Posts tagged ‘Cow Green’

July 14, 2014

Backpacking Upper Teesdale

by backpackingbongos

These days Reuben is quick to work out when I am getting ready for a backpack. The pile of gear and boots by the front door being the most obvious clue. Unfortunately on this occasion he was left to sulk in his bed. The North Pennines are one of the least dog friendly hilly parts of the UK. There are plenty of footpaths where he can walk but much of the access land prohibits dogs. This is mostly to do with disturbing grouse which are due to be blasted out of the sky in less than a month. I did try to explain this to him but he said that it defied common sense. What do dogs know?

Total distance – 47 kilometres with 1045 metres ascent

Upper Teesdale

Day 1 – 14 kilometres with 460 metres ascent

There are no restrictions on leaving a vehicle overnight at the car park near the Bowlees visitor centre, so that’s what I did. As I was getting ready I looked on jealously as a woman opposite fried some fish and then fed some returning walkers. I put on my hungriest face but she barely glanced my way.

Bowless gives quick and easy access to Low Force, which is a picturesque spot but not at its best during a dry spell in summer. I was heading towards the end of the road past the small hamlet of Holwick. The meadows were a riot of yellow, a beautiful sight under the steely grey sky. They are great to look at but soon had my nose streaming as the hay fever kicked in.

I had my sights on the unremarkable summit of Bink Moss, a 2000ft Nuttall which has eluded me for years now. To be honest it has not really eluded me, I have just avoided it. Looking at the map it does not scream out, ‘Climb me’. The ascent turned out to be easier and more pleasant than anticipated. A good path took me up Holwick Scar and onwards to Rowton Beck, the air full of the calls of Curlew and Golden Plover. I then followed a wall or fence over moorland to the summit (I have no recollection if it was a wall or fence, my memory has erased that detail). With not much in the way of stones or boulders in the vicinity the summit is marked by a post with a welly on top. I think that was the summit but just to be sure I wandered around onto various lumps and bumps just to be sure. It’s that sort of exciting place.

After another trackless moorland jaunt the large cairn at the wonderfully named Hagworm hill was reached. The plan had then been to take the non-existent right of way to join up with the bridleway across Cronkley fell. With a bird’s-eye view the going looked like it would be grim. Therefore I decided I would climb up onto the summit of Long Crag and cobble together a route from there.

Once on the extensive plateau the going was easy with a faint path along the northern edge. I soon ran out of access land and found myself face to face with the Warcop range. I then mounted a minor incursion and snuck across the line, heading for Merrygill Beck to get back to where I was allowed to be. A sense of wrong doing added a little excitement to this excursion and there were great views from the northern tip of Long Crag. Mickle Fell looked tempting but I thought that would be pushing my luck. I will leave that for a non firing day.

After collecting water from Merrygill Beck I pitched just above the River Tees, a light breeze just enough to keep the worse of the midges away. The view as I lay in my sleeping bag after dinner was superb.

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Day 2 – 19.5 kilometres with 445 metres ascent

There was a fine drizzle in the night which may have been midges attacking silnylon. I did not open up to investigate fully. Instead I shivered in a new Montane Prism sleeping bag which I bought to take to Arctic Sarek in a few weeks time. It has since been returned for a refund, heavier and not as warm as advertised.

After packing up I followed a delightful stretch of the River Tees along its south bank, all the time looking for a place to cross over to the Pennine Way. It would have been easily wadeable but would have meant boots full of water. Instead I continued upstream and crossed the nearly empty Maize back, Cauldron Snout thundering nearby. It’s always an impressive sight.

Once I had climbed up to the dam it was a very long trudge along the track on the east side of Cow Green reservoir and all the way to the summit of the B6277. Once the reservoir has been left behind there is a shooting hut which has an unlocked room at the end. This provided a good excuse to get the stove on for a coffee and a big pile of fig rolls.

The track allowed for quick and easy progress, Cross Fell beginning to dominate the landscape as I got closer. There is a real sense of space and although not wilderness it’s about as wild as you can get in England on these moors. As if to emphasis this it started to rain for a while.

The road with its fast traffic was a brief intrusion in the feeling of being somewhere remote. I simply crossed it and started climbing towards the summit of Burnhope Seat. A line of grouse buts gave a feature to follow but I was dismayed to come across several empty bags of animal feed discarded on the moor. Pretty poor and lazy land management in my eyes.

I knew that the trig siting on its large concrete plinth does not mark the actual summit of Burnhope Seat. This lay across a very boggy stretch of moor which had to be crossed twice.

With cloudy but settled conditions I decided that I would spend the night pitched right on the summit of Great Stony Hill. To get there I had to cross a great swathe of moorland with various disused mine shafts dotted about. I have to say that I have a fear of falling down a deep hole and not getting out again. I paid close attention to where I was going and was almost disappointed that I did not see any bottomless pits.

Great Stony Hill has a few stones scattered around its grassy summit, I’m just not sure that it qualifies it to have the words great and stony in its name. I pitched on a flat area of close-cropped grass, keen to ensure that the pegs were secure in such an exposed spot. Water was collected from a nearby small tarn and filtered. An unexpected bout of wind and rain then lay siege to the tent so I hunkered down to read my Kindle. A break in the weather led to impressive skies, dark clouds lit up by shafts of sunlight. The weather then closed in for the night, rain singing on the flysheet all night. Clouds descended leaving me in a grey swirling world. I kept half an ear out for thunder, ready to flee with only a hint of it approaching. Thankfully it did not.

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Day 3 – 13.5 kilometres with 140 metres ascent

It was another cold night, especially considering that it was close to mid summer. The mist had dispersed by the time I had packed up and set off. I passed more old mine workings and what looked like an unfenced shaft at the bottom of a depression in the ground. I decided against having a closer look.

The summit of Three Pikes is located across moorland that can be best described as boggy and peaty. Progress was slow as I worked my way between many hags, luckily the peat had dried enough not to be the dreaded black ooze that tries to remove boots. A fine cairn overlooks Harwood, a good place to rest and listen to the sound of summer on the high Pennine moors.

The actual summit was located before dropping down into the headwaters of Langdon Beck. This was followed downstream before climbing to High Hurth edge along the boundary of access land. Dropping down into pasture I had to pass a large herd of cows with calves. Aware of the potential danger I skirted along the edge of the field rather than follow the path through the middle of them. One gave me a cold hard stare.

Tracks and lanes led back to Bowless where I was tempted into the visitor centre for a bite to eat. I left with just a can of drink as I baulked at the price of a sandwich. I decided to drive home powered by left over fig rolls.

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August 4, 2009

North Pennines backpack – Croglin to Gilderdale

by backpackingbongos

The mass of moorland to the north of the Alston to Penrith road (A686) has drawn my eye for a few years now but is somewhere I have just never got round to visiting.  Being August and not liking to share hills with other beings I thought it would be the perfect time to visit, I could even tick off three of the four Nuttalls located there.  Nuttall bagging has been a long time sport of mine, but something I will go into another time.  Another reason for the visit to the area was to check out a few building symbols marked on the map, a possibility of bothies that I have not yet found?  I have been a member of the MBA for a few years now (all bothy users should join) and have the full list of the bothies under their care.  However there are many more out there just waiting to be discovered, in fact they are often so good they are kept very very quiet.  For example there is one in mid Wales with gas lights, gas cooker, hot water and a flushing loo – not many people including myself would want give that location away!  By complete accident I have found two stunning places in the North Pennines that do not belong to the MBA, as well as Gregs hut – are there any others?

This trip would also be the perfect opportunity to try out a few new pieces of gear that I have recently brought, I will write about that in another post.

I got home on Friday after work and was in two minds about whether to go or not.  The weather was not looking great and I really could not face a long drive on my own.  I faffed about for a while and discussed options with my partner.  She reasoned that I would only kick myself later in the weekend if I stayed at home.  Finally at 7.30pm I got myself out of the door and started the drive north.  A big problem half way up the A1 when a section of the motorway was closed, meaning a long tailback followed by a long slow moving detour to rejoin the motorway.  I finally reached Cow Green reservoir in upper Teesdale at 12.30am, a great spot to park up the van for the night.

Situated at nearly 500m the wind and rain was lashing the van when I woke in the morning.  I did my usual bad weather procrastination but this looked like it was here to stay.  Not wanting to waste a day I thought that I really should get up and drive to the start of my backpack at Croglin village just over the Pennines.  Thankfully in that short time the weather changed dramatically and it was summer again.

Day one – 9.5 miles, 660 metres ascent

It was 1.00pm by the time I left the van outside the church and set off through the village.  There were still plenty of hours left in the day and I thought that I would just walk until I got tired or it got dark.  The lane soon turns to a track as it climbs above Town Head farm before heading high above Croglin Water.  The weather had cleared enough to give extensive views across the Vale of Eden to the Lake District fells.

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I soon met a ‘This track is not a public right of way’ sign which was a bit misleading as I was now on access land.  They clearly showed a list of dates when you could not exercise your right to roam.  I got the feeling that walkers were not really that welcome!  I branched off to the right to pick up a grassy bridleway that descended to follow the valley at a lower level.  Ahead lay the long wild and remote valley of Croglin Water.  I love the feeling you get when you are just about to enter wild country.

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The grassy track continued for a couple of miles becoming less defined and boggier until it reached the valley bottom where Stockdale beck joins it with its small but nice waterfall.

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The buildings marked on the map soon came into view but alas on closer inspection they were dilapidated and boarded up.  At least my search had brought me into this beautiful secluded valley.  Just behind the huts the ground had been desecrated by two parked up JCB diggers that had started a new track leading to nowhere in particular.  Sacrilege in such a lovely spot and I had to trudge through the wet muddy track they had created.

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A bit further on a small limestone crag gave a perfect place for lunch and I sat there content with the world as I felt the warmth of the sun on my face whilst listening to a buzzard calling.  The ground became rougher and much wetter as I climbed onto the ridge to the north of the valley.  Just before reaching Tom Smith’s Stone I was greeted by a mass of water filled peat haggs that were intent on trying to take me down into their sodden depths.  If I got stuck here help would be a long time coming!

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The summit of Tom Smith’s Stone top really outlined the futility of summit bagging and must be one of the least inspiring ‘mountain’ tops I have ever climbed.  Dull, brown and rather wet!  The ground soon rose to the much more satisfying summit of Grey Nag which boasts a huge summit cairn and trig point and extensive views down into Alston.

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Rough ground down into Woldgill burn led to even rougher ground as I traversed to the ruins on Watchers hill in Gilderdale.  A superbly wild and remote spot with a real feeling of isolation.  I had not seen a single person all day.

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A short walk to the head of the valley brought sight of the building I had been searching for.  A substantial stone Miners shop in a really superb position.  It was unlocked but to be honest was not a place I would choose to stay in unless I was really desperate.  There was evidence that at one time it had been used as a bothy but the graffiti on the door did not date past about 1960.  These days it looks like it is used by shepherds / farmers for storage.  Disappointed I walked a bit further up the valley and found a grassy patch to pitch the tent.  As I sat outside to cook the sky grew darker and mist started to cover the highest top.  By the time I was in the tent a steady rain began to fall and lasted the entire night.  For some reason that night I dreamt of zombies!

Day 2 – 7.5 miles, 370 metres ascent

I managed to sleep until 9.00am, only disturbed by the occasional zombie.  I spent a lazy couple of hours cooking and looking at the scenery whilst waiting for the promised sunshine.  You can’t beat laying in a tent watching the world go by (actually nothing went by except a couple of sheep but it is nice to sit with an empty head!).

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I even managed to get off my backside for a few minutes to take a couple of photos of my pitch.

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All through the night the old mine building was a bit of an unnerving presence.

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By about 11.00am the sun had finally done its duty of drying out the tent so I was packed and off on the ascent of Black Fell, which at 664 metres was the highest point of the weekend.

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It was now an easy walk over grassy terrain to the currick on Watch Hill where I stopped for lunch.  I could not relax as I was constantly bothered by a succession of wasps and bees all for some reason showing great interest in the Tesco’s carrier bag that held my food.  Moorland bumble bees are usually fairly inquisitive and often buzz around for a bit before flying off.  These ones kept on landing on me, getting flicked off and then coming back again.  I gave up and walked on to the trig point on Thack Moor.

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It was here that I passed two guys out for a day walk, the only people I had seen since leaving Croglin.  Not bad for a August weekend, these hills are definitely the place to get away from it all.  A rough boggy descent and the landscape suddenly turns to welcoming limestone, with green cropped grass and small crags and boulders.  The walk down Holl Gill would have been a delight but I failed to look at my map and spent a fair while hacking through bracken.  It was now hot and I had run out of water.

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I finally got to the floor of Croglin water on the south side and took the track to the strangely named hamlet of Scarrowmanwick.  As I closed the gate behind me and stepped onto the road I noticed a sign saying ‘Private track no right of way’.  They obviously want to keep these hills to themselves!

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