Just the thought of getting to the top of a hill exhausts me, so I liked the sound of The Dodd, in the North Pennines. Various accounts of its walks routes pointed out that the main path doesn’t actually go to the summit, and that there is a marker cairn but it’s not actually at the summit. That matches my hill-climbing ambitions nicely so I took an immediate liking to The Dodd and am on first-name terms now. Ken. Obviously.
The (almost) ascent was part of a circular walk from Nenthead in Cumbria incorporating two sections of Isaac’s Tea Trail. I’m enjoying bolting together various parts of the Tea Trail rather than walking linear sections of the 36-mile long circuit. The Dodd sits nicely between the first part of the walk described in my blog posting of April 2nd 2016 ‘Signpost to a Sky High’, and the final part of ‘A Sunny Walk from Sunnyside’ posted on March 8th 2016.
Starting out as a valley walk it was a fairly easy first mile or so following Isaac’s Tea Trail north-west from Nenthead to Nentsberry. Here I left the Tea Trail after passing through a new-looking kissing gate attached to an old-looking signpost fabulously furry with lichen.
Leaving the Tea Trail to its course along the valley side, I headed steadily uphill, first following a very stony track then onto a wide bridleway ascending Wellhope Moor. Invitingly angled across the contours, the track was a delight, soon reaching a plateau and passing from Cumbria into Northumberland.
Of course, gaining height means gaining views, and yet again the North Pennines didn’t disappoint. Wide expanses of moorland seemed to be breathing as the clouds darkened their flanks then lit them up again. The routes of far-distant roads sparked with glinting chrome and glass as cars rolled through the landscape like beads of mercury.
In this area it’s pretty much guaranteed that every twist of a path or crest of a hill will reveal dramatic landscapes and skyscapes.
There are dozens and dozens of disused lead mines and shafts on either side of the track across Wellhope Moor – the Ordnance Survey mappers must have been driven mad by spending days on end writing nothing but ‘shafts (dis)’, ‘area of disused mine workings’, ‘mine (dis)’, ‘levels (dis)’, ‘workings (dis)’, ‘pit (dis’), ‘old lead shaft’, ‘lead mine (dis)’, ‘lead mine (rems)’, ‘levels and shafts (dis)’. Most of the remains are now just lumps in the landscape, very like the homeland of the Teletubbies, but Wellhopehead Lead Mine (dis) is a starker reminder of the intensive industry that once made this area Europe’s primary lead-producer.
Most of the rest of the walk was across rushy, mossy ground and therefore rather squelchy. Even though I didn’t reach the summit of The Dodd, the climb up from Wellhopehead lead mine leads to a viewpoint of its own which includes a couple of Lake District hills. Then, following the clear track around the eastern side of The Dodd my views were of the West Allen Valley rather than the Nent Valley, and as I dropped down to rejoin Isaac’s Tea Trail the stark ruins of a farmstead at Roughside marked the point where I gratefully came off the mossy rough ground and onto a proper track.
Even in a dry spell I imagine this walk would be wet underfoot with its network of tiny streams on the moor feeding into the Wellhope Burn, but there are repairs to the boggiest bits.
Incidentally, at 2,014 feet (614 metres), The Dodd is a Nuttall. Among hill-bagging list-tickers, Nuttalls are the baby brothers of Munros, which are over 3,000ft or 914m, and the big brothers of Marilyns which are defined as a hill with a prominence of more than 500 feet, or 150 metres.
Frankly my dear ….as a non-summit-bagger …. I don’t give a trig point……