Saturday 23rd August: Middleton-in-Teesdale to Dufton – 20 miles
The breakfast at the Brunswick House (in particular the fruit salad) was excellent. We set off from the B&B around half past nine, stopping along the way for sandwiches at the Co-Op before walking out of Middleton.
We crossed the Tees and then turned right, to follow its valley westwards towards Cumbria. Initially we followed the edge of the river plain, keeping at distance of a few hundred yards from the river.
The path was bounded by stone walls and in one short stretch some overgrown bracken. It was a lovely sunny day and before long we stopped at a large, dead tree stump to put some sun cream on.
After two miles we began to veer over to meet and follow the riverbank. Soon we were on a beautiful riverside walk, the water flowing along calmly to our right, with grassy meadows to the left and further back the Holwick scars.
There came the first of a series of cataracts. This was a first opportunity to drop my backpack and take photographs of all angles of the Tees.
Opposite Low Force
Then Low Force: a small waterfall around 15 feet high and splendid to see – the best view was on the opposite bank, reached via a small suspension bridge.
We had 15 minutes sat on the riverbank, enjoying the view.
Then we continued along the riverbank, the river being broken up by more, smaller falls and cataracts.
Moving away from the river for a spell, we passed through some open land with bracken vegetation (and where we were advised to use a footbath to prevent tree disease).
Halfway through, we made for a stop in a cutting high up the riverbank, which offered us a spectacular viewpoint of High Force, the larger of the two waterfalls (it looked four or five times as high), and a fine place to stop for lunch.
The fact that we were trying to walk the Pennine Way, twenty miles that day, didn’t allow much time for the contemplation of the natural world, which was a pity as I could have spent all afternoon there looking at the fall.
After eating some of my lunch and taking some pictures of High Force, Mark and I carried on walking along by the Tees. Not long after High Force, as we went further up, the river widened and became shallower, and the vegetation started to thin out.
Around Langdon Beck to Cauldron Snout
There was half an hour or so, around Langdon Beck where the way let the Tees be for a bit, departing away from it over small sheep hills.
We crossed the Tees, then followed a tributary past a farm and walked over cow fields for a bit, which brought us back to the Tees, this time on the other bank.
Approaching initially on a track, as our side of the valley came up closer the path traced the meander round, right on the edge. We had to scramble a little over rocks that had fallen from above down to the river – it wasn’t easy making over these.
We followed round beneath the vertiginous Falcon Clints, before getting around the corner to the wide fall of Cauldron Snout. The beautiful geological features that we saw around here had quite homely, mundane names; nothing really vivid or dramatic.
On the opposite side a sheep that had fallen off the edge was trapped and exhausting itself in trying to climb up and escape. My heart ached a little at this pathetic sight, but from where I was standing there wasn’t much I could do to help.
The stream above the snout that fed it was equally dramatic, cutting a path through the rock in a zig-zag fashion, with the grim concrete curtain of the Cow Green Dam as a backdrop: man was (and is) quite in charge around here.
Looking back over the beginning of Teesdale and the fabulous view of the Falcon Clints, the grand free show of geology ended here, at least for the time being.
Miles 12-16: High Cup Nick
Away from the reservoir we started to ascend slowly up over open moorland, in the direction of the northern Pennines. A mile of old farm track gave over, following a ford crossing, to two and a half miles of freshly laid rock track, that was hard and dull to walk over (particularly after fifteen miles).
Finally leaving this and picking up a stream, we romp a little over the open country plateau and at 6.15 get to High Cup Nick; and the panoramic vista over its glacially cut valley.
After eighteen miles, I’m a little too tired to take it all in (the evening sun obscures our view a little too). But it is spectacular – what an amazing place.
Down into Dufton
It’s a hard walk down into Dufton, not steep descent, but rough tracks. The view over the Cumbrian plain was something I loved though.
A long day of twenty miles had made us very weary when we got to the YHA around eight – Mark was a quarter dead it seemed. There was just enough time to get a meal at the pub before nine o’clock, and I managed to get some laundry hand-washed in the hostel’s drying room.
A fantastic days walking, not difficult but long and very stimulating – and one that we were far too tired to reflect upon at the time.