LEJOG39: Middleton-In-Teesdale to Dufton

On friday morning Pete and the family dog susie joined me on the first part of my wall along the River Tees. Like most people I associate the Tees with Middlesborough, but this stretch couldn’t have been further from that association. The sun was blazing and there was an amazing blue sky. To my left were lovely hay meadows covered in buttercups and other wild flowers which were sitting at the bottom of the big hills I had walked over the previous day. To my right was the river and it’s wooded banks. It was lovely.

I parted from Pete just before the Tees changed from being an idyllic wooded river to something more rocky and rugged featuring lots of chunks of grey-brown rocks around which water flowed rapidly and churned itself into white foam. I walked past High Force, the highest waterfall in the country, which thundered down from on top of several chunky layers of whinsill stone. The big hills to my left started turning into a series of whinsill crags with rounded edges (as opposed o the straighter edges of gritstone crags). I no longer felt as though i was in england, the landscape was more like something from the Appalachian mountains with more hardy-looking trees and bushes. I half- expected to round a corner and bump into a bear playing a banjo.

The path itself got quite rocky until I was having to clamber over boulders. It reminded me a bit of the zennor to st Ives stretch right at the beginning of the walk, except without the ocean to my left. Or the driving rain and wind. Or big ascents and descents. So not that much like it then.

The reward was Cauldron Snout, another waterfall except this time descending over a series of rocky steps that descended down the hill in a slight spiral. It was actually more impressive than High Force because the water was being churned in a mutlitude of directions on its way down to the river.

These waterfalls were amazing but the walking was becoming a bit arduous due to the sun and the landscape’s ability to radiate heat making you feel like you were being attacked on all sides by the sun.

Even the river itself didn’t provide enough cool air to counteract this.

I was starting to feel fatigued and jaded. All those things that had delighted me with their difference when I started the Penine way – the moors, the big hills, the barren landscape – were now starting to blur into one and become a bit of a trudge. It didn’t help that this was a 20+ mile day: sometimes there’s no way to avoid them but they are definitely not the most relaxed experience and I think it wouldn spoil the experience to do it everyday.

I made it to High Cup, a spectacular wishbone-shaped natural amphitheater with a ring of crags around its edges. It was so big and glowing green from the sun reflecting off the grass that it looked surreal. It was amazing but what I really wanted was to get to my campsite, so after a short stop I worked my way down to Dufton, that night’s destination. The hills were all comically big like a series of normal hills that had been inflated by a bike pump. This was accentuated by the fact that they sat right next to a flat plane of patch work fields.

Once in the town and after setting my tent up I visited the local pub.

Local was the word; the bar area was filled with gossiping village regulars swapping tales and piss-takes with each other in the sing- song lilt of the north-east. Every man was dressed in a freshly laundered short-sleeve shirt; I reckon this was the first friday of the year where they could change into their summer clothes between finishing work and going to the pub.

I returned to the tent early as I was knackered and had just as long a day day tomorrow except with an even bigger ascent up onto Cross Fell, the highest point in England outside of the lake district. After this day I was going to conserve as much energy as possible – I was definitely going to need it the following day.


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