PW Day 9 (Trip 4 – Day 1)
Sunday, 30th July 2017 – Hawes to Tan Hill – 16.5 miles (+ 1 mile diversion)
Our final trip of 2017 involved us returning to Hawes on Saturday, 29th July. The journey up to Yorkshire was a reverse of 2nd July and incredibly it cost just £18 each. We caught the 12:03pm from Kings Cross, changed at Leeds and found David waiting at Garsdale Station with his Little White Bus. By 5pm we were checked in to our pub accommodation for the night; “The Board Inn”. The Board Inn proved to be a great find and we enjoyed a lovely home-cooked evening meal and plenty of local ale whilst contemplating the view of Shunner Fell in the distance.
At breakfast we chatted with Graham from Lincolnshire. Graham was doing the PW in one go and was also heading for the Tan Hill Inn that night. We went to the local Spar to get a picnic lunch but didn’t set off from Hawes until 9:30am. The weather was changeable and remained so all day. One minute it was bright sunshine and the next it was pouring with rain.
The first part of the walk involved a simple one mile trek across the fields separating Hawes from the neighbouring village of Hardraw. Hardraw is home to the Hardraw Force waterfall. The waterfall is not on the PW itself but it has become an unofficial stopping off point for many completing the walk. The entrance was via the Green Dragon Pub (it was too early for a drink – but the pub looked fantastic) and, as it is on private land, we had to pay £2.50 to get in. The one-mile detour was worth it.
We now started on the main business of the day; the long climb to the summit of Great Shunner Fell. Shunner Fell at 2,349ft is the third largest peak in Yorkshire and being higher than Pen-Y-Ghent it set another height record for our walk so far. The climb to the trig point might have been a lot less dramatic than Pen-Y-Ghent but it was a real slog. After a really long climb with multiple false summits we finally made it to the shelter on the summit by 1pm. We had lunch there as we sheltered from the wind whilst enjoying the view.
The journey down from Shunner was almost as bad as the way up. There was a lot of mud around and I managed to slip a few times. Eventually we made it down to the village of Thwaite by 3pm and we were happy to find the Kearton Tea rooms still open. We ordered hot drinks and were soon joined by a couple from Antwerp who were attempting the “Herriot Way” and had followed us down Shunner.
Setting off from Thwaite we immediately headed up into Swaledale. The views were some of the best in Yorkshire and soon Crackpot Hall, where we had paused the previous year on the C2C walk, came into view. The sun was out again, the countryside looked great but the walking was nasty. It was mostly along stony paths and through overgrown ferns. It slowed us down a lot and it was after 5pm by the time we reached Keld.
Keld, where we had stayed on the C2C, marks the crossing point between these two great walks and we had a mini celebration as we reached the signpost marking the exact point.
It had started raining again and we still had 4 miles to go, all of it up hill, to our accommodation for the night.
We soldiered on and after a couple of long wet hours the Tan Hill Inn finally came into view. It was almost 7:30pm. It had been a longer day than we had anticipated.
The Tan Hill Inn is the highest pub in the British Isles and famously featured in an Everest double glazing advert in the 70’s. It is a Pennine Way legend too and staying there is a real “must do”. As we entered the bar, obviously soaking wet, Graham greeted us with a sarcastic “I hadn’t realised it had started raining” and introduced us to Geoff from Yorkshire who he had met on the walk that afternoon.
We showered and changed and made it back down to the bar in double quick time. We joined Geoff and Graham for a great night of lasagna, scampi, beer more beer and great chat. The atmosphere in the Tan Hill Inn lived up to my expectations. There was a great feeling of isolation mixed with cosiness. We were sitting in front of a coal fire that hadn’t gone out in 100 years among a great mix of locals and PW hikers eating and drinking whilst listening to the strong wind and heavy rain outside. It was well past 11pm when we headed for bed.
PW Day 10 (Trip 4 – Day 2)
Monday 31st July 2017 – Tan Hill to Middleton in Teesdale – 16 miles
The next morning I was a little the worse for wear but after a hot shower and a coffee I was good to go. We breakfasted with a couple from Switzerland who were doing the PW in 3 parts over 3 years.
Graham had already left by the time we woke up but we bumped into Geoff at the cornflake buffet. His hangover seemed a lot worse than mine.
At 9:30am we left the Inn and passed immediately from Yorkshire into County Durham. It was just starting to rain as we began our crossing of Sleightholme Moor. It continued for most of the next few hours but, apart from a brief shower in the late afternoon, it stayed mostly dry and sunny all day.
We had been prepared for a day of relentless peat bogs and moors on the way to Middleton but it turned out to be wetter underfoot than even we had expected. Starting with Sleightholme Moor and continuing most of the day it felt like walking through porridge or oxtail soup.
The navigation was difficult too as deep water blocked the path at numerous points and we had to retrace steps to find a way through. Tempers were sometimes short and a few arguments also occurred!
It took us a couple of hours to get over Sleighthome Moor and on to the gravel path near Sleighthome farm. The path headed past grouse butts and the fields were full of young grouse. They were flying around happily enough obviously unaware of the fate that awaited them once the shooting season starts in 2 weeks time.
We had a morning break at a little bridge and then, immediately after the break, made a navigational error that cost us 40 minutes. Instead of climbing as we should have done, we headed along the riverside trail. Finally, realising our mistake, we retraced our steps to the bridge and met the Swiss couple there. They had followed the correct path and we climbed up to meet them.
After yet more fields and bogs the A66 came into sight. This busy east-west trunk road uses this gap in the Pennines to link the M6 and A1. We stopped for lunch just short of the main road at a place called God’s Bridge. It is a natural bridge over the little river and was a nice spot for a picnic. The gammon sandwiches from the Tan Hill Inn tasted fantastic.
There is a useful tunnel for the Pennine Way under the A66 and just before it we had cause for another mini celebration; we had now completed half of the Pennine Way. Someone had written a message of congratulations on the marker sign. Someone else had written “Suckers” underneath it!
There was a bit of early heather around, but the bog became a problem once again as we walked over Bowes Moor. It was unrelenting stuff. It was energy and spirit sapping too. It slowed us down and it was not until after 4pm that we descended to Baldersdale reservoir.
The path around the reservoir offered a welcome respite to the bogs and was followed by a walk past Hannah’s Meadow. Hannah Hauxwell, who eventually became famous as a result of a BBC documentary, employed traditional farming practices with no re-seeding and no artificial fertilisers. The meadows she left have a very rich floral composition, including rare species and are now protected.
After another hour or so of more marshy ground we came to Grassholme reservoir. It was starting to rain as we sat alone at a picnic table in the reservoir car park enjoying the Mars and Marathon bars from the Tan Hill Inn packed lunches. Without those chocolate snacks the final push to Middleton might have taken longer.
Nourished and rested we set out again for the final 2 or 3 miles over the hill to Middleton. As we climbed our final hill of the year we enjoyed great views back down to the reservoir. We passed a farm where the farmer’s daughter had created a Pennine Way mini-tuck shop. She offered us free water but we were in a hurry and keen to push on.
We crested the hill, Middleton came into view and we began our final descent.
The ground finally dried up and before not too long we were walking on solid tarmac and into the town itself. We paused for a while at the place, just next to the cattle market, where the Pennine Way disappears to the northwest and follows the south bank of the River Tees. We now had about 137 miles behind us and just 120 miles left to go.
It was just before 7pm as we crossed the Tees and found a park bench in the middle of the town square. We sat and changed out of our waterproofs and muddy boots. A local then directed us to the Teesdale Hotel nearby. It was fascinating to note the distinct change of accent between Yorkshire and Durham. We were most certainly now in the “North East” – Canny!
Just as we were checking in Graham and Geoff appeared from the hotel bar and welcomed us to Middleton. Graham was staying in the same hotel and Geoff was just around the corner in a B&B. They had saved us two seats at their table again and we dined together on local Lamb and Pork. The food was excellent; the best of the whole trip. The place was surprisingly busy for a Monday night too. It was a strange mixture of locals, hikers and Italian cyclists.
We were eventually joined by Mike and Zoe, a couple from Dorset who were doing the PW for charity and camping most nights, who were also great company. The pints of Black Sheep bitter flowed quicker as we sat chatting until Midnight. It had been a difficult days walking and we had all hated Sleightholme moor with a passion. Geoff read us a quotation from his “Wainwright’s Pennine Way Companion”. It simply said – “Sleightholme Moor = Penance for Sins”.
The next morning we breakfasted with Mike and Zoe and wished them well for the rest of their trip. We caught a bus into Barnard Castle. We had a coffee and bought some pies in Barnard before catching another bus to Darlington. We walked around Darlington market before heading to the station and getting the 2:30pm train back to Kings Cross. We were back in London by 5pm.