Walk Day 66 – Stonehhaugh to Bellingham

Friday 20th July 2018

7.06 miles today. 698.65 miles total.

The midges were out in force this morning and I could hear people trying to get away from them and lots of complaints about being bitten, so I made a point of covering up completely, including midge net, before coming emerging from my tent.

The rain was just starting as I left the campsite for the walk through the forest (lots of flies) and across the moor.

I was carrying the full pack again, but without extra water, and didn’t really notice it at normal weight.

At my lunch stop I tried to photograph a stoat running under the gate. I can only just see it on my phone though…

The walk was only just over 7 miles so was relatively easy.

This is the view from Shitlington Crags.

It’s downhill to Bellingham from here.

On the way I passed Horneystead farm that welcomes walkers in a unique way.

Shelter from the rain, free drinks, snacks etc, donations welcome but not required. Chairs to sit on, shelter, toilet, shower… I’d heard of it but hadn’t expected to find it.

It was fun to see names of other walkers that I recognised on the visitor list

and to say hello to a lovely black dog, and get a snack for the journey. I left a donation and imagine most people do, but what a great idea.

I’m at Bellingham Camping and Caravan Club site, pitched in my own little area

with a decorative tree and a picnic table, and it’s all very clean and comfortable.

This site has good additional facilities for wet backpackers like me.

Tomorrow is a rest day so time to do some more kit maintenance. My shoes are disintegrating – this repair didn’t last long,

and my tent poles are bent!

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Walk Day 65 – Haltwhistle to Stonehaugh

Thursday 19th July 2018

12.60 miles today. 691.50 miles total.

Haltwhistle is around an hour from where Leon and Lorna live. So a round trip to collect me yesterday, plus Lorna doing the same today plus a further excursion to drop my pack at the campsite was very generous.

They were also kind enough to reproof my jacket that, although relatively new, didn’t stay waterproof under the heavy rain on Monday. Thank you both.

Walking today reverted to standard Pennine Way. Up then down and repeat.

The first half was east along Hadrian’s Wall, and was accompanied by tourists and holidaymakers of all nationalities, and some splendid scenery.

Then I turned north and swapped the wall for alternating forest and moor.

And my first sight of these pretty cattle.

A final spooky walk through the dark forest brought me to the campsite.

Back to carrying my own pack tomorrow. I’ve enjoyed the two day break.

Walk Day 64 – Alston to Haltwhistle

Wednesday 18th July 2018

14 miles today. 678.90 miles total.

In complete contrast to the last few days the route today was flat and easy along the course of the old Alston to Haltwhistle railway.

There is a narrow gauge railway between Alston and Slaggyford,

but after that Sustrans have created cycle route 68.

Tony had delivered my rucksack to Haltwhistle for me so I was only carrying lunch and waterproofs. That made it possible to walk much faster and the miles flew by.

The viaduct at Lambley was quite spectacular.

I took lots of photographs of the wildflowers that had been allowed to thrive in the wide borders.

A change is as good as a rest and today has been refreshing.

Lorna and Leon have collected me from Haltwhistle so I have another night in a bed. Luxury.

Walk Day 63 – Cross Fell to Greg’s Hut

Tuesday 10th July 2018

1.5 miles today. 664.90 miles total.

Cross Fell is the highest peak in the Pennine Way and seems to have it’s own weather system.

When I woke in the morning it was not to the clear skies I’d hoped for but to more gusting mist and occasional light rain. I still couldn’t see to the next cairn – probably 40 metres east, and probably marking the line of the Pennine Way. Provided that ‘my’ cairn was unique.

That was one possible location. A double compass reading down and across the bits of slope I could see suggested I might be more than 50 metres east of the path. Visibility was around 30 feet. Which one to rely on? Could I test either of these and get back safely to the tent?

Inside the tent was warm, albeit damp, but I was safe and I had food, drink, a stove etc. Once outside, after donning my dripping waterproofs, I would get wet very quickly and have to keep moving to stay warm.

Finally making the call to Mountain Rescue was an emotional decision. Their app interrogated my phone and confirmed I was at the grid reference I’d given them. I now knew where I was.

By then my confidence had been eroded, not just by well-meant but negative comments about this section of the walk beforehand, but by the GPS locking problems of the previous evening*. In theory it was possible to navigate out using the map and compass, but I had started to doubt my own ability.

MR kindly agreed to come and walk me off the top to Greg’s Hut. Apparently I am Morag the rescue dog’s first find – a human in a tent that was invisible to the crew.

Kerry and James, and Matt with Morag (with her sleigh bells) were a welcome addition to a chilly morning. They lent me an extra warm jacket and gave me chocolate, then helped strike the tent and pack before we all walked the last section to Greg’s Hut.

The team members were reassuring about the decisions I’d made and were also good company.

While the MR team packed their Land Rover I went into Greg’s Hut and signed the visitor book.

It was too late to be starting my planned walk by then so the team gave me a lift into Alston. Morag dried out a little and allowed her ears to be tickled.

We arrived at Alston around 2pm where I found a cafe serving all-day breakfast and restocked my energy with food, tea and hot chocolate. I realised I felt very tired.

The plan was to meet Tony at 4pm so I walked down to Spar and did my shopping then round to our meeting point.

I’m staying with Tony and Jane in their home overlooking the Ayle valley. They have kindly washed the dripping clothes and helped me dry the tent and sleeping bag, so normal kit order is restored.

Tony and Jane’s home has a view of Cross Fell. In the afternoon light with high cloud it looks quite benign.**

Today’s unplanned rest day means I’ve missed a section of my walk. I’ll look at other options to walk between Middleton and Alston before October. It may not involve Greg’s Hut.

For now I’m very grateful to the MRT for their cheerful and encouraging help and will be donating to their work.

* Another correspondent reminded me of the difficulties we used to have with the early Garmin watches in poor weather.

** This was the same view next morning.

Walk Day 62 – Dufton to Cross Fell

Monday 16th July 2018

8 miles today. 663.40 miles total.

Weather is a major part of my world, and when I left Dufton I was wearing waterproofs, having packed a wet tent. The low cloud of earlier was rising up the hills and walking was cool and comfortable.

I also carried extra water, reasoning that the hot weather meant I would drink more, and that many streams might be dry.

The low cloud over the hill tops continued to lift as I walked and the views from yesterday started to reappear.

I was surprisingly tired as I walked, presumably due to the extra 2.5kg of water. At one point I even took my pack off to get over a high step stone stile.

The climb up Green Fell was steep and seemed to take a long time. As I neared the top the clouds started to roll past and I could see rain falling not too far away.

And then the cloud came down around me and the rain started.

Great Dun Fell was very windy and I steered clear of the path along the edge of the scree slopes. It looked a little too exciting for my tastes.

By this time visibility was so low that I was taken aback by the sight of a fence with transmission towers behind it that was suddenly revealed when the mist swirled.

Then more downhill and more uphill to Little Dun Fell.

The path was clearly marked so I carried on past a variety of cairns, ready for the slog up Cross Fell.

And then the difficult navigation began because once I reached the top I couldn’t identify the Pennine Way path.

I can’t remember which cairn this was, but you get the idea.

My phone GPS gave me conflicting reference points, so I navigated by compass bearing and found the large cross shaped shelter next to the OS GPS point.

Feeling confident I set off in the required direction, but all I found was soggy bog, and when I got to the exit point there seemed to be too many stones to signal a safe path.

Recalling the previous scree slopes, and Cross Fell contour lines are even closer together, I wasn’t willing to guess my route. So I walked around the perimeter track looking for the path. My phone navigation was not giving accurate information so I lost confidence in it. Maybe it was affected by the weather?

By this time it was raining hard and visibility had reduced to the point where a cairn would loom out of the mist but with no clue as to which cairn (none are marked on the map) and what it signified.

After a couple of hours of exploring around the edge of the top, finding lots of scree-type edges, getting cold as well as wet, and unable to see more than a few feet I decided to apply common sense and make shelter.

I found a distinctive cairn that had a different shape to most and pitched my tent using rocks where tent pegs wouldn’t work, crawled inside dripping over everything, and set about drying me, the inside of the tent, and putting on every item of dry clothing I had left. Wrapped in my sleeping bag and foil mat I used the internet (phone reception was fine) to contact the hive mind of a group of supporters with a range of skills, many outdoors.

Their support was reassuring, and I managed to get a reasonable night’s sleep.

And while I slept one of the group found ‘my’ cairn on a satellite image and gave me an aerial photo and a grid reference. How amazing is that?

Walk Day 61 – Langdon Beck to Dufton

Sunday 15th July 2018

12.70 miles. 655.40 miles total

Langdon Beck Youth Hostel has a notice in the dining room that reads, “EX CINERE RESURREXI” which leads me to think it was rebuilt in 1965 after a fire. If you know the history of it, do please tell me.

Along with a few well-separated houses it is set in wild moorland and has no passing trade. It does, however have a laundry, and a new manager who is working hard to be hospitable. This is the view from the front window at 7am.

What’s that? You can see hills? Dufton is over those hills.

But first more walking along the bank of the River Tees.

Four stiles and two gates led me to the first scrambling of the day.

There were two boulder fields like this. The path was clearly marked by the shiny edges of the stones worn by boots of previous hikers.

And then I heard the roar of Cauldron Snout.

It is spectacular.

After taking my photographs I looked for the path.

There isn’t one, and the only way is up. So I scrambled again, conscious that a false move could be dangerous. It focuses the mind and I made it safely to the top, rejoined the path and carried on.

The long road across the moorland eventually led me to the second treat of the day

High Cup Nick where I sat for a while to admire the view.

Then a long descent into Dufton where I’ve camped in a caravan park, with rabbits.

A huge thank you to Vivienne and her husband. I arrived late afternoon and they welcomed me and showed me where to pitch my tent. I needed to buy milk and bread but the nearest shop is in Appleby. Vivienne the arrived at my tent with exactly what I needed. How kind.

Walk Day 60 – Middleton in Teesdale to Langdon Beck

Saturday 14th July 2018

8.51 miles today. 642.70 miles total.

A gentle stroll along the bank of the River Tees. Not.

Today was supposed to be a bit shorter to allow me to recover after a couple of harder days. But this is the Pennine Way and if there is a hill one must ascend it.

At several points the path was above the height of the trees growing at the water’s edge. And every field wall had a stile that required me to climb or scramble, so it was very hard on my knees.

But that’s the downside. Another hot and sunny day with just a little shade meant I was very glad to be alongside a river, and to enjoy the local artwork.

Dangling my feet in the water at Low Force, and eating my lunch at High Force were treats that made me smile.

The views were different to yesterday but just as worthy of photographs.

I’m at Langdon Beck Youth Hostel tonight and pleased to discover a washing machine and tumble drier. Simple pleasures like clean clothes make such a difference to morale ‘on the road.’ Or even the Pennine Way.

Walk Day 59 – Bowes to Middleton in Teesdale

Friday 13th July 2018.

11.78 miles today. 634.19 miles total.

The Old Armoury campsite looks like a labour of love by Anthony, the owner. He is lavishing time and energy on it. It is basic, with drinking water, facilities to empty a chemical toilet,

and a composting toilet. It was clean and well presented, and the ground had enough flat areas for me to pitch and sleep comfortably.

I enjoyed my stay, and thank you Anthony for your support for my walk by not charging me.

There is too much to write about today’s walk so I’ll stick to some highlights.

Finding a sign that let me know I’d travelled too far across unmarked moorland.

Discovering where I ‘should’ have been.

Filtering water to drink.

Maureen and her husband who stopped and chatted and gave me a donation for PCRF.

The barn owl that came over a dry stone wall right in front of me, and continued the silent low-level flight over the meadow.

The stoat crossing the road.

Hannah’s farm and meadow.

More animals.

Neville, stopping me to supply an ice lolly and a bottle of cold water because ‘by this stage of the walk everyone is hot and knackered.’ So true. I managed to miss both footpaths and Neville’s recommended bridle path to the camp site.

The man at the campsite who did my shopping for me.

And of course the views.

I’m staying at Daleview campsite tonight.

Walk Day 58 – Keld to Bowes

Thursday 12th July 2018

13.15 miles today. 622.41 miles total.

Rukin’s campsite has free hot showers and a shop. Both useful to remember.

Thank you Barbara Rukin for your donation to PCRF, and for your help with my shopping.

A group of Americans were leaving the town at the same time as me. They were doing the Coast to Coast walk in comparative comfort with hotels and baggage transfer. Our paths diverged just after this waterfall.

One of the first people I met after that was MM from yesterday. We played tortoise and hare all day.

My first stop was Tan Hill Inn

where I signed the visitor’s book and ate lunch.

The snowplough tells a story.

Then it was off across more moorland,

with signs of fire damage.

As always, the views were constantly changing.

As I walked towards Bowes I could see the ruins of the old castle

and hoped my campsite, The Old Armoury, would be close to it.

It turned out that the armoury in question was more recent and had been used by the RAF. More on that tomorrow.

Walk Day 57 – Hardraw to Keld

Wednesday 11th July 2018

11.18 miles today. 609.26 miles total.

Around the corner from the bunkhouse and immediately uphill. And more uphill.

Going south to north up Shunner Fell means going up the shallow side, but there is a lot of it on a hot day.

It didn’t take long before I met more walkers; this time it was Alan and Jill chatting to someone whose name I didn’t ask, but I’ll call him Montane man. MM was travelling more slowly, but in a very determined manner. I walked for a short while with A and J, and discovered they know Jan, another end-to-ender. Small world.

The drought is obvious here with the peat bog cracking, dust in place of mud, and far fewer insects than normal. Most notably absent were the little white butterflies I’d seen so much of previously. The grouse were still running away and curlews protested my presence.

The view from the top was a stunning 360

but downhill started with the usual flagstones over the bog, but got progressively harder.

The final long slope down into Thwaite was rocky and hard underfoot and I was glad to find the cafe and rest while drinking tea.

At this point a German couple walking Coast to Coast appeared again with one of those, ‘You made it too. Phew, that was hard” comments. The barman said, “It is a bit rocky” and they left laughing at another example of British understatement.

And then, dear reader I tackled the last few miles to Keld, and I took the high path which was also narrow and rocky and bracken filled and midge infested and very hard work, but did give excellent views.

This is a ‘cow uss’. (Cow house, or barn to the RP speakers)

I eventually popped out of the path at Keld with the campsite right in front of me.