Leader : Elaine Anderson. Distance : 8.5 miles.
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Mist, Mud, Snow, Water, Horses, Stiles, More Mud ….. Come back ‘The Cowtons’, all is forgiven.
Leaving dear old EDW we travelled in a loose convoy and initially our future looked –well reasonable. But as we passed through West Auckland on the A68 and neared the mining village of Tow Law it soon became apparent, that with significant roadside snow piles evident and a prevailing heavy mist, our day out was not going to be a walk in the park– we were right. The recent relatively balmy weather of our home town had not yet penetrated the frozen north.
The name Castleside, is sadly not born out of some fortified pile from days of yore but is thought to have derived from an early tenant farmer (called Castle) whose land was located on ‘Castle’s side’ of what in those days would have been the region’s major road– so now you know.
But to the trip. Made of stern stuff we were soon garbed for the prevailing conditions and set off down what our leader grandly announced was the High Street but which we were soon to leave, abandoning firm underfoot conditions for some considerable time.
Our initial steps took us along a fenced grassy path, to the first of the many stiles we were to encounter on the day, and from there down a greasy slope to meet up with a little tributary of the Wharnley Burn which was flowing like the might Amazon on an angry day. How to cross? if to cross? – no wellingtons– no waders– no chance, so we then had our little ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ moment, but in reverse, for as we had been marched to the bottom of the hill we were unceremoniously marched back up again. The troops then assembled and after a short consultation with assorted sat- navs and a ragged paper route map we were off again with a route sorted out to circumvent the rushing torrent below.
Once on the way again we tramped through light wooded areas where redundant autumn leaves added to the underfoot hazards and then onto fields where the surfaces were –well– muddy. It was here also that the rather bothersome hanging mist began to raise its head making for difficult navigation. Then just about 2 miles or so into our journey light relief presented itself in the form of a spell of road walking but with an overheard comment from the rear guard that this was a unique stroll with significant ups but no downs– but at least the road wasn’t muddy. Alas this proved to be a false dawn for after about a mile and a half we were back with our old friends, muddy fields, albeit the dangling carrot of an imminent lunch stop lunch urged us on.
In fact the chosen venue was delightful. Sitting adjacent a bubbling burn in the company of fellow trampers the location could not have been better chosen. How, we wondered, would it be in the fullness of summer– bloody great we imagined. It was during this repast that our dear leader revealed some of the experiences she had when undertaking walk recce with one of our absent friends but while interesting they undoubtedly may have been, as we are a family publication, the details have been redacted in the interests of the innocents.
Lunch over we left the little stream and having crossed the simple wooden plank bridge we encountered patches of deep snow seemingly determined to hang around in the lea of hedgerows reluctant to accept the oncoming spring., Of course we all insisted in making our footprints in the, what could easily have been avoided, virgin snow– big kids!
We were now well past Crooked Oak and the famous Derwent Gorge where the official route for the day would have seen us wade across the river. It was our good fortune that a detour had been built in to avoid that little adventure. A rough track took us onward via remote fascinating spots named Carp Shield and Goldhill and at which point we crossed a minor country road such being the high point of our day at 300m . Alas the hard road surface all too quickly metamorphosed into mud again so it was situation normal as we plodged our way past Horselyhope. It was near here that we exchanged some pleasantries with a charming farming family who earnestly informed us that ground conditions were considerably improved since they had installed drainage!! Our request to borrow a couple of their friendly equine pals to complete our journey unfortunately fell on stoney ground..
A further spell of road walking ensued and soon we were on the last lap– or so we were told, but indeed it was so and after yet another up and down we were back to base. Intriguingly the final elevation reading gave a finish point some 10m higher than the start. Maybe it was the mud on our boots.
A walk with a difference but the camaraderie and repartee among those present far outweighed the sometimes difficult conditions. Our great leader had done a splendid job in the mist tracking us around quite a tricky route.
A pleasant drink (which is more than be said for mine host) in the only local left in the village finished off an exhilarating day.