Middleton-in-Teesdale to Dufton
Approx: 20 miles
“Anywhere is walking distance, if you’ve got the time.”
Stephen Wright (American writer)
This section has to be the best so far – and I doubt if anything to come will surpass it! Superb scenery, waterfeatuers galore, breathtaking views and some of the most fantastic paths.
But, my arrival at Brow Farm b&b has somewhat tarnished an absolutely spectacular days walking. The two things should be mutually exclusive of course, but in terms of overall experience I’m now a bit pissed off.
I arrived in Dufton at about 15:30 and chanced my arm by knocking on the door of the b&b – there was no answer, so I looked round the back – still no-one around, so I walked into the village and tried the pub. It was absolutely heaving! There were people 5 deep at the bar and full occupancy at all the inside tables. A coach was parked outside, which sort of gave the game away, so I sat on a bench on the village green and finished my lunch.
I returned to the b&b at about 16:00 and there was still no answer, so I knocked as loud as I could without damaging the door, to no avail and then perched myself on a handy bench just across the road. I spoke to the solo German I’d met earlier as he passed through on his way to the YHA and then went back to knock again.
As I was knocking a couple went into one of the side doors and a minute later the guy came out and asked if I was staying here. He explained that he’d been let in by a neighbour and the owners still weren’t back. I took an executive decision and waited in the lounge. I watched the final 20 minutes of the FA Cup Final and the owners eventually turned up at 17:15.
There was no word of an apology, just a “we’ve been out”. “So I see” was the politest response I could conjur, as they continued to empty shopping bags into the cupboards. I was shown to my room and asked what time I wanted breakfast and that was it, she was off, back to the kitchen.
Anyway, I’m calming down in the pub now. The coach has gone and I’ve managed to get a seat in the corner. I’m waiting for the dinner service to start so I can order some food. I’m beginning to mellow and think back over the excellent day I’ve just had.
My neck is a little sunburned, it’s buzzing nicely under my collar at the moment – the daft thing is I’ve been pretty cold all day. The biting northerly wind from a few days ago was today replaced by an equally cold westerley, and of course today is the only day when I’m walking mostly westward. I’m now used to walking into a headwind though! It just makes the day twice as hard and half as enjoyable.
But what a day! Things start gently as you leave Middleton, with increasingly more impressive waterfalls – Low Force is great, High Force is stunning and Cauldron Snout is absolutely incredible. The path linking all these water features is also majestic. Lovely riverside paths through fields become twisting tracks through gorse, crossing little tributaries on raised bridges and soon become wide rock strewn paths leading to a frenetic scramble up beside the most impressive water feature in England (surely!).
I kept up a good pace today, I had 20 miles to do and didn’t really want to be finishing too late. The headwind made things difficult and I think bowing my head into the teeth of it all day has resulted in the sunburn on the back of my neck.
With it being a Saturday there were loads of day walkers cluttering up the paths, getting in the way and generally making the scenery look untidy 🙂
There is a glorious section from Cow Green Reservoir, wild open country with rolling hills either side of the path and a real remote feel to it. I was passed here by half a dozen lads on scrambling bikes – I’ve no idea if they’re allowed to use this track or not, but they made a bloody awful noise for quite a while before they eventually pulled ahead far enough.
At the bridge across Maize Beck I saw my solo backpacker ahead. This is the guy I followed into Bowes and I think the same one I saw yesterday on the way into Middleton. He keeps up a good pace though and I didn’t make any progress catching him up, even with his much bigger pack.
It wasn’t until he stopped at High Cup Nick that I finally caught him up. We were both goggling at the view, alone apart from two other walkers sitting quietly by the edge having some lunch. I said hello and we chatted for a minute or two. He’s doing the PW of course, as I assumed – he doesn’t book anything, just arrives in a village and tries the YH if there is one and knocks on b&bs if there isn’t.
I left him admiring the views and walked slowly along the lip of the Nick stopping to take plenty of photos. I passed a huge group of ramblers, blocking the path as they nattered their way into Dufton. It was a cruelly hard path to finish with after a long, tiring day and my feet were crying out for some springy turf or peat blanket.
I’ve already recounted my arrival at Brow Farm, where I finally got a shower and the relief of taking my boots off.
I’ve now had a superb Steak Pie in the Stag Inn in Dufton village and I’ll try and post this, with a photo as I wander back to the b&b. The O2 signal I’ve got doesn’t seem to last once I get inside a building, so I’ll set it up and hope it gets through on the 10 minute walk back.