Sunday 1st September 1963

We got out of our wonderful, comfortable beds at about 08.15h and went downstairs for a fabulous breakfast of grapefruit, three rashers of ham, two eggs, three sausages, one and a half tomatoes and as much bread and toast as we wanted – nearly as much, anyway! This breakfast was the best meal we had all the time, although we ate more at Malham.

At 10.00h we left ‘The Grove’ – the weather was quite sunny and warm, though not quite as clear as it had been on the previous day. We stopped at a shop and bought some food for lunch, then walked out of Durham and back into Yorkshire, and along the Yorkshire bank of the Tees, the river being the county boundary for much of its length. We stopped at Low Force where Neil took a photograph and then continued to High Force.

We got there at about 12.30h. We had just walked through part of the Strathmore estate, where we had been warned by notices to keep to the path and ‘Beware of Adders’. The second of these might have been a low-down trick to make us keep to the path. It worked! There wasn’t much water coming over the falls, and there were a lot of sightseers. It was very hot, and Neil took quite a few photos.

At 12.50h we left High Force and walked along the bank of the Tees. We had difficulty in crossing some of the streams that joined the Tees, and there was quite a lot of heather about, and we wondered whether our next step would be into a nest of bees or a nest of adders. There was quite a lot of broom growing on the steep sides of the valley, and we had difficulty in finding a way through it in parts.

At 13.30h we stopped near Langdon Beck to have dinner, and we needed a rest by now. We set off again at 14.00h, and headed across to the River Tees again near Cronkley Scar. We followed the river past Widdybank Farm, and walked on a little-used cart track near the river.

The sun was burning down on this valley of high, steep sides, and the only sound was that of running water. There wasn’t a breath of wind, and it seemed the loneliest, quietest part of the Way, though it was not bleak by any means.

We soon walked along the foot of Falcon Clints, part of the cliffs of the great Whin Sill. We had to balance on the boulders which had fallen from the cliffs above, and just a little further on we came to a boggy area.

Just past this we reached Cauldron Snout. At this point the Tees falls two hundred feet in one hundred and fifty yards in a series of small waterfalls all on top of each other. It is quite as impressive as High Force, and there were a few tourists here too. As we approached it we could hear it before we turned sharply and saw it bursting down towards us.

After having a drink, we kept on towards our objective. We walked up the side of Cauldron Snout and crossed the bridge into Westmorland. Following a cart track, we went towards the two remote farmsteads of Birkdale, which we passed, and headed across the peaty, open moors. The farms of Birkdale are thirteen miles from the nearest shop at Middleton in Teesdale, unless they went over the Pennines via High Cup Nick to Dufton – eight miles.

We skirted the War Department Range beside the Maize Beck, and we squelched across the peat to Maize Beck. The path, the well known Pennine crossing via High Cup Nick, was well cairned in most parts, and well trodden. We saw quite a lot of hikers on this path, and even bike tracks!

Just before we forded Maize Beck, Neil walked into a bog up to his knees. This magnificent display of falling in bogs was followed by an equally magnificent display of bad language, while he tried to drag himself out. We then had to find a deep part of the beck so Neil could walk through it and get rid of the smell of rotting vegetation.

We pushed on towards High Cup Nick. A light drizzle came on, and we finally reached High Cup Nick. This is shown on the map as a fairly small, natural amphitheatre, with cliffs on the three sides. No photograph or description can give a real idea of what it was like to us as we approached it from its closed end.

We were really astonished at the impression of huge size it gave us, and as the wind whistled eerily around its cold, grey crags, we found it hard to believe that we were standing below 2000 feet. It was a fine climax to a fine walk through the lonely country of upper Teesdale. We had no time left to stay and look on this remarkable scene, so we pressed on to Dufton, in the Eden valley.

We were handicapped by not having a map to show the Dufton and Knock area, so we were not sure where these two villages were. Arriving in one village, I asked a local yokel where we were. He told us we were in Dufton. We asked him where the Youth Hostel was, and we were told it was about two miles away, at the far side of Knock village.

The time was 18.30h, dinner was at 19.00h, and we had not eaten since 13.30h, and we were very hungry – too hungry to miss our dinners at any price.

Although we had walked over twenty miles we set off for the hostel at the best speed we could make. Neil’s knee had been giving him trouble, but he didn’t want to miss his dinner.

I got to the Youth Hostel spot on 19.00h and found we were the only three in that night. Dinner was postponed until 19.30h and we all had time to get changed and make our beds.

We had dinner in the Warden’s kitchen with the Warden, and then played cards with him until 22.30h, when we went to bed.

Monday 2nd September 1963

The weather was not very promising that morning as we looked out across the Eden valley. We could not see very far, as the mist was down – not a very encouraging sign, as we had to climb Cross Fell, 2930 feet, the highest peak in the Pennines.

Breakfast was late, and it was not until 10.10h that we left the hostel and set off up the track beside Knock Ore Gill, once a mine track but now a road up to the radar station on Great Dun Fell. In fact, the hostel we had been staying in was a converted barracks.

At 11.10h we stopped for a rest. The track was fairly steep and the weather was warm. We pushed on through the mist until suddenly, looming up before us, we saw the radar station on the summit of Great Dun Fell. The mist was very thick, and occasionally, through the breaks, we could see the now sunlit flanks of the fell.

We took compass bearings and set off by our compasses to what we hoped was Little Dun Fell. However, we saw through a break in the mist, that we were wandering out of our way, and managed to rectify this. We pushed on across Little Dun Fell, and very shortly arrived on the flanks of Cross Fell. We were not altogether certain that it was in fact Cross Fell, but if we were climbing we couldn’t be far wrong, since it is the highest peak in the Pennines.

We reached the summit at 12.40h, and sat down for a rest, which we thought was well deserved. The thick mist prevented us from seeing the wonderful view which stretches right to the Lake District, and the Solway Firth and Scotland. The summit is littered with broken rock, and is generally fairly flat. The summit is dry, but the ground all round it is very boggy, even in drier seasons. The southeast flank of Cross Fell has on it the source of the Tees.

We descended from the summit of Cross Fell and had lunch at 13.20h in some large scree boulders. The wind was cold, and the mist, which was now slightly thinner, had lifted, and the wind was swirling it by just above our heads, and occasionally enveloping us in it.

At 13.45h we set off across the peat bogs to the mine track, leading us to Garrigill. A difficulty we experienced here was that we lacked one of the Ordnance Survey maps, and where the track branched we were having to guess which road to take. Luckily, we were good at guessing, and followed the right track round the extensive drainage basin of Black Burn with its peat hags. This particular stretch was as bleak as the scenery in North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.

Suddenly we came over a ridge, and saw that, a few hundred yards away, the brown cotton grass ended and the green slopes of the South Tyne valley began.

As we descended into Garrigill it started raining, and we took refuge in a house where teas and sandwiches were sold. We got tea, sandwiches, fruit pies and biscuits for only half a crown each, and at 16.30h we set off for Alston.

The rain had almost stopped by this time, and before long it finally ceased. We trooped into Alston at 17.45h and enquired at the Post Office regarding Bed and Breakfast. We went to the ‘Victoria Hotel’ where we also had an evening meal. After this we went out for a drink.

Alston is built on the steep slopes of the South Tyne valley, and is surrounded with green fields. It is hard to believe that most of Alston is above 1000 feet above sea level. It is the highest market town in England, but holds only two markets a year.

We went to bed at 23.00h, after playing crib for a short while.

Tuesday 3rd September 1963

We left the hotel at 10.00h and went to the shop to buy some food. This had to be enough for all our meals that day, and for breakfast and lunch the next day, as we were not likely to pass a shop before we reached Bellingham. It was drizzling slightly as we left the hotel, but when we left the shop it was raining heavily.

We stopped to put on our capes, and at 10.25h we left Alston and walked down the South Tyne valley. At 11.00h we stopped for a short rest, as the rain was not quite as heavy as before. At 11.35h we were just north of Slaggyford when a heavy shower came on, but after this we had much better weather, with a strong wind, a few clouds, and plenty of sun.

The green sides of the valley were a pleasant change from the brown moors and peat bogs, and we walked on nothing worse than heather that day, which is easy compared with peat and tussocky grass. At 13.30h we stopped for dinner in the lee of a stone wall, and as it was cold we wasted little time here. We went on to Greenhead which we reached at 16.20h, and went for some tea at the ‘Greenhead Hotel’. Here we bought a large loaf and ‘borrowed’ some sugar, and went off to find Hadrian’s Wall. This was not easy, since in parts all that is left are a few overgrown stones. We bought some eggs at a farm on the way, and walked on as far as the road which leads to the old ‘Military Road’ on which Once Brewed Youth Hostel stands. We had reached the beginnings of the Cheviot Hills.

t 19.00h we reached Once Brewed and found that we needn’t have brought our food some twenty miles from Alston as we could have bought it here. We bought some milk, and cooked supper, and then went to the ‘Twice Brewed Inn’ which was being reconstructed in parts. This didn’t spoil our enjoyment, however, and while Obie and some student, who was hitch-hiking to London, were solving Britain’s transport and road problems, Neil and I played Shanghai.

We returned to the hostel at about 22.00h. The night was bitterly cold, and we were not sorry to get back inside the hostel. We sat in the Common Room and read until 22.45h when we went to bed.

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