Last day of walking today. And what a day. I started by getting a lift from Middleton to just above High Force as I knew that my legs wouldn’t quite manage the full 21 miles. 15 seemed a bit more sensible! The first stage of the walk was a wonderful saunter along the banks of the Tees. At the foot of Falcom Clints Cliffs, things got a bit more challenging with a whole range of boulders to clamber over, but before I knew it, I’d reached Cauldron Snout – a waterfall crashing down from below Cow Green reservoir. The path disappeared at this point, but a quick look at the guidebook showed that it continued at the top of the waterfall. I would have to climb up the side. This wasn’t particularly difficult, just a bit of a scramble, which reminded me a little of the climb up Pen y Ghent last Sunday.
I then had a bit of a stiff hike across a flat, forbidding moorland plateau, with Maize Beck to my left. Although I’d read about what was to happen next, I wasn’t prepared for it. High Cup Nick is like an axe blow cloven into the moorland. The land fell away below me; the Eden valley stretched out towards the horizon, a patchwork of green fields. To the side, basalt crags towered, like the spires of a primitive cathedral. It really did feel like I was poised above the world.
The descent to Dufton was relatively gentle. Dufton itself is a quiet little village. I’m staying at a guest house run by a couple of vegetarian, Woodcraft Folk leaders – who have been happy to talk about youth work, politics and how to fix the country! Tonight I will watch a video after visiting the village pub for dinner. (I suspect I have put on weight, rather than lost it, over the past few days, but I feel a good deal fitter!)
I have really enjoyed the last few days as I have rediscovered the pleasures of walking. I will definitely be spending some weekends in the countryside closer to home over the coming months.