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Last of the Summer Ale – The Sequel                                            

by Paul Christie

As promised in the last tale of the Last of the Summer Ale (LotSA) the identities of the people in the photograph are from left to right Steve Woolven (Foggy), Gary Cullen (Compo), Paul Christie (Clegg), Paul Stokes, Bruce Glockling, Karen Lumley and Graham Nye. Although a few of this group are still active cavers they were all active at some point in the 70’s & 80’s. The photo was taken in Weardale on Royal Wedding weekend.

The trip to Weardale was planned to coincide with Paul Stokes 60th birthday. We tried to include all of the original team on this weekend but the two notable missing people are Ross White and Jerry Crick who were otherwise engaged. The reason for choosing Weardale was that it is close to where Paul now lives. After years of indulging in dangerous sports of several types, he is now disabled, so it seemed an appropriate location. It was also an area that most of us hadn’t previously explored. We travelled on the Friday and some of us met up at High Force (Teesdale), where one or two people passed themselves off as senior citizens to see the waterfall for free. We then drove over the hills to Weardale and our accommodation in Frosterley. By early evening we were all settled and ready for the first excursion to the Pub so we crossed the river to The Black Bull that only weeks before had been featured on ITV’s Countrywise.

BB542-30Saturday morning started with the usual hearty breakfast and a debate about what walk we were going to do. Clegg had spent weeks planning a number of routes and conveniently the map and compass brigade had turned up with two entirely different maps of the area showing two variations of the Weardale Way. It’s one thing organising a walk when there are three of you, it’s an entirely different matter when there are 14, especially with this crew. Our first stop became the tourist information centre at Stanhope to establish the current Weardale Way route.

Now we knew where we were going, we headed for Rookhope where a pub would be the ideal stop for lunch. The early part of the walk is along the river bank so we’re all happily walking at different speeds. At the first sign of uphill walking there is the usual disquiet over Clegg’s skill with a satnav but we eventually made it to the pub. After a few pints the group headed back down the river to Easthope and on to Stanhope. As Foggy entered the car park in Stanhope, Compo whispered in Clegg’s ear to ask Foggy where his map was. This he did, and stood expecting the map to appear magically from Foggy’s rucksack. There followed an embarrassing silence and an admission by Foggy that he’d mislaid it on the route from the pub, probably in the river.

Saturday evening was spent in the Black Bull as you’d expect, and Sunday morning dawned with everyone fit for another days walking. Foggy, having lost his map, was in no position to debate what walk to do and  what Clegg had planned had something to suit everyone. Stanhope to Wolsingham (14 miles for the fit ones) with an optional get out at 8 miles back to Frosterley for everyone else. Clegg had even worked out that those that completed the walk could get the train back from Wolsingham so there was no need to put a car there. Read on there’s a ‘gotcha’ coming up.

The route heads east along the river for a while and then climbs away from the river and round some old quarry workings. We then drop down to the river level again and according to the OS map there are some caves in this area. If Foggy hadn’t lost his map I expect he would have tried to find them. Once back close to the river those opting for the short walk headed back into Frosterley with the intention of finding a pub. They found a pub without a problem, what they didn’t find was any beer, unless you count Guinness. Undeterred by the lack of Real Ale they managed to while away a fair amount of time.

Meanwhile, an intrepid group of five had gained height on the side of the valley and had passed close to a feature known locally as Elephant Trees. It’s a group of trees together on the top of the hill that in silhouette look like an elephant. Clegg struggled up this hill but once at the top he sprouted a new set of legs and headed off at speed towards Wolsingham. The railway station was easily located and the train timetable examined. The last train of the day apparently doesn’t stop at all stations. Which significant one does it not stop at? Wolsingham, I told you there was a ‘gotcha’ coming. It was too far to road walk so a quick phone call to the others was made and this was when we discovered exactly how much time they had spent either drinking Guinness or finding an alternative pub. Two cars duly arrived and we were returned to Frosterley.

The Black Bull is closed on Sunday so we had a barbecue that everyone helped to prepare. Monday morning would normally have seen us packing up and heading home as early as we could but there was one last treat in store. Because it was a Bank Holiday the landlord of the Black Bull was opening the pub and his group the Charwaller’s set up in the car park to entertain us with some fine Rhythm & Blues. A fitting end to a fantastic weekend with no sign of what some might regard as normal bank holiday weather.

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Cartoon and map are the work of Rich Saunders as was the case in the last article. I’m sure he’d be open to other commissions and he can be contacted via Paul Christie.