This was a classic cool, cloudy and windy March day, but not rainy. The first five miles of this walk was actually connecting to Bowes from Barnard Castle. Originally, my plan was to take a bus from Barnard Castle to Bowes and start walking there, but upon my arrival into Barnard Castle, I quickly realised I had completed mixed up bus timetables (!) and chose hiking over a taxi fare.
The first image below is 5 minutes or even less into the walk from a bridge over River Tees still in the town of Barnard Castle. The morning was sunny, but it clouded-up later. In the photo, it is indeed the Barnard Castle itself on the horizon.
Then it’s along Deepdale Beck for another mile or so to the west using very pleasant town park paths.
Then the Barnard Castle – Bowes connecting route I had designed turns sharply south – I spent some amateurish 5 minutes crossing over the beck over some stepping stones – very slippery! – but managed eventually. Very shortly after the crossing, the path took me out of the wooded area to a higher ground.
Soon the path goes past (towards the west) the tiny hamlet of Smart Gill Ashlea. I was originally supposed to go further past North Field, another hamlet about 0.20 miles further, but was met there by a truly (I mean it, no joke) hostile dog, so decided not to take my chances and turned south towards Bowes Road. From there, it was about 2 more miles into Bowes, where I had finished my previous leg.
The Pennine Way crosses the western edge of Bowes. I found the place and followed the national trail from here towards the north. Immediately after crossing A66, the views begin.
Now it’s about 1 mile north along a minor road towards an area with a few hamlets all called Stoney Keld or Stony Keld. The scenery becomes quickly grassy, tough and barren.
I love this type of area – but Palma de Mallorca it ain’t! This type of scenery is for those who prefer rough and windswept! Now, the Way takes the walker in the north-western direction past West Stony Keld and then another individual house towards the moors.
The route takes one around the house above and then there is a lovely tiny bridge over Deepdale Beck (indeed the same one as in Barnard Castle).
Now it’s towards the north and somewhat up towards Hazelgill Beck and then Ladyfold Rigg. The area becomes wilder very quickly.
Over the moors, the route will take the walker further north first, past a few more becks and sikes, and the swinging towards the west – to Goldsborough Rigg. It was getting cloudier with the wintry feeling thanks to the March wind, and positively remoter with every step.
Once past Goldsborough area, the curious rocky formations you can see in the last couple photos above, the route now descends in the north-western direction towards Blackton Reservoir. It will have to go around it from its western side in order for the route to continue further north.
I took a sustenance and drink break on Blackton Bridge over River Balder – with Blackton Reservoir to my east and Balderhead Reservoir to my west. It’s a lovely and serene spot. The view below is to the east from the bridge. River Balder is in the foreground with Blackton Reservoir in the background.
At this point, I had already travelled 11 miles. From here, the trail follows River Balder for just under 0.5 miles to the east and then turns sharply to the north taking the walker Hannah Meadow’s Nature Reserve (why I have no photos from here beats me). Over a mile’s distance now there is about 200ft ascent here and the vistas are truly spectacular – true north England’s moorland with hills all around.
Then, once the hiker passes Hazelgarth Rigg, it’s the descent towards Grassholme Reservoir, essentially all the time to the north.
The last 3 photos above were taken from the bridge over the reservoir, just east of Grassholme; for a moment, it got really dark and it looked like the heavens might just open, but in the end, it did not.
Now, just a few miles and about 500ft up (and then down) separated me from Middleton-in-Teesdale, a previous mining village, now turned into a spectacular, beautiful “touristy” village. The trail ascends from the village of Grassholme very quickly – continuing north first until it crosses B6276.
Then the Way turns east and crosses rural (sheep grazing in many places) but nonetheless remote areas in between a number of hills to one’s left and right – Colin Hill, Wythes Hill, Saddlebow Hill and Harter Fell to name a few.
Eventually, about 1.5 ahead of it, Middleton-in-Teesdale comes into view with lovely views from above of the village itself and the surrounding hilly countryside.
From here it’s a sudden drop into the village. Sudden and quick, too – I was rather lucky – the clouds were gathering quickly and heavy rain fell pretty much just as I was entering my hotel in the village.
All images from this trip can be seen in the video below: