Ride 9: Ditches & Shepherd Huts

Friday, 15th May, Allendale to Cowshill, 16.61 miles

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Tacked up and ready to go, Tommy and I head out over Greenrigg Moor from Emertley Hill. Brian has shown me this alternative route to avoid the busy B6304 into Allendale Town.  Can you manage ditches, he asked. Mmm, I say, not having ever tackled one with Tommy before. It’s only this height, he says, holding his hand about 2 feet above the floor in an imaginary distance above the ground. Well, as we discover there is more than one ditch which T dispatches with panache. The ground is boggy in places so I stick to the sheep paths.  They seem to be the safest option.  I don’t want his shoes sucked off in the bog, or for us to be swallowed up down an old sink hole.

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As we walk down the steep back roads into Allendale, I see clear shadows!

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It seems like the first rays of sunshine for several days.  We pass a couple of crumbling shepherd huts.

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Taking the very steep hill climb out of town that says ‘not suitable for HGV’s’, we pass the first of two strange effigies we come across today.  What’s all that about?

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After Sinderhope, we join the main road that goes down to Cowshill, and at Allenheads, we drop off the main road to go into the village where Tommy stops to meet the locals along the way.

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The village advertises a café and I just fancy a coffee and a piece of walnut cake and a bucket of water for T, but when we get there, there’s no sign of life, either at the cafe / visitor centre or the pub opposite, so we leave disappointed. On the way, Tommy seems desperate to take a drink from the water coming off the hill that has accumulated in the small ditch running alongside the road. In the process, quite alarmingly, he drops to his knees to reach the water. How I managed not to tumble over his neck and land in a heap on the ground, I’ll never know.   We have passed water before which he wasn’t interested in so I am assuming he is after the minerals running off the fell.  You can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

Somewhere along the road to Cowshill, we leave Northumberland

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and enter County Durham.  Here we are in no mans land in between the two.

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I am now eager to get to our destination. Not only are there an inordinate amount of assorted squashed animals, mainly rabbits and birds, now carrion to be picked over by other birds on the next stretch of road but it is also desolate and bleak. The first thing I do when we get to Cornriggs Farm, is lead Tommy into Harry’s cow barn and give him a bucket of water.  After I’ve cleaned the algae and leaves out of the water trough and put Tommy out in the field, I get my body temperature back to normal by soaking myself in a deliciously hot bath before being invited by Jan and Harry to join them for a salad supper.   Don’t be deceived by this benign picture (below).   Soon after it was taken, the wind picks up, the heavens open and Tommy spends a wild and wet night out in the elements.

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Over supper, I discover this couple used to run a trekking centre. In her twenties, Jan trekked alone down parts of the Pennine Way, long before the Bridleway came into being. She told me, if she needed to cross a river, she would simply take all her clothes off rather than get them wet. We spend an enjoyable evening swapping stories. When they gave up the trekking business, they gave the ponies to the local RDA centre and now just run a B&B and self catering business but their main source of income comes from breeding and selling quality beef cattle. Harry is justifiably proud of his stock, having to rebuild his reputation after the devastating outbreak of foot and mouth.

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