Thursday 10 April 2014

Cross country

A sharp rise in train fares makes things restrictive in travelling to desired backpacking areas. This particular trip had been on my radar for a while. East Coast train fares have almost tripled in a very short space of time. However with some juggling I managed a fairly cheap ticket to Darlington. Initially Mike was going to join me on the jaunt. However, he had gone down with a dreaded lurgy, dengue fever, galloping scourge and a variety of other dreadful symptoms. Not able to lug a a backpack over a few days of walking, he opted for a few days of car camping.
On the\Friday Mike duly met me at Darlington with the car. Being unwell, he left the driving to Bruno???Initially our intention had been to camp at Holwick. Unfortunately, it being the lambing season, Bruno was barred.Thus we ended up to the campsite at Middleton. Not the most salubrious of places. The ground, being saturated, it soon became muddy, yuck! Mike set up cafe Atko, amazing, groundsheets and tarp, stove, kettle frying pan. Camping next door, I was certain of a decent breakfast!

Saturday we went for a wander around upper Teesdale. It was enough for Mike and we where back at the campsite by mid afternoon.

Sunday looked as if it was going to be a long day.My intention was to follow the Pennine Way over to Keld. Camping overnight on the way. It had rained on and off for most of the night and was still wet come morning. Breakfast at cafe atko and I was away fairly early. Heading uphill out of Middleton, it quickly became apparent that the going was going to be muddy. Farm traffic had heavily churned the ground, in places it was a morass. The rain continued on and off for most of the day. At times heavy showers with a a few hailstones. This was interspersed with light, drizzly mizzle blown on a blustery wind.
With a constant eye on the map Lunedale came and went.

Baldersdale reservoir beckoned me on. The cries of moorland birds where now blended with the honking of wild geese. It may have been wet and a wee bit unpleasant but the air was alive with the sound of lapwings and curlews. Coming over Cotherstone Moor, I found the going difficult. This is grouse country and quad bikes had criss crossed much of the moor. The saturated ground had been badly carved up and in many places it was a morass of liquid mud. To add to the mix, tracks veered off in many directions. Sticking to the course of the P.W. meant constant  map checking. It was too easy to go adrift as I almost did a few times.

My intention had been to cross the A66 and camp soon after. That though was easier said than done. Time was getting on as I came by Sleightholme farm. The wind and rain had picked up and was blowing directly down the valley. After  some casting about I finally settled on a less than ideal place just off the track that climbs  high on the moorland. Serried ranks of grouse butts had me somewhat uneasy. Grouse moors meant keepers and I was camped right next to the track. A high, L shaped section of wall obviously had been built as a shelter area from the wind, offered me the only suitable place available. It was late and I had been on the go for over ten hours.

Monday morning was wet and murky. A four four had  growled past as I was having a cuppa but no one said anything, for which I was thankful!
Heading over to Tan Hill the ground was once more badly chewed up by quad bikes and at one point tractor tracks and an awful mess where he had obviously got in to difficulties. Swirling mist and rain was drifting across the high ground as I popped in to the pub for a cup of coffee. Having lost contact with Mike, I pushed on down to Keld. Having a wet tent and feeling tired I treated myself to a bed in the Park House bunk barn.

Meeting up with Mike on the Tuesday morning, he had camped at the Keld campsite. He was still unwell and I think was somewhat glad to be heading home?

Not feeling up to doing too much myself, I got Mike to drop me off at the top of Burkdale. My intention had been to follow the bridleway over to Hartley Fell. However, not wanting to arrive in Kirkby Stephen too early, I sort of diverted. Went for a wander toward Nine Standards, found a little path/sheep trod that led me around to a small cairn. Another little path took to just below Nine Standards and a main path heading to the top. A meander down and around Ladthwaite and on to K.S.
Probably all the rufty tufty types would make light of the walking but for me, well, I was tired. Sunday had covered some thirteen or fourteen miles of heavy going. In all probability I had covered in the region of thirty miles plus over the course of this trip.

It is probable Mike will be posting his own account of events. Fortunately superdawg, Bruno was on hand to keep an eye on him. Hopefully Mike will be on the road to recovery before cafe atko heads north.