The hiker who can’t hike

If you haven’t read Because they’re there… yet then you’re missing out. This is an outdoor blog with a focus on North East England that also looks at McEff’s forays into Europe – because of the local angle and great writing I find it quite inspiring and familiar even though I have only visited a handful of the locations the author has tramped around.

A post called Rookhope: A Reminder of Who We Are caught my eye recently. Even though have fond memories of the North Pennines I have never really explored the industrial heritage on show in Weardale. Reading this post with map in hand I traced the approximate route that McEff took and set out last Sunday to take in the glorious sights of the Rookhope area. 

I took a drive down the A69 and A68 to get into Weardale, a drive of about an hour and a quarter. The weather was cold and dry with just a few remnants of mist sitting low in the valleys, slowly being usurped by the smoke from residents’ coal fireplaces. Rookhope is as McEff describes it “a scene that hasn’t changed much in the past couple of hundred years” – it makes you wonder what people are doing for a living here these days, since the quarries closed. The nostalgia was infectious and the people of the area are clearly very proud of their industrious past.

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My jaunt started with a wander up Bolt’s Law Incline, with frosty grass and gravel underfoot.

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I stopped short of the top and had a quick sit down to take in the view, leaving a temporary, unflattering impression on the landscape. The spoil heaps on top of the incline provided a stark reminder of the sheer volume of labour that took place in this location but a few decades ago. Today it was quiet. And chilly.

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P1020414 P1020421I reached a stretch of road to the north west of Rookhope and was chased along by a mountain biker who zipped past me at a fair lick. Blanchland Chimney off in the distance again echoed the past.

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I turned off the road down a track to a bit of a ramshackle footbridge, up the bank and then onto open moorland. Some loud thumps rang out of a farm off to the north without an obvious source. The ground up here on the tops was frozen solid; lucky because it would have been quite boggy, being covered in moss and criss-crossed with streams. I lost the path and used a fence that traverses the summit of Cuthbert’s Hill as an attack point.

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Since I was far enough away from civilisation to not be spotted by the pleasant folks of west Durham I donned my Buff in an outlaw-esque configuration. Walking in a base layer, fleece and windshirt my torso was warm enough, but the cold air was giving me a dry throat. Low sun behind a veil of cloud called for the sunnies to come out too.

P1020444Passing some snazzy discarded footwear I continued on to the trig point of Dry Rigg. I had to clamber over a dodgy old fence to get there but its always nice to tick something off, even when hill bagging is not the aim of the day.

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Now the plan was to follow the footsteps of the blog mentioned in my first paragraph and go down to Grove Rake fluorspar mine to see the remnants of the workings there but I became hampered along the way. After a rough walk up Long Crag a few months ago the tendons in the arches of both feet became swollen and very painful. Then last Sunday, upon sitting down for lunch after wandering over a bit of uneven ground towards a little ruined hut both feet felt as if they had been set alight. I took the ibuprofen and paracetemol in my FAK to manage the pain and swelling but the rot had started – this eventually caused me to be off work for three days as I could barely stand up, let alone walk.

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On a more positive note I used my new Evernew pot for the first time and cooked up a pouch of Heinz pasta without it sticking to the pan. A first for me with titanium cookware.

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Cutting the walk slightly short I hobbled down the Rookhope Chimney with frequent stops to wait for the pain to subside. I’m surprised my trekking pole didn’t bend in half with the amount of weight I was attempting to put on it!

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3.5km later I was back at the car and dreading the drive home, but I made it. A doctor’s appointment on Monday morning got me a referral to a biomechanics specialist which will hopefully prevent me from becoming the hiker who can’t hike.

Thanks to Alen for suggesting the route and for showing me this part of the world. I’ll be back to visit Grove Rake soon enough.

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6 comments

  1. McEff · January 21, 2013

    Hi Bearpack. Thanks for the mention and glad you enjoyed the route – well, most of it. Sorry to read about your tendon problem. Hope you get it sorted soon.
    Cheers, Alen

    • rcbprk · January 21, 2013

      Thanks Alen, your kind words are much appreciated. I’ll be easing myself back into rambling with a short walk this weekend. I can’t stay inside for too much longer without going stir crazy!

  2. Pingback: Snow you see it, now you don’t « bearpacking
  3. Gareth · February 10, 2013

    Some lovely pics there, and a great write up too.

    • rcbprk · February 10, 2013

      Thanks Gareth, its a really nice part of the world. I’ll have to get back up there to see the fluospar mines some time soon.

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