Chris and I had great food and a wet and misty night outside Britain’s highest pub but visibility improved as we got up and headed south towards into Swaledale and Wensleydale. The first few miles down to Keld were pretty straightforward – just one seemingly useless gate to negotiate before dropping down into the valley to Keld. We climbed the muddy, stony, tree rooted path up around the fell towards Thwaite as ominous dark clouds threatened rain around us and the wind grew stronger. We descended to Thwaite, got our heads down and began the 8 mile haul over Great Shunner Fell to Hardraw and Hawes. After a quick lunch at the top of the Fell we raced down into Hardraw to stay warm and stopped for a civilised afternoon tea and cake in the tea shop. We ambled the last 2 miles to our campsite at Hawes as the rains finally came before Cath returned with Betty, PJ and Suzie. I’m writing this on my second rest day in Hawes which has come at a great time. Almost half way or past half way already? I’ll only find out when I get to Lands End, I suppose. Anyway it was fantastic to share a couple of days with Chris we really had a good time!
Not many photos today – in fact just one!! Weather thoroughly gloomy all day drizzle and low cloud giving Chris and me a couple of directional problems over the moors out of Teesdale into Lunedale and Baldersdale then eventually to our only possible lunch shelter in the tunnel under the A66. It didn’t help either when my GPS froze so I had to disconnect the battery and lost my trip data. Today’s journey stats therefore based on my phone ViewRanger App. The conversation and banter kept our spirits up and we found a pink Manchester balloon some on Cotherstone Moor – possibly the furthest away one has been recovered?
We plodded on in the drizzle, choosing the road option to Tan Hill rather than the bog of Sleightholme Moor. Zero views and the long trudge made easier with Chris’s company as we talked our way eventually to the Inn and our camp for the night.
A long day but not much really to see. After an early rise, some foot surgery and a good breakfast I left Dufton feeling good and started the climb up towards High Cup, knowing there would be no view and not much visibility in the low cloud. I tried to persuade an Australian couple it would not be worth their hike but they insisted so we walked together up to the head of the valley and only knew we were there because the GPS told me. They turned round and headed off back to Dufton as I tracked along across the moor to cross Maize Beck before the long gravel track (worst path on the Pennine Way) along to Cauldron Snout and the scramble down the rocks next to the waterfall I had a short lunch stop as the weather was improving then started along the boulder strewn path next to the river to Langdon Beck where I met Chris and Claire Robinson Chris is walking with me now for the next 2 days to Hawes. The last few miles down to Middleton past High Force and Low Force was a good chance for us to catch up on plenty of things as we dodged a number of tourists on this popular stretch. Added another useless stile to my collection before we arrived at a very busy campsite, had a couple of beers and a pizza but resisted the urge to join in the bingo!!
I had a peaceful (earplug aided) night in the bothy, amazing comfortable and rose early to a beautiful morning. Did not quite see the sunrise but sleep was more important. The views from the Hut were superb – a great way to start the day despite my complaining feet.As I hauled myself up to and over the summit of Cross Fell, the views of the Great Dun Fell golf ball loomedEventually over Little Dun Fell (a story for another day) and Great Dun Fell to the lovely cairn called Knock Old Man and the long descent down into Dufton with the distant skyline of the Lake District ahead of meAs most walkers will testify, going downhill is harder than going up. I am no different. It was a slow and often painful descent with a number of stops to give my sore feet a break. I was more than happy to take my time and finally arrived in Dufton close to midday.I had decided to treat myself to the Youth Hostel to avoid the need for pitching my tent, even though the predicted bad weather still showed no sign of coming. No surprises then that for the second time on this trek the Hostel was full, so I am on Grandie caravan park, and a nice hot shower later settled in the village shop – The Post Box Pantry – charging my devices, enjoying a cheeseburger and getting this blog up to date! Tomorrow afternoon I’m looking forward to meeting my co-father-in-law Chris who will walk with me down to Hawes.
I set off today in trepidation – Cath was going home for a few days leaving me to tackle some of the toughest PW sections carrying a full pack. It was even hotter than Thursday and with pain in my left heel I was anticipating a tough day. I warmed up by crossing the Tyne river heading for the South Tyne Trail which goes along an old railway line and would hopefully give me more shade than using the PW. There was also a welcome breeze along the cuttings as I followed the track on its gradual upward gradient to Alston. As I approached Slaggyford I met a lovely couple Dave and Jacqui Bird who are walking LEJOG too but at a slight more practical pace, taking around 95 days for their adventure After a quick chat and exchange of details we parted and at some point I crossed from Northumberland into Cumberland, thinking only of sausages!!I dragged myself into Alston and devoured an omelette and two pints of iced cordial and lemonade in the Cumberland hotel, still not knowing where I was going to spend the night. My mind was made up when I saw the forecast of thunderstorms on Saturday – I wanted to be over Cross Fell and into Dufton before any bad weather came along. So I pushed on along the South Tyne river back on the PW, had a brief stop and refreshment in Garrigill I girded my loins, took several deep breaths and set off up the steep, winding and very long Corpse Road up to Cross Fell – my target was Greg’s Hut, a mountain bothy not far from the summit, and hopefully not full with other walkers. Over 2 hours later I arrived very weary to find I was going to be alone in this remote hillside hut.So I had some food, cleaned myself up and watched the sunset before settling down to sleep with the sound of the rushing wind outside, looking forward to a shorter day and some much needed rest on Saturday…maybe even the FA Cup Final!!!
Got to Dufton with a half day spare so time to catch up on the last 3 days. Woke up in Stonehaugh to be greeted by mist and hoards of midges invading my tent. Still got the bites on my legs as a reminder. Packed up and set off by which time the sun was blazing and I was hoping for as much shade as possible, knowing there would not be much on Hadrians Wall later. Rejoining the PW I found another useless stile for my collectionThe tramp through Redesdale Forest was shady but boggy, although perhaps not as bad as I had been told by people I met the previous day. Eventually it was out into the sunlight and across the last 2 miles to the Whin Sill and Hadrians Wall where I had arranged to meet friends Lynda and Ray with their dog Luna. It was hot and hard work up and down between the milecastles as we made our way along the wall to Cawfields, stopping for lunch at the famous sycamore gap.I walked the last 2 miles or so to Haltwhistle alone as Lynda and Ray went ahead in their car to the camp site where Cath was waiting with cold beers at the ready. All the more cause to celebrate as I passed the 500 mile mark today.
The Border Forest campsite was delightful in great weather – not so sure how nice it would be in a storm though!! Set off on good time today with the aim of covering the 14 miles to Bellingham by 1pm for a lunch stop and a change of bags. Cath has gone to meet friends and they will rejoin me tomorrow at Hadrians Wall so I’m camping for the first time on this walk.
I raced through the Kielder Forest and skipped a tricky section of the PW – a slightly longer but probably faster route with clear views across the moors, before ploughing across the heather covered Whitley Pike and then across farmland and down into Bellingham on time – but not before an encounter with some lively young cows. I’m not comfortable with those beasts at the best of times. It was t-shirt weather and thankfully quite breezy on the open moors but a bit oppressive when sheltered from the wind, especially after lunch carrying the extra weight. As I climbed out of Bellingham and down the pretty Shitlington Crags to Shitlington Hall farmhow I love that name – the perspiration went into overdrive. My spirits were revived by a phone call from a good friend to encourage me and I made good time to get to Stonehaugh in beautiful sunshine. The camp site was occupied by a couple with a large tent and soon after a girl arrived walking the PW alone. I settled down to my spicy sausage and pasta meal thinking of Cath, Lynda and Ray tucking into steak at some country pub! It’s a tough life.
Met a few PW walkers today – they all said I have some bog hopping to do tomorrow before I get to Hadrians Wall – looking forward to that!
Woke up to sunshine after a rainy night and got away quite late but was soon into the calf-warming climb up into the countryside and onto the Dere Street old roman road which used to connect York to Edinburgh. The path varied from stony farm track to uneven bridle path to country lane as it undulated its way towards the Cheviot Hills
With a last look at the Scottish skyline I climbed up into the hills and after a wrong turn following 2 walkers with a dog finally made it to the Pennine Way and back into England, then back into Scotland again twice before eventually crossing the border into Northumberland for good after almost 23 days and 460 miles full of amazing memories.
The Pennine Way memories started to return as I tramped the last few miles off the Cheviots and down the steep rocky, then muddy path into Byrness. Met some nice people today … a lady whose father had died from prostate cancer and two guys doing the Pennine Way who knew all about me before I even spoke! They had met Cath already at Byrness campsite – she really is doing an amazing job supporting me – things like that give me an enormous lift when I am tired. Tomorrow will be a tent night at Stonehaugh.
We escaped the “uncomfortable” campsite in Selkirk quite early and I spent the first part of today climbing up through the steep streets and out into the countryside. The first 7 miles were on country lanes and farm tracks as views of the Cheviot Hills appeared on the horizon I stopped in a lovely little village of Bowden and chatted briefly with some really nice people who asked about my charity. The next section was an uneven muddy path through farmland and woods bringing me out on a lane which led to St Cuthberts Way running parallel to the A68 but far enough away to not hear the traffic. The rain threatened but never broke more than a drizzle as I finally reached Teviotdale and crossed the river on a wobbly footbridgebefore covering the last few miles into Jedburgh. Overall quite a flat day, pace was good and I added another photo to my “Useless Stiles” collection!Tomorrow I leave Scotland – can’t really believe it…
Struggled to get up today but once I did it was all good (apart from episode 2 of the Arla yoghurt saga, that is – Strawberry flavour ok but yoghurt too thick for my liking). Started with a walk through the pretty town of Peebles then onto the Drovers Path up and up and up even more onto moorland over Kailzie and Kirkhope Law to 1800feet and great views aroundthen descended with a map misread via some farm tracks to TraquairAfter a brief rest I then embarked on the second climb of the day up to historic Minch Moor – sharing the Southern Upland Way for a few miles as the wind and rain arrived.The long path down brought me to Yarrowford with its nearby ruined castle where I met some friendly local people and it seemed they all knew very quickly the reason for my visit. A few miles later I crossed a nice little footbridge over Ettrick Water before the last couple of miles on a minor road into Selkirk and camp at the leisure centre – there are not many people here and we do feel a little vulnerable…Enjoyed the walk today although it was quite tough. Tomorrow is my last full day in Scotland!