Its like the middle of January out there, folks. We seem to be having a winter this… er….. winter. Me and LTD’s last three walks have been increasingly snowy.
Midweek, we went to Bolam Lake in Northumberland, passing four cars off the road on the A68 and another just by Bolam Lake’s car park. There was a bit of drifting off the fields.
This was the occasion of the Wednesday Walkers Walking on Saturdays Except To Say That It Was a Wednesday. I was at the back today, making sure nobody came adrift and that all the gates were as they were before we passed. My personal objective was Shaftoe Crags, a small hill that had defeated the gentle attentions of me and Dawn way back in 2017 when we’d been somehwee else and thought it looked interesting.
There was snow. Not all that much snow. And there was ice. A fair bit of ice. We went across the fields to Bolam church where there’s a repaired hole in the wall after a member of the Lufwaffe, somehow disoriented by the absence of Sunderland docks below, where it ought to have been, and being harried by two RAF fighters, jettisoned his bombs, one of which bounced off a grave and entered the church making a new hole in the wall. Apparently he came back to have a look fifty or sixty years later and received a cordial welcome from the locals, specially as he hadn’t killed anybody, I suppose.
After a chilly trek around the flatter bits of Northumberland, our leader announced that he was shortening the walk and wouldn’t be visiting Shaftoe Crags. I mentioned that in this case, I’d be leaving the walk, and there was a general consensus that maybe we should head up there anyway. In any case, the walk avoided the summit, so I nicked off and bagged it anyway. It was only 150 metres away.
We did 11 miles altogether.
And then there was a doggy walk – a routine one up the Deerness Valley Railway path to Stanley Beck and through the woods back over to Stanley Crook. Now the snow was deeper and, in the pristine fields where nobody had ventured before, LTD was able to charge about and bark and eat some snow. It was almost 6 miles of hard work. But the winter is quite beautiful in the sunshine.
It gets no warmer. I have a Weardale Wanderers guided walk to lead next weekend, so LTD suggested that we’d better do a reccy. This route is an ex-Durham County Council walk which heads up from Westgate in Weardale, through Slit Wood and over the tops to Rookhope. We didn;t get as far as that.
Slit Wood had just a moderate snow cover which got noticeably deeper with distance. By the time we headed out over the moor to Scarsike Head, it was generally knee deep and quite soft. Some parts were navel-deep and the whole event turned into a desperate struggle. Even LTD was struggling. We battled on up the hill, eventually achieving the stile onto the road at the top. Here, a chap with a landrover said he’d been stuck there overnight as the snow made deep drifts on his line of retreat. He expected to be there for at least another night. He had managed to nip home and return and refused some hot coffee.
It was clear that I wouldn’t be able to complete the route and would probably run out of steam before having to do the return journey from Rookhope to Westgate. So we abandoned and walked (struggled) down the road back to Westgate. For the first mile there were deep drifts, hard to see in the available lighting. A 4x4 came up the hill and met me at the point where the tarmac became visible. I told him the road was blocked. He seemed quite grumpy in the way that some 4X4 drivers like to reinforce prejudices against 4X4 drivers, so he went on his way up the hill. Hopefully, the chap with the landy got away in a reasonable time. He did seem pretty relaxed about it and mentioned that it wasn’t the first time…
A few minutes later, he returned, at some speed. He obviously didn’t have time to chat about the snow drifts.
We only managed 5 miles altogether. We were both knackered, frankly, and spent the rest of the day supping tea (or in LTD’s case, snoozing in his cosy bed next to the radiator)
I’ll have to go back sometime this week and finish the reccy. The lesson is that if you think you might need snowshoes, take some snow shoes, yer big daft twerp.
As a post-script, I would say that whoever repaired the footpath in Slit Wood, you’ve done a cracking job.
And I won’t be taking any loony comments from Westgate locals about what people choose to plant in their gardens or whether or not they like to put a notice on their gate reminding walkers to keep their dog on a lead and to pick up the dog’s poo. Just sayin’
Will the winter continue in the same fashion? Will I remember to take the correct kit next time? Will the ice on my whiskers melt before I get home?