Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

An uncertain forecast, but a dry day in Teesdale

12th May 2008

This past weekend might be seen as not being that friendly towards hill country hikers with its mix of high temperatures and an ever present threat of torrential downpours with added son et lumière. Apart from a session allotted to the breaking in of my Scarpa ZG10’s, my own outdoors activity was non too extensive. As it happened, I just couldn’t get myself in the mood for a longer hike. The thundery atmosphere and the heat might have something to do with this lethargy but it also could be due to my having decent walking outings over the previous bank holiday weekend. After a climax, an encore can be too much to ask.

The Mayday weekend might have shared weather uncertainties with that following it but, in many ways, it was a very different affair. For one thing, I managed to make my mind up that I was going for a walk and that was that. I was playing with a multi-day Pennine Way outing but doubts over the weather and personal fitness toned things down a lot. I still experienced a new section of the trail but in a much more manageable fashion: an out and back along the Tees from Middleton-in-Teesdale. Though there was a threat of rain and skies were packed full of light cloud, I was determined to explore a part of England that was hitherto new to me. At times, the sun broke through anyway and all fears of drenching were for naught; it was sunscreen that was needed rather than water proofs.

Getting to Middleton and away is easily described: by train from Macclesfield to Darlington and by bus from there. Returning home simply reversed things. An early morning departure ensured that I was in Teesdale not long after 11:00 and the only concern was a short connection time in Darlington but I made the bus in the nick of time. On the way back, a spot of muddling meant that I missed the 19:34 southbound train and I had to await the 20:14 instead. I still got home but at the same time but retain the lesson that you shouldn’t trust your memory too closely: I took the correct turns but at the wrong locations. All got resolved in good time.

The Tees-side walk itself was devoid of such navigational blundering. From Middleton to Low Force, the track of the Pennine Way (which it shares with the Teesdale Way at this point) was quiet as it followed the fast flowing Tees through fields filled with sheep and their lambs. Apart from some ramblers, very few folk were met until around Low Force and High Force. The capacity for dramatic waterworks of the natural variety to attract wider humanity should never be underestimated. The fact that the day was balmy contributed to the attraction of the features in question, as it always does.

Low Force, Bowlees, Teesdale, Co. Durham, England

I didn’t have to go far past High Force for things to quieten down again. However, the pleasing sights of torrents of water spouting over rocks were replaced momentarily by the fruits of some human industrial activity: quarrying. Having passed this, I became conscious of the time that I had, perhaps overly so, and decided to turn back on Bracken Rigg rather than dropping down to Cronkley and Forest-in-Teesdale. I am beginning to notice that I am overcautious with out-and-back treks while throwing some caution to the wind on point-to-point hikes. My visits to Teesdale and Kinlochleven typified the former while my bank holiday wander from Bethesda to Bangor (to be described in a future post) could be seen as being very much of the latter. This is something that I’ll be watching, especially for linear walks.

Perambulation over a combination of footpaths and bridleways, some boggy, was to land me at Holwick with the scars looking very impressive, even on a cloudy day. After that, it was back to the Pennine Way and Middleton where I whiled away a relaxing hour before my bus turned up. It was a good relaxing end to an enjoyable day. Thoughts are now turning to future Pennine Way expeditions with a walk from Teesdale to Dufton in the mind. Connecting with Swaledale and Wensleydale to usher forth my progress is yet another proposition. We’ll see how that might come to pass…

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