I went off up Weardale today to reccy a walk that’s on the Durham County Council guided walks programme. Its at Christmas, but I thought I’d better go and take a look.
And I thought it would be a really quiet day on the hills because – some prune had been messing with the clocks again and I kind of assumed that most people would be going for the lie-in and the tea, toast and
shag Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs AND, the weather was terrible – all windy and rainy and, well, just ‘orrible.
So I set off in a brief spell of sunshine, forgetting to pack my waterproof trousers, which I helpfully left in the boot of the knipemobile. And it was soon slashing it down big time in a kind of Very Breezy horizontal kind of way, blustering around and generally trying to remove me hat.
And there seemed to be a bit of a rush-hour going on. Car after car was heading for Doctor’s Gate, a notorious dead-end suitable only for brain-dead off-roadies dying to use their winches and get mud-splattered to heavy metal muzak. Apparently, it was an orienteering event. Harmless fun, in fact. They were all running off in the same direction and making for the same little pond as me – apparently, anyway, their control point was on a quarry spoil heap some meters away.
And then as I descended towards the Stanhope Lane, there were horses. I spoke to a lassie with an ATV who seemed to be an organisor , or, perhaps a direction indicator. She told me that it was the Hamsterley Riding Association Annual Halloween Ride, where people pay ten to fifteen quid to have a guided ride around Hamsterley, the proceeds going to a bowel cancer charity in memory of Andrew Moody who died from this disease aged only 23.
And then there were locationally challenged mountain bikers.
And the cattle in the pastures were frisky and very noisy. (apart from the two bulls, who both appeared to have had a sleepless night and seemed to be knackered.)
All day, the wind roared and alternately howled or whined, if there were any wires to whine through and the sun shone, with rainbows, and the rain, when it rained, came sideways and in big lumps.
I teetered across Harthope Beck which was in a Bad Mood and climbed the hill to West Shipley farm where they were doing something obscure with the sheep. Lots of sheep. I spoke to the farmer who gave me a route around the farmyard which only had a little bit of mud and didn’t go through too many sheep, although he didn’t seem too bothered about me walking through the middle of the flock.
Even more and friskier cows followed, or, I should say, some of them followed me. Even the sheep followed me. I entered the woodlands around Black Bank, with some relief – shelter and no cattle. Instead, there was a lass with a huge dog – imagine an evil version of Scooby Doo. She said it was harmless. It looked at me In A Funny Way.
Its not a bad walk – harder than I thought it would be, with some rough moorland, lots of winter mud and a potentially difficult beck crossing. Maybe everything will be frozen.
Didn’t take the dog cos of all the cows. Just as wel, really. It’s eleven miles and 1400 feet of ascent..
And now all my gear is wet. Except for my waterproof overtrousers. (dhuhh)