cereal. My knee was playing up after having it kicked backwards earlier in the week and I’d been on Brufen for some days now so I felt quite happy. Anyway we set off and headed to the A1 then onto the A66, the usual route we take when heading to the Lakes. The rain was quite bad and the roads where full of spray, which made it even more difficult to keep up with Dicko’s heavy right foot and his enormous Passat. But we managed and it wasn’t too long before we were at Scotch Corner and hitting the A66. We drove a fair distant and was getting dangerously close to the Lakes itself. As we drove passed the familiar ‘Cumbria’ sign I said, “If I see Blencathra before we turn off I’m just gonna carry on to the Lakes, sod the walk!”

Kel laughed and promised me we wouldn’t. But as we neared our turn, I think even she was thinking the same and hoping the cloud would be low enough to prevent us seeing the massive mountain and it’s welcoming sight.

We took our right turn without catching a glimpse of ‘Saddle Back’ and headed into Dufton to leave our car and hop into Dicko’s.

As I’ve mentioned in previous Blogs, linear walks can be a pain in the arse as the logistics take more planning than the walk itself sometimes, this was no exception. We had another journey to the start at Langdon which was to take the best part of an hour. Still we were having a good bit of craic and the rain was clearing up as we pulled into Langdon and parked just over the cattle grid and donned our kit.

Being a bit of a spotter, I was looking forward to seeing the odd Golden Plover or Red Shank which are common on this part of the walk. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the sight I was about to see at the very start, Sue wearing a day sack!!  This phenomena threw me totally off track, I didn’t even know she owned one! 

So we set off and headed towards Widdy Bank Farm which is actually a Natural England post and hugged the River Tees along the banks of Falcon Clints. The path here isn’t a piece of cake by any stretch of the imagination. Massive boulders have covered the route and a good few were a bit on the greasy side so we were watching our step from the word go. The majority of the route is over looked by the MoD land on the south side of the river and you’re constantly reminded of the fact by the red flags and sign posts that basically tell you, “cross this line and you may have your weekend messed up having been shot with a  piece of brass travelling at 2650 feet per second!”

We negotiated the slippery boulders and the odd dead sheep and caught up with a band of happy Ramblers who slowed us down on the slim path. But the weather was better and it gave me a chance to scan the river for wildlife. The crags to our right where very impressive, they towered over us and looked good climbing. I was also quite impressed by our groups ability to stay on our feet, especially as the ground was so dodgy. Kel normally gives us a rendition of River Dance but since she got her new boots she’s stayed upright for the last few walks, all we had was Sue’s impersonation of Mumble from Happy Feet on one of the greasy boardwalks.

The Teesdale Way has been very fruitful when it’s come to natural delights, old buildings, dodgy bridges and a good selection of wildlife. But what has stood out has been the waterfalls, and the one I was just about to see would not disappoint. I saw the spray rising from around the corner of Cauldron Snout, but as I walked around the roar and ferocity of this magnificent falls was quite breath taking. Dicko who had been before turned and looked at me as though to say , “I knew you’d like that!”

The path up the side is a decent scramble and could get a bit naughty if you allowed the shear sight and sound of Cauldron Snout distract you from the slippery climb. At the top you’re greeted with the massive dam wall for Cow Green reservoir and the over flow which races down the hill to create the massive falls.  At this point I heard a thud but couldn’t see what had caused it. I knew it wasn’t Kel as she was stood in front of me, but then I saw a pair of black Rab gators sticking out in front of her, it was Dicko on his arse. First fall of the way for him!

This is where we parted from our happy band of Ramblers who were going off to the right to walk around the reservoir, we took the left turn over the bridge and heading south west on our way. Like the last leg, all the sign posts display the Acorn of the Pennines Way, but this is still the Teesdale Way so as not to get confused.

Shortly before the farm at Birkdale, Kel did her usual shout up the line “Is it time for bait?”. After all it had been a good two hours since shed eaten and there’s only so many Mars bars and Snickers you can stick in the side pouch of a day sack. So we found a sheltered spot behind a wall and opened the bait boxes. Kel, Dicko and me were sat down tucking into our sarnies, but Sue was still pacing the path looking very unsettled.  When asked by Dicko what her problem was, her reply had all in fits.

“I can’t eat sat near cow s**t!”

A watered down version of Dicko’s response basically reminded Sue where she was and she’d be hard pushed to find a place that a cow hadn’t used as a loo.  She circled around like a cat trying pad its bed in then sat down, ignoring her other half’s cries of “Will you just sit down!”

I mentioned earlier about my amazement of Sue carrying her own day sack, I might like to just add at this point that all she had in was her buttie box, and even that she tried to palm off to Dicko when we’d finished eating.

With happy tummies we packed our kit away and carried on through the farm and and over a small wooden bridge and our last look at the mighty Tees, which was now just a mere trickled called Grain Beck. A striking contrast to the awesome structures that crossed its twisting swells near Stockton and Middlesborough.

After a long but steady climb we were clambering our way across the sodden peat making up the lower part of Meldon Hill, heading for Dobson Mere Foot.  Most of the route here has been built up and board walks and massive slabs laid. This is where I thought I’d give the map a quick check as Dicko had been doing much of the map reading I wanted to see where we were.  I quite innocently stepped off one of these huge slabs onto what I thought another with a covering of peaty coloured water. This is when I found out how deep the peat is, about one and half feet deep to be precise. That’s how long the lower part of my leg is!!  But the casualties didn’t just stop with my plunge into the soggy country side, the browny coloured water that left the ground as I sunk into it spread a good few metres, in those metres was Kel who was now pink with brown spots!!

After finding the nearest stream to de-peat myself we carried on west towards High Cup Scar. The route goes in two directions when you rejoin the stream. We decided to stay on the north side of the beck and started to look forward to a nice pint, which still seemed a million miles away as we’d decided to drive back to Durham for that. Anyway as we walked we met a bloke walking by himself, he stopped us and told us the way we were heading, the way he’d come, was extremely boggy and advised us to take the other route on the other side of the beck. He obviously hadn’t noticed I was covered in the sodden black stuff already and what lie ahead maybe wasn’t so bad. But we decided to take his advise and cross the beck.

Now, at this point, I’d like to add that Sue is quite an intelligent woman and is a good mate.

As the bloke told us the path was very boggy, Dicko thanked him for his advise and we (Dicko and me) turned to face Kel and Sue and said,

“Apparently the paths a bit boggy this side so we’re gonna cross the beck to take the other route!”

With a confused look on her face, Sue says, “How are we gonna cross?”

The air was silent as the brush wood blew by for a few moments as the bloke, Dicko, Kel and me all stood and looked at the massive metal structure just to Sues left spanning the beck!!

We looked back at Sue as Dicko said, “That!” pointing at the bridge we’d passed seconds ago and was probably the biggest bridge since Barnard Castle.

She may be a master at opening gates but her observation skills are as good as her day sack is full!!

We quickly put as much distance between the lonely hiker and ourselves just in case Sue decided to add further pearls of wisdom to our brief meeting.

We crossed the huge bridge that can be seen from the moon and trudged up a slight ascent then levelled out. We saw a few other hikers looking a little lost to the north and a little off piste.  The path is a bit dodgy at the best of times so I wouldn’t like to venture to far of the beaten track with all the disused shafts and shake holes on Dufton Fell.

But just over the brow I saw something that makes hiking worth while, High Cup Scar!!

I wasn’t expecting the view that this massive chunk out of the landscape would give and I was in awe, perhaps the best view so far. I would advise anyone to take the short hike up from Dufton to see this magnificent sight that cradles High Cup Gill.

However we had to get down now and we were joined by a bit of sunshine to lighten our moods even more after High Cup Scar. In fact, the cloud cleared so much we could see a good chunk of the northern fells in the Lakes which put a smile on everyone’s face. The relatively short walk into Dufton was pleasant and an excellent end to another cracking walk and the end of the Teesdale Way.