Skip to main content

Alston, The Northern Peninnes and High Force.

1st September 2011

The weather forecast was better for the east of England so with dark threatening skies over the Lakes, I set off for Alston and High Force in Teesdale.



So it was out of Penrith and up onto Hartside Pass. The poor unfortunate buggers who do the Coast to Coast cycle ride have to toil up this! Full of z-bends and a few quite steep gradients, it eventually reaches a height of 1903 feet where exertions are rewarded by the Hartside Cafe.


I've often thought of coming up here for a sunset view over the Eden valley, I should imagine it would be quite spectacular. It's a pretty long drive though and the certainty of a good sunset cannot be guaranteed anywhere. The drive down to Alston has the wilderness of the Northern Pennines on all sides.


I usually park up in the Station car park, mainly because it is free and walk up into the town. High up in the North Pennines, Alston claims to be the highest market settlement in England, being about 1000 feet above sea level. It is also remote being about 20 miles from the nearest town which is Penrith to the West and Brampton to the North.


My Cappuccino stop.


Alston has a steep cobbled main street with a distinctive market cross, and many stone buildings dating from the 17th Century. Next to the entrance to the Church, is a building dated 1681 and The Angel pub to its left is dated 1611 and no, I didn't go in.


St Augustine's Church was built in 1869, but records show a church has existed here as long as 1145 AD. Inside the church is an unusual clock brought from Dilston Hall, the home of the Earl of Derwentwater. The clock is of 16th Century origin and has only one hand. The bell, which was cast in 1714 also came from the Earl of Derwentwater and it was recast in 1845, it is now one of a peel of ten bells.




 Keeping an eye on proceedings was a nosy local moggy with it's head stuck out of it's cat flap. I don't know whether it was keeping an eye on me of the many birds in the Churchyard.


"Alston gets no mention in the Domesday Book of 1086 as the area was in the control of the Scots at the time. The manor of Alston (then known as Alderstone) enters recorded history when it was given to William de Veteripont by William I, 'The Lion', King of Scotland in 1209. By 1280 the area was in the hands of the English, but Edward I king of England confirmed the ownership of the de Veteripont family.
Alston then passed by marriage to the Whytlawe family who in 1443 granted it to the Stapletons of Edenhall. From them it passed as part of their daughter's dowry to the Hilton family of Durham."



"Alston and the surrounding fells have been mined for silver, lead, coal and anthracite since Roman times. In 1718 there were 119 mines producing £70,000 a year.
Alston grew rapidly in size to accommodate the ever increasing number of workers, though many miners lived near their places of work, often in appalling conditions. Since the middle of the nineteenth century mining gradually died out as a major employer and with its demise the population shrank. Some small coal mines still operate today."




I then passed over the wilderness and old mining area of Alston Moor before dropped down into Teesdale, heading for High Force.


From its rise as a trickle, high on the heather covered fells at the top of the North Pennines, to the top of the whin sill rock at Forest -in-Teesdale, the River Tees steadily grows and gathers pace, then it suddenly and spectacularly drops 70 feet into the plunge pool below. The north eastern section of Hadrian's Wall is also built on the whin sill rock. Bamburgh Castle, Dunstanburgh Castle and Lindisfarne Castle are all built on it
.

Access to the Force is nearly as strictly monitored as Bolton Abbey in the Dales. Won't be tired anyone who tries to either park free or gain access free. I managed to sneak past the lady in the kiosk only to be greeted by an "excuse me" but fortunately I had paid and did have a ticket. A couple of quid to park and a quid to see the Force is a small price to pay though and for the thirstier people amongst us, there is also the  High Force Hotel.


J.M.W Turner the celebrated artist also visited the waterfall in August 1816 and painted High Force


Then it was on to Middleton in Teesdale, a pretty little town which once served as the terminus of a railway line from Barnard Castle until this was closed as part of the Beeching Axe. I had a lovely coffee sat outside the Conduit (see above) in the company of the cafe's cat.
A bad accident had closed the A66 so the best option for me was to go back the same way I came which was no real hardship.
I was escorted out of Teesdale and across into Weardale by three army helicopters and a personnel transport jeep; maybe it was something I said! Once they had seen me over the border they turned and flew off. I presume they were on some manoeuvrs as the army jeep was parked up when I turned into the road. Maybe they were using my car for marker practice, who knows. To prove I wasn't being intimidated, I got out of the car to photograph them and have lived to tell the tale!



Popular posts from this blog

Wharfedale

These are just a selection of photos I took a few weeks ago. The first bunch are of Linton Bridge and the River Wharfe just outside Grassington. The concrete retaining walls of Linton Mill by the side of the bridge now support a housing development called ‘Linton Falls’. A corn mill has probably stood on this site from Medieval times. In 1788, Robert Hargreaves & Co of Addingham built a worsted-spinning mill there. Soon after a new tenant, Samuel Gill, and until 1804, his partner James Parker, turned the mill over to spinning cotton. By 1830 it had returned to worsted spinning under the ownership of J & W Birkbeck. Birkbecks then built a five-storey cotton mill on the site in the mid-19th century. This mill burnt down in 1912 and was replaced by a smaller structure. This went out of business during the 1950s. It was demolished in 1983 apart from the houses facing onto the footpath that crosses the river. Prior to demolition, the mill’s rare uniflow steam engine was rescued an…

The Old Brown Horse :

On the minor road to Scarness Bay in Cumbria, there has been a small stable where 2 two horses have lived for years. On passing it the other week with Dave and Chris, we noticed an R.I.P sign and only one horse. He or she looked so sad and forlorn.

As shown in it's eyes, it was obviously missing it's old mate. Thanks to Sal for the verse which it is rather apt.





The Old Brown Horse :

The old brown horse looks over the fence
In a weary sort of way.
He seems to be saying to all who pass:
“Well, folks, I've had my day-
I'm simply watching the world go by,
And nobody seems to mind,
As they're dashing past in their motor-cars,
A horse who is lame and half-blind.”


The old brown horse has a shaggycoat,
But once he was young and trim,
And he used to trot through the woods and lanes
With the man who was fond of him.
But his master rides in a motor-car,
And it makes him feel quite sad
When he thinks of the days that used to be, and of al…

Derwent Valley, Castleton and The Devil's Arse!

I had this day out and took these shot's at the beginning of June when all the rape was in bloom in the fields above High Bradfield. The cloud cover was kind to me as well, letting the sun burst through intermittently,  lighting up the yellow fields beautifully.

I love this area which is on the edge of The Peak District and can't thank Sal enough for introducing me to it. The view over Bradfield Dale to the distant Derwent Edge is one of our favourites and has to be one of the loveliest in the area. Coupled with this are a pair of nice pubs, a beautiful Church and a brewery which makes Bradfield an ideal stopping off point. No pubs for me today though.

Sal had often mentioned The Derwent Valley so I thought I'd go and have a bit of an explore and then drive on to Castleton. The moor road over to the main A57 passing Strines resounded with the call of the Curlews so I presumed it was their mating season. I love their call, it is an unmistakable, plaintive, and lonely …

Snow in Ribblesdale

Yet another one of those days when I leave Bradford in sunshine and, by the time I do the twenty odd miles up to the Dales, the blue skies have disappeared and the cloud has moved in. This has happened to me every time bar one this year. I did manage to see a few glimpses of the sun just outside Horton in Ribblesdale and then just for a fleeting moment at Ribblehead but apart from that it was pretty gloomy. I was very fortunate at Ribblehead as the sun lit up Whernside beautifully.

I parked the car on the edge of Horton and had a walk around the network of country lanes in the vicinity. All lead up to Brackenbottom Farm which is the usual start for walking up Pen y Ghent. There weren't many takers which I thought was a bit strange as the weather would have been ideal. Mind you, it was midweek so I suppose most people will have been working. It was pretty damned cold though and I was glad to get back to the car and head for Ribblehead.

I had thought of going all the way up to Hawe…

To Lochinver via Coigach

Again, I don't really think many words are needed for this blog. The photos tell the whole story of one of the best drives in the UK.

The route chops and changes from mountain to coastal and back again and is possibly the best section of the Wester Ross Coastal Road. I was fortunate enough to be at Gruinard Bay when the tide was out so I more to less had the whole beach to myself, th the mighty An Teallach (widely regarded as the best hill in Scotland) towered above me as I drove down through Dundonnell.  Then it was through the Dundonnell River gorge and across the Dundonnell Forest to Loch Broom and Ullapool. Even Ullapool looked good with the morning sun and blue skies. I hardly met any traffic at all from the moment I left my hotel on the shores on Loch Maree which meant driving was a sheer pleasure.

The last section of the route through Coigach to Lochinver is the reason I keep visiting these parts. It may only be about twenty miles in length but it goes through what is, in m…

The Old Coal Road.

The Old Coal Road runs between Cowgill in Dentdale and Garsdale high up in the Yorkshire Dales.

There were twenty-five coal pits which formed part of the extensive coal workings and lay on the moorland either side of it. These coal pits were worked by local people, initially to produce domestic fuel, but by the 18th century, the poor quality coal was also being used in lime kilns. Commercial coal mining went on in Garsdale until the 1870s when the Settle-Carlisle railway started bringing in cheaper, higher quality coal from the Lancashire and West Yorkshire coalfields.

If you aren't adversed to a bit of  road walking then I should imaging a trip up on the Settle-Carlisle train, getting off at Dent Station and then walking up to Garsdale Head (or Hawess Junction as it was once known), would be a grand day out. For good measure it should include a couple of pints in The Moorcock Inn before getting the train back down.

On Garsdale station stands a statue of Ruswarp, a collie. Ruswarp…

A Farewell to The Trossachs

I had a rather disappointing day in The Trossachs last weekend. Talk about not feeling welcome.

I used to park up at two places on the shores of Loch Chon and then go for a wander in the forest with my camera. The first place had been ruined by tree felling and was a right mess and the other place had been turned in to a campsite! At the first spot, I just about managed to park my car and clamber around fallen trees and debris to take a few photos but couldn't even get in to the second spot!

The new campsite is all to do with The Trossachs and Loch Lomond National Park's attempt at trying to stop wild camping which they say is becoming a problem on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond from where people used to wild camp and climb Ben Lomond. Their solution is to have purpose built campsites miles away from where they are actually needed. It makes you wonder if they really want visitors at all. The consensus of opinion is that they are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and var…