|The empty road to Swinhope|
A hasty decision, made the night before and with pack packed and owd fowks bus pass located, me and LTD travelled to Daddry Shield to start on the road up to Swinhope. This was something of an error since the road up to Swinhope doesn't go from Daddry Shield at all, but from Westgate, a place I'd just passed on the bus. Never mind, I needed the miles (Some kind of happiness is measured out in miles)
Swinhope (Pig valley) has a gated road that goes to Newbiggin in Teesdale. Just one car passed in the couple of miles from Westgate to the pass at the top of the road and there was a chap fixing a stone wall, and he had a car, so that was two. And, as I snacked by the cattle grid at the top, an Asda home delivery van went past. Probably lost. I hope the fish fingers weren't thawing out.
Swinhope's main attraction, though is the Weardale Ski Club's tow and, as there was no snow at all, there was nobody there. So the dale was quiet and empty save for Curlews calling. There was no wind and the mist was laying on the hill tops and well down the fellsides beneath. This was Very Good News.
Sometimes it pays to be discreet and on these occasions, a thick blanket of fog is Just The Thing. Me and LTD plodded the squishy bogs to the summit of James Hill, at just over 2200 feet above sea level.
And we handrailed the fence over Outberry Plain, turning North to try to find Ewestone Currick, an obscure and small feature about a mile and a half across the moors, which, in these conditions were almost featureless. Navigation by map and compass would probably have meant handrailing the fence most of the way and trying to find the spot from a corner about 400 metres away. This would have proved quite hard, I think so I used GPS all the way, and, even then, the place was hard to spot.
Ewestone Currick above. A currick is usually a cairn and it often includes a small shelter to allow a shepherd to get out of the weather for a while. Ewestone Currick has seen better days. The next target was the trig point on Snowhope Hill and even this wasn't quite where the GPS thought it was - in fact , it was a good 90 metres away and, since visibility was about 50 metres.....
We had a short break on Snowhope Hill, at The Carrs, a bijoux clump of boulders with a cairn. Lucky decided that this was an ideal spot for a snooze and he went straight off to dreamy sleepy snory land whilst I dealt firmly but fairly with a banana.
A bit later, with some more GPS'ing, we hit the Stanhope - Egglestone Road which is shadowed a bit by a so-called Roman Road. This was actually built in 1832, apparently, so the Romans must have been hanging around.
It does lead towards Stanhope, but the road is not much fun and soon, we turned off by some teetering buildings and descended to Stanhope through rabbit pastures and some quiet lanes.
We'd done 15 miles altogether and Lucky had bagged 3 tops - a Nuttall/Hewitt and two deleted Nuttalls, which don't really count, I suppose. This wasn;t bad since the walk had no plan to it at all and was, in fact, more or less made-up on the hoof. Don't try this at home, folks, it's probably nopt a safe thing to do, but I'm 67, with a dicky ticker and Type 2 diabetes in remission and I have passed on my genes, and some of my genes have passed on their genes, so safety is not my principal concern. I think this is only right. Youngsters are the ones who are gung-ho, and owd fowks like me are cautious in the extreme. This is the wrong way around, surely. The world would be a lot safer if it was the pensioners wot did the fighting. We'd never hit anything for a start....