Friday, February 23, 2007

Day 34 : Bowes to Langdon Beck

Saturday 17th February 2007

Distance Walked: 22.6 miles
Start Time: 9:12
End Time: 17:12
Elapsed Time: 8:00
Weather: Overcast, then sunny.
Distance walked so far: 670.8 miles

It’s the spaces inbetween that are the most testing, the places that no one would normally choose to go. These are the places where there is nothing to see, where the paths unravel, the signs vanish, and the frustrations mount. The places that are plunged through, head down, until the reward of a new splendour appears. The curse of the Long Distance Walker is that the splendours can go by so briefly that the days become consumed with spaces. Sometimes these spaces inbetween go on for days. Today, it was only for a morning but the contrast was sharp.

The land north of Bowes has long been a warzone. Passing the remains of the old castle, the road plunges uphill through the MOD warning signs (“If you touch anything, you will die”) and up onto the moor, where the path is submerged in the marshland, and the walking is hard and heavy going. Slipping on a moist wooden bridge, I scatter gadgets into the bog all around. Disaster! Which one to save first? Can I survive without the GPS? Is it worth surviving without music, or photos?

Perversely, I pluck the iPod from the peat first and, satisfied that my priorities have been established, I slosh through the fields beyond the Grassholme Reservoir and down into the neat town of Middleton-in-Teesdale by lunchtime. Just when I’m thoroughly sick of the Pennine Way, it produces a delight, for the afternoon’s stroll along the River Tees from Middleton is an absolute beauty. It’s been surprising just how little I’ve seen of other walkers on the Walk but this is just about the most populated path I’ve seen so far, and rightly so. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, meandering west with the river through the fields and woods, with the fells of Upper Teesdale looming above, it’s a wonderful way to pass the time.

And the splendour, the reward after walking through all that space inbetween, is High Force, the dramatically named waterfall which is neither the biggest nor the highest in the country, but is hugely impressive nonetheless. The peaty brown water thunders over the edge, like bad beer, and is photographed from all angles by the weekend walkers.

“Can you take my photo, please” I ask of one. “I’ve walked here from Cornwall”
“No problem, mate” he says “I’ve walked here from the car park”

As always, I can’t linger long. Continuing onwards upstream along the path, suddenly I’m alone again. Back into space. As the sun sets, I arrive at Langdon Beck, which seems to consist of a road junction and a pub, and am met by the Support Crew who ferries us back to the comfort of Middleton. The morning fall has resulted in a worryingly stiff hip, and the increasing discomfort of the left shoulder is becoming a concern. Slowly, I unravel.

Song of the day:

Delaney & Bonnie
“Only you know and I know”

Only you know and I know
All the love we've got to show
So don't refuse to believe it
By reading too many meanings
'Cause you know that I mean what I say,
So don't go and take me the wrong way.
You know you can't go on getting your own way,
'Cause if you do, it's going to get you someday

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