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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Day 57 - Bowes to High Force

A taxi from our B and B in Barnard Castle back to Bowes today, in the company of John from Hodgson’s taxis. We had a good chat about what it’s like living in ‘Barney’. It certainly seems an ideal spot, with big cities nearby, amazing countryside on the doorstep and a lovely community in the town. His pleasant conversation diverted me from the worry about whether my leg would hold up.

I’m very aware that worrying about my leg can make it worse, or at least my perception of it. So I’m trying very hard to distract myself from that, and it was good to have David for company for the walk today. We chatted, and played 20 questions whenever it’s felt a bit tough,, and walked companionably in silence too. The walk started on road, and we set off in good weather with some blue sky but pleasantly cool. It wasn’t long till the sky got a lot nearer the ground though.

We hoped to outwalk the rain, but it doesn’t work like that, and my F1 pit stop style speedy raincoat and rucksack protector donning impressed the sheep, if no one else. But it was the only bit of rain today, the waterproofs didn’t have to stay on long. After a couple of miles we were due to turn off onto a footpath. The terrain was moorland again, and there had been a number of warning signs about MoD firing ranges. As we approached we could see a line of grouse hides too. Fortunately we were over a week off the Glorious Twelfth, and there were no squaddies lobbing grenades as far as I could see. So we set fairly confidently off onto the line of footpath on the map.

We might not have been being shot, but it was certainly unwelcoming territory. The footpath was entirely unclear, so it was only through sticking to the direction on the map that we knew on which bearing to head. There were occasional white sticks in the ground, but they had shot gun pellets in boxes at their feet, so it was unclear whether they were for navigational purposes or reloading. The ground was uneven, with high grass and moss, with periodically the odd stream thrown in for good measure. It was slow going. Then an adder flicked out from the grass right in front of my boot, which made me walk with more urgency towards ground that was more open and where I could see the snakes coming.

Eventually we emerged onto clearer ground, and I made a detour to go the next section by road so that we didn’t have any more snake related scares. Much of this morning was spent on the Tees Railway Walk, another decommissioned railway line handed over to leisure use. It was originally built in 1868 to transport passengers, as well as taking the lead and stone mined in the North Pennines further up Teesdale. It closed in 1964. This was a surprisingly undulating track for an ex-railway. Less gentle steam train, more roller coaster. But mostly the terrain was easy, passing over viaducts and past small villages, mainly in a gentle rural landscape. It reminded me very much of the Cotswolds, such a different feel to Sleightholme Moor on the previous walking day.

Lunch was at about 9 miles in Middleton in Teesdale. I was so tired by then. We sat and had a serious discussion about what I should do, whether I have it in me to continue. David’s support is unwavering, whatever I decide, and knowing that made it easier to choose to continue into the afternoon to see how I fared. In fact, making the decision meant that my leg started to relax, which reduced the pain. I’m feeling optimistic that I’ll be up for carrying on tomorrow too. This challenge has always been as much a mental one as physical. Strangely passing half way seems to have exacerbated the mental strains of what I’m doing. Hopefully this current wobble has been a short term blip.

After lunch we returned to the Pennine Way, and hugged the meanderings of the Tees river. The path sometimes climbed high above the water, then rapidly descended to be at the river’s edge. The Tees is lively here, moving very fast and swirling over the boulders scattered across the rust coloured water.

As well as watching the river, we were also having to negotiate a series of fields. These were mainly separated with stiles, often challengingly high.

There were a few cows kicking about in the fields, allowing David to practise his own cow whisperer techniques. The farmer had recently mowed the long grass and the aroma of sweet hay hung in the air. We could see old quarries in the distance, and sweet wild raspberries in the foreground. It was idyllic.

But this afternoon has been about the river. It was a constant sound, and we had some lovely moments watching its energy and imagining whether it was passable in a kayak, it would have been fun.

Towards the end of the day we passed Low Force, a waterfall where the water passes over the Whin Sill, a layer of hard dolerite rock which formed 295 million years ago from molten rock which cooled and solidified underground. It’s a great place, the power of the water is mesmerising.

I quite agreed with the sheep just after the falls. ‘A wonderful place to be a walker’. I’m very glad that I still am being a walker in this wonderful place. Bring on tomorrow.


Distance travelled: 15.6 miles

Total ascent: 1200 feet

Calories burned: 2196

Local tipple - no local beer on in the bar, so Heineken 00

Dinner at High Force hotel - good

Chickpea, sweet potato and spinach curry with rice and naan

Video of the day

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