It’s hard to find a wilderness in England – it’s a small country.
But there’s one place I know of that approaches it.
It’s up at the top end of the Pennines, opposite the Lake District.
It’s not hard to reach, but once entered, it can be a long way out – Cross Fell.
Source of the Tyne and the Tees.
The route planned looks like this:
It’s moderately ambitious – about 40 miles and over 1500m of climbing.
The weather’s not bad, I’m optimistically hoping the sun will shine, but we’re not going to be that lucky.
Nice easy climb out of Dufton:
Even a bit of downhill to raise a smile:
And before long we see our first objective – HIgh Cup Nick.
Came out here on a school Geography field day once (circa 1946) – it’s glacial you know.
And this is what it looks like from the head of the valley:
From here we continue east, along the Maize Beck, a tributary of the Tees. It’s good riding, and we don’t even have to get our feet wet when we cross the river. We’re just below the cloud level here so there is visibillty.
It’s remote up here. I know it’s Friday and there aren’t going to be many folk out, but so ar we have only seen one father and (young) son combo. Reminds me of mad walks with my Dad when I was younger. That son is a lucky lad!
We’re headed for Cauldron Snout, the waterfall below Cow Green Reservoir. Worth a stop for photos
The weather is closing in a little as we follow the track round the reservoir. There’s evidence of mining here, spoil heaps and warnings of hidden shafts and even one or two buildings. I don’t know where the workers lived – it’s a major commute from any habitation!
We’re headed for a place called Tynehead on the map and drop out of the cloud.
It’s quality riding all the way down to the cottage at Tynehead. There’s a couple of men working on the building, and even though we’re a long way from Newcastle, greet us in a string Geordie lilt, as befits the banks of the Tyne.
Time for a spot of lunch then it’s the search for the source of the Tyne. Unexpectedly a statue marks the spot – complete with a plaque in case there’s any confusion over where you are.. Public money well spent, that’s what I like to see!
The track continues upwards for a short while, then levels off and we head down towards another river. We’ve just crossed the watershed that separates the Tyne flowing north from this point with the Tees heading off to the south.
We’ve just crossed the river Tees, and we’re following a tributary upstream, ultimately headed for the Air Traffic Control station on the summit of Great Dun Fell. High enough to be in the cloud now, we follow a tricky, barely discernible bridleway upwards.
Before we know it, the bridleway spits us out on the tarmac providing access to the station. I had thought this would be easy, but it’s a steep hard slog. We’re not the only ones out as we pass a couple of walkers below the summit. From here it’s a cheeky ride along the Pennine Way – mostly laid slabs here, to reduce erosion from the passage of countless walkers. Allegedly. We don’t see a soul.
We reach the summit plateau of Cross Fell and take a snap by the summit cairn. It’s barely rideable here so we don’t press on for the summit trig point. The cairn will have to do.
We don’t hang around. It’s damp, we’re a bit tired and we’re both ready for the final descent.
So we re-trace our steps back to the bridleway. This is the source of the Tees, no fancy monument, but there is a slab on the ground showing the directions of the Pennine Way and the bridleway.
It’s some descent. Stretches of wet boggy ground interspersed with sections of rock garden. It leads off into the distance.
We’re quickly out of the mist. The ground gets drier as we lose height. The views are spectacular and the descent just goes on forever.
Before we know it we’re back in civilisation. We’ve been out for over six hours and we’ve seen hardly anyone.
There’s no mobile phone coverage up there so if anything goes wrong, you’re on your own.
It’s a wilderness!