Days like these
(I wrote this a day or so ago but couldn’t set it live because of having no phone signal).
Days like these are what I go walking for. I am typing this blog post whilst lying in my hostel bunk, face hot with wind burn, stomach full of food, body content with a full days exercise. Today was glorious. If I say to you the word ‘Tees’ or the ‘River Tees’ or the ‘Tees Valley’, what images does it conjure up? For me it was an industrial, urban landscape. Middlesborough, where the Tees flows out to the North Sea.
This afternoon I walked up the Upper Tees valley. And it was one of the best and most beautiful days walking I’ve had so far. Definitely in my top 5. One reason for doing this long walk in my own country is to discover places like this. I could have done a famous long distance path like the Way of St James in Spain, or the Appalacian Trail in the States. But the UK has such varied and outstanding landscapes. Walking is such a great way to see it and to discover places I have never been to.
The Upper Tees valley is one such discovery for me. I hope my home made (on phone) video does it justice. There’s Low Force and High Force waterfalls – famous I know, but I had never been. High Force is England’s most powerful waterfall. There were flowers, and very varied riverbank trees. I passed wood anemones, spring gentian, cowslips, oxslips, bluebells, daffodils, ladysmock, buttercups, and England’s largest juniper wood. If you are ever in the area I thoroughly recommend a visit.
The day before the Upper Tees day I crossed out of Yorkshire (boo hoo) and into County Durham, into the North Pennines region. On my last night in Yorkshire I stayed in Keld in Swaledale. What a closed in, wild, valley. It felt like one of the most remote places I’ve been to in England. I walked up and over Tan Hill and the moors surrounding it and then descended into Bowes. It is funny, after spending hours in the moors, which are beautiful but so desolate and bare seeming, it’s like sensory overload to come into a green valley, with trees and flowers and the smell of wild garlic. I felt like someone who hadn’t eaten for days, suddenly presented with a gourmet meal. In May especially, the contrast is so great, since the bright green leaves and grass are so vivid. I heard Colin Prior, the photographer, give an interview in which he said that there is a difference between looking and seeing. I am hoping that on this walk I am really seeing, noticing things around me. I guess the same goes for our other senses too.
My Upper Tees day was also aided by the fact that Ian and Celeste had been to visit for the previous two nights. Not only was it wonderful to see Ian again, but he cooked up gorgeous meals AND brought me some brand new socks. I can tell you that one’s feet become incredibly sensitive on a long walk. At the moment I can only wear one particular brand and model of socks. Anything else feels like sandpaper on my feet. (Smartwool womens PHD hiking sock in medium weight crew height, size 6, to be precise).
The new socks are blissful to wear. I think my old ones had started to wear a bit thin.
The following day after my sunny shorts-weather Upper Tees walk, I crossed over the higher North Pennine fells to Dufton through snow and hail. Minus 12 windchill! I was wearing almost every item of clothing I had (not lots, admittedly). The day was wild and rather wonderful. But not weather for stopping for picnics and taking lots of photos. I did manage a few of High Cup – an incredible rock cleft and high hanging valley. Mostly though, I hurried on, arriving too early at the Youth Hostel. Luckily although not officially open until 5 (most are closed in the daytime), the doors were open so I could shelter inside, make a cup of tea, and wait for the warden to appear. Incidentally, Dufton is in Cumbria, on the edge of the Vale of Eden. Another county for me. Although I’ll walk straight back out of it as I head north.
On and off over the last 10 days or so I have met another End to End walker. He’s doing such a nice thing – he sends his elderly mother a postcard each day. We chat about route plans and feet.
Thank you ever so much to all of you who comment on my blog or message me or respond on Facebook. The day before Ian arrived I had a low batteries day – no particular reason, I just felt low on energy, not motivation. It is so nice to know that friends and family are cheering me on. If my blog posts make you smile, then its equally true that I always smile when I read your comments.
I can’t believe I’m heading up to the very roof of England now. In the distance today I saw not only the Lake District, but the hills of southern Scotland. Scotland! I played Highland Cathedral on my iPod to celebrate the sighting.