The only sign of spring I have right now, amidst the dullness of these dreary midwinter days, is a bunch of shop bought daffodils in a small vase sat at the corner of my writing table.
They are in full flower and at full volume. Brilliant heads of sunlight yellow blast away at my gloom. Shouting and cajoling me towards thoughts of springtime and gloriousness of the summer ahead. I look at them constantly as I work away. They make me smile.
Whenever my thoughts turn to summer days on the Pennine Way I imagine setting out from Middleton in Teesdale, heading towards the village of Dufton, with all of Teesdales before me. It is a delightful part of the Pennine Way. Through-trail walkers will find it a welcome relief during the push north. I think that it is an area better savoured during an unhurried day’s wandering.
The words of John Hugh Brignal Peel fill my head. Better known as J.H.B Peel, the author of ‘Along the Pennine Way’ he writes:
‘Beyond Middleton the Way enters the deepest solitude south of Northumberland. The next village (Dufton) lies twenty miles ahead, and after the steep journey thither, (the Way) springs the greatest of all Wayside surprises by revealing a fairyland of riverside flowers and trees. A pastoral path beside the Tees. We wish this green path could carry us all the way to Scotland’.
‘This is ‘par excellence’ a summer sector; Flower-filled, bird-blithe, blossom-dappled. Rocky peninsulas wade out into the water. Trees lean towards one another, almost spanning the stream. The Tees is sweet and gentle’.
‘Walkers will enjoy the dramatic change for an hour or so, ambling beside rich water meadows and the sparkling river’.
This surprising day’s walking springs from the soil itself. The Red Sandstone of Westmorland meets the older rocks of Durham, the igneous rock of the Whin Sill compressed against the carboniferous stone results in soil that is fertile, kind and encouraging.
Dally as you will, but do then continue on and the Way will reveal one of its gems. A tranquil waterscape finally gives way to the wild country again, and to the thunder of the great waterfall, High Force.
At High Force the River Tees drops 69 feet (21 meters) over the Great Whin Sill to a plunge pool. This is not the highest waterfall in England, but it is certainly the most spectacular.
It is truly a Pennine Way highlight. You will hear it in the distance before you reach this most spectacular sight. Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish historical novelist, playwright and poet wrote famously of the sound upon his approach to the falls:
‘The Tees itself though far away,
Threading its course through the distance grey,
Proclaims aloud with a mighty roll
Its progress to a far-off goal;
And rushing madly headlong o’er
At High Force leaps with a ceaseless roar.’
So now, whilst you are close to your fireside, snug against the winter chill, get out your maps and guides and think and plan a summer day out in Teesdale, you will not be disappointed.
There is a great circular route if you are up to the miles, or just spend a wonderful day on the riverbank.