LETJOG – Day 31: Thursday 17 June – KELD to MIDDLETON-IN-TEESDALE (21 miles)
The milestone, and achievement, of passing 550 miles walked, and thereby half-way to my LETJOG destination at John O’Groats, has been a factor preoccupying my thoughts, and it warrants some reflection. When I planned this trek, back in February/March I had no idea whether my 60-year-old body (and mind!) would tolerate the repeated intensity of these continual long days of walking, and it is with something of a surprise that I find myself stronger now than at the start of the walk. The specific prayer that I’m livin’ on today is that this development persists through the second half of LETJOG also!
Today’s walk started with the heavy mileage of yesterday still in my legs as I made the gentle climb over moorland to the renowned Tan Hill Inn, standing alone on the ridge above Sleightholme Moor. The crossing of this moorland watershed marked another LETJOG milestone as I descended into the catchment of the River Greta that drains into the Tees and ultimately out through Teesside, as opposed to the Rivers Wharfe, Ure and Swale rivers, from yesterday, that join the Trent as they empty into the Humber estuary.
The Tan Hill Inn is the highest pub in the UK at 528 metres above sea level. It was built originally in the 17th century as a hostelry for coal pit workers, retaining its place over more recent times as a pub and B&B for local folk and visitors alike. I stayed there three years ago whilst walking the Pennine Way with a friend, and we were fortunate to see some live music acts, for which the Inn is renowned, with the Arctic Monkeys amongst past performers. The Inn has also featured as a set for film and TV dramas, and famously in adverts for Everest double-glazing and for the Christmas 2017 Waitrose commercial with snowed-in revellers turning host to their rescuers.
From the Inn my walk continued to follow the Pennine Way for the rest of the day, initially down and over Sleightholme Moor to cross the River Greta at God’s Bridge, and then, via an underpass, the busy A66 trunk road. The path then took me northwards across Bowes Moor, bleak and deserted, down to Blackton Reservoir, up again into the moorlands, and then down to Grassholme Reservoir. Now out of the Yorkshire Dales and into County Durham, the poorly-drained peaty soils of these moors, clad with coarse grasses, reeds, heather and mosses, presented a very different landscape to the well-drained limestone pastures of yesterday. This new environment, mercifully less boggy than on my last traverse whilst walking the Pennine Way, rejoiced today to the calls of moorland birds, curlews and lapwings to the fore, with fluffies of rabbits abounding on the paths. And, in the still warm air, the dreaded midges made their first LETJOG appearance in earnest.
Having at last crossed the Tees, and with over 20 miles burning in my tired legs, my walk finished today at Middleton-In-Teesdale.
And, as a ‘footnote’: