Teesdale Way Section 1 (Dufton to Cow Green)
Section 1 of the Teesdale Way starts in the quiet village of Dufton, in Cumbria’s Eden Valley within the North Pennines AONB and finishes on Birkdale Bridge sandwiched tightly between Cow Green Reservoir and Cauldron Snout in Upper Teesdale. The location is extremely remote and there are no facilities en-route. The nearest car park is ~2.5 km away so many will choose to walk the first two sections back-to-back and possibly even the first three. THE GPS ROUTE FILE FOR THIS SECTION IS AVAILABLE AS A FREE DOWNLOAD FROM THE SHOP.
Stats at a Glance
Start/Finish Water Fountain, Village Green, Dufton ()/Birkdale Bridge, Cow Green, Teesdale () Distance 14.4 km (8.9 miles) Height Gain 540 m/1771 ft Maximum Elevation 601 m/1970 ft (Narrow Gate) Profile Very hilly Going Generally good but very muddy, boggy and rocky in places. Very exposed on high, open moorland. Strong navigational skills necessary in poor conditions Supplies None
The first (or last) section of the Teesdale Way is undoubtedly the most challenging of the entire trail. There are few opportunities for shelter so go prepared with adequate clothing, food and the kit to make a hot drink at least. However, the highest and most rugged part – Narrow Gate – comes early so, if you’re only going as far as Cow Green, the remainder is fairly easy.
The first three sections piggy-back the Pennine Way, England’s first National Trail which is well invested with way-marks and cairns. However, in poor conditions, visibility deteriorates rapidly and dramatically making them easy to miss. It makes sense therefore, to have at least one proficient navigator in the group on this section.
Dufton to High Cup Gill Head
From the distinctive fountain on the village green, the trail leaves Dufton gently uphill on the road. The long haul up to High Cup Gill Head begins as soon as you turn left at the military range flag, on the village outskirts. Be warned that it could get extremely cold, even on an otherwise warm day, especially if the Helm Wind (the only named wind in the British Isles) is blowing.
Some of the most striking geological features in this part of Cumbria and Upper Teesdale are the volcanic outcrops of the Whin Sill. The first you’ll encounter is High Cup Scar, where a distinctive curtain of rock is exposed around the lip of High Cup Gill, a huge glacial valley that has impressed generations of walkers.
High Cup Gill Head to Cow Green
You leave High Cup Gill Head on the Teesdale Way (Pennine Way) heading for the footbridge over the Maize Beck. Before the bridge was installed (circa 2006) a safer alternative in bad weather – when the beck was in spate – was the ‘Flood Route’ (a couple of walkers lost their lives attempting to cross the beck in the 1960s) which crosses via another footbridge further upstream at Maize Beck Scar.
Apart from the Whin Sill, the fells in this area are well known for another distinctive geological feature: throughout the Carboniferous period, limestone, sandstone, siltstone and mudstone were laid down in distinct sequences over millions of years as sea levels repeatedly rose and fell. These are known to geologists as ‘Yoredale Sequences’ and can be picked out in the stepped flanks of the dale and in streams like the Maize Beck. Also, look out for fossils and for a variety of bird-life including Ring Ouzel, Common Sandpiper and Golden Plover. After crossing the Maize Beck there’s a short climb to reach a well constructed track from where it really is all downhill.
Note the impressively thick blanket bog as you approach the abandoned lead workings at Moss Shop – it’s the only place on the trail that you’ll see it. If the red flag is flying nearby it indicates the adjacent Warcop Training Area is being used by the military (you may have noticed another flag just as you left Dufton). Continuing on your descent you cross the Grain Beck before arriving at Birkdale Farm from where it’s an easy walk on the road to Cow Green Reservoir and the finish of the section at Birkdale Bridge.