Day 51 – Keld to Middleton in Teesdale

The weather forecast promised another day of bright sunshine, but when we drove up towards Keld there was a thick fog everywhere. Rowan refers to this as ‘the clouds cuddling the hill’ but I was dismayed at the thought of a long walk over the moor to Tan Hill and Sleightholme Moor beyond; the path is notoriously boggy at that point and it is sometimes difficult to follow. I headed off up the valley, passing some very cheerful-looking ‘Mongolian’ yurts (I’ve seen the real thing and they weren’t made of plastic) and trying to suppress my feelings of apprehension at the walk ahead.

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I passed a DofE group just setting out who already looked like they had sore feet, and we commiserated on the weather. Actually, by the time I got onto the moor proper, the fog was already lifting, and I was hopeful that by the time I got to Tan Hill it would be much easier to navigate. I promised myself a cup of tea at the Tan Hill Inn if I got there in good time.

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I made it to Tan Hill in just over two hours, and was delighted when I opened the door of the pub to find Cea and Leonard just putting on their boots. They seemed equally pleased to see me and we decided to walk together to Bowes (the end of their trip). The path down onto Sleightholme Moor from the pub was initially a bit scary, but the mist was clearly lifting, and as we progressed visibility steadily improved; I was glad, because the white post waymarking along this stretch is not great and the path is very indistinct and very boggy in places.

The Pennine Way splits just before Bowes, and my path lay directly north, over a huge expanse of what looked like completely bare moorland. I said goodbye again to Cea and Leonard for the last time, and headed onwards. It was a long, hot walk, with an unpleasant tunnel under the busy A66 (at least no motorway footbridge this time!) and over some rubbish-strewn fields with no clear path, before climbing up to a ridge at Ravock Castle (no castle, just a cairn in the middle of miles of open empty space). It was the sort of landscape which makes you realise how small you are. The so-called ‘footbridge’ was less impressive.

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By now the mist had completely burned off and it was again breathtakingly hot and still. The afternoon was spent toiling up and down rough pasture across a series of east-west valleys, without any breeze, and I was soon feeling very hot, tired and fed up. I also noticed that my right leg was very painful – I think as a result of stumbling in a rabbit-hole the day before – and by the time I got to Middleton I had developed a distinct limp. I was very pleased to meet Arran and the kids and to head back to the caravan for a much-needed shower.

Highlights: Massive open space; a rest break in the comparative coolness near Blackton reservoir; sitting on a ledge next to the road for a restorative Eccles cake; relentless heat and a sore leg; a sigh of relief at eventually seeing Middleton in the valley.



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