|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 18 Jul 2004
Start / Finish: Bowes. Good roadside parking.
Maps: Outdoor Leisure 31: North Pennines
|Day 1||Cotherstone Moor & Bink Moss||15 miles / 2300 feet (24.2km / 700m)|
|Day 2||The Teesdale Forces||21 miles / 2100 feet (33.8km / 640m)|
A circuit hurriedly devised for a forecast couple of days of good weather after an awful spell. The southern part uses the two branches of the Pennine Way (PW) around Bowes while the northern part traverses the boggy mountain of Bink Moss and visits the three waterfalls in Teesdale. The central joining section is retraversed to complete the loop.
The Bowes loop of the PW seems to be much less walked than the main route and we saw no sign from the main street in Bowes. It starts from the castle ruins and traverses fields eastwards to God's Bridge, a natural cave-like one over the stream. Turning N and crossing the A66, it climbs to traverse Cotherstone Moor, a windswept upland of rough grass now designated a SSSI with a good feeling of spaciousness about it. There is an information board about the area. The PW descends into Baldersdale at Blackton reservoir, another important area for fauna and flora. A shorter climb traverses Hazelgarth Rigg and drops into Lunedale at Grassholme reservoir.
Climbing again to Wythes Hill, the track crosses a stream just beyond the farms where we collected water, slightly peat stained but not bad at all and better than most in this region. A short way beyond at 924233, the PW crosses a shooters track where we left it and turned NW up the track and easily onto the moor. Just after the mapped track ends and the bridleway veers R to descend, an easy track climbs onwards over rough grass to the higher ground and then peters out. We made our way over the rough moor to the ridge fence, which marches westwards over rough wet moorland and kinks around S to Bink Moss, whose summit is just beyond the final bend in the fence by a peaty pool and marked by a small post. It had been a long and slow plod over this terrain, and we found a surprisingly comfortable and welcome first pitch.
As expected from this active weather stream there was a very misty scene as we unzipped the door, but a few minutes later we noticed a strange faint glow in the tent. Turning around and very quickly scrambling outside, we just managed to get the camera out and snap one photo of the dawn before the mist curtain rapidly closed in again. You have to be quick in these marginal conditions!.
Proceeding W along the fence over more rough moorland, we crossed the boggy depression with the aid of some convenient old fence posts that someone has laid across the worst bits, and climbed the short rise to Hagworm Hill. The mist was clearing now and we could see across to Long Crag. A fair path descends N to the swiftly flowing Bleabeck Grains, the source of Bleabeck Force, where we collected excellent clear cold water, which is very unusual in this region where rivers and streams generally look like well-brewed tea. The path becomes intermittent and rather wet here, but a short way further is the waymark post indicating the footpath N across Howden Moss. The first part of this footpath is now marked at intervals by similar posts, but there are only faint fragments of a line between them and much of it is essentially trackless, with numerous thin ditches to watch out for beneath the rough vegetation. After a few posts there is a Nature Reserve information board, but little evidence on the ground that anyone has ever stood there to read it!.
Just beyond near some grouse butts is a crossing surfaced track, and there are no more posts to indicate the way. Continuing around the trackless flank of Noon Hill, a prominent wall gate near the valley bottom comes into view ahead, which is the route onto the PW. We found it best to slant down quickly to easier ground well before the gate and walk up the valley floor, fording Skyer Beck further along near the official line of the footpath. Through the gate, which is in the middle of a small shallow stream, the PW is reached where the cropped turf heralds a very sudden change of culture. The walk along the Tees to Bleabeck Force, High Force and Low Force must be one of the best low level strolls around. The waterfalls are best seen in winter as on our last visit, but are well worth seeing even at this time of year. The full frontal view of the largest, High Force, can only be seen from one vantage point on this side and is easily missed, lying just a few yards along a side path among the bushes.
Beyond Low Force the river becomes more tranquil and the PW crosses the fields to the outskirts of Middleton-in-Teesdale. From here it climbs SW to the shooters track and we followed the outward route back to the small car park by Blackton reservoir. There is a finger post indicating the Bowes loop of the PW across an apparently pathless field, but to save some time we followed the lane and joined it at another post below Goldsborough, a prominent rock-crowned little peak. The PW, surprisingly not at all prominent on this Bowes loop and less conspicuous than other nearby paths, climbs around the flank of this and later fords Yawd Sike to arrive at the wall and warning notices delineating the MOD testing area. Marching on SE on the R of the boundary, it arrives at a cross track above Deep Dale.
The mapped route swings R here but initially there is no sign of a line. We could see a distinct line further down and we descended through bracken to join it. It undulated through a wet reedy area and a steeply incised tiny stream to a point where we could see ahead to the valley bottom - the target is a new substantial footbridge immediately R of the buildings. The access track beyond climbs out to a PW sign that cuts off the bend in the lane, but again to save some time we followed the lane all the way to Bowes.