Unlike Teesdale, with its veinlike network of satellite dales, Weardale singlemindedly cuts through the landscape from Wearhead to Crook, with the exception of a few short but beautiful valleys on its northern flank.
Rookhope is one such diversion, and my Taller Half and I spent a night there camping (in someone’s garden!) last weekend. A small but friendly village, which like most in the area has a lead mining past, Rookhope is a stopover point for both the C2C cycle route and the Weardale Way.
On the way in we walked from Stanhope along the hill road – a climb of 200 metres. I’m not usually a fan of road walking but the views are amazing – looking across the Weardale valley to the imposing mass of rock separating Weardale and Teesdale. I was reminded strongly of the differences between the two dales. Here the landscape felt harsher and more remote: although Weardale has larger towns and villages they tend to hug the valley closely – as if there’s something frightening and fey in the wilderness of the hills. Teesdale feels gentler to me (although it has its fair share of bleak and remote landscapes) with its abundance of wildflower meadows and rare alpine plants.
We spent a pleasant evening at the Rookhope Inn, smugly watching the C2C cyclists arrive exhausted to claim their pint and board. After catching a whiff from the pub kitchen we abandoned our plans for a camp stove supper and ordered a meal – an excellent decision as the food was tasty and abundant. Later we were driven away from our tent by hordes of midges. A blessing, as an uphill after dinner walk (all paths from Rookhope lead uphill) revealed this beautiful sunset.
While I slept though the night, my Taller Half was disturbed by strange rustlings in the tent. He said something was trying to get in and when he kicked the tent some animal scurried off. It was after our food, which I’d brought in to the inner tent to protect from slugs and other slimy critters. From inside we could see a small hole in the inner fabric – that’s OK. Then I walked round the tent and saw the damage – a great big chewed up split in the tent fabric! Our tent had been wounded!
If you’re wondering who or what was responsible for this tent carnage, I’m afraid the clue is in the title of this blog. Yes, a HEDGEHOG. Hedgehogs seem especially partial to camping food, and we’ve had them in our tent porch before, but this is the first time one of the little monsters has tried to chew its way in to our sleeping compartment.
Slightly disgruntled at the prospect of getting the tent repair kit out, we packed up and followed the Weardale Way back to Stanhope. What a difference it was to the walk in! The Way follows Rookhope Burn downhill through an intimate farmland landscape until it joins the river Wear at Eastgate, arriving back at Stanhope after a gentle – and level – two mile stroll.