Leader : Barry Lee. Distance : 8 miles.
Left click route and profile to enlarge
We were thirteen, unlucky for some you could say. Attempts and threats were made without avail to find a volunteer to take a day by the seaside in order to refine the number so it was, as a Baker’s Dozen, we left old EDWs philanthropic edifice on Coniscliffe Road.
An easy journey even for the navigational challenged among us took us up the A67 through Barney and then a sharp left after a the picturesque village of Cotherstone saw us arrive without trauma en route at the cosy little car park at East Briscoe, our kick off point for the day.
Baldersdale lies west of Teesdale in the foothills of the Pennines and the pastoral dale is named after the River Balder that feeds its three picturesque reservoirs. Circumventing Hury, the first to be built in 1894, was to be our first manoeuvre followed by a tramp over the ancient Cotherstone moor, a site of Special Scientific Interest and wild and bleak even on a good day.
Undaunted and following a short briefing from our doughty leader we headed off more or less west along the southern boundary of the tranquil Hury with easy walking at first on the grassy carpet underfoot. The water is exclusively reserved for fly fishing and is known as an over winter base for wild fowl including Mallard and Teal. After about a mile or so we crossed the small bridge over the westerly toe of the reservoir and on to the northern shore of the next ‘pond’ upstream, Blackthorn Reservoir. Perhaps half way along the water we had our first halt of the day pausing at a convenient picnic spot which gave us the opportunity to admire the skill of the Victorian engineers and to gaze over the moor ahead, only just catching a glimpse of the distant Shacklesborough through the prevailing light mist.
On again and we neared the end of Blacthorn and traversing the small Blind Beck we passed close to Birk Hat Farm, the former home of Hannah Hauxwell of early 70s TV fame. Hannah died early this year. It was here that we joined company with that grandfather of long distant trails ‘The Pennine Way as it wound its way from the reservoirs of sibling dale Lunedale.
It was now time to climb a little so as we turned south east, passing the dilapidated but interestingly named Hagworm Hall the rough moorland track, on occasions indistinct, dragged us inexorably up to the highest point of our day where at around 420m we settled in the lea of a drystone wall for lunch leaving the Pennine Way to continue its lonely journey south over the hills towards Bowes Moor.
Mother Nature had been kind to us thus far and while slightly humid, the conditions were not at all bad for walking.
As ever the two minute call soon invaded our comfort zone and we were on our way again taking yet another indistinct track due east, which while basically level, was populated with typical moor tussocks ensuring our leg muscles were well exercised.
After a mile we turned north again on what was effectively the fourth side of our ‘square walk’ with that other iconic hill of the moor ‘Goldsborough’ in the mid distance and our finishing post down in the valley below. The turn in fact saw us join another spur of the Pennine Way for a short distance and took us along the boundary of the MOD Battle Hill firing range. With no red flag flying access to the range was possible but our planned route did not incorporate such detour. Probably just as well.
Instead we began to descend, quite steeply in places, more or less along the line of Yawd Sike and in the general direction of Fidler House which we neatly bypassed as we reached more level ground and tramped the last few yards along the country lane back to our awaiting chariots.
A lovely ramble over a typical bleak and wild northern moor and thoroughly enjoyed by all.