I have promised to call home and let people know I am alive before 7.00pm. To do that I have to reach the car by 6.30pm and drive sufficiently closer to civilisation to get a signal. Reluctantly I get up and shoulder my pack, turn my back to the beauty of Maize Force and make for the trail. The last mile of moorland is boggy and wet but I learn to savour the comfort of walking on such a surface having slogged along miles of rocky road in the morning. I join the Pennine Way at the Grain Beck footbridge, rise up the slope to Birkdale farm where noisy dogs bark at me from behind locked doors and stride out towards the Cow Green.
This is a landscape of moving targets. Behind every hill there is yet another hill. The distances worked out on the maps can be doubled, such is the undulation of the land and the difficulty in moving through the terrain. My first real trip of 2011 has left me footsore and weary. I have covered close to twenty miles, most of it off-trail, and the last miles are the worst. Hip-flexors scream and strain. Calf muscles burn. Winter calories are burned off as I look at last on the buttress wall of Falcon Clints with the river Tees sweeping round in a broad loop and there on the right is the confluence of the Maize Beck as it joins the larger flow, a beck no longer but accepted into the flow of the main river, sweeping on to the sea.