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 and 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.

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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