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Picture of Doodle - a 
black cat

Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Teesdale Spring

If you think that the Doodlecat site has been rather neglected of late, you’re right. The cumulative effects of business problems (or catastrophes to be entirely truthful), illness, family bereavements and so-on, have subdued the creative muse and kept me away from the great outdoors rather more than I would have wished. But now I think there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel – at least I haven’t heard a train whistle to indicate otherwise – and last week Miss W and I found ourselves completely free of responsibilities and with a few quid left in the bank. So we shot off north for a week’s holiday.

And a holiday on our own, without the mobile switched on day and night – bliss!

We have never been to Teesdale, but the odd post on Mike Knipe’s blog made us think that here we might find a bit of peace and quiet, and some pleasant, interesting walking too. And so we did.

Teesdale residents outside our cottage

We stayed at the truly excellent holiday cottage on Toby Hill Farm, between Egglestone and Middleton-in-Teesdale, which we can thoroughly recommend. With lambing and calving still in full swing, the farm was a busy place when we arrived, and before long Miss W was meeting some of the newer residents.

Tom, the trainee sheepdog
So cute, so tasty ...

With the Teesdale Way running right past the farm drive, the first day saw us take a leisurely stroll into Middleton along the riverside, and after lunch, a wander along various footpaths and bits of old railway to make a pleasant nine mile loop in the spring sunshine. In fact we were able to get a decent walk in almost every day. Whether up amongst the old lead mines that pepper the hillsides, down in the lush river valley or on the high fells, the walking in Teesdale is pleasant, sometimes exhilarating, but never too demanding. Which was just what we wanted.

View from Winch Bridge
One alarming notice near High Force warned us of a "Tree Killer On The Loose", which conjured images of an axe wielding madman. Fortunately it is only something that disagrees with juniper trees, and a disinfecting and scrub of the the footwear (water and brushes provided) will hopefully keep it under control. As a result of these precautions we had immaculate boots.

Walks took in the usual sights of Low Force, High Force and Cauldron Snout, with fine high level treks across Cronkley Fell and over to High Cup Nick. We became quite absorbed with the remains of the lead mining and smelting industry too, with its hushes, adits, grading floors and buddles and so-on (a tip for you here – when you see a shop marked on the map, don’t rely on getting an ice cream there). One great legacy of this industry is the trails and tracks that follow the old pony routes from the mines to the smelters. Today they make up a network of miles of green paths through stunning countryside. The industrial heritage of old lime kilns, buildings and greened over haul roads just adds to the interest. When we gaze appalled at wind farms and hydro schemes and so-on, I sometimes wonder if, in a century or two, our descendants will walk the same empty land and marvel that it was once a major source of power. Will the Beamish museum of the 23rd century feature a few wind turbines alongside the relics of the age of steam?

But for now, industry has abandoned Teesdale and wildlife is everywhere. We saw deer near the farm (local venison in the butchers at Middleton) curlew, lapwings, plovers, oyster catchers, wild geese, grouse of course and as for frogs, there were hundreds of them up on the fells. Even the most unlikely and filthy pool on an old mining site was teeming with frogs and frog spawn, whereas our pristine wildlife pond at home has not one amphibian resident - although I strongly suspect that a visitor from the local heronry might have something to do with that!

Frog near Maize Beck
What really made this such a great place to stay for a week was the variety. If the weather is poor, there is plenty to do and see (and some good pubs). There are low level country walks, tourist trails and then on bright breezy days you can take to the high fells and roam at will. We walked for miles, ate for England and slept like logs.

High Cup Nick

Afternoon light - heading home

 Back home now and feeling great. Amazing what a breath of fresh air can do!

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