Leader : Barry Lee. Distance : 8 miles.
One-o – clock, two- o- clock, three- o- clock, the varying forecasts when showers were likely to catch up with us on our Saturday outing to the Durham Dales. But all was fair when we left EDW behind and headed north for Middleton –in- Teesdale, our base for the day.
A short distance by road but blessed with fantastic views once we had left suburbia. No doubt summer has left us but the autumn vistas displaying the wonderful colours the season brings almost made the journey alone worth the trip.
On arrival the home contingent were supplemented by a number of friends who had travelled independently and once a little parking problem had been resolved we were on our way. Seeking to take advantage one or two of the late comers had parked part way up the little hill at the start of the walk, forgetting of course that they would have to pay at the end.
After a short flight of steep stairs we headed north and soon joined company with the bustling Hudeshope Burn with its charming cascades and rushing along to join its larger sibling the Tees. The waterside track soon took us into a delightful shady wooded area with its seasonal carpet of fallen leaves, the little sun we had enhancing the kaleidoscope of colours
Exiting the copse we gradually commenced climbing the only hill of the day (so said the leader but then we all are aware of the veracity of such statements). Fields and some grassy moorland tracks took us to around 350m near High Skears farm and where we paused for a puff break on a minor road that lead back to town.
It was here that our guest Maureen who was trying us out for the first time felt a little unwell, suffering perhaps from altitude sickness, but the situation was quickly rationalised when our resident Good Samaritan Ian offered to escort her to a cosy coffee shop in town where equilibrium could be quickly established.
For the rest of us it was onwards and after a little more climbing we reached our summit for the day on the lower reaches of Harberry Hill. The calm apparent isolation combined with the fantastic views were evidence, if any was needed, why we all love this part of the world.
Alas no time to linger and we commenced our long but easy descent to Newbiggin with the white painted buildings signifying its Lord Barnard connection. Standing on the main street is the chapel built by workers in the lead mining era and at the time of its closure in 1917 it was the oldest practising Methodist chapel in the world, a favourite of John Wesley. Now alas its time has come and it is being converted into holiday lets but at least the building itself will remain as testament to its past.
Close by was our lunch stop with the privileged few able to be seated comfortably while the peasants amongst us took our places at their feet on a cold stone wall.
Fed and watered we were on our way again and after pausing a short while to peer into the chapel for a last time we descended quite sharply towards the Tees having to cross a small tributary on the way where Elaine failed in her attempt to walk on water. Fortunately sufficient Sir Galahads were present to save her blushes. On then and crossing the mighty river itself was carried out without further ado,
We were all now on familiar ground as we joined and headed south on that long distance track named after the river itself. What a lovely trail it is embracing the river banks most of the way back to town. Stiles of various complexity attempted to make life a little difficult but did not halt progress. On our way we met up with Ian having completed his good deed and a little further on we were delighted to meet Maureen again who, refreshed, had set out to meet us on our return leg. We sincerely hope she will give us another chance very soon.
Post walk aperitifs as usual taken in a local hostelry, The Moorcock Inn, brought to a close a lovely walk on a lovely day in a great part of the world.