Cont. from: Edale to Clove Lodge
10/ Clove Lodge to Middleton on Teesdale
After 5 days continuous walking, I was relieved that the sixth day was a short 6 mile walk across Crossthwaite Common into Middleton in Teesdale. In this pleasant town I spent my second rest day. I managed a little bit of wifi time to post updates, as well as re-jigging my schedule for the remainder of the walk with the helpful Tourist Information Centre.
11/ Middleton in Teesdale to Langdon Beck
I had been over ambitious in my original schedule, having not studied the map for this section carefully enough. My plan hadn’t taken enough account of the difficult terrain and steep ascents or the lovely scenery in this section.
Dividing two long days into three shorter days was dictated by where the accommodation was, so this ended up being a short 8 mile day to Langdon Beck which allowed me to enjoy my first visit to Low and High Force. It is hard to associate the lovely unspoilt river here with the river that ends up in the industrial areas around Stockton on the north east coast.
12/ Langdon Beck to Dufton
Careful study of the map would have told me that this would be a tricky section of the walk but I hadn’t anticipated that it would be so beautiful. I began to understand why it has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as I followed alongside the lovely Tees.
Clambering over the large rocks at Falcon Clints took some time and was shortly followed by a nerve wracking scramble alongside Cauldron Snout waterfall.
The day was rounded off by an astonishing walk above the breathtaking High Cup, which appeared out of nowhere and involved traversing a high level waterfall.
The walk finally descended into the lovely village of Dufton where the vocal encouragement from local cyclists brought a lump to my throat. This was to happen a few times during the walk and never failed to move me.
13/ Dufton to Garrigill
This was a big day, as it involved crossing three peaks before reaching the highest point on the route at Cross Fell (893m). I got up early, determined to complete the day in good time. When I finally reached the summit of Cross Fell, I wasn’t prepared for how windy it would be as I clung to the stone cairns for support.
It was a relief to reach the cross shaped shelter on the summit for a quick lunch. As it was an overcast day, I decided to push quickly on for Garrigill. Just as I reached Greg’s Hut bothy, it began to rain and continued for most of the rocky “corpse road” (originally built to allow coffins to be transported). My waterproofs stayed firmly on until I reached the pretty village of Garrigill.
14/ Garrigill to Knarsdale
It was a welcome respite to follow the South Tyne river for most of the way to Greenhead. The countryside was very different on the lower ground following flower filled country lanes for much of the way.
Accommodation on this part of the walk is limited, so I had opted to camp in a farmyard at Knarsdale. I spent the evening watching the local men playing quoits outside the pub before heading for my sleeping bag.
15/ Knarsdale to Greenhead
It was lovely to wake to the farmyard sounds of cockerels and sheep before having a camp breakfast and packing up ready for the section to Greenhead.
Unfortunately, it began to rain just as I left Knarsdale and the path was indistinct along the hilltops. Later that day I had to clamber over a lot of bins and old furniture put there by a disgruntled farmer to keep walkers out of his Tynedale farm. If the farmer reads this, you have been reported to the Ramblers association.
I was glad to reach the hostel at Greenhead, where I had stayed on my Hadrian’s Wall walk, for my final rest day. Here I was able to post all my camping kit home, so I was liberated of another few pounds from my pack.
16/ Greenhead to Once Brewed
The hot sunny weather for most of the following week was not typical Northumbrian weather in case anyone should plan to come without waterproofs. I re-joined Hadrian’s Wall on the section where it had rained incessantly on my walk last year, but was lucky enough to see the Wall and Northumberland National Park at it’s best this time round.
Walking this popular section of the wall coincided with the Wimbledon finals weekend, which millions of people usually spend in front of the television. I therefore had most of this section to Housesteads in the sunshine to myself, which was bliss.
I decided to follow the most strenuous route over the crags at Steel Rigg and Winshields in an effort to prepare my legs for the tough Cheviot days at the end of the walk.
17/ Once Brewed to Bellingham
I really enjoyed the spectacular stretch of Hadrian’s Wall and I felt really privileged to have it largely to myself again.
I left the wall and turned across moorlands, pastures, followed by large conifer plantations towards Bellingham. This section took me through areas of the National Park which were totally unfamiliar to me, even as a regular walker in the area. Northumberland National Park is not nearly as busy as the Peak District National Park and it is quite possible to walk all day without seeing anyone else.
18/ Bellingham to Byrness
I wasn’t looking forward to this section which crosses the huge conifer forests at Wark, as I find walking in plantations a bit monotonous. It was another baking hot day, but I expected there to be some shade through these woods. Instead I found that the route followed long, wide logger’s roads, which bounced the hot sun back into my face. The only way to reach the dense, impenetrable shade of the forest was to climb across one of the large ditches on either side of the logger’s track.
Without my sunhat and copious suncream I would have really melted in the heat, which was over 30c. I found myself counting the miles to a public toilet on the map at Blakehopeburnhaugh, where I would be able to re-fill my water bottle. The following three days were to prove a lesson in hot weather walking and I saw several cases of sunburn and heat exhaustion. It was very pleasant to leave the forest behind and wind down past the church into Byrness.
19/ Byrness to Windy Gyle
Byrness is a honeypot for walkers as it contains the final accommodation for people doing the Pennine Way northbound, so it was good to exchange chat and stories with other walkers when I arrived. Unfortunately the landlady thinks nothing of dissecting your walking speeds, kit and stamina in front of a full lounge of other hikers, which made it feel more like a spell in boot camp than paid for accommodation.
When I left next morning, it was boiling hot by 9am so I was glad when I finished the humid climb through the bracken to reach the top of Byrness Hill where I could enjoy the slight breeze and the good view of the huge forests below.
The ridge path covers six summits between Byrness Hill and Windy Gyle, the halfway point. The good weather had transformed the exposed stretch from the border fence at Chew Green. As I rose up to climb Lamb Hill, Beefstand Hill and Mozie Law, fantastic views opened up northwards into Scotland beyond the Eildons at Melrose and southwards into the Northumberland Cheviots.
I met several walkers who were suffering in the heat that day, some without hats or suncream, and some with too much in their packs. As I had decided to split the last 28 mile stretch into two days, I had said I would be at the pick up point near Windy Gyle on time for a lift, otherwise I would have happily stayed to enjoy these amazing views. With hindsight it would have been easy to wild camp or use the mountain huts on the last stretch and I would have avoided the hiking critique at Byrness, which spoiled the final stage of the walk for me.
20/ Windy Gyle to Kirk Yetholm
I was almost relieved when I was greeted by low cloud at the top of Windy Gyle the following day. Because of the cooler weather and the flagstones, I was able to cover the ground quite quickly that morning. Sadly the cloud was still low when I descended from Auchope Cairn to the refuge hut by The Cheviot to have lunch. If I have any home turf on the Pennine Way, this area would be it. As I was nearing the end of the walk, I decided to leave my spare food in the hut for any walker in need.
By the time I reached The Schil, the clouds finally began to lift and I realised it would be possible to follow the original high route to the end. Indeed the views all round were stunning as I crossed the border ridge….
…and descended into the pretty Bowmont valley.
I decided to be assertive and claim my free half pint (a tradition initiated by Wainwright for anyone finishing the Pennine Way) when I arrived at the Border Hotel in Kirk Yetholm. After this I settled in to enjoy a bit of welcome luxury for my final night. It seemed strange to be sitting at a table with crisply laundered table linen eating delicious food after all the climbing, scrambling, clambering and camping of the previous 19 days.