Keld to Middleton-in-Teesdale
Even after the hike up Great Shunner Fell I still found it hard to switch off and get off to sleep last night. In the end I resorted to putting some music on on my iPod and hoped for the best. Clearly I dropped off at some point as I awoke at the usual 5:20am…doh!
Knowing that there was a tough walk ahead I tried to get a bit more sleep but I only managed to doze a little bit more as I was keen to get myself sorted and down for breakfast at 8am sharp.
When I went down for breakfast there was already a bit of a queue forming but as it was a buffet breakfast I wasn’t too worried; no waiting around for orders of cooked breakfasts to be made in sequence. So, I ate up, picked up my packed lunch and went and got the gear on for the day and checked out.
The Keld Lodge was a nice place to stay. The staff were friendly and up for a bit of a chat. The food was great. And, if you’re a walker, they had a fantastic drying room! I washed some bits of clothing yesterday afternoon and everything was dry this morning when I went to get it. Marvelous!
I headed out the door at just gone 8:30am and I was hopeful that I’d be able to make good time and be in Middleton-in-Teesdale to phone the girls. That was the plan anyway but I’d not really had a good look at the terrain for the route ahead, all I knew was I’d walking over a lot of moorland today and that was about it. The thing I’d forgotten to check out was whether or not I had any big hills to get up, thereby slowing me down, and almost as soon as I picked up the Pennine Way again I was going up, and quite steeply up as well. This was not a good start.
The first four miles of the day took me to the Tan Hill inn, all well and good I hear you say. Now, the thing with the Tan Hill inn is it’s the highest pub in Great Britain, sitting at 1732ft, so this meant I had a few steep climbs to get up to there, making those first four miles tiring and a lot slower than I thought they’d be. This wasn’t good for my target of being at my next stop in time to ring the girls. The weather was playing in my favour as there was quite a lot of cloud cover and at times it was actually chilly, much better than that silly sun thing when you’re walking!
When I got there the pub was closed but I took a quick break sat on a bench they had out the front, chatting to a guy there, before heading off again. At this point the Pennine Way has a couple of different paths you can take. There’s the path across the moor or the path that follows the road. The reason for the two paths is, you wouldn’t want to be walking that section of the moor if it was raining, had been raining or was about to rain, making the road option a lot more favourable.
As it had been quite nice recently I decided to opt for the moor path. This route was slightly shorter than the road route but the terrain was a little trickier, not to mention the amazing disappearing path at times; it was quite difficult in places to really see where the path was supposed to be – thank god for GPS that’s all I can say!
I’d read about the “spongy” moors and this was my first real introduction to them, the first part of the day mainly being just grassy tracks up to Tan Hill but this was completely different, and although it’d been dry for quite a few days there were some interesting bits to cross. Thank god I had the walking poles with me otherwise I think my boots would have been stuck for sure – they have been my saviour on many an occasion now.
The going was a lot harder than I’d expected and it took quite a lot out of me getting across there to the next lane I was aiming for. I managed to get across though and some of it was really nice, especially the bit walking along a little stream called Frumming Beck. Very pretty in it’s own way. Once across that stretch I decided to sit on a boulder by the bridge across the stream to rest my feet for a bit, fully aware that there was a long way to go yet.
As I was taking a few minutes rest before heading off again a young chap walk past. We exchanged pleasantries and when he asked where I was walking to I told him the bigger picture to which he said “Ah, you’re the one!”. Clearly the story of what I’m doing is making it’s way along the trail? Nice.
The half way point for today’s walk was A66 but it just seemed to be taking forever to get there. I was fast becoming very concerned about how long this day was actually going to be and whether I’d actually make it or not. I’d planned on getting the side of the A66 and having my lunch there but this just wasn’t going to happen with the way things were going.
I plodded on down the lane and just past Sleightholme Farm the Pennine Way turned off the lane and across some fields. Here I went over a little bridge and seeing a very comfortable looking bank I decided to stop and have a spot of lunch there as it was a lovely setting.
I didn’t stay there for long, just long enough to eat a sandwich and packet of crisps and take my boots off for a bit. The miles ahead were looming over my head too much for me to afford myself a good break. Shame, as it really was quite a pretty place with the river and craggy rocks on the side of the little gorge I was in.
Boots on I headed up again, to more moors, to finally make my way to the A66. Once up on the moors I finally got a signal on my phone so I gave Matt a quick ring to let him know I was ok and was well on my way for the day. It was great to have a chat and it certainly put a spring back in my step – thanks Matt!
I finally reached the A66 and went under the underpass to get to the other side some time after 1pm, later than I’d planned that’s for sure. At this rate I wasn’t going to complete the walk before 6pm and worrying that I’d be in another signal black hole I sent Sarah a text to let her know that if she didn’t hear from me at 6pm, when I speak to the girls, then it was because I was still walking and didn’t have a signal. I really hoped that this wouldn’t be the case as I was so looking forward to speaking to them knowing how rubbish I was going to feel at the end of today’s walk.
After the A66 the Pennine Way headed across Cotherston moor, with more hills to climb – I was really beginning to not like the moors. Not only were the hills becoming a bit of a chore the whole process of walking across the moor was completely mind-numbing. There wasn’t really anything to look at and mentally it became quite tiring.
After a couple of phone calls and a few more rest stops I finally got to the other side of the moor and made my way down to Blackton reservoir, again later than I expected.
Making my way across the bridge at the reservoir I came across to ladies enjoying the view – it certainly was nice – and as I approached one of them said “Half way now”, referring to the Pennine Way. I replied saying that I was actually slightly over half way for my route and talked about my little adventure. I can’t tell you how nice that chat was after all the crap I’d just been through, and much like the chat with Matt it put a little spring in my step. It was certainly aided by a recommendation for somewhere to go to eat and have a decent pint at tomorrow night’s stop-off!
More hills and ups and downs and I arrived at Grassholme reservoir. This was I hasten to add with some considerably amount of swearing! There were some horrendous stone styles to clamber over, one of which I banged my left knee – the weak one – quite badly. I was really beginning to not enjoy the walk at this point and hoped the final four or so miles would be easier so I could put this day to rest.
This wasn’t to be. Yet more rolling meadows, and by this I mean struggling up hill just to go down the other side, and I reached a small road, completely knackered. I sat down and checked out the final part of the route in to Middleton-in-Teesdale and to my horror it took me over Wythes Hill, which I could see in front of me and it was certainly something I did not want to do!
Thinking on my feet I changed my plan, not being tied to the Pennine Way, and decided to take the considerably flatter, but slightly longer route along the road in to Middleton-in-Teesdale. Decision made I started the final stretch but to my horror my phone signal was in and out like an in and out thing and I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to phone the girls. I knew I wouldn’t be there for 6pm and I just had to hope that I’d find a spot to phone them along the road.
Walking along the road I managed to get a signal so I phoned Matt again to let him know I was nearly there and as I was talking to him, approaching a farm, a guy came out and stood by the wall with his dog. As I walked up to him, still on the phone, he had a Fab ice lolly in one hand and a Cornetto in the other and asked me which one I’d like. Was this a trick question? How much did he want for it? As it turns out it was free and he kept a freezer full of them to hand out to walkers as they pass. I could have kissed him as I was running on empty at that point and the sugar was just divine! I think Matt was getting a little confused on the other end of the phone, especially when I said to the chap that I could kiss him!
Refreshed and with some sugar in me I pushed on, keeping an eye on my phone to make sure I was ok for phoning the girls.
Shortly before 6pm and still on the trail, I found a spot by the side of the road to sit down, take my boots off and phone the girls – I needed to speak to them as I knew that would put a smile on my face.
Not content to just sit there I lied down and rested my head on my pack and gave the girls a ring. Elisa had been in to the school Alice goes to to see her teacher for September, when she starts school. I can’t believe it’s almost that time already?! It sounded like she had a good time there and didn’t seem too phased by it all, which is great.
The chat with the girls was great and really helped to spur me on to the finishing post for the day, finally stumbling in to Brunswick House in Middleton-in-Teesdale at 6:40pm, considerably later than I thought this morning. Still, I made it which is the main thing, and pretty much in one piece too, although my feet were complaining…a lot!
After sorting myself out I popped a few doors up for – yep, you guessed it – fish and chips again! I got chatting with the people working in there and when they heard that I was walking the LEJOG walk for the British Heart Foundation they gave me £5 towards my sponsorship. Thanks everyone at the Middleton-in-Teesdale chippy! Oh, and their fish and chips was considerably better than that had in Hawes a couple of nights ago, which was ok but not great. This was just divine and the fish was massive!
As I was sitting there enjoying my dinner who did I spot on the other side of the road? Only Helen and her husband Koert – finally found out how to spell his name this evening. I thought he would have been miles in front of me considering my time off over the weekend. They were heading into the pub over the road and after finishing my food I hobbled over to join them.
We had a great chat and I had some lovely rhubarb crumble when they had their dessert after eating their dinner. They’re a lovely couple and I’m really pleased I bumped in to them one more time as Helen’s heading back home to Plymouth this weekend.
The reason they were still here is they’d booked up a number of nights in Middleton, Helen dropping Koert off and picking him up every day. He’s actually a couple of days ahead on the trail.
Nonetheless, the company was very much appreciated after the slog of a walk I’d had today and just like last time we chatted over a beer in Malham I ended up leaving the pub considerably later than I’d planned, meaning a late night writing up the day’s activities. Great to see them though and I hope I the next time I’m in the Plymouth area I’ll get to see them again.
And there you have it. I hope I’ve managed to make a difficult, boring at times, walk across the moors interesting enough for you, the reader? It wasn’t a bad day just a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be that’s for sure. Hindsight being the wonderful thing that it is, if I’d been a bit more clever I could have stayed at Tan Hill instead of Keld last night which would have meant two days of around sixteen/seventeen miles and not one short one and one very long one. Ho hum.
A much shorter day tomorrow so hopefully I can take a much more relaxed pace and enjoy the scenery a bit?