The Pennine Way Revisited - 1994

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 5 - Dufton to Grassholme


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Day 7 - Saturday 18th June - Dufton to Forest-in-Teesdale - 12.3 miles - 1600 ft ascent

Accommodation: B&B Knott Hill Farm - 20 dinner B&B (Langdon Beck hostel full)

I set off at 9.30 a.m. with the weather very overcast and a few spots of rain. On the way up to High Cup Nick I met up with the lady from Sheffield and, as I was in no hurry, I walked along with her. She had retired from being a nurse a couple of years ago and her husband had died around that time, so she decided to walk the Pennine Way whilst she was still capable of doing it. She had taken up some walking with a friend for training, although she already did quite a bit of walking herself with the dogs. She even went as far as testing out her survival bag by spending a night in the garden in it. Although she is a steady walker, she manages to do quite high daily mileage by keeping going, sometimes until quite late. Tonight she was heading for a bunk house just before Middleton-in-Teesdale, and tomorrow possibly to God's Bridge, and she intends to do the whole walk in about 15 days as her son was over here from the Far East and she had not yet had chance to see him.

The weather up by High Cup was foul with mist and a very strong icy cold wind. There was no view at all, but at least having been here twice before it was not such a disappointment as if I had never seen it before. Past High Cup it was very boggy and the footpath was very difficult to see, but we just carried on guided purely by the lie of the land, as I knew that we just needed to meet the head of the valley and follow it down. I think my companion was quite glad not to be on her own trying to find the way in the mist. Eventually we found Maize Beck, and having crossed it with some difficulty, followed it downstream. Some way further down there appeared to be a newly laid path going off on the opposite side, probably leading to High Cup following the higher ground on that side of the Beck. It is a pity we didn't manage to pick it up from the other end as it could have saved a lot of very boggy walking.

There was a little bit more shelter from the wind now so we found somewhere to stop for a rest and have lunch. My hands were so cold that I had difficulty opening my rucksack and it was certainly not a place to stay for long, so we were soon on our way again. Needless to say the heel of my companion's boot, which she had glued, was flapping off again, although surprisingly it wasn't letting in any more water than the other boot. She still did not seem to be too concerned about it though.

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Cauldron Snout
Cauldron Snout

Towards Cauldron Snout we at last came out of the mist and rain, and the wind was not so strong. I was rather ahead of time as it was only about 2 p.m. and I only had about three miles to go, so I said farewell to my companion and wished her well for the rest of the walk. I then spent some time looking around Cow Green Reservoir and Cauldron Snout, whose gushing cascades of water looked just as impressive in the rather dismal conditions of the day. At one time the spectacle of Cauldron Snout and the other waterfalls on the Tees was dependent on the weather, but since the building of the Cow Green Dam there is a more constant flow of water. This is enough to make them impressive most of the time, but does not give rise to the really dramatic spectacle following a period of heavy rain, that could occur before the dam was built.

I had booked into a farmhouse bed and breakfast quite close to the Pennine Way as Langdon Beck Youth Hostel was full with a school party. I was greeted by the son when I arrived at about 5 p.m. and he made me a cup of tea and showed me to my room. It looked like they only had one guest room and I was the only one staying there. I looked everywhere along the landing for the bathroom but couldn't see one. I found out later that it was downstairs through the lounge on the way to the kitchen, which wasn't very convenient for going to in the middle of the night. However, the whole family were very friendly and the farmer's wife brought me a very nice dinner of soup, gammon with chips, peas and salad, and then ice cream. She told me that they were giving up taking in guests after this year as they had taken on more land to farm and she didn't have the time.

After dinner I watched television for a while before making my way to the Langdon Beck Hotel, which is about a mile away, calling at the telephone box near the hostel to 'phone home. In the bar there were a group of six from the hostel and a couple of locals but no sign of any walkers. There are not many pubs around like this these days, thank goodness. The bar was a room about 12 ft square with the bar in one corner and bench seats around the walls. There was a lot of imitation wood paper stuck around the bench seats and the bar, and some subtle lighting consisting of a single florescent light in the middle of the ceiling. They still had only pressurised beer, and nothing much had changed since I was in there three years ago. The only thing different then was that the bar was filled with 14 Pennine Way walkers, so there was a lot more friendly chatter. (April 2002 - I have just had an email from the new owners of the Langdon Beck Hotel, who have done a lot of work improving it and making it a much more hospitable pub, so don't be put off by my experiences in 1994). At about 10 p.m. I made my way back to the farm and went to bed.


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Day 8 - Sunday 19th June - Forest-in-Teesdale to Grassholme - 11.2 miles - 980 ft ascent

Accommodation: B&B Grassholme Farm - 23.50 full meals (Baldersdale hostel closed)

I had a very good breakfast at 8.30 a.m. and started out at about 9.15 a.m. There was still a lot of low cloud about but it was broken up by a few bright patches here and there. I ambled along as I had a very easy day's walk ahead of me and reached High Force at 10.30 a.m., where I found a good spot to sit looking at the waters thundering down beneath. After a while a few patches of blue sky appeared and the sun started to shine. It was so pleasant to feel the warmth of the sun again after all the cold, wet and windy weather of the past three days. Most of all it meant that I could amble along with long stops at the various beauty spots along the way without being frozen stiff. Just down from High Force I saw a flash of brilliant blue going from the trees on one side of the river to those on the other side and then back again. It was too quick for me to get a good view but it must have been a kingfisher. I made my way down to Low Force past all the meadows which are under Nature Conservancy control. They are a botanist's delight with masses of wild flowers including thousands of orchids of various kinds. There were some fine specimens of spotted orchids in full flower, a number of pyramid orchids and fields full of early purple orchids which were on their way out and fading in colour.

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River Tees at High Force
River Tees at High Force
River Tees at Low Force
River Tees at Low Force
Canoes on River Tees at Low Force
Canoes at Low Force

When I reached Low Force the sun was shining brightly and most of the clouds had cleared from the sky. A group of canoeists were shooting the rapids over the falls, so I found a pleasant spot by the river bank and stopped for lunch watching them. There were quite a few people about as it was a Sunday and there is easy access here by car. Whilst eating my lunch a bird, a chaffinch I think, was very friendly and came within about three feet of me, hopping about picking up crumbs without being bothered by my presence. I stayed for an hour or so, by which time it was getting quite hot, and then made my way steadily on to Middleton-in-Middleton-in-Teesdale, which is only about a quarter of a mile off route. I looked to see if the Barclays Bank had a cash machine, which it hadn't, but I still had a reasonable amount of cash left so it didn't matter too much. I then bought a few postcards and sat outside the Talbot Hotel with a pint of bitter in the beautiful sunshine writing them.

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Teesdale and Newbiggin
Teesdale & Newbiggin
Greengates Quarry near Grassholme
Greengates Quarry
Grassholme Reservoir from near Greengates Quarry
Grassholme Reservoir

Still with plenty of time in hand, I made my way over the hill, stopping on the way up to admire the view up Teesdale, and then again over the other side with a lovely view of Grassholme Reservoir. A little way off the way is Greengates Quarry which is disused and has had chance for grass to grow back over much of the area so that it looks very much like a rather impressive natural gorge. Eventually I made my way to Grassholme Farm where I had booked for the night as Baldersdale Youth Hostel was closed on Sunday. The Pennine Way goes right through the farmyard, so you cannot find a more convenient place to stay than that. I arrived at 5.50 p.m. and once again I was the only person staying there. There were a few Pennine Way walkers about earlier, but most of them seemed to be heading for Middleton-in-Teesdale for the night.

I had dinner of melon, shepherd's pie with carrots and cabbage followed by trifle. There was a lovely view of the reservoir out of the bedroom window and, as it was a quite a nice evening, I went for a walk down by the reservoir and then back up the road to see the upper reservoir. However, it started to drizzle a bit so I returned to the farm and had a read through 'Wainwright on the Pennine Way' to see if there were any other things to look out for on the way that I wasn't aware of. I made a mental note of a few things, such as some of the potholes on the way to Horton-in-Ribblesdale and the slab of rock hanging off the side of Penyghent. I use this spelling rather than 'Pen-y-ghent' as Wainwright claims this to be correct, and who am I to argue with the great man of the hills? I then went off to bed where I got a good night's sleep.


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