Cumbria - A High Cup Weekend
by Steve Griffith
It has been a long cherished ambition to do High Cup Nick regarded not only as a blue riband rough stuff crossing but also the finest scenery on the Pennine Way. After some initial setbacks in booking hostels I settled on using Baldersdale Hostel as a base for a long weekend. Train to Darlington and thence across to Tan Hill by way of some pleasant country avoiding the dreaded A66.
At Bowes I decided to take what I had seen described in an old journal as the easy way to Tan Hill. Taking the minor road out SW it becomes a stoney track at Sleighholme farm. An easy push and its nearly all down hill to the pub. It was approaching mid afternoon and I decided there would be time to approach Baldersdale via Stainmore Common track. A swoop down hill and by a real switchback to North Stainmore.
It was tough climb up to Long Crag and I began to wonder the wisdom of my choice of route. Especially as according to the RSF guide the path was non-existent and the way was wet. Sure enough the RSF guides proved themselves yet again. Fortunately it was fairly dry (this being June 2000) and wheeling was not to bad although it was best to stay on the north bank above the river. The incentive of dinner at 7pm spurred me on and I did the crossing in under two hours. (The path does indeed finish at 8587163). Not a crossing to attempt in wet conditions.
Baldersdale Youth Hostel is superbly situated being an old farmhouse yards from the Pennine Way. Great food, good company and the warden was a cyclist of no mean achievement, what more could you want...
An early start as I commenced the High Cup challenge. By lanes to Middleton and up to Langdon Beck. Taking the road to Cow Green I had to lift my bike over at gate to gain the road to the dam and Birkdale. I did not feel the route properly started until the Grain Beck bridge. I was able to ride much of the way over Moss Shop, and much of the way down to Maize Back had been 'improved' with railway sleepers. It was one of the best days of the year and as yet I hadn't seen anyone else. Maize Beck was fordable even without getting feet wet but I had a paddle anyway.
After GR 761267 (OS sheet 91) I could ride on the turf. The main reason I would recommend an east west crossing is that defile of the Nick is a surprise until you are almost on top of it. It certainly lives up to its reputation. I can imagine how dangerous it must be in bad weather. The track down is quite difficult in places and is best taken leisurely admiring the Nick but keeping an eye on the next twist in the path. All too soon Dufton was gained and a suitable reward was ought in the form of a huge lunch at 'The Stag'.
It was a struggle back especially the last bit up from Brough but it had been worth it, so 10 hours after leaving Baldersdale I arrived back. My feat was put firmly into place after I spoke to another cyclist who had been over more than 30 times !!!