Monday, 20 May 2013

Baldersdale to High Force

Other guests at Clove Lodge were Bill, a retired lab technician from the University at Sheffield, Ian, who has a broad Lancashire accent and comes from Burnley, and Beata (sp?) form Frankfurt. Ian rather dominates conversation, and seems to be able to talk only about walking. He appears to do the Pennine Way almost every year, and is a regular at Clove Lodge. Though they had travelled further that day, coming from Keld in one go, all would be doing much the same walk as me the following day.

Clove Lodge is owned by Chris and Caroline, who have been spending the last eight years or so upgrading the property. It’s now very nice. My Pig Sty, which is what it actually had been, is excellent. Dinner was good, served in the large kitchen/diner, as was breakfast the following day.

The Lodge is for sale; Caroline wants to be nearer her daughters, who live in the South. They are hoping to move to West Sussex, just on the inland side of the South Downs. (Her son is just about to move to New York, so we compared notes on that.) They’re looking for a house that be something of as project – not perhaps as large a project as Clove Lodge had been, but something where there is an opportunity to upgrade and make money. They are hoping to move soon after Chris retires (he commutes to near Durham, though I never discovered what he does) in July. I was nosy enough to ask about budget, and she said that they could go to £750 or thereabouts. The snag is that while they had thought they had three potential purchasers, all had just dropped out for a variety of reasons. So I paid my bill, wished them luck, and was on my way soon after 9:00. My luggage had already gone on ahead.

The reservoir on teh way to Middleton-in-Teesdale

I thought I was last to leave, but soon discovered that Bill was actually behind me. It gave me something of a quandary: I could not imagine enjoying a day in his company (and he would probably have felt the same about me). So we reached a compromise: we walked together only briefly, and finally departed at the bridge over the [  ] reservoir a couple of miles in to the day’s section. I did, however, see him briefly again in the afternoon when he had spent longer than me in Middleton-in-Teesdale.

Caroline had said that the walk to Middleton – the first half of the day – was mainly on farm tracks. This was information of extremely dubious quality. There were a few hundred metres of track and road at the outset, but then it was essentially cross country for the rest of the distance. And it was extremely wet and muddy. It was mostly squelch, squelch, squelch, and there were a couple of places where the mud was inescapable and my boots went on almost to ankle level.

The high country before Middleton
The final bit down into Middleton was wet, but lovely well-cropped grassland with a view over Teesdale itself down below. It seemed interminable, which was rather surprising in that the overall gain in height sine Clove Lodge was only a couple of hundred metres, and Middleton is not much lower. I was now by myself, though I could see Bill and Beata ahead of me, and was kept company only be very excitable lapwings. They call incessantly, and seem to follow for far longer than one could be any danger to nest or young. They even swoop down close, when you can hear the beat of their wings as well as their piercing “peewit” calls.

Middleton street furniture
In Middleton I bought a paper, some chocolate, and drew some much-needed cash. No Lloyds, and Barclays refused to cash a cheque, so it was a credit card with the inevitable extra charges. Having fraud committed on a debit card is not only worrying and annoying: it costs money. One of the very few shops was a well-stocked ironmonger, so I also managed to buy the brush I had decided I needed to restore my boots to something like their original glory. A pint and sandwich finished the visit, and I was on my way.

The rest of the day’s walk was up the Tees itself. The Pennine Way follows it closely for several miles, sometimes set back a short distance, sometimes cutting the corner where the river meanders, but mostly right by the riverside. This is very attractive, with sharp bluffs above the fields on the South side, and more gentle looking country on the opposite bank. There is nothing but sheep, of course: no arable, and no cattle. But unlike most of the last few days there are now trees: occasional woods as well as the regular trees along the river’s bank. I had hoped for a wider variety of birds, but it was just the ubiquitous lapwings in the open fields plus chaffinches and willow warblers in the wooded areas. I haven’t heard a chiffchaff yet: I suspect they must be predominantly Southern birds.

After three and a half miles I reached Low Force, one of the waterfalls on the Tees. This is a beautiful place: an impressive waterfall, with a beech wood below it on the opposite bank, and a bridge conveniently positioned so that it’s easy to explore the area.
Low Force warerfalls

The final bit was a further mile to the next bridge over the river. I was half-tempted to go a further half mile upriver to see High Force, the other waterfall, but I would be passing it the next day when I resumed the walk. So it was up the track to the minor road and the last few hundred metres on the road to the High Force Hotel, my destination for the day.

This did not look promising. The reception area was tatty, there was ancient furniture in what I assumed was the lounge, and no obvious bar. The room where it was

Park boundary
suggested I left my boots was a shambles, and the only other room I was able to investigate had a random collection of tables with even more random chairs upended on them, and piles of junk. It felt like a going-out-of-business operation. I had hoped Martin Greenbank would be joining me there before our walk the following day, but he had called me the previous evening to say that (a) he had wrenched his knee, and (b) was facing something of a business crisis that had to be his priority. I was therefore somewhat relieved that he was not being subjected to what threatened to be a rather sorry experience. But my room was OK, and dinner acceptable. And the beer tasted like beer.

Dull all day, with higher hills obscured. A suggestion of rain later in the afternoon, but it came to nothing. 12-17C. 21.43km, 340m ascent, 437m descent. Very wet across country, but better going with quite a lot of rocky sections along the Tees. Limited tracks and roads – perhaps 15% of the total distance.

No comments:

Post a Comment