Peering out of the window after a lovely sleep, we discover heavy clouds. Mmm. Not good.
We had a rather long lay in, gradually getting up and pottering around. We are in no rush. The sun poked its head out of the clouds and it warmed up considerably. We make sandwiches, pack a rucksack and have breakfast, while the skies darken yet again. Half an hour later, the sun’s back out. We add raincoats to our pack.
Finally about 11, we shut The Van door and head off for a walk. We head to the far corner to the campsite’s entrance intending to find a small track leading to the main road. Alas, once there, we discovered we couldn’t go that way (it wasn’t an official footpath) so after a little deliberation, decided to reverse the walk and go in the opposite direction. So we followed a track that turned into sheep fields until we came to the disused railway with its derelict junction box and turned left, plunging us into woodland again. We had to go the long way, passing a huge wall of stone, the remnants of the viaduct crossing the steep sided valley. We dropped down before turning right and following the well marked path. We were hoping to see the Falls marked on the OS map. We passed the stumps of the viaduct’s supporting pillars and figured where we were – under the railway. We carried on, eyes peeled for an elusive deer. The path twisted and turned, steep pulls up before dropping down. Consulting the map we noticed we were off the footpath, but we hadn’t seen any signs or forks in the path taking us lower. We ploughed on, some parts a little tricky – narrow sections, muddy parts, fallen trees taken in recent high winds blocking the path. There were “Private Property – Keep Off” signs nailed to trees at regular intervals. We checked our map again and to our dismay, we had overshot the Falls!! How annoying. We toyed with the idea of retracing our steps to find the missed junction, but looking we realised there wasn’t really a path to the Falls after all – only a little unofficial track that stopped short of them. Perhaps the landowner didn’t want us down there, hence the signs and had actually redirected the path we were on, deliberately. We didn’t fancy going back and then thinking about it, there had been hardly any rain recently so they wouldn’t exactly be gushing and exciting. We decided to give them a miss and carried on.
We climbed steadily until we popped out onto a wide gravel track and followed that out onto sheep pasture. In the woods, it had got stifling hot and we had shedded our jumpers. Now the wind raced across the fields, cooling us down, the jumpers went back on. We dropped into a small conifer wood before climbing out up to a quiet country lane. About 50 yards further along, a signpost pointed us into a meadow, full of buttercups, trefoils and other flora. We entered a small woodland, the path zig zagging down towards a small stream and a wooden bridge. We decided to stop here to eat our sarnies, crisps and drinks, perching on the stone steps of the bridge. It was a lovely little woodland opening up further downstream and not so hot to invite flying insects to join in with our lunch. Topped up, we tackled the startling steep hill on the other side which flattened out and took us towards a farmyard.
We walked through the farmyard, setting off the farm dog barking frantically behind a gate, thank goodness and picked up a road, passing the huge sewage treatment works that dominated the area. As we walked we noticed a lot of roadkill – baby rabbits mainly. It was a road to a farm with hardly any traffic so how did these creatures die? We presumed that birds of prey had caught them or maybe a fox – they weren’t squashed. We counted at least 6 in a small stretch of road – had there had been a bunnicide? It was all very odd.
Eventually we came up to the main road, still musing the cause of mass bunny death when we realised we had overshot yet again. There had been a footpath on our right that dropped down to a bridge that crossed a stream (we had even commented on the bridge and why it was there) but there had been electric fencing all the way along the track – there seemed no way to this bridge apart from straddling the fencing and hoping not to receive a hefty shock in areas where one shouldn’t receive them. Luckily there was another footpath on the other side of the road (we didn’t fancy walking along the main road which was busy and with no path – we would end up like one of those bunnies). Looking at the map, we worked out we could do a loop behind the hamlet of Lartington which would hopefully have a pavement which would get us to the next footpath safely – a bit of loop, but hey, we weren’t in a rush.
Well, it turned out to be a bit of a bonus. We came across yet another part of the railway, this time just the pillars of a missing bridge taking the railway over our path. We clambered up onto the railway and there was a path on it, probably used by the locals. We dropped back down, noticing a yellow sign telling us that “these animals bite”. There was a broken down wire fencing on the edge of adjacent woodland, so we wondered what animals lurked that regularly nibbled passing walkers. With our senses heightened, our pace picked up slightly as we expected a herd of hungry velociraptors to burst out behind a tree and give our backside a nip. It was a bit unnerving, to be honest.
We eventually dropped down onto a paved driveway leading to Lartington Hall and its associated lodges and buildings. We wandered to the main road, distracted for about 20 minutes by a rather stunning graveyard. Not exactly heaving with headstones, it was impressive. The entrance was adorned with tall pillars with statues on top, a clutch of elegant and detailed gravestones and a large building at the end with a glasshouse on top. We read a couple of the stones before looking at this building which turned out to be the chapel. Unable to go inside, we peered through a slit to see inside. It seemed large chunks of carved stonework had collapsed onto the altar, but it looked in good condition overall. It was quite wonderful and hoped that wasn’t being neglected. We wandered around respectfully, both noting that we loved wandering around graveyards and churches – they are so full of history, local stories and just fascinating. We wandered out down to the village, delighted that our hunch of a pavement was realised and strolled along the village with our necks at right angles as we goggled at the beautiful old cottages and houses, well kept gardens and so typically English and timeless. We agreed we liked Lartington.
We found our footpath and wandered through knee high grass to a sheep field, before rejoining the disused railway. We noted that it must of been a substantial line as it was wide enough for two tracks side by side. The tracks were no longer, covered by dusty grey gravel as it crunched under our feet. We had come full circle. We picked up the path and fields that took us back to the campsite, stopping briefly to pat and feed a handsome brown horse some grass that he seems to appreciate. Back at the campsite we rewarded ourselves two Magnum ice creams from the campsite shop and sat on The Van steps, watching a recently arrival set up home. We had done a respectable 7 miles to add to the 6 miles of yesterday. The sun tried to peek through the cloud – there were breaks of blue sky.
Later as we settled down for tea the weather did what it had been threatening to do the last two days. The cloud dissipated and the sun had the full sky to itself. We parked ourselves in its full glare, soaking its warmth properly before the sun went to bed for the night. Really nice to sit outside and not feel cold. We clinked wine glasses to celebrate the sun making a welcomed appearance and the final evening of a great, but too short road trip. Tomorrow we would go to the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle before slowly heading home. 😞