The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday 9 April 2011

Day 21 - Barnard Castle to Beyond Stanhope

Sat 9 April (0800-1945)
Distance: 22 miles (Tot: 372)
Weather: wall-to-wall sunshine, bit hazy
Number of grouse seen: 843(ish)

We really are incredibly lucky to be able to do a walk like today's in weather like this. We are also lucky that neither of us has been crushed under a boulder.

A short way through our day, walking through gorgeous woodland alongside the Tees, we came to a huge boulder (3'x2'x2' sort of size) sitting right on the path. The first thing I noticed about it was that it wasn't covered in moss like other such lumps of rock on the path, but was incredibly clean. Looking at the cliff from where it had fallen and the dents in the ground where it had bounced it was apparent that it had fallen very recently indeed. Yesterday or overnight, I'd say. Glad we weren't there at the time!

The morning went on in stunning surroundings as we passed through farmland, sometimes on footpaths which gave no evidence of their existence. Over locked gates we climbed and, with the absence of waymarks, if we hadn't been working from a 1:25k map I would have thought we had gone awry. Few people, it seems, go the way we went, which didn't make me feel any better when we approached a farm with the most enormous Alsatian in the yard. I figure that farms on thoroughfares are more likely to restrain their killer dogs, but when we got there the monster was indeed chained. Didn't stop it from wanting to kill us, mind.

Onto the moors we went, still drinking in the joy of our surroudings, and over lunch contemplated whether we should go to the west (track and path) or the east (road and track) side of the lump we were looking at. "We could just go straight over it" I said, and so we did. Our first proper pathless yomp of the trip, and although it involved some extensive heather bashing (which made it by far the slowest way we could have gone) it was good fun.

And then, as if the day wasn't going well enough, what should appear before us as we reached Bollihope, but an ice cream van? We joined the masses on the riverside as we enjoyed our cornets, before heading up over the next lump that lay between us and Stanhope.

Despite my statement just two days ago that we were rejigging the next couple of days such that we wouldn't reach Stanhope until Sunday morning, we passed through Stanhope late this afternoon (not without a little navigational trouble on the final approaches across farmland). We'd noticed at second breakfast that we were taking an unnecessarily circuitous route via Middleton-in-Teesdale, and having cut a bit of distance out of the day we thought we may as well revert to the original plan.

Having stopped for a drink in Stanhope (where I looked a little out of place amongst the girls dressed up for a Saturday night out), we didn't think we'd have to walk dreadfully much further to find a pitch. What I hadn't anticipated was that one of the buildings marked on the map is a farmhouse with a view of everywhere you might want to pitch for quite a distance. And then there was the issue of finding anywhere vaguely flat (lumps abound). Of course, we found somewhere in the end; something always turns up.

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1 comment:

  1. You're quite getting me in the mood for my mini adventure (with new friends!) in the borders next weekend. Should be fun, but don't hog all the good weather, will you? It's good to share!
    word: dislike
    So not true!