Following my tour the previous day from Barnard Castle to Middleton-in-Teesdale, I woke up at 4am in the morning the next day. I had arranged with the staff of the hotel where I was staying that they would leave me very early breakfast in the kitchen downstairs – the door was opened to me and the cereal, toast and a selection of fruit were all waiting for me along with coffee. The early start was required if I were to get back home that night – on two trains – in good time, but also, it was forecast to rain quite heavily in the late afternoon, so I wanted to avoid that.
That day, however, there were some properly strong winds, with gusts of up to 40mph and, although it was certainly not dangerous, it required more energy and certainly felt more adventurous.
I picked up the Pennine Way trail in the southern part of the town, having just crossed over River Tees. First, it’s to the west along the river. It was still quite dark and the first light was only just breaking. The exhilaration of walking that early in the morning and the mystic feel that one gets from the surrounding dark silence is incomparable.
It was getting brighter and brighter by the minute – the morning was sunny although the wind was constantly in my face!
After about 2 miles, the trail gets closer to the river itself and leads right next to its banks. Here, I started being shielded from the wind by trees, which was a welcome respite.
In this area there are the famous High Force waterfalls, but first there is the smaller Low Force – about 1 mile further from where I was:
Very pretty and certainly quite dramatic, but still nothing by comparison to High Force awaiting me further upstream!
The distance between the two Forces is quite peaceful, at first flat, and then finally the ground rises just before High Force.
There is a small path that lets the visitors look and admire High Force from a lovely vantage point – the sound is practically deafening and the view truly inspiring. The waterfall plunges from 70ft (21m) height, enough to fill one with awe and make one spend several minutes just taking in the spectacle.
The paths here are made for visitors to the falls and it’s easy to walk on the paved surfaces as the walker continues further west along the river. After crossing Blea Beck, however, the surface changes to a simple grassy path, with quarry to one’s right. Here, having left the safe cover of the trees and now on completely exposed ground, the wind power hit me and it was a bit of struggle up the hill!
As you can see, the path climbs steadily (to about 1,465ft) with fantastic views towards River Tees snaking its way down below to one’s right; to one’s left there is White Rigg, Noon Hill and Caw Bank and Moor House National Reserve. Now, the path turns north (right) and descends quickly and steeply down to the river, which it will cross near Forest-in-Teesdale (you never go into the village).
As you can see, it was really lovely and sunny by now, but heck was it gusty and windy! Nonetheless, defiantly, I pressed on, now along the northern bank of the river.
Just look at the spectacular contrast of the deep blue river street with the colour of the sky and the surrounding landscape! The energy needed to battle against the wind made it even better! – no pain no gain, after all!
10 minutes later, I left River Tees behind me (to the south) for a while and the trail now follows Harwood Beck in the north-western direction before returning to River Tees (to the west) a few minutes after that.
The wind howling in my ears (my jacket and gear all passing all manner of tests), I continued on, but promised myself to take a break for food – battling against the wind in this way depletes energy much much faster! – but the day was beautiful as you can see in the photos above (the last one above is River Tees again). The vistas and the views were simply overwhelming with their beauty.
Now approximately 9 miles into my walk, Cauldron Snout is about 2 miles from here and the path will follow River Tees to it here in between two ridges in the reserve here – this is, as far as I am concerned, one of the most beautiful areas I’ve seen in England. Just pure awesome. Remote, wild, rough, serene (if not for the wind if my ears) and full of wildlife.
On entering this beautiful area, I made the short break for food – the wind started to die down a bit now and the gusts were now below 30mph, helped by this part of the walk being shielded by two ridges on the opposite sides of the river.
Then I reached the beautiful Cauldron Snout, yet another waterfall – it’s a bit of a short scramble up towards Cow Green Reservoir (I never saw it) with beautiful views towards Moor House Nature Reserve (the area I’d just walked through and past).
After a narrow and somewhat slippery path through the Nature Reserve culminating in the final scramble on the side of the waterfall, the hiker is now rewarded by walking on wide comfortable dirt farm road towards the Birksdale farmhouses towards south-west for another 1.5 mile. The views here are enchanting.
About 10 minutes’ walk after crossing the Birksdale farmhouses the trail leaves the wide road onto a path through the moors, and so the walk towards High Cup Nick, the most jaw-dropping-making feature on the Pennine Way, begins. There are a number of streams and brooks in the area with one crossing (if memory serves) – and the area is quite boggy, but aside from that it is an easy, mostly flat or flattish walk.
Even this last view does not give away the full glory of what High Cup Nick – a U-shaped valley with dramatic dolomite ridges on both sides. This is commonly described elsewhere as one of the greatest and most spectacular geological formations in England.
It’s hard to describe the enormity of this place – and the seemingly symmetrical two ridges looking as if they were chiselled on purpose – the glories of nature. Suffice to say, I stopped here for quite some time!
My time up here was cut simply because of the rain that was forecast to arrive in the afternoon and the drizzle had already started, so – unhappy about not being able to stay up here as I was – I started making my way down to the village of Dufton, now only 3 miles away.
The descent is rather quick and steep – the sight of Dufton Pike accompanying the walker to the north.
The last photo above was taken just 10 minutes’ walk to the east of Dufton, down below. Satisfied, still with images of the wonders of the day and the gusty winds I had endured before, I completed my trip and the 10th day on the Pennine Way in Dufton.
Waiting for a taxi that would take me to the railway station in Appleby-in-Westmorland about 4 miles away from here, I celebrated with a pint of guiness in the local pub. It was a good day.
All images from this trip can be seen in the video below: