Thomas P. Ogden

Day 9 - Tan Hill to Middleton-in-Teesdale

Pennine Way Day 9, via Sleightholme Moor, Blackton Reservoir and Harter Fell.

Slumped at the bottom of my tent due to the slope, and by then overfamiliar with each of the stones that pressed through the groundsheet, I wondered if it was worth getting up yet. My phone must’ve picked up some signal, as I found a text from my friend Jim: ‘will be at a66 at 8, half eight.’ Where was the A66? Why had he written out the second ‘eight’? Never mind, he was on his way! Jim had kindly offered to join me for couple of days’ walking, and I was really looking forward to having someone other than myself to talk to. Jim’s always fun to have around.

The A66, Ordnance Survey informed me, was about 11km from where my tent was perched upon Tan Hill, so I had to get moving. I struggled to hook out the pegs as my fingers were quickly numbed by the wind. I wanted to move quickly down Sleightholme Moor—to warm myself up and not to leave Jim waiting in a trunk road lay by—but it wasn’t so easy. The guide warned that it ‘can be a dangerous place’, and offered an alternative road route, but I was keen to stick to the official trail and visibility was good enough. The danger, I discovered, lay in tracts of waterlogged peat, into which it’s quite possible to sink deep with a misplaced step. There was little clear path to follow and where I did find it, it was trodden into murky puddles. I set a compass bearing and held it as best as I could.

I made reasonable time, and found myself on the path down to God’s bridge, where a brook disappears under a huge slab of limestone before reappearing again unhindered. And nearby, by the road (A), Jim had just arrived. I showed him where we were headed on the map and we set off vaguely north across Bowes Moor.

The trail met and shadowed a dry stone wall for a long while and, not having to study the compass so much, I prattled on—I hadn’t held an extended conversation with anyone for a week!—and Jim updated me on his York City’s chances of survival in the conference. Reaching the brow at Race Yate Rigg, we then stomped down Cotherstone Moor (the guide puts it perhaps a bit harshly: ‘a sweep of featureless waste’. I thought it was alright) to the gap between Blackton Reservoir (B) and the colossal dam wall of Balderhead Reservoir.

From there we rose uphill through some high, scruffy meadows to a ridge from where we could see out next port of call, Lunedale, and another pair of reservoirs. Passing over the bridge between these, we trekked up through a couple of farms and their scattered barns, to the higher ground around Harter Fell (C). The eerie circle copse of Kirkcarrion, a Bronze Age burial site, stole our attention at the top of the hill to the East.

We finally traipsed onto the road into Middleton at about three o’clock. Having already decided that we should drop our bags soon and scout for a Sunday lunch, we stopped at the first campsite we met on the edge of town. It featured rows of those dreary green static caravans, but offered a space for tents. Looking for a reception, I ventured into the campsite bar/clubroom, which obviously hadn’t been decorated this side of 1990. I waited for a youngster in a Sunderland shirt to swap his coins for Monster Munch before paying to to pitch Jim’s tent: a two or three-manner which seemed palatial compared to the coffin-sized thing I’d been getting used to.

We left quickly to see if we could find somewhere still serving lunch. A couple of pubs had finished up, but the 1618 café held out for us. Though not offering a veggie alternative for the lunch, they were very accommodating and fixed me up a mushroom bake to go with the spuds and vegetables. While we waited, we read the wonderfully local stories in the pages of the Mercury—‘voice of Teesdale since 1854’— whose office sat opposite the café.

Once fed, we wandered over to the Bridge Inn to play a few games of pool. A young mechanic and his girlfriend sat silently next to the window. Sunday in a small town. After pool and a game of darts, we set off back to the tent to read up on Monday’s leg, which would be a serious 30km trek. I took the opportunity to enjoy my first shower in three days. Bliss.

Tan Hill to
Middleton-in-Teesdale Profile Map
Day Distance Ascent Duration Bathtubs in Fields
9 29.2 km 551 m 8 h 3