Middleton-in-Teesdale to Langdon Beck
When I arrived at Brunswick House yesterday I thought it looked quite nice, but after a bad night’s sleep in a squeaky bed and bad pillows, in the cold light of day the place wasn’t quite all it was trying to be. The room hadn’t been hoovered properly, all the fixtures in my bathroom were loose, so much so I daren’t touch them, and the list goes on. Is this the inner hotel inspector in me finally coming out after nearly two months on the road, or am I just getting a little too harsh in my criticisms?
Things got even worse at breakfast this morning. I went down not feeling too hungry after a large dinner and some beer last night but I can’t walk without breakfast so I had a yoghurt, some juice and ordered the usual full English. What came out was an overcooked mess. I swear the sausages had been cooked once before and then just reheated as they were as hard as rock! I struggled through as much as I could but it really wasn’t going down well at all. I have no idea what everyone else though of it but they seemed to be eating it ok. I won’t be going back there in a hurry that’s for sure!
Breakfast was livened up by some great conversation with the other people in the room. Obviously the LEJOG walk came up in conversation but this was topped by one of the other guys, clearly retired, cycling round on his bike. He’d already done Land’s End to John O’Groats and when he got there turned around and went straight back! If that’s not mad enough he’s also cycled round the entire country’s coast, well, as close as he could get on a bike on the roads that is. Still, that’s some serious distance to cover and puts pay to what I’m doing that’s for sure.
By some small miracle my body actually worked this morning, including my feet! I was expecting the worst after hardly being able to walk when I arrived in Middleton-in-Teesdale yesterday and then having a bad night last night. I’m still amazed at how much punishment I can put my body through for it to bounce back the next day. Amazing!
Even so, I took it nice and easy this morning knowing that I had a considerably shorter and easier walk today. We all chatted for about an hour over breakfast but I was getting itchy feet, so to speak, and wanted to get on the trail again, so I sorted myself out and headed out at about 10am.
After yesterday’s marathon walk this morning started out nice and flat, walking along the river Tees, which was just what I needed. I didn’t bother putting my iPod on this morning and the sound of the river over the rocks and the wildlife was really nice compared to the moors yesterday. One problem though was the sound of the river constantly made me want to go to the loo! Funny for you reading this I’m sure but not so funny for me I can tell you. There were more people about this morning and stopping to answer nature’s call was a little tricky to say the least.
The path pretty much followed the river all the way to Low Force, one of the two spectacular waterfalls on this leg of my route. When I got there I had the waterfall all to myself, including the suspension bridge across the river. I had lots of fun plodding to the middle of the bridge to get a photo with the bridge bouncing underneath me on every step! What’s that they say about simple things and simple minds?
As it was nice and quiet I thought I’d find a spot to sit down and rest my feet for five minutes, using a fallen tree as a seat. If I’m being honest, breakfast really wasn’t doing a very good job of keeping me going and in actual fact, I was beginning to feel a little funny in my stomach. Not the best thing to be feeling when you’re nowhere near a loo! I really thought that if it got any worse I would have to use the little shovel (my iPood) to dig a hole and hope for the best. Not a good situation to find yourself in to say the least.
I’d only been sat there a couple of minutes when I heard a lot of noise and voices from the other side of the river – great, a coach of tourists no doubt! It was actually worse than that: a school trip – loads of kids and a couple of teachers unable to control them…great!
My peace disturbed I decided to put my pack back on and head on up the trail to High Force, the other waterfall, with the aim on beating the kids there and maybe taking another short break there.
It didn’t take too long to get there with only a minor uphill climb at one point and wouldn’t you just believe it…more kids! Clearly it was “let’s go and look at the waterfalls day” for the schools in the area today? Damn it!
I managed to struggle my way through the ignorant little so-and-sos and found a spot right at the top of the waterfall to take my boots off for five minutes and have a snack. Fortunately the sound of the water rushing over the rocks completely masked the noise from the kids, which was good. I was still feeling a little off but I knew my energy reserves were depleting fast so I had a packet of crisps, hoping that the fat, salt and sugar would keep me going a little longer.
I’d not been walking especially fast but it was already looking as though I was going to get to Langdon Beck – today’s destination – somewhere near 2pm, which was not good as the youth hostel I’d booked for the night wouldn’t be open until 5pm. I took it even easier on the final three or four miles – the hills naturally slowed me down – and I still made it to the youth hostel at 2pm – doh!
What to do, what to do? I remembered the ladies I’d met on yesterday’s walk by the reservoir recommending the Langdon Beck hotel for food and beer – they’re in this year’s Good Beer Guide, as they have been for the last four years – so I headed there, hoping that it was actually open seeing as there’s pretty much nothing in Langdon Beck.
My luck was in as it was indeed open, and even though I got there at 2:20pm, and food stopped for lunch at 2pm, they offered to make me a sandwich to go with my nice pint of Rivert Catcher. Lovely people, but I did wonder if I looked that bad that they took pity on me?!
And that’s where I spent the next couple of hours waiting for the youth hostel to open so I could sort out my bunk for the night. This would be my first experience of a youth hostel, and I’ve not slept in shared bunk accommodation since I was in the army cadets when I was fifteen. Could be interesting.
It wasn’t long before I had to head back up the road to the hostel, full of beer already, and to try and find a pay phone as yet again I didn’t have a signal on my phone – I think this is going to happen more often than not for the rest of my walk.
I had to wait a bit before checking in as there were a few people there already when I got there after leaving the pub, but when I did Jamie – the chap checking me in – didn’t charge me the £3 charge for not being a member of the YHA, so I’ll be adding that to the sponsor pot.
I got the key to my room, well the room me and seven other chaps would be sharing, and as I was the first one in I picked my bunk, made the bed – yes, you have to make your own bed – sorted my gear out, freshened myself up and waited for 6pm to clock round in the knowledge that there was a pay phone downstairs in the youth hostel.
When it was time to phone the girls I went downstairs, picked up the phone receiver and started to dial their number, only for it to drop the call as I dialled the fourth number. I tried again just for it to do the same thing. WTF?! Looking at the display on the phone it showed that the phone could only make 999 calls only…aaaarrrrggghhh! Panic set in and the only option open to me was to get to the pub as quick as I could and use the phone there, which was my original plan until I noticed the phone at the hostel.
With the minutes ticking by I jogged my way to the pub – yes, jogged, after yesterday’s walk and todays! – only to find that the pay phone there wasn’t working either. Nooooooo! I really did start to panic now but the barman I’d chatted to while there in the afternoon gave me the pub phone so I could make the call. Another really nice person met on this walk.
I was so relieved to hear Alice’s voice you do not know. She told me that she was now the playground friend at school, which means if someone hurts themselves she takes them to the teacher or if someone hasn’t got anyone to play with then she plays with them. Bless her. Responsibility already; that’s my girl! I told her that I’d be sleeping in a bunk bed tonight which I think she found funny. Elisa didn’t say a great deal but they were in the bath and she certainly finds it harder to just talk on the phone to me, preferring the Skype video calls.
Girls spoken to I could now relax properly and ordered a nice pint of Golden Sheep and tucked in to a very nice dinner. You could definitely tell everything was freshly cooked in the pub’s kitchens.
Not wanting to be too late to bed I ate up, drank my drink and headed back to the hostel, waddling my way up the road being so full from my hearty meal. I could only hope that I’d get an ok sleep but I guess you’ll find that out in tomorrow’s post?
Today’s walk was a lovely walk, not spoilt too much by the kids, and I passed lots of wild flowers and birds that I have absolutely no idea what they were. Ignorant me see. That didn’t matter though as I certainly appreciated their beauty.
Oh, and in case you were wondering I never had to dig a hole to, er, do my business…phew! I’m feeling better now so hopefully it’ll be full steam ahead for tomorrow’s walk and then a well deserved day off on Sunday.