Thursday August 20 Tan Hill Inn to Middleton-in-Teesdale

Miles walked: today 17.6 cumulative 753.3

Today was all about crossing the Stainmore Gap. This is a wide break in the Pennines at the border of North Yorkshire and County Durham. The gap was obvious from the Tan Hill Inn.

Sleightholme Moor from Tan Hill Inn. The hills above Middleton can just be seen on the horizon

Perfect weather for walking. Sunny but not too hot, occasional cloud to give a bit of shade, a breeze and good visibility. The path drops down on to the moor and, at first, the flat expanse of moor with the surrounding hills is quite dramatic and oddly beautiful. However this eventually became any case, I had to concentrate on the path, this was good old Pennine Way bog and the going was wet. I managed to negotiate the moor without filling my boots with liquid mud.

As I dropped down on to the moor I left Yorkshire behind and entered County Durham. The path followed Frumming Beck. After about 4 miles it joined a track which I presume has been built to carry the Gentry to the grouse butts.

Frumming Beck

The path left the track and crossed the Beck. It turned north and crossed the river Greta at God’s Bridge, the highlight of the day. This is a natural bridge where the water has eroded the rock under a limestone slab which is left bridging the river. Most (sensible) people split this day into 2 by following the Bowes Loop. But they miss God’s Bridge!

God’s Bridge

I was now halfway along the Pennine Way. I crossed Cotherstone Moor which, to be honest, was a bit tedious. As I have said before, any long distance walk has sections which are there solely to join the interesting bits, and I know there are delights in store for me in the next two days.

The problem with the boring bits is that it was all too easy to focus on the pain in my left hamstrings (again), the weight of the pack and tiredness. In fact, I made good progress

After the moor the PW climbs over two ridges to reach Middleton. In the valleys there are reservoirs that are quite pretty. I passed Low Birk Hatt Farm.

You may remember reading about Hannah Hauxwell who lived here, alone, without any running water , gas or electricity until 1988. She was almost self sufficient, getting occasional deliveries of food which she had to collect from the roadside about a mile away. She collected water from a nearby stream, lit the cottage with oil lamps and kept a few cows. She was the subject of an article in the Yorkshire Post and then an ITV documentary, Too Long a Winter. She only left because she became too infirm to live so remotely. She died age 91 in 2018. See her obituary in the Guardian for more details.

Three meadows below the farm are a nature reserve, named Hannah’s meadows. They have never had fertiliser or weed killer used on them and, in spring and early summer, there is a profusion of wild flowers.

My path continued over into Lunedale and up Wythes hill with good views back across the Gap. I could just make out the Tan Hill Inn from the reflection of sunlight on the cars in the car park. Finally, the PW descended into Teesdale. I stayed in the Teesdale hotel and, joy of joys a bath! I much prefer soaking my legs in a bath rather than a shower after a long walk.