|The Pennine Way|
The Pennine Way winding over Sleightholme Moor
Another overcast morning greeted me with fairly big gaps in the clouds promising better weather. I said goodbye to the inn dogs at the door and walked a little way along the road to the path across Sleightholme Moor. This brought me into County Durham - my mother (Anne Fisk, nee Davis) is a Durham lass born in Frosterley.
|Tan Hill Inn||Pub||01833 628246|
The path is quite clear on the ground (contrary to the Pennine Way South guidebook) over sometimes boggy peat. It might be a problem navigating in mist as there are no landmarks until you join the banks of Frumming Beck. The road is not too bad an alternative in the fog - just follow it for 3 kilometres to Great Cocker and turn north on a track to meet the Pennine Way again in a bit over a kilometre at a point just beyond where Frumming Beck meets Sleightholme Beck.
There are no real navigation difficulties from Frumming Beck - the path just follows the beck (at first on its left bank and then crossing over to the right) with a few detours to cross its feeder sikes. There are also the occasional drop and climb over gullies cut by the feeder sikes. As the weather cleared, the views across the moors emphasised the bleakness surrounding me. The little valley that Sleightholme Beck runs in makes a pretty sight to rest your eyes on. There were a few signs of civilisation - I could see a few flashes of light from cars on the A66 motorway (about 5 kilometres away). The only buildings to be seen are the receding Tan Hill Inn behind you and the approaching greenery around Sleightholme Farm (the farm buildings are only revealed at the last moment).
All too soon, I reached the Sleightholme Moor road (really a track). This quickly becomes tarmaced as it approaches Sleightholme Farm. If you follow the track to another farm, Bar Gap, (like I did) then you have walked too far! Turn back to the gate just before Jack Shields Bridge on your return journey. The gate drops down to Intake Bridge where the Pennine Way crosses Sleightholme Beck.
I stopped by the bridge to allow a group of fellow Pennine Way walkers to catch up to me. They turned out to be most of the people I first met at the White House Inn. We caught up on the news and then I walked with them the rest of the way to Blue Cap Hall where they went on to the Blackton Youth Hostel at Baldersdale.
Looking into the Greta River valley from Blue Cap Hall
The path climbs up from the beck and follows a stone wall for about 1 kilometre, parallelling Sleightholme Beck. Along here we met a local repairing the wall using the traditional dry-stoning technique (a rare skill in these days of wire fences). Trough Heads is where the Bowes alternative branches off - a good route if you want castles or beer. The Bowes loop continues along the beck to meet another wall and head north-east. More fields lead to East Mellwater farm, Cardwell Bridge (crossing the beck just above its junction with the River Greta) and then West Charity farm where the square 12th century Bowes Castle makes its presence felt ahead. The crossing of the River Greta by either stepping stones near a weir or a bridge further down the river brings the Pennine Way into Bowes.
At Trough Heads, we headed directly away from the beck and across moorland to another wall (faint track on the ground). Crossing the wall by a ladder-stile, we wandered down to God's Bridge on the River Greta. This is a great slab of limestone under which the river has drilled a large archway. The river itself is only visible in times of flood - at other times it is underground. Situated under God's Bridge is a dark, mysterious pool - fed by seepage through cracks in the rock walls. The Pennine Way passes an old kiln on the other side of God's Bridge, runs through an old railway embankment and climbs up to the unpleasantly busy A66 trunk road.
It was a final goodbye to my fellow Pennine Way walkers, as they braved the A66 traffic on their way to Baldersdale and it's youth hostel. Meanwhile I fought my way through some roadworks 500 metres to Blue Cap Hall where my accommodation for the night (a caravan rented out by the farmer) awaited me.