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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