Image Credit: Pete Jeff

Pennine Days - Setting the Scene

27th March 2017

Dear Pennine Chums,

So I’m a Pennine Champion, I have the email to prove it. I’ve thoroughly read my instructions and it’s time to get started.

Granted you may think that starting from a sun lounger beside my hotel swimming pool in Lanzarote is a strange place to begin championing a 4.2 mile stretch of the Pennine Way in the North Pennines, - but then you’re not me!

Let me explain. My little jaunt to the sunshine had been arranged for some time. So whilst Storm Doris was busy rushing across the Atlantic and ‘weather-bombing’ all and sundry back in Blighty I concluded that a period of quiet reflection, careful consideration and task-planning with a cold beer, whilst me and my laptop got some warmth into our bones and circuit boards was a good idea.

Certainly a much better idea than getting blasted by horizontal rain lashing across wild and windy moorland whilst trying to check for  “damaged stiles, difficult to use gates, missing way-marks, overgrowth, blocked drains, surface erosion and flooding" to name but a few. I’m quoting from my instruction pack again. No there would be plenty of time for that. Spring and summer time in fact.

I decided on an OS map survey, some reading up and finally making use of the hotel’s free wifi to give me a good grounding in all things North Pennines, and my Pennine Way piece of it, in particular.

I should mention that the Ordnance Survey map, ‘Outdoor Leisure No 31- North Pennines, Teesdale and Weardale’, is not the easiest thing to hold onto in the Canary Island’s breeze, mindful of the close proximity to the swimming pool. I’m certainly glad now that I purchased the laminated version, although I wished I had re-purchased and got hold of the posh, and more manageable whilst lying on a sun lounger, digital version for my laptop.

I’m pleased to share with you what I’ve discovered so far about ‘Stretch C1’, the part of the Pennine Way that I am to Champion and that I won’t hear a bad word said about.

‘C1’, by the way, is the reference number which North Pennines AONB has given to my bit of the Way. It begins at the amazing natural limestone bridge, God’s Bridge over the River Greta, 3 km upstream of the village of Bowes, so special that it is a Site of Special Scientific interest (SSSI), how about that for a start!

I finish four miles over the moors in Baldersdale at Blackton Bridge (NY932182), which is obviously just as ‘special’ to me. I’m sure me and ‘C1’ are going to get along famously.

The distance between the two bridges is actually 4.269 miles; mapping software is a great bit of kit, but sometimes perhaps a bit too precise I think. Not a particularly mountainous stretch, at this point the Pennine Way is deep in magnificent rolling moorland.  The highest point is the summit of ‘Race Yate Rigg’ at 1365 feet. (Rigg comes from the Scottish word ‘ridge’). The path is frequently crossed by numerous Sikes and Gills, which are basically small streams as far as I can tell, although I intend to get to the bottom of the difference.

All of this lies within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is, for your information, a UNESCO Global Geopark. I can already see that I shall need to up my game!

So here is my first list of landscape features adjacent to ‘C1’. I will have to keep an eye on these and get to know all of them; many are a complete mystery to me right now:

3 Bields: (Bield is a shelter)

2 Piles of Stones: (A Pile of Stones is a pile of stones right?)

12 Sheepfolds: (For gathering up sheep)

1 Old Sheepfold: (For gathering up older sheep – mutton perhaps?)

5 Foot Bridges: (Plenty of Sikes? Gills? Rills? And Streams in these parts)

1 Castle: (That’s what it says on the OS map! – definitely need to check this out)

1 Roman Road: 1 (An actual Roman Road!)

1 Dismantled Railway: (Dr Beeching's senseless axing of public services I wonder?)

1 Subway: (No dodging the traffic whilst crossing the A66 thankfully)

4 Waterfalls: (Waterfalls! Wonderful)

So, plenty to keep me busy, I can’t wait to get started. Watch this space.

P.S. Nice Holiday - thanks

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God's Bridge, Michael Atkinson