Monday, 14 September 2015

Weekend walks: Hadrian's Wall and High Force.

A wonderful place to be.
A Walker.

Taken from an inscription on a sculpture along the walk at High Force.

What a lovely pair of boots

The August Bank Holiday weekend was a dream. Not strictly travelling in the true ('staying over') sense but worth an entry on here nonetheless. Prompted by the purchase of a pair of lovely new boots, and following some gentle arm twisting (no names mentioned, Marie), a car full of (mainly urban) north eastern ladies headed west for a ramble along Hadrian's Wall on a fine Saturday afternoon.

Marie, Amanda and Kathryn at Steel Rig

We started our walk from the Steel Rig car park (if you're planning a jaunt yourself, bring change, it's £4 for the day) and with the generous planning of Ms Drago we did a six and a half mile loop around the wall. For novice walkers, like ourselves, this route allowed for the perfect chat to ramble ratio. It wasn't too taxing but we did feel like we'd been on adventure. Mainly because we did a lot of climbing (up and down), had contrasting changes of scenery (rock face, lake, farm land, open fields and woodland), experienced all four seasons in a matter of hours and did some genuine team work. Two quite specific memories capture the day perfectly, both of them demonstrating our (most excellent) team work; KG's courageous battle with a bog (sadly, she failed, evidence below) and coming head to head with A LOT of angry cows and (at least) one bull, all of whom really didn't want us treading on their patch, which happened to be right in front of the gateway back to the car park.

Kathryn's bravery
The route included the filming location for Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Sadly we forgot to take a picture of the famous dip with the tree (which you can see beautifully photographed here).

Hadrian's Wall
In a handful of hours we collectively experienced genuine moments of fear, comradery and proper belly laughter (the type that brings real tears).  When it comes to hanging out with the lasses, there's certainly still a place for coffee shop catch ups and girly cocktail evenings but the leisure-hike is definitely my new favourite thing.

Hadrian's Wall

Bitten by the need to be outdoors again before we settle in for 6 months of rubbish weather, Monday afternoon saw me and Mr D lacing up our boots and heading towards England's largest waterfall, in Teesdale, High Force.

High Force admission tickets

Although we live so close and have driven by this famous waterfall before, this was our first visit. Parking here is easy as there's an official car park, handily next to a pub, just over the road from the waterfall walk. (If you're planning a visit here, remember to bring change. The car park was £2 per car and admission to the waterfall walk is £1.50 per adult. Opening times vary depending on the time of year, so best to check before setting off.)

High Force from the Waterfall walk.

We walked down to High Force first to take in the fall from a distance, it's pretty impressive (and a bit slippy). Then we headed back up to the car park and set off on one of the wee ramble routes suggested at the car park.

The map routes in the car park

Public footpath near High Force

A footbridge across the Tees

There's one main route (a loop) which can be extended, depending on how far you want to walk. We set off from behind the pub, walking across several fields and past a few farms in the direction of Low Force. Unlike Saturday's walk, which was planned and accompanied by a map, we decided to go off the public footpath signs. It was pretty easy to navigate. We walked a five mile loop past Low Force and up to the south side of High Force. Although this does include a bit of an incline, the force at the top of the waterfall is mighty impressive (and a little scary) and very much worth the climb. The route at this time of year was so pretty, the wild flowers surrounding the path were a gorgeous palette of pinks and purples.

Wild flowers along the river

We were pretty lucky weatherwise, but on the return leg it started to rain. In an attempt to warm up and dry out we rewarded ourselves with a pub dinner. After a bit of deliberation (there are a few really great looking pubs in the area) we finally deciding on the Crown at Mickleton. This was pretty much our perfect pub. Lovely staff, cosy surroundings, nicely designed interior and really good food. We're planning a return visit very soon.

Mr D crossing the River Tees

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