Me and Lucky did the reccy for this on Sunday on a day of melting snow with lots of old ice about. It was, in the vernacular of Look North News “nithering”. We weren’t bothered, though cos we wuz well wrapped up and quite toasty in our fourteen layers of thermal polypropylene… Lucky only had two on, though, now I think on….
Anyway, its a good job we did a reccy because we found one particular bit of level track walking to be dull dull dull and the shooting box I’d planned to use as a lunch er..box… was occupied. I have no idea who was inside, but there was smoke coming from the chimney and the place had been seriously done up since I was last there – probably twenty years ago.. so I though we wouldn’t go that way.
Next was the riverside footpath between Eastgate and Stanhope – The Weardale Way. This started off badly at a gate which was effectively defended by some very deep-looking cowshit. Lucky refused to enter and I had to climb onto the fence whilst transporting a reluctant dog by the handle on his harness – an acrobatic feat of some skill considering that a) he was wriggling a lot and b) despite his small size he weighs 15kg. My big pack only weighs 12 kg…
Anyway, we progressed over lumpy mud – there being no remaining grass from now on. Then we hit the mud, slurry, or sludge. Deep stuff. Fearful stuff. is there such a thing as an arctic alligator…? The only thing to do was to bypass – and so we crossed onto the railway line and passed two dozen cows, up to their armpits in the stuff and, going “Ooh look a dog….” at the same time. We did a couple of hundred metres on the train track before a gate let us back onto the “path”. We wouldn’t be going that way either.
On the day, there was heavy rain and a pessimistic weather forecast involving blizzards, lightening, road travel disruption, three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the release of a new Gary Glitter single, so I left the dog snoozing at home and arrived along with eight other
It went well. The rain stopped and the sun came out. And, as we turned to find the attack-point (navigational term) for our hill, a howling blizzard began. We sought shelter and an early lunch inside a dark wood. Dark, shapeless figures stalked all around, sensed but unseen in the hidden shadows beneath the waving branches of sitka as we ate our beef and onion butties and munched healthily and a bit self-consciously on one of our five-a-day fruits and a bit of Spanish lettuce.. Was it just the wind moaning in the trees or the tormented spirit of some lost soul shivering their last on some foul winter’s night?
No. Don’t be daft.
After lunch, the sun had come out again so we followed the forest edge a bit more till we came to Isaac Sike – a small stream which , if handrailed (more navigation talk here..) would lead us to the wide ridge just a bit to the right of Crow Coal Hill’s trig point. I have to say that it was quite windy at this point, but Isaac Sike was designed to keep us from the gusty worst till the very last ten minutes – which it did, in fact. The very last ten minutes were quite exciting, though, and people were seen to be almost blown away. Doggy poo bags were ripped from rucksack pockets and the only thing to hang on to was the trig point itself.We descended breezily towards Eastgate and the relative tropicality of Upper Weardale.We didn't take Cow Poo Trail, but opted instead for a drier walk along a back road.
It was 9 miles. It was supposed to be a bit longer, but the ridge would have been stupidly hard work.
Lucky was still asleep when I got home.
Several pics by Rob Cunningham. Cos they’re better than mine. Thanks Rob…