Welcome to LEJoG Day 50 – please stick to the paths
Day 50 pre-amble
Today’s post is named after the two waterfalls you will pass on the route between Middleton and Langdon Beck. The use of high and low also echoes the previous post title.
LEJoG Day 50 (Monday 22 July 2019)
Middleton-in-Teesdale to Langdon Beck (8½ miles)
Cumulative: 696 miles
Facts: Time on walk: 2 hours 45 minutes. Average speed: 3.09 mph. Weather: Heavy rain overnight; windy, wet underfoot with light drizzle, overcast/grey.
Practicalities: Excellent breakfast at the Tees’pot in Middleton: it became very busy very suddenly just as I finished. Walked back to the footpath sign near the cattle market before starting my Fitbit.
Start: Pennine Way sign near cattle market, Middleton-in-Teesdale, 11:00am. End: Saur Hill Bridge, near Langdon Beck, 2:25pm (linear, for LEJoG). Actual end: YHA Langdon Beck.
The rain had pretty much subsided by the time I made my late start. The wind: that was a different matter. It was ridiculously windy for the first half mile. Not quite a gale, but possibly the strongest I’ve known on a walk away from exposed high ground.
Given the subject of yesterday’s restrained mini-rant, you may not be surprised to note that today’s walk begins with more of the same dominant features: farmland, barns and stone walls. Yippee. However, a good night’s sleep, hearty breakfast and the simple pleasure of a fresh new day insure against similarly resentful feelings. In truth there is very limited scope for monotony today and tomorrow. The 20 miles or so between Middleton-in-Teesdale and Dufton is regarded by many (including the Trailblazer writers) as the best single walk on the Pennine Way. I have split it into two because I’m walking a similar distance over Cross Fell on Wednesday (Day 52). And I really didn’t want two consecutive stages that long. It is only fair to say that most of the strong attractions are left for the second day.
The farmland is soon behind you (the stone walls not so) and most of the first 2 miles are spent alternating between wooded or overgrown paths and open fields, with the occasional stile. You start by the River Tees, then the path breaks away for a while. After a short climb you find yourself directly above the Tees, and from here it remains your constant companion for the rest of today’s walk.
Shortly before the village of Holwick there is a descent to river level, and so begins the most prolonged and enjoyable stretch of riverside walking since the Severn, way back on Day 30. My only issue was the weight of my rucksack after two long days: the straps had left a red imprint on my shoulders and I hadn’t seen any walker with a bag that size all week. I really do need to sort this out once and for all, with full weeks in Scotland to come.
Anyway, just over an hour from Middleton I arrived at Low Force, the first of the day’s waterfalls. Walked halfway across this bridge (below) to take a photograph, which I ended up not keeping anyway. The obvious viewpoint on the path had been taken by a couple with professional-looking camera equipment.
The Winch Bridge, over the Tees near Low Force. I’ll be honest: I didn’t fancy staying on it for long
The double waterfall at Low Force (taken from further up the path)
Whisper it, but I really wasn’t that impressed by Low Force. High Force and Cauldron Snout (tomorrow) aren’t exactly Niagara Falls either, but they were worth the time I spent admiring and photographing. There’s about 1½ miles between Low Force and High Force, including the first proper climb of the day, taking you from the riverside to the bushes overlooking the waterfall. There’s a small sign directing you to the A1 viewpoint: again this was fully occupied as I passed, so I continued to a flat section of rocks right at the top of the overflow and sat down for lunch. I would have been sat right behind that tree at the top left of the header image.
View of the top of High Force, from my lunch spot
After lunch I went back to the viewpoint to take photos. There were still half a dozen people there, but after a couple of minutes all bar one had cleared for long enough for me to take photos:
Long shot of High Force waterfall, from the viewing platform
Zoom on High Force, from the viewing platform
High Force information board
Left the scene after about half an hour, continuing by the riverside to the foot of Bracken Rigg. The climb up here and on to High Crag is without doubt the toughest part of the day – as I didn’t have headphones on I could hear my lungs working harder than they’d had to in a while.
The open moorland on the left gives you a real sense of remoteness, even though you’re close to Cronkley Farm and Force Garth Quarry. I think this is because the waterfalls attract tourists and casual walkers, and you’ve always been able to see settlements from the riverside since Middleton – now you suddenly feel like a rugged lone walker on the unforgiving Pennine Way again. I don’t think I’d felt like that since before Baldersdale on Day 49. There was some moorland after Clove Lodge, but the regular presence of farms and the occasional road or reservoir always made me feel I was much closer to civilisation.
Anyway, I was slightly confused by the guidebook near Cronkley Farm, as it placed a Pennine Way milepost immediately before a “very tricky descent”. That descent is very tricky: the milepost is right before a much easier one. After Cronkley Farm there’s a tuckshop where I picked up my karmic reward (see Day 49) of a Double Decker chocolate bar. The farm track then leads to Cronkley Bridge, which I thought made for a nice retrospective picture after I’d crossed the Tees.
Picking up a path through the grass, I was now walking on the northeastern side of the Tees for the first time, albeit briefly. Though the watercourse continues straight on, the Tees diverts left after a few hundred metres and the path now runs alongside Harwood Beck. The first bridge is called Saur Hill Bridge. At this point the Pennine Way crosses the beck to the left, on course to rejoin the Tees near Widdy Bank Farm. To reach my accommodation in Langdon Beck I had to take the track to the right. Finished my walk right behind a Dutch couple who I would meet again in Dufton on Day 51.
After the walk
Yeah, this bit wasn’t great, at least initially. Arrived at Langdon Beck YHA for 2:45 and found it closed, not due to re-open again until 5pm. Found this oversight a little harder to take than yesterday’s. At least it was warm outside, though still very windy. Read some of my Kilimanjaro guidebook, listened to Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer album. Fortunately someone emerged from the hostel at about 4:15 and opened up reception.
Langdon Beck had offered breakfast and evening meal when I booked, but I’d already received an email saying there it was no longer providing food. For this reason I’d packed 200g of pasta, two tins of tuna and some stir-in sauce in my rucksack. Plus teabags. I kind of hoped, after eating this meal tonight, that my bag would feel noticeably lighter in the morning. Had also visited the Co-op in Middleton this morning to buy bread and Marmite for Tuesday’s breakfast.
There was very little else to report: more reading, notes for the blog. Early night (bed before 10pm).
Postscript – My Listening Pleasure
None. At least not until I was made to wait outside the hostel.
Picture (taken 22 July 2019) shows High Force waterfall, from the viewing platform.