I’ve been coordinating guided walks for the Wolsingham Wayfarers for the last 6 months, and this month we were invited to host a walk as part of the North Pennines Walking Festival. The task was to find a long walk based in Wolsingham to suit experienced walkers for early October 2014.
Our regular walks are fairly moderate, to suit a range of walking abilities, so this is new territory for us. The challenge was on!
We decided straight away that the walk had to take us up to the fells. Wolsingham North Moor or Pikeston Fell? Pikeston Fell is bigger, higher and with more walk options. I was also really keen to make the magical, secret valley (shoosh, don’t tell anyone), the Meeting of the Grains, our official lunch stop, so ‘Pikeston Fell and the Meeting of the Grains’ it is.
We know where we’re going, now how to get there? My Taller Half is our walk leader, and he was keen to try some little-used paths taking in several fell-side farms – abandoned Linnew, shiny Sunniside, busy East Biggins, muddy West Biggins – before climbing to the Fell with the Elephant Trees beckoning. I wanted to find a truly circular walk, covering a good chunk of the Fell, the top of Hamsterley Forest, then back through moor, wood, field and river.
Our first route finding mission was educational. The initial circular option was ruled out when we came across a waymarker that pointed downwards into a boiling cauldron of a ‘stream’, and no safe way to cross. Maybe it’s normally a tame trickle, but we didn’t have time to wait the long weeks for our water table to drop to normal levels.
To compensate for this, we found a route – on map at least – that covered a smaller area but was still broadly circular. Route finding mission number 2 was scuppered when we took the wrong grouse track, and ended up going cross-country over bumpy, soggy, craggy, heathery moor, missing the Meeting of the Grains by a few miles.
Route finding mission number 3 was to check out how to link the two halves of the walk that we knew we wanted to do. The weather was wild and windy, and walking on the Fell-cum-windtunnel was unbelievably hard, but we were happy that, despite not walking the entire route in one go, it was a good un. Mission accomplished!
Until I got home and plotted the route on the computer. Fifteen miles of hard, hard walking. Pushing our brief a little (quite a lot), and on a bad weather day it would be a hard, hard, totally unenjoyable slog.
What to do? We’ve chosen a simpler way to get onto the Fell, and a simpler way to get off it. The final route is still fairly long – thirteen miles – but those miles are much easier, but still interesting, and if we get Weather we’ll be able to cope. Roll on the 5th October!
Who’d have thought that route finding could be so difficult?