Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Backpackers Dartmoor midweek Day 3 - 6 October


I had a visitor to my tent last night. I heard a rustling and on turning over saw, in the gloom, my foodbag disappearing under the flysheet. A bloody fox. I shone a light outside but couldn't see anything. When I woke, I ascertained there is a Londis store in the village so made a mental list of food items to buy. However, when I emerged from the tent, I found my bag about twenty feet away, a tear on the side and my three remaining M&S chocolate chip shortbreads gone but everything else was untouched.

We started the day with a visit to Fox Tor Café just down the road. I had an excellent black coffee.

The weather forecast was good and we had a warm and sunny day. We took the bridleway east from Princetown to cross the bridge over the River Swincombe, then right alongside the river for a short distance before cutting across country towards Ter Hill. Much of it, maybe 1.5 miles was over rough clumped grass which didn't make for easy walking.  We all complained and Howard said maybe the next Dartmoor meet would be on better paths. Still, at least it wasn't raining and we passed by one of the two ancient crosses marked on the map just to the north of Ter Hill.

Near Princetown
Once we reached the Sand Way path, things improved and as we approached Michelcombe, where we are camped, the descent on the wide grassy path was a treat with amazing views beyond the eastern edge of Dartmoor.

The descent to Michelcombe
We have spent the evening in the Tradesman's Arms in Scoriton.

Backpackers Dartmoor midweek Day 2 - 5 October


It was a little windy in the forest but we were quite sheltered. Howard and John, outside the forest, were windswept, I think. The worst we had was overhead wind noise. "We" was me, with Pam on one side and Lawrence & Leslie on the other. At the forest edge about 100 yards away were Nige on one side of the gate and Brian & Jill on the other. It came on to rain in the night so I closed my tent flap and the rain, sheeting at times, continued until late morning.

Starting off at 9am, Howard led the way over pathless moorland to Sittaford Tor. Later, reaching the East Dart River, Brian, Jill and I waded the twelve feet or so across in trail shoes, about calf depth. The others, wearing boots, wandered about a quarter of a mile along the river bank before eventually crossing one by one using Lawrence's sandals.


More pathless terrain brought us to Lower White Tor followed by Higher White Tor. A path emerged after our late lunch stop below Littaford Tors, eventually arriving at the road by the Two Bridges Hotel. We then road walked two miles into Princetown and our campsite behind the Plume of Feathers.

Once the rain stopped, it was a very pleasant day. About nine miles walked.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Backpackers Dartmoor midweek Day 1 - 4 October

An uneventful train journey to Exeter, both trains were strangely unbusy. I met with others there; seven of us caught a bus to Chagford, meeting with two others there.

We walked along narrow lanes for a couple of miles before entering access land at 699870 (Teigncombe), following faint paths. After a mile, we crossed a grassy track and went straight ahead over pathless long grass, heading for the northernmost tip of Fernworthy Forest. The wind got up but it remained quite sunny. The ground was a bit boggy at times.

We found our pitch for the night at Long Ridge. Two of our party are camped outside the forest but the rest of us are scattered in amongst the trees where it is rather more sheltered, although the wind is quite loud. There is a good water supply nearby at North Teign River.



Saturday, 26 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 7 - 24 August - Reed to Bishop's Stortford

Started walking 7.10am
Distance walked 15 miles
Finished walking 7.30pm

After only a few minutes walking, I came across a bee hotel!


I reached Barkway at about 7.30am, a delightful place despite the road passing through it. In the churchyard, I found a small wooden cross leaning against a wall. The lady I met at Reed yesterday told me about it so I was curious to see it. She told me that it commemorates a man (a hermit, I suppose) who lived in a nearby wood for many years. The cross appeared to be deteriorating and I couldn't make out much of the carved lettering. I can't find anything online about it.




At Nuthampstead, I stopped by the pub, The Woodman Inn. It wasn't open for business but I went in and they kindly filled my water bottles. Outside The Woodman is a large memorial stone dedicated to the United States 398th Squadron which was based here from 1944-1945 from where Flying Fortress missions took off.




After Little Hormead at a remote farm, Mutfords, I saw what appeared to be a graveyard for several Austin A40s.



I hadn't been to Patmore Heath for a very long time. I remember Sunday afternoon drives there from home with my family. At a house overlooking the green, a lady sold home made confectionery. I particularly remember coconut ice.

Approaching Hadham Hall, there were official notices posted at field edges here and there. They were giving notice of proposed compulsory purchase orders relating to land which is to be acquired for a bypass to the north of Little Hadham, a nearby village on the A120. This is lovely countryside here and the works will seriously diminish this part of the Hertfordshire Way. I suspect the occupants of the rather posh houses and apartments in the nearby Hadham Hall aren't very happy about it either.

Just past Hadham Hall, I stopped to get the stove out to make tea as I had time to spare before meeting Amanda at Bishop's Stortford Tesco. 

I really enjoyed the eighty or so miles of the Way. I didn't meet anyone else also doing it, just the odd dog walker, which was a real shame as it is quite delightful. The only other blogs featuring it are either cumulative day walks or continuous walks but ending at maybe a B&B each night. I was keen to see how easy wild camping would be (because that is what I do) and there were so many opportunities. However, water has to be sourced and carried along the way.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 6 - 23 August - Therfield to Reed

Started walking 11am
Distance walked 8 miles
Finished walking 5.45pm

Another short day. Steve and I drove to the Silver Ball transport café on the A10 south of Royston. I had an excellent breakfast; Steve managed an apple juice whilst looking longingly at my food. He promised the owner, who he knew, that he'd be back when he could eat properly again.

Parking Steve's van in Therfield, we picked up the Hertfordshire Way and followed an easy path down towards the A505. There were wide reaching views across nearby chalky soil fields and beyond. Just short of the A505, we turned north west and into a racehorse stable place. We had obviously missed a HW waymark as we were apprehended and told we were on private property. Without demur, we scrambled through a hedge and down an embankment to where our path was.

The Way skirted some rides on Therfield Heath and then a golf course, the fine views continuing. Into woodland and then Steve and I parted company, me to continue on the HW and he to follow the Icknield Way Trail back down to Therfield.

I skirted the edge of Royston to then pick up the HW again as it left the town to head south. The path was clear and followed field paths down to the village of Reed. A friend I worked with many years ago came from here. He died in 2008 and, although he wasn't living in Reed when he died, I was curious to find out if he had been buried here. The Way went through the churchyard where I met a lady doing some clearing work. I asked if she knew of the family and she was immediately able to take me to my friend Andrew's grave. We had a long chat putting the world to rights.

Not far out of Reed, I found my woodland pitch for the night. There is no aircraft noise, just the distant sounds of combine harvesters and the odd car or horse going past on a farm track about fifty yards away.



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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 5 - 22 August - Clothall to Therfield

Started walking 8.20am
Distance walked 7 miles
Finished walking 12.30pm

I chose a super wood last night. It was quite large and spacious with plenty of good leafy ground. I camped maybe 100 yards in from the edge; well hidden.

I was able to take my time getting away as I knew I had a short day. My first village was Wallington which I'd never heard of but what a gem. The Hertfordshire Way passes through the churchyard so I went into the church and I'm so glad I did. It was an education. Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

"The author George Orwell lived in a small cottage at no 2 Kits Lane, known as The Stores, in the village from 1936 to 1940, and at occasional weekends (when he was otherwise mainly in London) until he gave up the lease on the cottage in 1947. A commemorative plaque was placed there in 1989 by Hertfordshire County Council. This plaque is however not accurate, in that it refers to Orwell living at the Stores until 1940, whereas he had the lease until April 1947, and did stay at the house from time to time until at least the time of Eileen's death. He had married his first wife Eileen O'Shaughnessy at the village church on 9 June 1936. Orwell wrote his notable book Animal Farm in 1944 probably much of it while he was at the village and certainly drew on his experiences there for inspiration, especially Manor Farm and The Great Barn. The farm in the village is, as in the book, called Manor Farm."

In Animal Farm, the story takes place at Manor Farm, Willingdon. There was much to read in the church. 
Wallington church
Manor Farm, Wallington
I got rather muddled at Sandon where the waymarks I was following didn't accord with the route I had marked on my map. 

I met my friend Steve at Therfield and we went into the Fox and Duck where I had a pint of Greene King IPA; Steve had iced water, having just undergone surgery on his neck. He hasn't eaten proper food for three months but is slowly recovering. 

We went back to his home nearby, via Morrisons in Royston, and I'll get back on the HW tomorrow.

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Hertfordshire Way Day 4 - 21 August - St. Paul's Walden to Clothall

Started walking 8am
Distance walked 13 miles
Finished walking 6pm

The last plane went into Luton Airport at about midnight last night. Those directly overhead lit up my tarp through the trees with their lights and they were so loud. At 6am they took off again taking the same route over me.

The rain which came on yesterday evening continued all night but had just about stopped by the time I set off.

By arrangement, I called in to meet Ellie near Titmore Green. In fact, she and dogs came out to meet me as I approached. Facebook is an amazing thing. I last saw Ellie (she was Elaine then) 55 years ago when we left primary school. Although still living in the same town, we attended different senior schools and our paths never crossed. I'm sure it's true to say that I've never met anyone before after such a long break. We enjoyed exchanging life stories and she plied me with bacon and egg rolls and coffee. I came away with a tub of home made cakes left over from a do the day before.

Old school friends!
The next village was Little Wymondley where my paternal grandparents once lived. Then Great Wymondley and on to Graveley where I had lunch in the churchyard. I thought my grandparents might be buried here as they lived here before moving to Wymondley but I couldn't find a grave. I must do some research.

Graveley church

Next was Weston after a delightful two miles of field paths and park land. I used to cycle through Weston many times but after so many years, it didn't look at all familiar. I bought my supper from the excellent village shop.

An interesting well at Weston
Clothall should also have looked familiar but it didn't. I rang my friend Steve who lives near Royston and we agreed to make contact tomorrow morning. He'll pick me up to go to his home for the night and hopefully deposit me back on Wednesday morning.


Just past Clothall, I've found another wood to overnight in. There is aircraft noise but it's not intrusive. In fact, the pigeons are noisier.


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Monday, 21 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 3 - 20 August - Sandridge to St. Paul's Walden

Started walking 7am
Distance walked 13 miles
Finished walking 6.15pm

A shorter day today. Generally, the path is very clear although the waymarks are sometimes not obvious, not helped by me not wearing my glasses. I prefer not to now, particularly when it's raining. I get used to the slight fuzziness quite quickly.

Near Wheathampstead, I left the Hertfordshire Way, taking the Ayot Greenway (the course of the old Luton, Dunstable and Welwyn Junction Railway which finally closed in 1966) to Ayot St. Peter where my cousin lives and I was expected for breakfast. We had a good family catch up. Her parents' ashes are buried there which I hadn't known. The church looked interesting, an Arts and Crafts building built in 1875. A service meant I couldn't look around.

The churchyard of the earlier ruined church at Ayot St. Peter
I cut across fields to Ayot St. Lawrence to rejoin the HW. Having time to spare, I had a choice - the Brockett Arms or Shaw's Corner. The pub was heaving, it being Sunday lunchtime so George Bernard Shaw won the day. The house (National Trust) is well worth a visit. There was a performance of an act of one of his plays in the large garden which I felt I didn't have time for (although probably did, in retrospect).

The HW next went through Codicote which I know of old. Late afternoon, I started to assess likely spots to spend the night. At St. Paul's Walden it started to rain which concentrated my mind. I went off route just a little and am hidden away in Walk Wood and the rain seems set for the night.


The last two nights there have been planes going in to land at Luton Airport, during the evenings and starting again spot on at 6am. I now seem to be directly below the flight path. It is very noisy but should quieten soon (I hope).

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Sunday, 20 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 2 - 19 August - Great Gaddesden to Sandridge

Started walking 6.40am
Distance walked 18 miles 
Finished walking 6.10pm

I slept well although a deer, a muntjac, I think, barked nearby for about 15 minutes. I'm really going to enjoy this walk. So far, the path is well defined and waymarked. Coming into Markyate, a runner stopped to warn me of a young man lying by the path. I found him but he appeared to be OK, just curled up with a bottle of water beside him. Odd. 

Past Flamstead, the Way went over the M1 motorway, very fast and busy. I was glad to be on foot. Past Redbourn, I emerged unexpectedly into the garden of Redbourn Mill, which I'd not heard of. They grind their own flour and bake on the premises. I bought a sourdough loaf and an Eccles cake. The Aldi rolls I had with me will probably end up as food for ducks. 

Bread for sale!

Redbourn Mill
My next stop was St. Albans, which I hadn't visited for a very long time. It was buzzing. I did a tour of the cathedral and the street market.

I passed by Childwick Bury, a very grand house and the prosperous Childwick Green. Sandridge was hosting a cricket match. A mile past the village, I found my pitch for the night in a wood. I think it may be noisy with wildlife tonight. 



There are so many blackberries. I stopped quite often!

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Saturday, 19 August 2017

Hertfordshire Way Day 1 - 18 August - Tring to Great Gaddesden


Started walking 2.15pm
Distance walked 6 miles
Finished walking 5.40pm

Why the Hertfordshire Way? It's not particularly challenging and there are no steep hills as far as I am aware. Nevertheless, I was born and grew up in the county and had a wish to see some of it. I haven't lived there for many years, long before I discovered walking for pleasure.

I only have time for one week so I plan to walk clockwise on the section which I think will be the most attractive. I also have some people to visit along the way. Officially, the Way starts at Royston, on the border with Cambridgeshire but I will join it at the nearest point to where I live, Tring. With a week to play with and about eighty miles, I shall finish at Bishop's Stortford.

By means of various buses, I arrived at Tring and walked a mile to Tring Station where I picked up the Hertfordshire Way. Before I had even placed one foot in front of the other, the heavens opened. However, it didn't last long and it became quite sunny.

After the village of Aldbury, the way ascended into the woodland of Ashridge Park, owned by the National Trust. It was quite busy in parts and I sped past the café which was quite unlike me!


At Great Gaddesden, I passed by the Amaravati Buddhist monastery. Crossing the main road in the village, there was a climb up to woodland where I cooked my evening meal. There was a deluge of rain so I decided to overnight here and found a spot completely hidden.





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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 20 - Clennell Street to Kirk Yetholm

Started walking 6.50am
Distance walked 13.75 miles
Arrived 1.00pm

With earplugs, I slept really well. Much of the path for the first mile or so was stone flagged so was easy. Just as well that I didn't walk on to the Hen Hole hut last night. When I passed by it, there were three people emerging, having spent the night there. The area around the hut would have been suitable for camping but not necessarily less windy than where I was.

It was quite a pull up to The Schil. I did a circuit of the massive cairn on top but didn't linger. I then took the lower alternative route to KY. Eventually passed by Halterburnhead Farm on to a level road. It was a cruel joke then for there to be quite a steep hill up before the road dropped down into KY and the end of the PW. At the Border Hotel, I asked some folk emerging from a car if one of them would take a photo. That done, I headed off to the Kirkfield Caravan Park at Town Yetholm to pitch. Frank arrived a short time afterwards.

During the afternoon, we went into The Plough in Town Yetholm to suss out the food menu for the evening. To be honest, The Plough has seen better days and the menu was pretty unimaginative. Nevertheless, we decided to go there later. When we arrived just after 6pm, we ordered drinks and looked at the menu only to be told that, due to a family emergency, only fish and chips was available. We downed our drinks and walked to the Border Hotel in Kirk Yetholm where there were other PW walkers and the menu was more appetising. I had baked venison suet pudding which was very good.



We were also given PW completion certificates, signed a PW book and offered a free half pint of beer as is the tradition. As I'd already got my pint I politely declined which, for a backpacker, possibly isn't something to be proud of!

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Monday, 12 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 19 - Cottonshopeburnfoot to Clennell Street

Started walking 7.30am
Distance walked 15 miles
Arrived 4pm

It was just half a mile into Byrness. The tiny church was open so I went in. Very peaceful inside. In no time, I was starting the steep ascent through the woodland up to Byrness Hill. The mud on the lower paths was very bad. The final part of the climb was a scramble.

On the plateau from time to time were signs warning of military activities. The PW passes the edge of Otterburn Ranges. Paddy Dillon's PW book, which I am carrying, says, "Rest assured that at no point does the PW enter the military firing range". At Ravens Knowe, a footpath joins the PW from the right. A slow moving file of maybe twelve helmeted soldiers in camouflage uniform and painted faces about twenty paces apart and carrying firearms moved on the the path ahead of me. I didn't slow my pace and took my place between two of them. I called out a cheery good morning to the one in front of me. They all then filed off to the left. I had a brief chat with the painted face who appeared to be in charge. They are obviously used to PW walkers. A short distance further on, I saw more soldiers together with the sound of automatic gunfire for several minutes. I tried to keep a low profile.

The forest shown on the map as Ogre Hill had all been felled and replanted.

Route finding was never a problem. Apart from the odd boggy area where the path tended to disappear, it was a clear path all day, with some stretches of stone slabs which made for easy walking.

I stopped for lunch at the Yearning Saddle refuge hut where I was joined by a Canadian couple doing the PW using B&Bs.

It was a long haul up to Windy Gyle. I camped there on a warm summer's evening in 1977, but today it was much too windy. I went on for a mile to Clennell Street, a junction of paths with a flat grassy area. It was very windy. I thought of walking on four miles to the Hen Hole mountain hut but decided to stay put, hoping the wind would eventually calm down. Now, at 10pm, it is calmer but I may use earplugs tonight.

The last day tomorrow, just 13.75 miles. Frank, with whom I was walking from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes, is meeting me at Town Yetholm. We'll camp there and he'll drive me to Newcastle station on Wednesday morning.


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Sunday, 11 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 18 - Bellingham to Cottonshopeburnfoot

Started walking 6.50am
Distance walked 15 miles
Arrived 4.15pm

The forecast was dry until 3pm. A mile outside Bellingham is Hareshaw Linn approached by a delightful wooded path through a gorge. The path threads its way for about a mile, crossing seven footbridges until, at last, a splendid waterfall is reached.

It is quite clear that there is no link between here and the Pennine Way. However, I didn't relish walking back for a mile so I determined to find a way and I did, although the first part wasn't easy and is not to be recommended.

Once I joined the PW, the path was clear although boggy now and then so feet were wet quite quickly. Later, I was following a narrow path through heather up to Whitley Pike. There were a couple of brief showers but it was as I left Whitley Pike that I made a navigational error and took a path in the wrong direction. Upon reaching a narrow road and checking the compass for the path on the other side, I realised I had gone wrong. Half an hour was wasted getting back on track.

Near Padon Hill, I met a lady with a dog, doing the PW from north to south and stopped for a chat. She was the first person I spoke to today. There followed a steep climb up beside forest and then the path veered away from the trees, following a fence, passing Brownrigg Head. The next mile and a bit until reaching the Gib Shiel road was without doubt the worst continuous section on the PW so far. It was bog without end. At one point I sank half way up my calves. A short distance along the road, I declared lunch and also took the opportunity to wring my socks out. Whilst here, a couple came by, also doing part of the PW but B&Bing.

Once I started walking again, it rained for about half an hour but I didn't mind. I was just pleased to be walking on a decent surface. A few miles of forest road brought me to the Border Forest site which is a holiday park. Tent camping isn't allowed but with an exception for PW walkers.

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Pennine Way Day 17 - Rest day in Bellingham

Once again, I didn't need a day off but the weather forecast wasn't good, heavy rain for much of the day. I went down into the village and bought food supplies for today and the rest of the journey to Kirk Yetholm, together with a paper so that I could catch up with the fallout from the general election.

The Camping and Caravanning Club site here is really excellent. The only thing missing was newspaper in the drying room for stuffing into wet boots/shoes. I left today's paper there.

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Friday, 9 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 16 - Greenhead to Bellingham

Started walking 6.55am
Distance walked 20 miles
Arrived 6.30pm

After a little light rain early on, it cleared to make good walking weather. I was up on Hadrian's Wall in 15 minutes. I saw no-one else for several hours. Views were good both to north and south. Just path Crag Lough, I took a footpath through a farm which, after a mile, met with the PW. This avoided a couple of steep hills on the Wall.

The path was clear to where the first forested area was met and then became a vehicle track, although towards the far side a grassy path was rather wet underfoot. Here I met a north to south PW walker who warned of very boggy sections ahead. The path across Haughton Common was also wet in parts and the next forested section was pretty dire and it was here that I had my first fall of the walk. On a muddy slope, both my feet went from under me. No harm done but I collected some mud.

At Horneystead farm, I visited their pit stop and bought a can of chilled Pepsi. Apparently, the owners walked the Appalachian Trail once and received many kindnesses. The pit stop is their way of doing something for PW walkers. Refreshments of all sorts are available, together with a loo and shower.

My feet had dried out but five minutes before arriving at Bellingham CCC site, I hit a boggy patch in a field. The site is excellent with all facilities. A good day.



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Thursday, 8 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 15 - Day in Greenhead

Another rest day, not for a needed rest but because of the forecast heavy rain for several hours.

I took the AD122 bus to Housesteads. Watched a short film, had a look at the exhibits and had a coffee. I didn't actually walk around the remains of the fort as it was still raining and I'd seen plenty of images inside. Caught a bus back in time for lunch.

Did a bit of clothes washing, took a shower, charged devices and then went across the Greenhead Hotel for a bite to eat - excellent steak & ale pie, chips and veg, washed down with a pint of Black Sheep. Will listen to the election news after 10pm but not for long as I have to be up early for more walking tomorrow.

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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 14 - Alston to Greenhead

Started walking 8am
Distance walked 17 miles
Arrived 5.30pm

Rain during the night, forecast to clear by 8am so no need for a really early start.

The Way followed the River South Tyne for a while before moving away from it, shortly passing the site of Whitley Castle Roman fort. At Kirkhaugh, I took advantage of the South Tyne Trail alongside a narrow gauge single track railway. Presumably a train operates sometimes but not today. I walked this trail up to Slaggyford but had to divert as contractors were carrying out work to extend the track. I rejoined it a bit further along where it became a really nice level path. I picked up the PW again at Knarsdale Hall (shown on the map as Burnstones) where it follows the course of the Maiden Way, a Roman road.

Just before reaching the A689, I was overtaken by another PW walker, B&Bing with just a day pack. Apart from him, I didn't see anyone else all day.

After the A689, there was the odd waterlogged path and from just behind the cottage, Greenriggs, to the end of the access land at Black Hill, a couple of miles, the path, such as it was, was frequently under water and was quite hard going.

Upon reaching Greenhead, I went to s campsite I had used before and shown on the OS map at 656655 but it is no longer operating. I then went into the Greenhead Hotel in the village and paid £5.00 for camping adjacent to their hostel just over the road. Keith had already arrived but had lost the path near Wain Rigg and was a bit fed up.

A good weather day but windy.

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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 13 - Greg's Hut to Alston

Started walking 7.20am
Distance walked 10 miles
Arrived 12 noon

It was still raining when I woke before 5am. John and Mina were quickly up and gone by 5.30. I was able to be more leisurely. My clothes had virtually dried; just wet socks and shoes but the discomfort was momentary.

By the time I set off, the rain had virtually stopped and I rather enjoyed the four miles down to Garrigill. Since I last walked that way, the rough stony track had had a layer of small chippings laid - a great improvement. I stopped at the Post Office and shop where I bought a take out coffee. So unlike Costa, etc. It was instant coffee but it came in a pot on a tray with a mug, milk and sugar with the suggestion that I take it round the corner to consume in the church porch.

The pub, the George and Dragon remains closed and is up for sale.

The walk into Alston alongside the South Tyne was pleasant and undemanding. The YH was closed until 5pm but just as I was about to secrete my pack in some nearby trees, the warden arrived and let me put it inside. He'd probably be able to open up at 4.30.

Thus unburdened, I headed into town. Meths was bought at the garage on the A686 Haydon Bridge road yards from the centre of the town. I then bought some seam sealant as I think rain is getting in through the seams as I can't find any tear or hole.

At the little baker's shop I bought a steak and vegetable pie, still warm. It was delicious for lunch. A vegetable curry wrap did for part of my evening meal, cold, and I've rarely tasted anything so good.

At the deli, I bought my favourite thick Stockans Orkney oatcakes and some Cheshire and Lancashire cheeses - that's lunch sorted for the next couple of days.

The Co-op then provide milk and a couple of evening meals and a few other bits and bobs.

I bought a paper and made my way over to Blueberry's tearoom to see how long I could make a pot of tea last. In fact, I ordered a cream tea. I was about to go when Peg and John came in for lunch so I had another pot of tea whilst chatting to them. Their B&B is at Garrigill but they intend walking to Greenhead tomorrow. This is also my destination.

Returning to the YH, I met Keith who is also doing the PW but staying in YHs and B&Bs. I suspect he'll be faster than me tomorrow.

I used the sealant on the trousers and hope it works. Some laundry has been done so my tent and all clothing should be dry by the morning.

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Monday, 5 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 12 - Dufton to Greg's Hut

Started walking 6.20am
Distance walked 9 miles
Arrived 11.45am

Very light rain on waking at 5am. Breakfasted and packed away and was off early. The rain had stopped for the time being. A pleasant walk till the start of the access land but as I started climbing the rain started, the mist came down and the wind started howling across from the side. I was reminded that my overtrousers let in water even though I reproofed them before leaving home.

Knock Old Man was the first recognisable cairn. Visibility was not great so I took a grid ref and took a compass bearing. I did this more than once over the next couple of hours. I was passed by a couple who were at Jim's campsite last night.

In time, the tarmaced road to the radio station on Great Dun Fell was reached. There is a path marked on the map and I went a little way but it was going to be slow going. I cut across to the road, from the top of which it was easy to pick up the PW again.

On to Little Dun Fell. Some of the path was stone slabbed. Eventually, out of the mist appeared the large cross-shaped shelter on Cross Fell. I took a bearing for the track I wanted further ahead but lost the path. I just carried on in more or less the right direction downhill and picked up the track. Turning east, Greg's Hut loomed out of the mist. Already here were James and Mina, the couple who had passed me earlier. They are running/walking Lands End to John o'Groats. I got out of my wet clothes, under my quilt and made a cup of tea. Jim seems to have made an even earlier start than me and had booked in to Alston YH.

We are here for the night. There doesn't seem much point going out in to the foul weather again. Early tomorrow, I'll do the ten miles to Alston and hope the YH has a bed. The time has passed by very pleasantly. Both James and Mina have made unsuccessful attempts to light the stove. I am now very warm under my quilt, having eaten. Unfortunately, the weather forecast isn't good for tomorrow.

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Sunday, 4 June 2017

Pennine Way 11 - Middleton in Teesdale to Dufton

Started walking 7am
Distance walked 21 miles
Arrived 6.30pm

A fine start to the day. The PW followed the south bank of the Tees for a few miles, passing first Low Force and then High Force 1.5 miles further on. No-one else was about. Jim had left half an hour before me.

At Widdy Bank Farm, I could see rain heading my way so I quickly donned waterproofs. It was, in fact, a very heavy hail storm. I crouched in the lee of a stone wall for five minutes until the worst was over.

Continuing to follow the Tees towards Falcon Clints, there were some tricky rock downfalls to negotiate. Rounding a corner I espied the rushing waters of Cauldron Snout a took a couple of photos. I could see from the map that I had to get to the top of the torrent to a bridge. This involved a rather hairy clamber up a rock face which I didn't particularly enjoy but there was no alternative.

video

There followed a long metalled farm road leading to a grassy path which eventually led to the amazing sight of High Cup Nick where I stopped for a breather. I'd seen this before and many photos but it still took my breath away. I took a short break here.

The descent to Dufton was about three miles and I am camped at Brow Top Farm. I found Jim at the main site in the village for a chat about our day. Today has been a day of wide open spaces.

Tomorrow's forecast is for heavy rain much of the day. Cross Fell is likely to be a challenge and it is 19.5 miles to Alston. I may cut the day short somewhere.

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Saturday, 3 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 10 - Between Keld and Tan Hill to Middleton in Teesdale

Started walking 7am
Distance walked 19 miles
Arrived 6.15pm

Woke to a clear morning; the forecast was good. It was an easy mile and a half to Tan Hill. I took a chance that the path across Sleightholme Moor wouldn't be too boggy. It has a reputation. It started off very well and was generally OK. Only in a couple of stretches did the path disappear and become wet. It was a lovely moorland walk of three miles or so. Plenty of curlew and lapwings wheeling overhead, June being in the middle of the ground nesting season.

I stopped for lunch a short distance after the A66 underpass. Magnificent views. I made really good time. Descending to Blackton Reservoir, I went by Hannah's Meadow, named after Hannah Hauxwell of nearby Lower Birk Hatt Farm, who featured in a TV documentary about her life in the 1980s. She lived without running water and electricity.

I then followed field paths before dropping down to Grassholme Reservoir. By the stile where path crossed the B road south of Wythes Hill was a coolbox contains chilled bottles of water for walkers so I helped myself. It was tap water but so welcome. A little further on was a house with a tuck shop in a wooden stand by the gate (I bought some flapjack) and use of a water tap.

Some undulating field paths and then a long gradual descent led me to Daleview Caravan Park which has a small area set aside for campers. It's a bit midgy and backs on to a road but welcome nevertheless. Here I met Jim from Lowestoft, also walking the PW. He retired to his tent early to listen to football on his radio but promptly went to sleep - I may need earplugs!

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Friday, 2 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 9 - Hawes to between Keld and Tan Hill

Started walking 7.30am
Distance walked 15 miles
Arrived 5.15pm

Rain was forecast so I set off in waterproofs. It had rained in the night. Out of Hawes, a local recommended an alternative path to Hardraw. As I toiled uphill out of Hardraw, it started to rain and continued for some time but it was never heavy. This was the long slow ascent towards Great Shunner Fell, at 700m, the highest point on the Pennine Way. It was swathed in most so I didn't linger. On the way down the other side, I encountered about a dozen American walkers apparently walking the Coast to Coast. What they were doing on the Pennine Way heading south when the C2C heads east from Keld, some six miles away wasn't clear but they didn't seem concerned.

Descending to Thwaite, the PW climbed up quite steeply. I obviously took a wrong path past Kisdon because after about half a mile, it petered out at a wall. I was hailed by two walkers some way up the hillside. They had made the same mistake. I clambered up and managed to get over a wall on to the right path.

It was a clear path towards Keld, but quite stony and difficult at times. I didn't go into the village but headed over the river to gain the higher ground again. A level path skirted Black Moor towards Tan Hill. I was aiming for a particular wild camp but I could see that there was a camper van parked exactly where I wanted to be so I stopped short and pitched on a wide flat area. I have just about enough water.

A good day, dry since late morning and sunny at times. In my new shoes, my feet are very happy.

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Pennine Way Day 8 - Rest day in Hawes

I decided on a day off to let my feet recover. Mike went on his way. There's no holding him back. Thanks very much Mike for your company the last week.

I went into Hawes and bought milk and orange juice. Also some blister patches and various other blister remedies. Frank turned up mid morning for a cup of tea and brought with him today's Times which I'd meant to buy but had forgotten. Amazing telepathy on his part.

In the afternoon I went in to the Wensleydale Creamery shop and sampled most of their cheeses, buying a piece of the Wensleydale Special Reserve.

I met Frank for a meal at the fish and chip café. He had decided to head back home as his blisters were so painful but with the intention of resuming the PW later in the year. I enjoyed your company very much, Frank.

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Thursday, 1 June 2017

Pennine Way Day 7 - Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes

Started walking 7.15am
Distance walked 15 miles
Arrived 4pm

A lovely clear morning, such a change from yesterday. Three of us set off - me, Mike and Frank. Frank was suffering badly from blisters and said he would be slow but was keen to have company for the day. It was a long gradual pull up to the higher ground. Once up, the walking was relatively level. Frank was clearly suffering so I told Mike to go on ahead, so he did like a spring released. I was happy to plod along with Frank and he was good company.

At Cam End, the Dales Way and the PW met - I was here two years ago on my North of England Way coast to coast walk.

Whilst stopped for lunch enjoying the fine view over Cam Houses, Peg and John from Iowa came along. Frank had gone on, preferring to keep moving. I caught up with him later and we walked together down into Gayle. I found here the accommodation for me and Mike (Frank was to camp at Bainbridge Ings campsite). My new shoes had been delivered as well as my resupply parcel.

We three met for a meal at the Fountain Hotel - I had liver, bacon and onions which was very good.

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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Pennine Way Day 6 - Malham to Horton-in-Ribblesdale

Started walking 10.20am
Distance walked 13 miles
Arrived 5.45pm

My feet were bad in the night. Going out to the YH loo in the early hours, I couldn't put my left foot flat to the floor because of blister discomfort.

At breakfast, I told Mike to go on without me and I would make my own way at my own speed. I went online and ordered a pair of Inov8 trail runners which I hope will be OK. They are to be delivered to Hawes. The Merrell Moab Ventilators I am wearing have not proved successful. I have always been impressed with Inov8s.

I set off late but the weather was reasonable for the laborious climb up the side of Malham Cove. Having dosed myself up with Neurofen, I was very surprised at how OK my feet were although I had taken care with the dressings.

I took my time but kept up a reasonable pace. The path was clear all day and I met no-one after Malham Tarn.

Most swept across the path and rain started as I began the descent from Fountains Fell but I made good progress. I missed out the ascent of Pen-y-Ghent and took the path down to Horton where, as I opened the gate, I was hit my an absolute hooly of a wind. This continued for quite a while as I made my way down for the first mile or so but the wind then gradually dropped and the rain stopped. Not a bad day, considering. Am camped at Holme Farm campsite.

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Monday, 29 May 2017

Pennine Way Day 5 - Ickornshaw to Malham

Started walking 7am
Walked 18 miles
Arrived 5pm

Off early; the rain from overnight had stopped. We passed through Lothersdae, noting that the Hare and Hounds was shut, although it was only 8.30. Coffee would have been nice.

We climbed up to cross Carleton and Elslack Moors, both easy walking. Our snack stop was in Thornton-in-Craven but it had nothing else to offer. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal was joined for a short stretch at East Marton, but we pressed on to Gargrave. In the absence of an open cafe, we had a bite to eat at The Old Swan.

Double arched bridge at East Marton
We then had six miles to cover to reach Malham. The forecast the day before yesterday had been for heavy rain today so we had booked in to Malham YH. The rain didn't materialise but we have proper beds for a change. Here was Frank who I met last week on Sheffield station.

Painkillers have been helpful today for the blisters.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Pennine Way Day 4 - Callis Bridge to Ickornshaw

Started walking 7.15am
Walked 15 miles
Arrived 5.30pm

Woke to a light rain at 5am but it had cleared by the time we left. We were able to take a short cut back to the PW. The somewhat overgrown narrow walled path dropped down to cross Colden Water over a "clapper" bridge.

Clapper bridge
A steep climb brought us to the amazing May's Shop at Highgate Farm where bought a few essential foody bits and bobs. The Way then went over a clear moorland path to Gorple Lower Reservoir, past two other reservoirs and then past the ruin of Top Withins where had a lunch break. Being Sunday, there were a fair number of folk walking up from Haworth.

There was a steep climb up from Ponden Reservoir to more moorland. The path across Ickornshaw Moor was stone slabbed - what a change from my last visit in 1975 when the weather was foul and my companion and I floundered across - it was plain awful.

Ickornshaw Moor

We are camped at Squirrel Wood Camping - in a large garden, excellent facilities and the company of the larger than life owner, Ady.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Pennine Way Day 3 - Standedge to Callis Bridge

Started walking 7am
Distance walked 15 miles
Arrived 6pm

Stirring at our now usual 5am, all was quiet but there was a thick fog, cool but still quite mild.

We took the path a little way up the road by the Great Western Inn, although I was reminded later that there is an unofficial path that avoids a road walk just opposite the Carriage House.

Cotton grass

After half a mile or so, we rejoined the Pennine Way, also for a while the Oldham Way as well, as they follow the same route. We were on a clear high level path, passing over Millstone Edge with lovely clear views westwards, small villages and the odd reservoir. Crossing the A640 Huddersfield Road, the views continued until we dropped down to cross over the M62 bridge.

Climbing again, we reached the Aiggin Stone, an old guide post for travellers 600 years old - the plaque alongside it was somewhat ambiguous.




We stopped for refreshment at the White House. Here, we met Darren from Cheshire, also walking a section of the PW. He had also been camping at our previous two nights locations.

We then had a long stretch of level walking alongside reservoirs, being diverted around Warland Reservoir, which had been drained and works were going on. Stoodley Pike monument came into view in the distance. Along the way, we met Peg and John from Iowa, B&B-ing the PW. We shall doubtless see more of them. We went up the 39 unlit steps of Stoodley Pike. Views all round from the viewing balcony were superb but we needed to move on for the long descent to the Calder Valley just outside Hebden Bridge. The ascent the other side was steep, winding and long and we were glad to reach our planned camp at Badger Fields Farm. Rain is coming on and it is quite blustery. I have made good use of the extra guys I made for the tent!


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Friday, 26 May 2017

Pennine Way Day 2 - Crowden to Standedge

Started walking 7.15am
Distance walked 13 miles
Arrived 4pm

Another fine morning with the promise of heat and an absolutely clear sky. It was a long gradual haul, although with some steep sections, up to Laddow Rocks. Here the path was narrow and cut into the hillside with some dramatic drops to our right. Care was needed. We stopped for second breakfast and coffee at Crowden Great Brook.

The view at second breakfast
After that, much of the Way was paved as it wound its way over moorland up to Black Hill, which is no longer black. Over the years, it has been replanted and is now very pleasant, although it would be pretty wild at other times of the year.

Black Hill

We went on to the A635 at Wessenden Head but were disappointed that the expected snack van wasn't there. We stopped for lunch by Wessenden Head Reservoir when we came across a wooden bench seat - not to be passed up.

There was a steep descent and immediate ascent near the southern end of Butterley Reservoir.



Then it was quite level walking, paved in parts, alongside Black Moss Reservoir to meet the Standedge Trail where we went left to the A62. A verge walk brought us to the Carriage House where we are camped at the rear. We have enjoyed some Turkish food. I camped and ate here on my LEJOG in 2009.

I have some rather painful blisters but these have been dealt with for the second night running. Let's hope they improve tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Pennine Way Day 1 - Edale to Crowden

Started walking 7.30am
Distance walked 16 miles
Arrived 6.30pm

Ready for the off - note the hair - shorn to a no 3
At the foot of Jacob's Ladder

Today was clear and sunny all day, quite hot at times. It started gently with a level walk across fields, passing through the little hamlet of Barber Booth before arriving at the foot of Jacob's Ladder, a stone stepped path, man made. The ascent wasn't difficult, just a steady ascent, quite steep. We stopped at the top in the only bit of shade available for a snack and I brewed some coffee.

Once we were on the Kinder plateau, the walking was quite easy to Kinder Downfall. There was very little water there and we were able to take a little shortcut across the stream. The clear path continued along the edge of the plateau before arriving at a steep stony descent and immediate ascent to Mill Hill. Here the PW turned right along a clear slabbed path over Featherbed Moss to cross the A57. We stopped for lunch just past Doctor's Gate, the course of a Roman Road.

The way to Bleaklow Head, unmistakeable with its large cairn and pole sticking out, was quite long and we stopped for a brief photo shoot before pressing on and then bearing west.

Bleaklow
The long descent to Torside and its reservoir seemed to go on forever. We had some lovely clear views but the narrow path was quite rocky and undulating. Once across the end of the reservoir the path entered some woodland and then a narrow road to the Camping and Caravanning Club site at Crowden. Excellent showers. Today has been long and we were quite tired but a good day nonetheless. There were a fair number of other walkers, mainly just out for the day.


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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Pennine Way Day 0 and a half at Edale

Having brought my Wainwright Pennine Way Companion vintage 1975 with me, I decided on a walk this morning along the old course of the PW. This involved a rocky clamber up Grindslow Clough to the Kinder plateau. It certainly got the leg muscles working. The day being sunny and clear, the views were pretty good. There was a stone slab path and so I assumed that the old PW route to Kinder Downfall had been made easier but this isn't the case. The old route continued unpaved and although it was tempting to follow it, time didn't allow. Instead, the stone slabs took me up to Grindslow Knoll and it was then a long descent back to Edale for lunch and a lazy afternoon. I found I had a phone signal on the descent and ascertained that Mike is at Castleton, in the neighbouring valley.


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Pennine Way Day 0 - Home to Edale

I caught the 488 bus to Banbury which gave me 30 minutes to wait at Banbury station. The bus station is less than five minutes walk from the rail station. The train arrived just a couple of minutes late. I made my way to my seat and immediately a head came round from the seat in front with a perky "Hello Geoff". It was Howard Kelly, fellow Backpackers Club member, travelling up from further south with his lady friend, Audrey, to walk St. Cuthbert's Way. The journey passed in no time. I got off at Sheffield. The last time I had been here was 1975 when I started the Pennine Way for my first ever backpack.

On the station, also waiting for the train to Edale, I got into conversation with Frank, also planning to walk the Pennine Way, but with two packs, the larger one (and it was massive) was being transported for him each day by Brigantes. Neither pack had any food in them, nor means of cooking, so I really don't know what he had packed. Anyway, he was good company and no doubt our paths will cross from time to time during the next three weeks.

I pitched at Cooper's Farm campsite where other BPC members had arrived for a mid week meet so it was nice to be with friends. I now have to wait until Mike turns up either tomorrow or Thursday. There is no phone signal here so I have no way of making contact with him.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Pennine Way 2017

A long held plan has been to backpack the Pennine Way in one trip. My first ever multi-day backpacks were over 1975, 1976 and 1977 when, with a friend, I did the PW. I described these in an earlier post.

Since then, I have covered sections of the PW but now I have a great opportunity coming up next week when I join Mike Menzel at Edale. He is currently walking from Lands End to John o'Groats and blogging at http://off4ahike.wordpress.com. I shall wait until he reaches Edale and we shall then set off together. I have just about everything packed/ready to pack. There are still a few decisions to make regarding kit. I had planned to use a Laser Competition 1 tent without the inner but I am now wavering and thinking I shall take the inner. It was fine last month for the few nights I had in the Peak District but I am now thinking of windy nights when I could get showered with condensation and my down quilt wouldn't like it. On the other hand, maybe I should take a bivy bag instead of the inner (an Alpkit Hunka). It's a little heavier than the inner but it would double up as an survival bag.

Food - I shall take five days of food and pick up a resupply parcel at Hawes. For the last week or so, I shall rely on buying food as I go. Food can be heavy, even though much of what I will be carrying has been dehydrated. My food bag for the first five days weighs 2.5kg and this is not insignificant. However, I will be eating the food I want and I know, largely, what has gone into it. My pack, including 500ml of meths, but minus food and water, will be just over 6kg or 13.5lb so that's not too bad. Given that there are shops regularly along the way, I could do it differently and maybe I should on a future trip. It really comes down to personal choice.

I've got some last minute tweaking to do!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Backpackers Club Annual Gathering 2017

After an uneventful train journey to Manchester and then changing for the Manchester - Sheffield train, I arrived at Edale mid afternoon. I debated whether to immediately start walking south and eventually find somewhere to wild camp overnight. In the end, laziness triumphed and I booked in at Coopers Campsite. I went for a wander a mile or so up the old Pennine Way route towards Grindsbrook Clough and back again. It was a lovely sunny afternoon. After supper, I turned in early to get a good night's sleep.




Setting off at 6.15 next morning, I took the lane, and then track, up the side of Mam Tor. There was no-one else around which suited me just fine. After a couple of miles, I joined the Limestone Way, which I was to follow for the next two days. Signposts made the going easy and the countryside was very pleasant. I stopped for breakfast just into Hay Dale.


At Millers Dale I stopped to pass the time of day with Grace, who was following a round Derbyshire route, over ten days, being picked up by her husband each afternoon and being delivered back the next day. she obviously thought I looked in need of nourishment and gave me a back of nuts & raisins and some dried figs.

I arrived at the Bull i' th' Thorn pub in the afternoon to pitch for the night. Here, I met George Crawforth, a fellow BPC member as another club member, Dave Longden, had arranged a walk-in the the Summer Gathering from here. Other backpackers turned up as time went on.



Next morning, Howard Kelly and I set off together, going through Monyash (of course, stopping at the café there for coffee and a bacon and egg roll) and then making our way to Youlgrave where we found the Peak Feast Bakery. We sat outside scoffing a homity pie each. Really delicious.

We then walked on to our night's stop at the Miners Standard at Winster. I'd stayed here a couple of times before and it is popular with the Backpackers Club. Yet more Club members had arrived.

Howard and I continued along the Limestone Way the next day, chatting as we went and arrived at Parwich (Foufinside Farm) for the BPC Summer Gathering. Quite a few tents had already been pitched and many more appeared as the day went on and yet more came the next day. It was good to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. A couple of traders put in a welcome appearance, Backpackinglight and Mountain Trails

The weekend as a whole was excellent. On the Sunday, Sean Putnam and I walked over to Tissington and enjoyed sitting outside with a pot of tea watching the world go by. This was a good trial run for the Pennine Way next month. Carrying a full pack for the first time since the op was fine, although to cut down weight, I shall be using just the fly of my Laser Competition tent.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Leaving tomorrow

Off to the Peak District tomorrow, the first bit of backpacking since "the incision" in January. Walking from Edale to Parwich for the Backpackers Club Summer Gathering next weekend, maybe meeting up with others along the way. The weather forecast seems to be generally dry but not that warm.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Update

I'm aware that I haven't posted for some time, last July, in fact. Life has been interesting since then, to say the least. I finished gainful employment on 30 June 2016. Three weeks later, my wife and I took off to Scandinavia for some eleven weeks in our camper van. We blogged the journey every day. A work in progress is a combination of both our blogs, with photographs, which I am gradually putting together - see http://scandijourney2016.blogspot.co.uk/

About four weeks later, although feeling fine, I became aware that I had a health issue and, to cut a long story short, on 11 January 2017, I had a cancerous left kidney removed. I am now getting back to full strength although my surgeon advised against a backpack of the Cumbria Way for the last week of this month. I have, reluctantly, taken his advice but he assures me that I will be fighting fit to tackle the Pennine Way towards the end of May. Training is now starting. I have started back at the gym, taking it a little easy and I am doing a few day walks.

I have a friend, Mike, from Germany, who is planning to walk Land's End to John o'Groats (his blog is at https://off4ahike.wordpress.com/) and I plan to join him at Edale around 23 May. He and I haven't walked together before so I don't know about his walking pace. I'm sure we'll get on, though. I have bought a rail ticket to Edale for 22 May and, assuming Mike hasn't arrived at Edale before then, I shall wait until he turns up.

I first walked the Pennine Way over three separate weeks in 1975, 1976 and 1977, armed with 1:50,000 maps and, more importantly, Wainwright's Pennine Way Companion, which alternately cheered us up and depressed us along the way. I still have this rather battered book. 1975 was a wet week and the first couple of days were horrendous. That was the time before flagstones were placed over the worst bits of bog and quagmire over Kinder Plateau and beyond. My companion and I floundered through the seemingly endless peat groughs, often sinking up to our knees. It was truly awful. I also remember waking up in the dark hours one morning to find that our tent was a couple of inches deep in rainwater. The first week took us to Gargrave.

Being gluttons for punishment, we returned in 1976 for another week. Those of you of a certain age will recall that the in summer of 1976 the UK experienced a severe drought. Consequently, we got through a lot of sun cream and there was very little water to be found along the route but, at least, there was no rain.

The final week was in 1977 when we tackled the final stretch from near Bowes to Kirk Yetholm. It was another dry week but, unfortunately, my companion suffered badly from blisters and left me at Byrness to finish on my own. He left me with the rather heavy tent but I just about managed. My abiding memory of that week was planning to camp at Windy Gyle. I was quite parched with just about enough water to get me through the night. I met some walkers who were coming down who gave me some orange squash that they had spare which I carefully carried in a mug. Unfortunately, while I was pitching the tent, an inquisitive sheep came too close and knocked it over. During the week I possibly drank some suspect water and arrived home with a tummy bug.

Black Hill

Me, looking very stylish!

Camping on Windy Gyle
Evidence I reached the end


 Although it seems ridiculous looking back, the clothing I wore was totally unsuitable. Denim jeans and Tuf work boots, although not the steel toe cap variety. They gave me terrible blisters and let in water.

Nevertheless, those three weeks remained in my memory for years. Since then, I've walked parts of the Pennine Way, notably Dufton to Bellingham in 2007 and Marsden to Horton-in-Ribblesdale as part of my LEJOG in 2009. This year will hopefully be the first time I have walked it from end to end.