14th May 2010 – Bowes to Middleton in-T – 12.2 miles
“That’s right, a lovely stroll on the moors. Tra-la-la, isn’t this fun?”
David – just prior to Jack’s slaughter – American Werewolf in London
Today was my last “easy” day of the three that I’d designed into the middle of the walk. The Bowes loop had provided 3 x 12 mile sections, even if it has also provided one of the least memorable accommodations of the walk. I just hope the three day respite has prepared me adequately for a 20+ mile walk tomorrow.
I had an 08:30 breakfast of tea and toast and managed to snag an apple from the bowl of fruit on the side, to supplement my flapjack at lunch. It rained in the morning, only lightly, but it was all over by the time I left the Ancient Unicorn at just after 09:00.
I walked back down the length of the village and out the other side on the bridge across the very quiet A66. I was soon into open country, surrounded by military warning signs and dozens of swooping lapwings. The moorland is perfect habitat for these ground-nesting birds and they were a constant presence throughout the day. In many cases I was the predator they were swooping at, in many more I watched them chasing off other birds and sheep.
Not long after leaving Bowes, just before joining the moorland, I passed over a cattle grid, in which was trapped a young lamb. There was no way of lifting the grid and the lamb kept sidling away from me when I tried to snag it and pull it back through. I eventually gave up trying to rescue it and settled for informing one of the workers at the nearby farm. “Bloody stupid animals”, was his response “they’re always getting stuck in there, I’ve pulled three out this week already!”
Just beyond the farm, I saw a solo walker ahead of me. He was carrying a large pack, but it wasn’t the guy I’d passed and spoken to previously, he was walking much too quickly, about my pace in fact, possibly even a little faster – as I never caught him. He was always about 1/2 a mile ahead of me, obviously doing the PW, the size of his pack gave this away, even if his route selection didn’t. Once I’d established this it made my own navigational task a little easier. There were places today where the path is little more than a sheep trod. I began to wonder how many people actually get this far from Edale. The sections of path across open moorland would be much more well trodden if the same number of people walked them as walked the early parts of the path. Or maybe it’s just that there’s not the same amount of incidental day walkers using the PW path as there is through the Peaks and Dales.
Either way, I had to be on the map most of the day – trailblazing solo backpacker notwithstanding. I was still feeling a bit low this morning so I decided early on in the day to listen to an audiobook to try and lift my mood. I wouldn’t normally tune-out this way when I’m on a walk. I like to connect with the landscape (apologies if that sounds a little pretentious). I like to hear the birds, hear the wind in the trees, listen our for signs of wildlife in the flora beside the path. That’s the way you spot interesting little critters. Anyway today was spent engrossed in an audiobook “Joe Haldeman’s, Forever War”.
I was just about warm enough today in base layer and fleece, the sun came out occasionally, but it was mostly cloudy with a light breeze. I’ve managed another day without being rained on – and at the risk of tempting fate, I’m very pleased with that record. Unfortunately this was the highlight of the day – the scenery was uninspiring once I reached Baldersdale and the fields and pastures are once again something you have to endure as you transition from one part of the walk to another. Tomorrow holds great promise.
The last mile or so into Middleton-in-Teesdale was done in bright sunshine with no breeze – positively balmy weather in fact. If I’d had any further to go I’d have had to swap my fleece for my shirt, which I’m carrying in my pack.
As I arrived in the little town I was hailed by the Aussie Ladies – they’d walked in from Baldersdale – so had come about the same distance, but without doing the Bowes loop. They were sitting in the sun on a bench enjoying pies from the nearby butchers shop. I took a group photo for them and agreed to meet up later for drinks or maybe dinner, depending on timings.
I looked for a pub with a Coke dispenser and settled on the Foresters. I’m sitting here now writing this report, conscious that I smell quite badly, but not really caring! I don’t want to knock on the B&B (which is next door) until at least 15:30, so until then I will have to live with the frowns from the barmaid.
I need to do some shopping for the next couple of days lunches before I leave tomorrow, this is the last proper town until I get the bus into Carlisle on Tuesday.
Everywhere seems to be losing shops and pubs. The Bridge Inn, one of the first places you come to as you enter the town is now shut, so I’m losing confidence in my ability to access shops in little villages like Dufton and Garrigill. If I didn’t have Brigantes carrying luggage for me (in which I have limited emergency lunch supplies) I would have been going hungry at lunch time more than once. Today being a prime example. The shop I was expecting to find in Bowes was closed, not just shut, but closed down.
The services along the PW seem to be withering. The reduction in walkers doing the path must have something to do with this, but the general recession is also having an impact of course. In comparison, I wonder how businesses along the C2C path are faring? Not nearly so badly I would guess.
I arrived at the B&B at 15:30 and it’s a good job I waited as long as I did because the landlady had been out all day and she was just finishing making up my room when I knocked on the door. Any earlier and I would have been turned away I think and that’s a bit embarrassing for both parties.