Snail Spaces: Cow Green reservoir

High up Teesdale, Cow Green Reservoir is at the heart of what is known as “England’s last great wilderness”. It is wild and woolly and extremely beautiful. The fells are home to a number of rare species and there are extensive prospects for walking. 

The car parking area at the reservoir is split into a number of smaller car parks. When we were last there three vans were parked for the night but each of us had a separate area and plenty of privacy and peace.

Picnic tables, one temporary toilet, information boards and contributions box.

Surprisingly, we had both phone and Internet signals.

Last Visit: August 2017

A quick weekend jaunt, part 2

We needed to be at Mainsgill, only a minute or two down the A66 for 10:00 am. After a largely sleepless night and the loss of an hour’s opportunity for sleep due to the change to BST we were quite reluctant  to leave our beds but did manage to shower and dress and still be on station before the Family L arrived.

It was our first visit to Mainsgill and we were surprised by the chaos, even having read the criticisms to be found on review sites. It is  truly a strange way to run a restaurant (I shall leave it at that.) It is a very busy little business and clearly thriving but we found it less appealing than other similar establishments that we have visited. 

After our family breakfast we shopped for provisions for  a simple supper to be eaten once we arrived home at Kippford, said goodbye to the Family L and then turned Vincent’s head towards Barnard Castle (which was heaving) and thence onward to the upper dale.

We had an outline plan to go home over the tops via Alston and to call in at Lambley Viaduct on our way to walk the dog. I had concerns that on this brilliantly sunny and unnaturally warm Mothering Sunday the small car park there would be full and Nell would not get her exercise. I suggested that we stop at Bowlees, and give her a run there “just in case.”

The Tees just below Middleton

Well,  it turned out that not only Barney but also Middleton-in-Teesdale and the entirety of Upper Teesdale was heaving with people, cars and motorcycles. Bowlees was choked, with no hope of parking Vincent anywhere at all. The High Force Hotel was very busy with bare-armed folks supping beer in the sun.

We drove on to Cow Green Reservoir, which being so vast could never be crowded – though it was busier than I have ever seen it. Not that I have been there recently…

Vincent at Cow Green

There were tears. Of joy, maybe. Just the sheer pleasure of being in this high place in the clean air and listening to Skylarks and Lapwings. Or maybe a pang of something else. I was last here on the 9th of December, in 1978. How can I be so precise about a date so long ago? Well, I delivered my beautiful boy about 14 hours after a family walk around the reservoir that day. That kind of thing tends to stick. Unlike the family.

I managed to take a lot of very poor photographs at Cow Green. A bit of forward planning might have been useful, along with a wide angle  lens, a tripod and a polarising filter.

We had a wonderful walk, though not a long one as we had quite some driving left to do.

We had one more stop at Carlisle in order to pick up Leffe for supper and a coffee to boost our reserves – arriving back at Kippford just after 5pm, with the sun still shining.

Unfortunately all that sun has brought out my skin sensitivity and I am suffering the usual painful itch. I also woke with a terrible headache from the excess of sun… I seem to have posted our sun hats home!

A false Spring it may have been but we did have the most wonderful weekend in the early season sun, driving through some of the best scenery that England has to offer.


On the road with the new van Part 2

The Caravan Club’s Rowntree Park site is situated by the river and close to the centre of town, just ten minutes walk to the heart of the city. The area is prone to flooding so the facilities block is very sensibly built above flood levels and is accessed by stairs or ramp and a walkway. The showers and toilets are impeccable. Otherwise there is little distinctive to what is overall a very boring site. Staff were efficient but rather more brisk than friendly (not very “Yorkshire” of them!)

We settled in and then walked the dog down river before we walked into town in the other direction. York was of course heaving with Christmas shoppers. We went to Pizza Hut for lunch, picked up a few items in M&S opposite, then bought a small non-oil-filled Dimplex radiator for the van and gave up and went home. York did not see much of us.

Friday morning saw us up and about relatively early. We had time to kill before landing in Pocklington and filled this in at the McArthur Glen outlet, where we surprised ourselves by actually buying things (shoes, mainly – not just cheap but “free” as we used more of the Retirement Vouchers.)

Friday night saw us sleeping on a family driveway.

On Saturday we aimed ourselves at Scarborough and took the scenic route there, over the Yorkshire Wolds. Parking at Seamer, we took the Park and Ride bus into town. Lunch was Fish and Chips from Smallfry on North Road. We had been waiting years for these and were not disappointed – they remain the best overall Fish and Chip experience to be had anywhere.

After a walk on the beach with Nell we enjoyed that other Scarborough Experience, the Lemon Top and a walk along the harbour before picking up Vincent and driving up to Scalby. We stayed at a lovely little Certificated Location at Hay Brow and had the place to ourselves. Our hosts were charming and friendly and the whole place was full of quirky charm. Unfortunately we could neither empty or fill and much as we should like to return we think the site not suitable for our van.

Quite disappointed when the site turned out not to be the single toilet promised to be on site

Facilities are basic, there is one toilet in an old wash house in the stable block, but a new facilities building is under construction.  16 amp hookups have been installed and operate from cards paid for on top of the site fee. The pitches are level-ish but narrow, as is the access road and we could not avoid churning up the grass.

The Elsan point was inaccessible to us, as was the fresh water. All in all, expensive for what we had from it but a very pleasant and quiet night’s stay nonetheless. Nell was made very welcome and asked to be on the lead only if in the field when sheep were present.

There is a lot of luck at Hay Brow

The site being so quiet we had been told that there was no hurry to be away on Sunday. When we finally got off, we took the route via Whitby over the moors towards Teesdale, where we planned to wild in the car park at Bowlees. We hoped to give Nell a run at Scaling Dam.

Unfortunately when we arrived at Scaling it was dogs-on-leads-only. Back in the van we approached Teesside. The SatNav had some strange ideas about the route to Teesdale and took us a long way North before coming South again via Sedgefield. Eventually we found ourselves approaching Staindrop and back in control. As we drove up the Moor Road out of the village I suddenly recalled that The Moorcock at Eggleston is a stop from a book of sites I am not supposed to connect it with in public. Bah! Anyway, I suggested that we try there instead of going to Bowlees. We did just that, and spent the night on their car park after a good dinner followed by a twiglight stroll on the Teesdale Way with Nell. We had one other vann for company overnight – they were heading South, home to Southampton.

We were headed home too. On Monday morning we set off up to the high dale, towards Alston – the scenic route again. Stopping outside Middleton-in-Teesdale in what has long been my favourite lay-by and viewpoint, I was disappointed to find the normally stunning views obscured by a light mist.

As we passed Bowlees there was a Pheasant Shoot on. I was very relieved that we had the prescience to change our plans the night before.

Climbing ever higher up the dale, the clouds came ever lower to meet us. The scenery had in fact gone missing.

No, really, the Teesdale scenery is stunning. You will just have to believe me

There was snow on the verges. Vincent took all in his stride…. hills, hairpins… nothing was too much trouble.

The scenery was apparently all on the Cumbrian side and as we topped the hill, we saw blue sky awaiting us and a hint of sunlight on the dale in the distance.

As Vincent and Mr Snail were doing their best to avoid a dog walker with several Labradors I asked if maybe he hadn’t seen the yellow diversion sign. What sign? The one that said the road ahead in Alston was closed and pointed to a road on the right…

As we drove into Alston there was traffic going in ahead of us. We even saw three cars pass by the next Road Closed sign. It must be okay and after all he SatNav wasn’t telling of any problems.

We now know that Mr Snail can back Vincent out of a narrow hilly street when faced by a giant roadsurfacing machine, even with cars parked on both sides of the road. This was a manoeuvre that Hank could never have attempted.

The detour took several miles to get us to the other side of the roadworks, perhaps 25 metres away, but it was certainly scenic.

The remainder of our journey passed uneventfully. We stopped at Gretna for a (very) late breakfast and visited the outlet there in search of a mattress topper for the van. We had a great success and another voucher purchase.

One final stop at Kilnford Barns farm shop before we returned to base.