Thomas P. Ogden

Day 10 - Middleton-in-Teesdale to Dufton

Pennine Way Day 10, via High Force, Cauldron Snout and High Cup Nick.

Despite one or two protests from Jim, and an initial refusal to vacate his sleeping bag, we folded up the tent and set off reasonably early. The day promised a scenic riverside mosey and visits to the famous waterfalls of Low and High Force; the latter holding the title of biggest waterfall in England by volume¹. This section comprised the dogleg of the Pennine Way trail; for a whole day we’d be walking west, rather than making any direct progress north toward my destination in Scotland.

I was a bit concerned to discover, when stumbling out of the tent, that the knee-ouch I’d suffered towards the end of Sunday’s leg had not gone away as I’d hoped. By this point, I’d had several spells of pain in a hip, ankle or foot, but had walked each of them off. This one seemed more persistent, very sore and, moreover, coincided with an injury I’d received playing football a few months prior. I could hardly put any weight on my right leg without a stab in the outer side of the joint. ‘How can I keep walking on this?’ I felt sick at the thought of not finishing after I’d made it all this way. I gulped a couple of Ibuprofen tablets down (the first I’d used so far) and set off with a bit of a hobble. At least the morning’s terrain, accompanying the meanders of the River Tees, would be relatively undemanding.

The first part actually cut off a couple of the windier turns of the river, heading through pastures and over stiles. Soon we were on the river bank again under a canopy of trees. Massive white bags of pavement littered the path for a distance, ready to be laid soon. In their current position though, they were obstacles around which we had to weave and squeeze. Thankfully, the painkillers were now working, dulling the sharp discomfort to a more tolerable ache.

The three cascades of Low Force announced the start of a dramatic stretch of rapids and whirlpools. As we continued excitedly up toward High Force (A), the path teasingly took us away from the river, returning just at the south bank viewing point for the falls. It is a spectacular plunge over the dark slab of Whin Sill². We paused for a drink.

As the roar quietened behind us, the Way left soft pastures for heath and higher ground. The Tees veered off to the right as we went over a small hillock. It came back to meet us again and we crossed over a footbridge near to Forest-in-Teesdale—the only habitation visible in the opening panorama. As is not unusal for us, Jim and I got on to discussing the brilliance of Half Man Half Biscuit and soon discovered that theirs made for great walking songs. Thus, much of our day hoofing it through remote wilderness was soundtracked by shouts of ‘They’ve got a German Shepherd dog called Prince, the one called Sheba died…’ and so on.

Falcon Clints required some arduous scrambling over cliffs as we met the Whin Sill up close. It took almost an hour to cover what looked like a short distance on the map. ‘Twisted ankles and broken hips are regular mishaps on this section,’ warned the Guide. We eventually turned the corner to Cauldron Snout (B), another crashing cascade just below the dam of the Cow Green reservoir.

The trail then passes for a distance along the edge of Warcop, a vast MoD firing range. There are signs near the path warning ‘Keep out or we might shoot you’ (or words to that effect). We childishly creeped off the path a little to see if we could spot anything, but nothing seemed to be going down. Perhaps they were having a day off, or else they were all disguised as rocks.

We left the Tees at the reservoir to follow its tributary Maize Beck, and were soon walking out over a featureless expanse between distant Fells. This sort of stretch can be draining. We had to cross the Beck at a footbridge, but Jim decided to hop across rocks in the shallow water. After that, he began to lag behind me. This was the second longest leg I would complete in the fortnight, and he’d only been walking for one day so I certainly sympathised. I remembered how much I’d been suffering on the second and third days up to Blackstone Edge and Ponden, and realised I’d built up some stamina in the past week of full-time walking.

Now into the afternoon, I thought we’d just have a prolonged slog into Dufton to go but Jim pointed out that ahead was an impressive-sounding feature I’d missed in the Guide: High Cup. The astonishing view that greeted us at High Cup Nick (C) was one of the highlights of the whole Pennine Way. I now realised why we’d spent a day walking west, away from the eventual destination: this was breathtaking! High Cup is an immense, broad and perfectly symmetrical glacial valley, with the cliff of the Whin Sill forming a vertical rim. Due to the way the Way brought us to the top ‘nick’ of the valley, the view was an utter surprise as the landscape suddenly disappeared from below us. We stood at the edge trying to take in the scale and throwing stones off to vanish toward the distant valley floor.

After this rest, we followed around the north edge of the valley, still admiring the views, for a lengthy descent into Dufton. Jim had decided that he wasn’t ready for a third day’s walking on Tuesday—quite reasonably, especially as it would include the Pennines’ highest Fells—and so was intent on finding some way of returning to York that evening. With his encyclopedic knowledge of the British railway network, he realised that nearby Appleby-in-Westmorland was a stop on the Settle–Carlisle railway, which would connect.

We’d hoped to enjoy a pint in the Stag Inn before he left, but on arrival it was mournfully closed. Possibly as it was a Monday; Dufton is not a real place. At the same time, checking the train times and spotting an ‘Appleby 3½’ sign, we realised he didn’t have long to get there before the last train. And just to improve matters, it started raining. Off he ran.

I found the (empty) campsite to set up my tent, and quickly got everything inside. Miserably, there was nothing for me to do in Dufton but lie in my tent listening to the rain. Oh well, at least I could boil up some hot food and make a cup of tea… except, stupidly, I’d allowed my matches to get damp. I could not get a single one in the pack to light. Bah! And then my tent began to leak right above me. Wonderful. I put my army tin under the drip, opened a packet of biscuits and sipped on whisky.

I received a message from Jim at around 8 o’clock.

‘Not one single bloody lift! Did a double time jog to Appleby in rain then up bloody big hill to get to station with 2min before last train. Now speeding back through Dales…’

I was glad, and not a little amazed, that Jim had made his train home. I had a bit further to go yet.

Middleton-in-Teesdale to Dufton Profile Map.
Day Distance Ascent Duration Soggy Matches
10 36.4 km 561 m 10 h 38