Pennine Way 2014 – Day Sixteen

Friday 29th August: Mounthooley to Kirk Yetholm – 6 miles

Breakfast was just as good as the dinner last night. I had a five minute chat with the warden (about her fell running – I think she runs marathons in her sixties – and the the imminent Scottish referendum), settled up for the bed and board and left for the last day of my walk. I climbed up the west side of College Burn Valley, opposite the bunkhouse.

Up to the Schil

The climb was hard work – it was 200 metres up a steep grassy slope. A quarter of the way up a gunshot went off in the distance and a frightened flock of sheep around scurried around.

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It was one of those stretches where I couldn’t find an obvious path, and instead of just heading to where I needed to go, I spent too much effort being hard on myself and going round in circles trying to find evidence of a course made by human feet.

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Eventually I found the path up the hill, when another heavy squall passed over and soaked me. At the top of the hill I decided to keep to my plan of detouring away from Kirk Yetholm to summit the Schil, which was a kilometre away. On my climb up there, I passed a couple of gents in country gear carrying shotguns (which explained the gunfire).

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Up on the ridge the wind was very strong. For the first time on the walk, with only six miles to do that day I had plenty of time to contemplate my surroundings.

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At the summit of The Schil, I could take twenty to thirty minutes, albeit initially sheltering behind its rocks from the blowing gale.

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Before long, the wind had blown away the storm clouds and the sun, blue sky and wispy clouds appeared. I savoured the three-sixty vista of the Cheviots.

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The Last of the Cheviots

Heading towards the finish, I kept going along the ridge and the border fence.

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By now I was in something of a celebratory spirit amongst those gorgeous green hills, but the fierce wind kept blasting away at me.

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The wind was the strongest that I encountered; perhaps apart from the conditions towards the end of day four, coming off Pinhaw Beacon into Earby.

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I finally Ieft the border fence for good and after ambling downhill through some sheep fields I got to the road that leads into to Kirk Yetholm. It had been a long, long walk and now, even with just two miles left, I couldn’t resist stopping at the two park benches along the road, just to sit down and idly contemplate the world for a quarter of an hour or so. I wasn’t in anything of a hurry.

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Then, the harvested crop fields and the bungalows of Kirk Yetholm came into into view.

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Finally at 3.15 I finally reached the green at Kirk Yetholm and my walk was at an end.

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At the Finish

There were a lot of cars parked around – a funeral had taken place in the village and the mourners were having a drink at the Border Hotel. I ventured in a have a celebratory pint of ale to mark the finish – an enjoyable drink. I then retired to the green to finally have my sandwiches and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

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It was then across to the SYHA, just behind the green. The warden was out so I waited a short while, before one of the other guests returned: an old Scottish gent on a walking break in the hills. I chatted with him interestedly about our holidays. The warden, an affable English chap, then arrived and after checking in, I had a pleasant conversation with him about my walk and the world of youth hostelling.

A Night in Yetholm

On his recommendation, I didn’t go to the Border Hotel for my dinner, but instead strolled across to the Plough Hotel in Town Yetholm (the neighbouring village). It was rather quiet in there though, except for two dogs about to badly fall out with each other.

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Back over at the Border Hotel, the Scottish gent and a rather hard of hearing Northern fellow had clearly been enjoying their evening in the bar. I grabbed a pint of bitter and spent the rest of the evening hearing them put the world into some sort of order.


Pennine Way 2014 – Day Fifteen

Thursday 28th August: Byrness to Mounthooley – 20 miles

The full English breakfast at the Forest View was the best of the eleven that I consumed on the walk: a masterpiece. Digressing on the subject of cooked breakfasts, they were/are great for fuelling you up, but less helpful in that you couldn’t really set straight out on one. You did have to allow an hour for the food to digest properly. This would normally mean that – even on days where I’d force myself to be down for breakfast at eight o’clock sharp – I would struggle to set out on my day’s walking before 9.20.

Out of Byrness

Peering out of the bedroom window I saw that it had rained heavily during the night. I laced my boots up once more, lifted my pack onto my shoulders and set out for another long day. The forests and hills enclosing Byrness were shrouded in mist, which was a worry for the long walk ahead over the summits of the Cheviots. Out of curiosity I went to have a look around the old chapel (it was locked) and then bumped into the two gentlemen I came across at Whitley Pike the day before – they were waiting in the damp drizzle for a bus back to Berwick.

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The steep climb out of the village was fairly tough, up a muddy slope, but not as long a climb as I feared. I had set out without donning waterproofs; the dense, soaked vegetation necessitated a quick change of plan.

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Just above the tree line was a brief scramble up some rocks and bracken and then, at 415m the first summit, Byrness Hill.

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This was the starting point of long march along the ridge of the Cheviots. The mist was starting to disperse and the visibility ahead seemed OK for now.

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Marching along the Ridge

Before long the path picked up the wire fence marking the border – the walk for virtually the remainder of the day kept to the right of it, making navigation straightforward.

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The Cheviot hills are wide, dome-shaped and strikingly rolling (giving them their character). The day’s walk along the ridge was composed of fairly gentle ascents and descents along grassy, peat moorland; the ridge summits appeared roughly a mile between each other, so I’d march onwards before stopping for a rest at the cairns or trig points.

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By midday the mist had disappeared and blue sky had come. The walking was steady and enjoyable and the views were splendid. These hills offered complete isolation – apart from some sheep being herded far across the valley.

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There was a drop down to the remains of the Roman camp at Chew Green – I took a break to try and make out what I could of the Earthworks – mainly small grassy mounds with sheep hanging around atop them.

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Continuing on,  a rise away from the camp brought me back to the border fence, then veered away to traverse a marshy patch by Wedder Hill. Ahead, the end of the day appeared far, far away (almost incomprehensibly).

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Back on the border fence, I had a quick look around the mountain refuge hut, which was a modern shed.

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Then the ridge rose to above 500m; the next five miles was a ribbon of flagstone paving over heather bog that kept to the fence.

I finally stopped for my lunch break by the trig point at Lamb Hill. I should really have stopped at the mountain hut, as at Lamb Hill there was nowhere to sit other than to try and make oneself comfortable on the flagstones. To my mild horror I found that – yuck – the beef and salad roll that I picked up in Bellingham the day before contained sliced boiled egg (which I discretely projected into the heather).

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I marched on for an hour or more along the slabs, passing by the tops marked on my map: Beefstand Hill, Mozie Law. There was nothing to vary this terrain other than the changes in direction of the fence and the perspective of the surrounding hills.

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Heavy Weather

As I approached Mozie Law, the blue sky became more obscured by clouds and mist arrived on the ridge.

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Up towards Windy Gyle at 619m, the summits of the whole range are covered. On the approach to Russell’s cairn a mild squall passed over.

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At the cairn/trig point, I kept my rest down to five minutes, for a drink, a chocolate bar and some photographs. The weather really can be variable on a long day on the hilltops, particularly on a remote, exposed location: only three hours earlier the conditions on the ridge had been perfect.

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The weather began to ease I walked down the ridge from Windy Gyle to around 500m; the sun returned behind me as I continued to sustain my progress along along the border fence.

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At the crossroads with Clennell Street, the signpost indicated that I had walked 8 ½ miles from Chew Green four hours earlier; and that itself was 4 ¾ miles from Byrness. I was still feeling energetic enough as five o’clock approached.

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Passing the trig point at King’s Seat, the blue skies had returned and the Cheviot was in clear view once more. I looked around: the surrounding hills in the Cheviot range were pleasing to see: wide, rounded, curvy hills.

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From there, the paved path along the fence curved round to the right, to approach the final gruelling climb up a peaty ramp to the plateau.

The Cheviot Detour

Then I had to decide whether I wanted to go to the summit of the Cheviot – two and a half extra miles. I’d already been to the top (from the other side) back in 2005. I found that I couldn’t resist and set off on the detour.

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Unfortunately it was a bit of an ordeal, marching along with (by this point) grim determination: the summit plateau was a dead landscape of grass, peat and bogs. And the trig point was as weathered and forlorn an object as I’d ever seen.

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The descent off the summit plateau was nicer, with some rock scree, cairns and the Hen Hole looking lovely in the evening light.

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The Race to the Bunkhouse

I’d become very weary at this point and had begun to run out of time – I was expected at the bunkhouse at Mounthooley (a mile ahead and where I’d booked dinner) by eight and it was 19.36.

I finally headed down off the Cheviot ridge down a steep grassy valley side and marched by the lovely College Valley Burn, before arriving at the Bunkhouse in the dusk.

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On pitching up, a couple of university students check me out, somewhat coldly remarking that they’d thought I wasn’t going to turn up. The warden, a direct but warmly hospitable old lady welcomed me – her cooking was splendid. The students were a pair of University of Durham postgrads doing a fauna study in the valley. The only other people in the bunkhouse were a couple of Duke of Edinburgh leaders, who had block booked the place. Luckily for me I presume, after I had made my reservation back in the spring. I had a nice conversation with them about the DoE (I had done it myself) and walking.

Then to bed in, alone in a nine-bed dorm decorated for children. I was very impressed by the bunkhouse and it was a fantastic place to end up after a quite epic day’s walking. Half a day to go – my adventure had not long left.

Pennine Way 2014 – Day Fourteen

Wednesday 27th August: Bellingham to Byrness – 16 miles

Part One

Once I was up from my solitary bunk room, I went outside for a wander, to look around and pick up some groceries (as this was the last reasonably sized settlement before the finish). Bellingham was a small town (one that resembled a large village) with old, sturdy stone houses. A building that appeared to be the town hall had a spire made of green painted wood and lead as a flourish.

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On my way back to the bunkhouse I stopped off at the Co-Op for some food (and a large bottle of shower gel – sadly for my shoulder muscles they didn’t seem to have any small ones) and then at a sandwich bar for some extra sandwiches. Back at the bunkhouse, the only other people staying there were a young couple from Newcastle, who were having a few days up in Northumberland. We had a friendly chat about what we were each doing – it was at this point that I learnt that Bellingham is pronounced “Belling-jam” and not “–gham”.

Part Two

Finally setting off after 9.30, I left Bellingham by following the road out north for a few hundred metres. Then at a sharp right the P.W. then turned off to follow the track up to and through Blakelaw Farm. Before long I had climbed up above the farmland and was back walking along moorland and the familiar expanses of marsh grass and purple heather.

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In truth the day was quite dull and uneventful. It was certainly nice to be walking in open country in fine weather, but compared to most of the previous days on the P.W. the terrain wasn’t interesting, varied or challenging. The first half of the day was crossing over the aforementioned moorland, five miles of clear footpaths over wide masses of heather.

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Oddly enough, after days of virtual solitude when making my journey along the P.W., I found on this most insignificant stretch, someone else who was doing it. Just before Hareshaw House, I walked up towards a chap at rest, who was fiddling with a transistor radio. He explained that he was trying to complete the walk, having done two-thirds earlier in the year and was now making his way up to the border. He was a quirky, somewhat intense fellow, so I reckoned we’d both prefer our solitude and carried on.

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The topography of these hills (I was by now approaching the Cheviot range) was low and flat. They would slowly rise to a top, marked by a cairn. Sandwiches were taken at one of these. Two middle-aged men out for a day hike passed by – they explained that they were doing this stretch up to Byrness.

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Occasionally the terrain was interrupted by a B-road in the middle of nowhere.

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The final stretch of heather moorland was bordered on the right by a wire fence, with the pepper-pot shaped cairn that was the obscure Padon Monument in the middle distance to the right.

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The moorland ended at a wet and boggy dip and then a short, sharp, steep climb up to Brownrigg Head that for the only time that day left me out of breath and needing a rest.

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Part Three

The climb had brought me to the southern edge of the Redesdale Forest (part of the vast Kielder Forest). The footpath that skirted around the forest in approach was so waterlogged that it was possibly the most impassable chunk of the way that I encountered. It was weird how passages that appeared to have little to worry about (when looking at the map in advance), turned out to have hidden dangers.

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Once through that, it was a long walk home along the forestry commission track through Redesdale. Interminable would be a good adjective to describe the last five miles, but at least the weather that day was warm and sunny.

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Civilisation approached at the car park and visitor facilities at Blakeshopeburnhaugh. For the last mile towards Byrness, I followed the River Rede’s plain, crossing over the river at Low Byrness.

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This was Forestry Commission country – Byrness was built in the 1950s. It is a slender settlement of two or three rows of white-washed modern terraces, hidden away along the A68 on the approach to the border.

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The days walking hadn’t been too challenging, but I was quite worn out by the time I got to Byrness and approached the Forest Lodge Inn (perhaps the lack of stimulation had wearied me).

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Part Four

The Forest Lodge was a couple of the terrace houses, which had been knocked together. It used to be an YHA, and was still affiliated to them, which led me to mistakenly believe I was booked in at a hostel. In fact the couple next door purchased it and ran it as a very homely bed and breakfast catering for walkers (they keenly emphasised that it wasn’t a hostel). They helped me out with another load of laundry (utilising their aged spinner to wring out the water). Their home cooking was delicious too; and their living room was also the local pub – it was that kind of place. There were a quite a few people staying there too: the chap with the transistor radio was there, a couple about to finish the walk and a pair of public schoolboys doing the P.W. in the opposite direction.

I was getting closer to the finish, thirty miles left to walk. One big day left to go.

Brand (1959) – Thoughts

After watching the Prisoner blu-ray box-set, and understandably in need of more Patrick McGoohan material, I finally watched this BBC recording (under the World Theatre banner) of the 59′ Theatre company’s staging of Henrik Ibsen’s Brand.

I fear that I picked the wrong day to watch it; I sense it is something best viewed on a long, cold winter night. Instead of that, I got around to watching it on a sunny spring Saturday afternoon around four o’clock.

Brand is an extraordinary figure: a firebrand priest, who holds a rigid faith in and understanding of God. He believes in God as a figure of fear and wrath who is to be respected and obeyed. Accordingly he wants to act with full responsibility for his actions and their consequences (and terrifyingly preaches this creed) . Stating “All or nothing”, he refuses to compromise, determined to offer direct salvation for the downtrodden populace of the cold, dark fjordlands, between them and God. They are both terrified and inspired by him; ultimately however they cannot follow him “up the mountain”. We have already seen his unrelenting austere morality destroy his family and his home life.

Hard, heavy, foreboding stuff, which Patrick McGoohan serves with a mesmerising, force-of-nature performance. It conveys the distraction caused by the character’s unique and unusual system of belief, and the stream of fire that is its expression. It is a performance for the theatre and not one that serves a black and white camera with 405 lines and 4:3 ratio. McGoohan goes into the red zone quite a lot, but when he hits a sweet spot with his burnished, glazed intensity it is fairly awesome. But watching it (and McGoohan as Brand is quite the dominating presence throughout the 90 minutes of the piece) through in the medium of early television is rather too intense for our comfort.

Whilst the other characters talk in RP, McGoohan expresses Brand in a raw, gutteral accent, somewhat nordic cum gaelic, that does embody the wrath of God. Looking ahead, key themes in the Prisoner are successors to those of Brand: the right to be able to make ones own path in life and be responsible for ones own decisions; to have the right to say “All or nothing” and not compromise; the pressure to conform within a society

Regarding the other performances, Dilys Hamlett is sweet then touchingly tragic in the important role of Agnes, the girl who sacrifices her life and happiness for Brand’s vision. The shade of McGoohan’s performance tends to shade over the more unobtrusive worldly characters, such as Patrick Wymark’s Mayor (a pity).

Peter Sallis playing both the Doctor and the Provost is interesting. He plays both figures with the engaging thoughtful wryness he’s excels at; which does succeed in bypassing the  avalanche of Brand and provides a different point of view from the Pastor – as the Doctor, he is the voice of sanity; as the Provost the voice of worldly reason and power.

As for the play itself, it is such a torrent of doomy, godly horror, one can see how it could be thought unstageable. But it is intense, powerful and provoking as a study of humanity and our relationship with God, and our choices, our actions and our responsibility.


City of Death (1979) – Thoughts

So this one, generally regarded as the classic of the Graham Williams era and one of the top five or six ’63-89′ stories full stop. And yeah it’s deserved: it’s imaginative, witty and highly entertaining. Doing the locations shooting in Paris helps it to transcend (better than most of its neighbouring stories were able to) the genteel poverty of its period – it’s a classy story.

Firstly the imagination: as demonstrated by The Pirate Planet the year before, Douglas Adams’ creative resources were a cut above those of his peers. City of Death’s idea – deep in pre-history, the sole orphan of an alien race is splintered in an explosion, with the fragments scattered amongst various epochs, each piece of the alien working towards evolving human technology in order to enable the alien residing in late 20th century Paris to send himself back through time to prevent the original catastrophe – is a fascinating one, as the Doctor gradually realises (and we absorb in turn) what the alien posing as the Count is up to.

The performances of the cast are excellent. Particularly of course the villain of the piece, Julian Glover as Count Scarlioni; who (as with Iain Cuthbertson in The Ribos Operation) brings a delicious dramatic relish to his character. Scarlioni is a suave, sophisticated aristocrat figure who literally masks the ruthless and diabolical alien Scaroth (the cliffhanger to first episode is one of the great horrorshock moments of the classic series).

Duggan, the Doctor and Romana’s sidekick for this story, is a very different character to the Count. Adams has drafted him in from an unsympathetic genre, that of tough, hard-boiled crime, and placed him into this witty science fiction romp, with amusing results. As the plot plays out, poor Duggan finds the events and the characters of his allies all but incomprehensible; and they (and us) find him and his methods (fists first) endearingly oafish. Tom Chadbon is really good in this key support role. The other main actors do well too: Catherine Schell dovetails delighfully well with Glover, as the Count’s consort. And David Graham is good too, in the slightly thankless role as the mad foreign scientist duped by Scaroth.

This was the first Doctor Who story with Lalla Ward that I’ve watched. I’ve watched loads of Pertwee and plenty of Hinchliffe-era stuff and having watched the run of (admittedly well regarded) stories from Horror of Fang Rock onwards, that I’ve reviewed on here, to me the Williams-era is neglected and at its best was as good as anything that the show did.

Anyway, back to Lalla Ward. She is really able and engaging as Romana – who is more of a second banana to the Doctor than any other companion I’ve seen yet (something that I’m not yet totally convinced works by comparison with the contemporary young woman characterizations that the series mainly utilised). Tom Baker gives his usual obtrusively charismatically brilliant performance, this week with someone else over the net to give him a decent match.

Any negatives? The first episode is a bit slow, with the camera and Dudley Simpson’s piano labouring on the Doctor and Romana strolling around Paris (although I guess the notion of holidaying there was more exotic in 1979 then now). And the Tardis is relied up  to save the day once again (as with The Pirate Planet), this time in some style.







Pennine Way 2014 – Day Thirteen

Tuesday 26th August: Greenhead to Bellingham – 21 miles

The night at Greenhead was fairly awful. The dorm room was freezing and I got bitten all over (at least I got it into my head that the bed was full of bugs). The breakfast at the hotel was much better and just after nine o’clock Mark and I parted company. I started off and he waited for the bus to Carlisle (to head back to Nottinghamshire via Leeds).

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Thirwall Castle

On my own again for the first time in over a week, on the way out of Greenhead I surveyed the ruins of Thirwall castle – a rectilinear medieval keep atop a mound, a portion of the lower walls were intact.

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Onto Hadrian’s Wall

After a climb away from Greenhead, the great stretch of Hadrian’s Wall began at Walltown Quarry. Here one could see the great stretch of cliff that the wall sits upon (the Whin Sill), and would have presented a huge natural barrier to those looking South.

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Up first was a short but fantastic run of Roman wall just after the quarry. I had to bomb along, having 21 miles to do, but all too frequently I broke off to get my camera out.

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The wall disappeared and was replaced by a barbed wire fence along the top. After passing through a small wood, on the other side were two farm houses and the forlorn remains of Great Chester’s Fort. Cawfield quarry led onto another rise of the Whin Sill and another great section of wall.

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A young family were looking around, taking in the milecastle.

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I myself was taken by the view of the farm at Cawfields and of Northumbria behind it.

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The seven miles along Hadrian’s was quite tough: the path followed the profile of the wall (upon the Whin Sill) and kept dipping sharply up and down – in places every few hundred metres.

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I had to descend and then ascend sharply to follow the wall along the tops. These drops and rises, with lifting a 90 litre backpack, were quite challenging even for the first few miles of the day. I had to take 15 minutes to crash at the trig point on Windshield Crags (another stretch of wall).

Sadly it was too long a day’s walk to contemplate and absorb the scenery other than at a driven march, so I continued along up the splendid stretches of Wall at Steel Rigg, the Sycamore Gap and Hotbank Crags.

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For me, it was perhaps less the wall but the beauty of the surroundings: Crag Lough, the Crags, and the route the wall (and its footpath) cut through.

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The grassy climb up to Hotbank Crags forced me to have another sit down and rest– I was hungry and ready for some sandwiches, but had determined to finish along the wall before eating. Finally, a mile ahead of Housesteads, I left Hadrian’s Wall and headed north.

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Onwards from Housesteads

By then it was 1.45 and desperate for my lunch I stopped a few hundred yards along Ridley Common, on meadow cum marsh ground. Here was a nice spot that offered a view back to Hotbank and Housestead Crags; and also of Greenlee and Broomlee Loughs to the east and west.

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The next third was much easier, half marsh and half forest track, all fairly level and straightforward to navigate.

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Halfway over the marsh of Haughton Common, I stopped for 10 minutes in an odd 10m x 5m walled enclosure for a rest and a bit of shade.

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The weather was fine and warm, particularly now that I had left the wall top and moved onto the sheltered forest tracks. This walking was not difficult and all too often dull, but it did allow you to make up time.

Late Summer Evenings Walking

The last third of the 21 miles really began at the lovely Warks Burn (with its weathered stream wall) and took one on paths between farms (Horneystead, Leadgate, Linacres), followed by a mile along a single track tarmac road (which I didn’t object to, having already done five miles ambling up and down along Hadrian’s Wall).

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Oddly, given my weariness of the previous two or three evenings, I was full of life and happiness. Was it being by myself again? Or the fine weather? Or was it the country I was passing through? Or a harmony of all three?

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Approaching Bellingham, the climb up to Shitlington Crags wasn’t too tough. I then had two miles to finish, heading off the top of Ealingrigg Common and then down along the road into the village.

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The late summer evening there was so beautiful that I felt calm and content as I approached Bellingham (the wide, calm river was lovely).

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The bunkhouse was a new establishment (connected to the neighbouring campsite and was very comfortable. I fancied a Chinese, but as it was a Tuesday, I headed to the pub to get another round of pie and chips. A really great day – I felt great.

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Pennine Way 2014 – Day Twelve

Monday 25th August: Alston to Greenhead: 18 miles

Bank Holiday Monday high up in Alston. Within the eerily deserted hostel, we finally saw (we presumed) the warden, who was quite occupied with his own thing – I later learn that the place was about to change hands.


With no breakfast on offer, we took an early walk into the town to find some food. First we went into a roadside Spar (I think it was attached to a petrol station) for some hot pies etc. Then, heading into the town, where there was a good row of shops on the main street, a steep cobbled dog-legged rise. We went to the Co-op for some sandwiches.

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Alston was an old mining town, the highest town in England. The architecture was mainly sturdy 19th century stone buildings that could handle cold bleak winters, which gave the place an out-of-time feel. It had a huge gothic town hall that impressed me but oppressed also for some indefinable reason (was it too big to be happy in this age?)

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After vacating the hostel, we were soon out of Alston and headed north, following the course of the South Tyne.

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As is often regretted, the path kept mostly at a distance from the river – it initially went along unremarkable sheep fields, then a more stimulating section on the river plain that skirted by the South Tees Railway.

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Time Team Action (Part Two)

Early on, through the sheep fields, we approached the Roman earthworks at Whitley Castle (historically known as Epiacum). There was an archaeological dig taking place (which is why Stewart from the Time Team was in town the night before). They were digging and combing around some pits, looking for traces of Roman village life in the settlement outside the fort. They asked us across and chatted to us about their project – very interesting!

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After an amble over the fort, whose big grassy earth banks I found were more of a physical distraction than a mental one.

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There was a brief stretch along the South Tyne river bank, picking up from the attractive passage from the previous evening.

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Our encounter with the archaeologists had given us a bit of a pick-up, so approaching Slaggyford we were quite lively, instead of trudging gloomily.

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The Village of Scarecrows

We stopped for lunch on a bench at the back of the village green. Slaggyford was a small, quiet place, with cars passing through occasionally.

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It had held a scarecrow festival on the previous weekend: various impressive efforts (in particular a realisation of the three little pigs and their big bad predator) were dotted around nearby.

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Out of Slaggyford, there was further a mile of pasture (dipping in and out of the undergrowth beneath the viaducts of the now disused railway).

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Then we climbed a little to get back onto the open moor of Hartleyburn Common, and followed along the Maiden Way.

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Dull stuff, keeping to a straight path bordered by stone walls and wire fences, but there was a nice view over the river valley.

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Off the common, the next two miles were a familiar walk over grazing fields, with a sharp dip and rise at Hartley Burn and a climb past a farm at Uphalm.

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Getting to the road, we skirted by a house at Greenriggs and then unsuspectingly came across the hardest hour of the whole journey.

The Nightmare of Blenkinsop Common

Blenkinsop Common appeared an innocuous mile and a half on the map, but it was the hardest terrain I encountered – a sodden, reedy morass. For once, there was no visible path (no flag stones here). So I had to turn to my compass in surprise and try to navigate through.

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This didn’t work – we tried to follow a gradual arc to the left (as per the markings on the map), but after twenty minutes of wandering around, increasingly in shorter and shorter circles, we decided we were lost. We were drained, becoming rapidly more and more irritable and the wind had picked up and was now buffeting us around. We started to get worried – it had gone six o’clock and we were three miles from home.

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I reckoned that if we managed to find the fence that our path eventually should run to, we would have our bearings back. This didn’t immediately work; the problem was, if you’re moving forwards to find an object, what if you fail to get to it or see it, against a reasonable estimate of the time or distance to get there? You would probably be even further lost.

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Eventually, we sighted the trig point on the other side of the fence. We’d finally found we where and we could haul ourselves off the common. At this point I’m half-exhausted from the ordeal.

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Back on sheep pasture and then farm track, we dragged ourselves down to the A69, a mile’s walking that felt like three. I decided that I wouldn’t bother (or even manage) with following the route as mapped into Greenhead, so me and Mark just followed the A69 (a very busy road) for half a mile. We were worn out again: walking 21 miles then 20 then another 18 on successive days was a challenging thing (easy to forget when writing this).

The hostel at Greenhead was an old village hall type of building, which had fallen off the YHA network and appeared to have been picked up by the hotel owner from across the road. The place was deserted (apart from, he said, a French girl that we didn’t see at all) and it looked as though nobody had been in there all summer. Another night in a deserted building was a bit depressing.

This was Mark’s last day with me, so we had a final pub meal and couple of pints. We were too tired to be able to do much in the way of celebrating though.