When I let Lucky out of the drawbridge around the back of Pietowers, he took a peek at the snowflakes and the grey sky, shivered in the nithering breeze for a second, then turned tail and went back to bed. As for me, I took consolation in another few coffees, some toast and a visit to will it rain today? to see if the snow had stopped snowing in the West. And it had..
Eventually, the sky brightened slightly so I wrestled Lucky into his harness thingy and we set off for Hallbankgate at the very very top end of the Pennine Chain. Here, we parked very prettily in the Geltsdale Nature reserve car park and went off to bag the diminutive Tump, Tortie Hill 296 metres of tussocky tussocks but with a nice view of Tindale Tarn. We returned to the knipemobile to get out of the wind and to scoff the pasty (we’d set off late to allow the Weardale snow to melt off the roads).
After this, a long tramp past Forest head brought us to Whinny Hill – a steep little beggar and a bit higher at 336 metres and with a nice view of the Solway Firth. As this is bigger than Tindale Tarn, it’s much better, see? This involved climbing a wall twice. Happily it didn’t fall down.
A short road walk found a gate and a well-worn path through old coal workings (there was coal in the mine spoil!) and up steeply to the very fine summit of Talkin Fell. This one’s distinctiveness took me by surprise in that not only did it have a much better view of the Solway than Whinny - and some snow-covered Scottish hills in the far distance as a bonus, but it also had a huge collection of well-built cairns. Nine Standards? Pah! There’s about seventeen standards up here, plus, plus, mind, a fine selection of holes and lumps so handy for sheltering in the sunshine from the brutal gale coming off the Solway, the better to eat a curd tart with some degree of dignity – that is to say, without shivering violently. Being out of the wind, and much warmer, Lucky soaked up a bit of sun. Lucky likes sun. I could spend a day snoozing on Talkin Fell, I think, but on a better day.
The final bag appeared to be a rough and heathery lump across a boggy pass and defended by a four foot wall. Lucky scrambled over the wall with ease and I bumbled my way over it, balancing precariously on a bit of fencing for a while till I’d managed to find a toehold for a toe…. Climbing over walls without causing it to collapse and crush yer vitals or without a disastrous bone-cracking tumble from the top gets more difficult when you have your senior citizen’s bus pass y’know. Just at the point where your life is drifting into it’s final few winters, you suddenly get more cautious when logic would seem to say that there’s not much point in caution when there’s less lifetime to be lost by a lack of bravery than, say, when you’re twenty. Maybe I should just drink more.
The bog wasn’t too bad, though and wasn’t too deep or wide and was without any crocodiles or similar and we found an easy path which went up at first then skirted a line of small outcrops along the edge, revealing various hidey-holes and shelters and stuff…
The summit cairn was hidden in rough heather. Simmerson Fell was the fourth and final bag of the day.
We returned via an old railway line leading to Howgill after just seven miles and 1100 feet of up. A nice little walk. Smug mode, in fact.
Here’s a link to the RSPB reserve at Geltsdale – quite wonderful and well-worth spending time here