Pennine Way, 2012

Thirty-nine years ago, I set off to walk the Pennine Way from Edale, Derbyshire, to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders.

The walk was abandoned, after just five days, in Gargrave, and it has niggled ever since.

So at the age of 63, I decided to start again.

I chose to backpack the 270-mile route solo. 

The Pennine Way was conceived as a challenging route through England's wild and lonely upland, and I felt that this was the best way to gain full satisfaction from the trip.

I would camp wild, or in informal spots with permission, or on regular sites, according to convenience and inclination. 

I certainly wouldn't turn my back on pub meals and camp site showers, but overnight stops in B&Bs, indulgent landladies, and luggage ferried ahead, would only diminish the experience for me.

My rucksack weighed about 30lbs, plus whatever water I happened to be carrying. I find that the photographs tend to minimise its appearance - the kit list at the end of this diary will reveal just what it concealed.

This diary mentions problems and frustrations - inevitably, it often takes for granted the magnificent, inspiring settings, and the sense of achievement and privilege that I felt in crossing so much wild and lonely country. 

I enjoyed every day (admittedly some more than others). 

It was a time in which I met few people outside the small communities that punctuated the trip: my relationship was with my surroundings.

I revelled in the isolation and I felt a genuine sense of loss on the final day, when I turned my back on the hills.

I was troubled by blisters, strains, drenchings, buffeting winds, and the cloying ooze of bogs and marshes, but these were all part of the unique experience of an extraordinary fortnight.  

I patched myself, dried myself, washed off the grime and wrote up the day with a satisfied smile.

My 270-mile adventure on the Pennine Way was everything I wanted it to be, and I count it as one of my life's most satisfying experiences.

Tuesday August 21

Edale to wild camp SK 08948 93336 10 miles, 4 hours

I had agreed to lead a walk for Scarborough Ramblers on Sunday August 19, so having allowed a day for preparation, I caught the train to Edale, via York and Sheffield, two days later.

The weather held fine as I left the train at 3pm, but 10 minutes later, the heavens opened.

I didn't know until I set off whether I would follow the old main route up the Grindsbrook valley and over Kinder, or go via Jacob's Ladder, but I found my feet turning compliantly towards Upper Booth and the new route.

Lightly-clad families and other day walkers were streaming towards me in the pouring rain, and I encountered a lady and a small girl, standing under a tree near Upper Booth, wondering how long it would be before they would get an opportunity to flee to Edale.

After the long haul up to the plateau, I started walking along the Kinder edge. The rain stopped, and I decided to take the opportunity to check for a mobile telephone signal, so that I could check in with my wife, Maureen. Experience had taught me that signals were available in unlikely places, while absent in the busy hearts of major towns.

I stopped at the Downfall, where a respectable volume of water was flowing over the lip, and just as I took out my telephone, and slipped my rucksack from my shoulders the rains poured down again.  I dived horizontally under a flake of rock, dialled home, and was answered by my own voice on the machine.

Having left a message, I set off again, with the aim of crossing the Snake Road before camping, although I wanted to stop by 6.45.

After miles of squelchy peat and bog I found, as hoped, a viable patch of wet grass beside Doctor's Gate, the old track that runs parallel to the Snake Road and about a quarter of a mile beyond it, and I put up the tent while listening to The Archers on my excellent little Sony Walkman.

I made a disgusting meal of Mountain House spaghetti bolognese, the only variety I have yet tried and found truly awful, with a strange chemical twang.

My new silk sleeping bag liner (virtually weightless) proved to be an excellent investment.  It was warm to the touch, and probably increased the rating of my lightweight sleeping bag markedly.

I fell asleep while listening to the radio, but was awakened just after 10pm by the jingling of bells, then the sound of sniffing at the tent porch, followed by a loud bark.

It transpired that an unfortunate individual called Pete had gone missing on Bleaklow, and I was visited three times before 10.30pm by MRO searchers.

 

 

 

Wednesday August 22

Wild camp SK 08948 93336 to Great Western pub Standedge, SE 03293 09888 19 miles

Rain in the night left the tent wet, which set the pattern for most of the trip.

I set off at 7.20am after a noodle bowl and a cereal bar, finding my headlight 6ft from the tent, where the rescue dog had dragged it.

There were many slabs guiding the way through the bog, but there was also much more height gain to add to yesterday's short leg, and many stony paths, which were hard on the feet.

Recycled stone flags have been laid on parts of the Pennine Way to minimise erosion.  These are set direct onto firmer ground, but in squelchy areas, a plastic membrane is used beneath them, to stop them sinking. That's the theory.  Unfortunately, many of the slabs are now tilted or submerged, so very careful progress is still required.  A headlong fall into a peat bog results in a soaking in disgusting squelch; a headlong fall on a stone slab could be much more serious. Where they have sunk, it is often impossible to judge the depth of the black water that covers them.  In many places, walkers have now had to make long diversions to avoid the start and end of sections of slabs, as large, deep pools have formed.

I was in full waterproofs, as it was raining sporadically, and was surprised to be overtaken by a fell runner in vest and shorts before 8am.

I was very concerned, at this early stage, to recognise the unmistakable sign of a blister developing under my right big toe. This wasn't supposed to be on the programme.

My 30lb rucksack was also proving troublesome, despite the elaborate (possibly too elaborate) adjustment mechanism.

Beyond Crowden, I noted the spot where I had camped 39 years ago, beside Oakenclough Brook.

I missed the turn up to Laddow Rocks.  I remembered the note in Wainwright's book about the "thin track" below the rocks - I've seen it referred to as the "climbers' path" - and I realised that I must be following that.

It turned out to be a perfectly viable route, although in a boggy patch, the ooze topped both boots, which thereafter remained wet until Byrness.

The temperature was mild, so the wet weather gear was causing me to sweat heavily, and water became a growing concern, until I found a cleanish stream from which I took and sterilised 1.5 litres.

I took the revised route from Black Hill to Wessenden Head, and at Wessenden Reservoir, the signed path avoiding the old air shaft way.

Steady marching brought me, at last, in sight of the Great Western, although frustratingly, it was necessary to take a circuitous route to it.

I was given permission to camp free of charge in the beer garden, downed a very welcome pint of soda and lime, dined on roast beef, new potatoes and veg and a pot of tea, then sank more soda.  The beef consisted of four thick pot roast steaks, but I could eat only three.  As became the norm for the trip, I was wrapped up snugly in my sleeping bag by 8pm, listening to Radio 4 on my little headphones, or just dozing, until I finally fell asleep.  Throughout the trip, I was rarely awake after 10pm.

I dried socks by hanging them on my rucksack, in good weather, from the tent in sunshine, and in the tent porch at night.  I found that I could tease out dampness for the next morning by turning the socks inside out, then placing them between my sleeping bag's silk liner, and the bag itself, while I slept.

 

Thursday August 23

Great Western pub, Standedge, to Colden, SD 96340 28860 19 miles

I awoke at 6.30am, but didn't hurry to get up.  I had instant porridge and a breakfast bar, and a free sachet of Yorkshire Tea that had been posted to me by the firm for my birthday at the end of May, then I went to the pub for a wash.

The chap there offered me a cup of tea, and it appeared with a slice of toast.

I started walking at 9.20am, expecting the worst from my feet (both big toes blistered, both little toes hurting, as the nails had been forced back) and shoulders, and intending to walk only six miles to the quarry before the  White House pub if necessary.  I told myself that the important thing was to finish the walk, no matter how long it took.

In the event, everything seemed to settle down and I was moving reasonably well, with two litres of water to hand.

The day started very misty, but this soon lifted, and it remained overcast, with occasional sun.

Just before the M62 footbridge, the Way crosses the A672 at a large layby, where there is a popular food van.

I stopped for a bargain bacon cob (five rashers) with a large cup of tea, which cost just over £3.

I was asked where I was going, and took great pleasure in replying:  "Scotland."

As I found I had a mobile telephone signal, I called Maureen.

My right big toe started giving trouble, but the pain wore off, and at the White House I stopped for a pint of soda and orange, leaving at noon.

A very noisy group of men and boys appeared, so I put on some pace for the four miles of reservoir tracks that followed and they soon fell far behind, although I had to stop to apply a plaster to a new blister on a big toe.

Stoodley Pike had been in view for some time, and was approached along a rocky bank.  I didn't bother going up it again.

The descent to the Calder Valley was hard on the feet, and at the bottom, I faced a draining, two-mile haul up a very demanding hill.

The paths either side of Colden Water were very badly maintained and dangerous, with steep downward steps concealed in undergrowth.  It seemed extraordinary that this was part of a national trail.

At May's Highgate Farm, where I camped in a field opposite her shop free of charge, a five-minute torrent of rain greeted me as I put up the tent.

I bought a sausage roll and tinned potatoes for dinner, and ate half a horrible apple, throwing away the remains of that, and a second one that I had bought.  I treated myself to a litre of fizzy water, filled my water bottles as directed from the stream that supplies the farm, and later went back for ice cream and chocolate,  and another sausage roll for tomorrow's lunch.

 

 

 

Friday August 24

Colden to Cowling, SD 96887 42907, 15.6 miles

I was back to climbing mucky moorland, initially Heptonstall Moor.

Unfortunately, one slab bridge had a huge pool in front of it, and in trying to bypass this, I staggered into filthy water that flooded both boots.  This meant that my feet would be wet all day, inviting more damage.

At Middle Walshaw Dean Reservoir, I walked past the site of my 1973 intended camp, from which I was evicted by a waterworks employee.  His house had now been sold to a private resident.

A drain beside the reservoir was running with fast, deep water - had I fallen in, I would certainly have been swept away, with no chance of escape.  I caught up with a chap with a Norfolk accent, whom I had met at last night's site;  he had a sheepdog with him, and he kept it securely on a lead because of the danger.

I stopped to eat an orange and a Toblerone at Top Withens - where I eventually camped so many years ago - then the Norfolk chap and I descended to Ponden, where he would be camping in the grounds of a guest house.

At Cowling, after one wrong turn, I found Winterhouse Barn at 3pm and camped in a field among chickens, setting up the tent during the first shower of the day.

I washed the day's socks, which were filthy with peaty water. The challenge now was to dry and patch up my painful feet, and to do my best to keep them as dry as possible.

I walked to the village grocery and bought tinned potatoes, mushy (by mistake) peas, corned beef, and tinned fruit salad for dinner, and a ginger cake for the next day's lunch, although it was not actually eaten until much later in the walk.

Next I had to confess to Maureen that I had lost my camera soon after Top Withens.  I phoned Ponden Guest House and asked them to pass on my contact details to the Norfolk chap, in the unlikely event that he spotted the camera.

Cowling has a church that belts out a bizarre, speedy version of Westminster chimes every 15 minutes: it sounds as though it is being played by someone greatly affected by an illegal substance.

Then at 9am, the tune changes suddenly to something obscure and decidedly unmelodic.

Cowling Church certainly gets my vote for bizarre bell-ringing, and the villagers have my sympathy.  I should imagine that double-glazing salesmen do very well there.

Saturday August 25

Cowling to Gargrave, SD 93305 54180, 12.2 miles

This was a short day, but with concern about my feet, I was happy just to make progress.

There had been heavy rain in the night, and I waited for it to stop, while I did as much packing as possible inside the tent.

Finally, I took an opportunity to take the rucksack into the toilet in case of further rain, and got the tent down.

At 9.20am, I set off in drizzle and mist for more ups and downs.

Soon after passing through Lothersdale, I met a very friendly fell runner, who told me he completed the Pennine Way, using youth hostels, in ten days in 1992.

In the morning, there was much slush and little of note to divert my attention.

The Way descends to run briefly beside the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. At East Marton, I made the excellent decision to call at Abbots Harbour Café for a superb all-day breakfast at 1.30pm, with runny eggs precisely as ordered.

While in the café, I eavesdropped on a wonderful conversation between three girls, possibly 15-16 years-old, one of whom had been invited by a 31-year-old man to accompany him to an event in Leeds, and "stay on for a few drinks with friends".  I just hoped she was planning to consult her mother about this invitation.

Girl A:  "I've had my lunch, so I don't want anything to eat."

Girl B:  "What did you have?"

Girl A: "I had a ham and tuna sandwich.  I really wanted a ham and cucumber sandwich, or a tuna and cucumber sandwich, but we didn't have any cucumber, so I had a ham and tuna sandwich.  I wanted some crisps with it, but we didn't have any crisps, so I had corn flakes.  It was quite nice, really."

It had rained heavily for about 50% of the day, and as I was in full waterproofs in mild weather, I was running with sweat, so my feet were feeling soggy once more.

Because of the downpour the field before Gargrave had a new stream, 5ft wide, running through it, and this rushed down to the gate, which made exiting the field tricky.

The pharmacy closed at noon (as it was Saturday), so I was unable to supplement my reserves of Compeeds - I was down to two.

The Co-op convenience store was dreadful, with surly staff who made me resent having to spend my money there.

I settled at Eshton Road campsite. Maureen sent me a text message to say that the camera had been found, and we spoke later.

Sunday August 26

Gargrave to wild camp, Fountains Fell, SD 86614 72078, 16 miles

I set off intending to go no further than the seven miles to Malham if necessary.  Keeping moving and getting a few miles on the clock was all that seemed important.

There was more heavy rain, and on Eshton Moor, which had become extremely boggy, had much standing water, and was heavily populated by cows, I took a wrong turn and found myself heading for a country lane about a mile east of the intended spot.  I pressed ahead, rather than retreating or trying to slosh over trackless terrain, and encountered a surprising amount of traffic on the lane, including many vintage vehicles.

I had an acceptable cheeseburger and chips from a gloomy café crew at the Old Barn in Malham, then bought Compeeds and a pair of 1,000-mile socks from Gordale Gifts, who also filled a couple of water bottles for me.

I hobbled pathetically when I set off again, although I was finding that after half a mile or so, the troublesome areas would unstiffen and the discomfort would ease.

There were many day visitors climbing the hundreds of steps to the top of Malham Cove, but they disappeared as soon as I entered Watlowes Valley, which I found did not live up to its dramatic reputation.

At Malham Tarn, there was a sudden deluge, which drove me under a tree to dig out my waterproofs.

The rain stopped after about half an hour, and I continued across farmland to the long ascent of Fountains Fell.  Towards the top, I turned around to see a spectacular panorama, west to east, which had no sign of any habitation or other obvious human intervention.

I passed the twin cairns atop the fell and found an idyllic campsite about 200 yards from the summit enclosure, only 20 yards from the path but completely screened from it.

Pen-y-Ghent was framed by my front door, and I watched the sun set over the hills beside it.

Dinner was Cup-a-Soup, Prince's Moroccan Salmon Light Lunch, a big bar of white chocolate and Earl Grey.  Definitely deficient in calories, but tasty.  Plus the sun was shining.

Monday August 27

Fountains Fell to Hawes, SD 88035 89462, 20.4 miles.

Overnight wind and rain tended to detract from last night's euphoria, and I awoke to find Pen-y-Ghent shrouded in mist.

I set off at 8.05am, and there was virtually no useful visibility all the way, via Pen-y-Ghent to Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

My watch became caught in straps on my rucksack, which tore the fixing bar out.  I put the watch in my pocket, but when I next checked, the glass had cracked.

At the Pen-y-Ghent Café in Horton, I bought more Compeed and an unsatisfactory breakfast (cheap low-meat sausages in artificial skins, skimpy bacon rashers, hard-fried egg).  A pint of tea cost £1.70, a smaller refill £1.20, toast was a 70p supplement.  What a contrast with the generous, delicious, high quality fare at East Marton.

The National Park toilets in Horton are definitely walker-unfriendly.  Water bottles cannot be filled as there are no taps inside the building, and the external one is shut off.  As with the North York Moors National Park in my home area, the authority's built facilities appear geared to passing motorists and coach parties, rather than those who actually use the park for recreation.

I anticipated camping on Dodd Fell, but despite the constant heavy rain and strong winds, which buffeted me and sometimes even sent me stumbling, I was making good time and pressed on.

It rained, and it rained, and it rained.  And in between, it rained.  The wind knocked me sideways whenever the path turned north.  And it kept raining.  So I just kept walking.

I shopped in Hawes, and camped in the rain at the friendly Bainbridge Ings site at 5pm.  They even charged my mobile telephone for me.

I discovered that my "waterproofs", which had always performed well in the past, were soaked, as were my new socks. Fortunately, I  managed to keep my bedding dry, but I will be putting on wet clothes tomorrow

Dinner was excellent - ham, Wensleydale cheese, tinned potatoes, bread and butter, two yoghourts and a couple of chocolate cookies bought in a local shop and assembled in my tent.

I washed clothes by hand, rinsed them as well as I could, then spent £2 trying for an hour to get them toasty in a tumble drier.  This had the unfortunate effect of shrinking my brand new socks to an estimated size 2, and I was advised that I would have fared much better had I spun everything first.

Tuesday August 28

Hawes to Keld, NY 88725 01448, 12.9 miles

I tried to have a shower, but the water ran out after 30 seconds, and I simply couldn't be bothered to make a fuss.

I bought a camera and an SD card in Hawes and posted my watch to Maureen. There seemed to be nowhere selling cheap watches, there was no mobile telephone signal, and there was a farcical episode with a phone box in Hardraw.  Any coins inserted were rejected, and when I reported this to the operator, she said the coin box was full and she would report it.  There was no means by which I could make a call, she said.

I asked if I could use a credit card, and she said this was possible, but she would need to transfer me to another department.  Then she said:  "The computers have frozen.  Please try again later."  I gave up.

Finally, I set off on the long-contemplated five-mile ascent to the summit of Great Shunner Fell, which was accomplished with less exertion than I anticipated, although the early stages on sodden footpaths were quite a trial, and these were succeeded by sinking slabs, cobbled rises, peat, standing water and various other amusements.

At 12.30, I stopped in the summit shelter and had three chocolate cookies for lunch, before taking wet paths and stony tracks to Thwaite.

In Keld, I called Maureen from a phone box, then put up the tent at Park House site, where I stopped during the Coast to Coast walk last year.

Heather, the previous owner, had sold out to a young couple.  They were continuing Heather's practice of providing meals in the barn, although the menu was more ambitious than the curry or chilli offered by Heather's husband Steve.  I was concerned that the extra sophistication would mean a reduction in vital calories, especially as comforting side orders of chips were not on offer, but the home-made meat balls with rice, plus a baguette, were excellent in both quality and quantity.

Wednesday August 29

Keld to Middleton-in-Teesdale, NY 94708 24802, 20.6 miles

An early shower made the tent wet for packing, and an extra complication arose when part of the front pole fitting cracked.  I had a bacon baguette for breakfast, then set off for the Tan Hill Inn.

The day continued with tiring ups and downs through peat and mud.

However, at 1pm at Deepdale Beck, I was delighted to encounter a large green hut.  Most of it was securely locked, but a sign reading "shelter" directed me to a room at the end equipped with chairs, where I relaxed with a chocolate bar.  Many thanks to unknown benefactors.

I planned to camp at Baldersdale, but Clove Lodge was deserted and for sale, so with the rain hammering down, I pressed on a further six miles to Middleton-in-Teesdale.

I arrived at the rather dismal tent camping area at Daleview (mainly statics) at 5.30pm.  The pitch was wet and in the shade from surrounding trees, so drying gear was clearly going to be problematic.

By now, I had Compeeds on both big toes, both little toes, both soles and my left heel, and as ever, my priority was to get my feet dry and tended.

Compeeds stick very well, but when they are in constant contact with water, the adhesive gradually absorbs moisture and seeps through one's socks.  This can penetrate to the footbed of a boot, so when the boot is removed, the footbed strips out, attached to the sock.  There then follows a delicate procedure to prise off the footbed, then peel the sock from one's foot, without putting more stress than necessary on the blister.

I called Maureen from a private payphone, then had a beef and ale pie in the site bar.

Thursday August 30

Middleton-in-Teesdale to High Cup, wild camp, NY 72247 25230, 19.6 miles

I had breakfast in Middleton at a café called The Conduit - it was a decent offering, from friendly folk, although the sausage had a strangely textured soft skin - and I bought a £5 watch from the local ironmonger and stocked up at the Co-op, as I needed provisions for two days.

The Tees was very full and raging.  About two miles from Middleton, it was impossible to ford a side-stream, so I had to climb a wall topped with barbed wire, then slosh across sodden grass further upstream, before returning to the far side of the ford.

Low Force and High Force waterfalls were passed, then I had to clean my boots at a disinfection station to help prevent the spread of a fungal infection, phytophthora.

Falcon Clints - two 200-yards areas where rocks have fallen to the riverside, creating boulder-strewn patches that threaten twisted or broken ankles - were passed with great care, before I scrambled up uneasily beside Cauldron Snout.

Moorland ups-and-downs followed, before I arrived at the awesome glacial valley of High Cup, hundreds of feet deep.

I trod warily along the narrow path along the north edge, then faced the unhappy prospect of fording a very full and fast stream close to the fall.

Immediately I placed a foot on an inviting submerged rock, my leg shot away, and I landed on my hands and knees in the swirling stream, about 4ft from the edge.

The rucksack hampered my efforts to keep my balance as I struggled to my feet, but I splashed to the other side, then turned back to fill bottles with the only-slightly peaty water.

I found a good wild campsite out of sight of the path, and finished erecting the tent at 6pm.

The day had stayed fine after early morning rain, and this lasted throughout the night, for once allowing the tent to be packed when dry.

Disadvantages of the site were the occasional whiff of sheep poo, and the appearance of one or two slug-type creatures.  The Lake District hills, however, provided a splendid backdrop for the sunset.

 

 

 

Friday August 31

High Cup to Garrigill, NY 74546 41568, 18.7 miles.

There was a real chill in the air when I left at 7.40am, but the sun quickly came out.

I descended to Dufton and began walking along sludgy tracks.

On the far horizon, atop what seemed to be a junior mountain, I could make out an unnatural feature that I soon decided must be Knock Old Man, the large cairn on Knock Fell (2604ft), which I would have to reach before I could even start thinking about crossing Great Dun Fell (2782ft), Little Dun Fell (2761ft), and finally Cross Fell (2930ft), the highest ground on the Pennine Way.  And Knock Old Man wasn't even on the summit of Knock Fell.

Morale seemed to be in danger of sinking even faster than the temperature was rising.  Unlike on the previous few days, the sun was now blazing down - and I had a fine selection of high fells to cross.

I was limiting my ambition to reaching Greg's Hut, a refuge on the far side of Cross Fell.  I would have done the hard work, I reasoned, and time would probably be pressing on.

The going was slow as I worked my way through the successive fells.  On Great Dun Fell, I used the radar site access road to reach the top, rather than the laborious and pointless slog in and out of Dunfell Hush.  On reaching the site, I discovered that my decision was clearly both anticipated and customary, as the way past the site is waymarked.

As I'd clambered up Great Dun Fell, I thought it unjust that Little Dun Fell wasn't part of the package.  It's not as though "Little" Dun Fell is actually that little.  Ah well, no use arguing.  Get on with it.

I knew that Cross Fell was notorious for having its own weather system, and as I reached the summit plateau, the sun disappeared and a bitter, strong, blustery west wind started blowing, although fortunately, visibility stayed clear.

In the large summit shelter on Cross Fell, I found a couple who had walked up from a local village. That made three people I had seen in the last 36 hours.

At Greg's Hut, I found two sleeping bags hanging up to air, and a poster advertising the re-opening of the pub in Garrigill.

As it was only about 3pm, I set off on the extra seven miles to Garrigill along the tedious, stony corpse road, arriving two hours later.

I camped in a recreation field behind the village hall (£5), was assailed by midges, then had an excellent dinner at the pub.

Although the adjacent public toilets were open all night, only cold water was available, but I rinsed out socks and just managed to lift each foot, in turn, into the wash basin.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday September 1

Garrigill to Greenhead, NY 66045 66090, 21.7 miles

I set off at 7.45am, following field paths to Alston, and enjoyed an excellent breakfast at the Cumbrian Pantry, before visiting a cashpoint, and Hi-Pennine outdoor shop for socks.

Since the creation of the Pennine Way, the railway line from Alston to Haltwhistle, which runs parallel to it as far as Lambley, has been removed, and the trackbed has become part of the South Tyne Trail.

All or some of this route is now customarily used as an alternative to the original Way, as it avoids a pointless, tedious and intricate trudge through muddy fields, over a succession of stiles, and past back gardens.

The added attraction is that for the first 3.25 miles, the South Tyne Trail runs beside a new narrow-gauge railway.  This is a wonderfully eccentric English enterprise, which goes to nowhere in particular, then comes back again, on tracks set to 1ft 11 1316 inches apart - that's one foot, eleven and thirteen-sixteenths of an inch.

After I set off, I could hear the train's whistle behind me, but it seemed to be progressing so slowly that eventually, I decided to stop and let it overtake me so that I didn't arrive at the service's destination first.  I discovered later that the maximum speed allowed on the line is 15mph.

The early stretch of the Trail is well surfaced, in anticipation of local strollers making use of it, and has several interpretative panels.  One suggests looking out for wildlife, such as deer and badgers.  I was just reflecting on the unlikelihood of this when a deer burst out of the undergrowth no more than 10ft from me, took one look at me, then turned and fled in panic.

The path does deteriorate for some time, but it improves again and leads to a demanding climb out at Lambley.

Anyone who stayed on the Trail would cross a spectacular viaduct, and I think it is conceivable that in future, some might choose to continue to Haltwhistle, then pick up the original route of the Pennine Way again via some of the many footpaths that lead to Hadrian's Wall.

I, however, dutifully set off along the marshy Holly Rigg and the descent to Glendue Burn.

At a house called Green Riggs, the Way runs along the drive, beside the house, and over a stile in the back fence. The lady of the house was helping to rebuild a stone wall as I approached, and she gave me a jolly greeting and offered to fill my water bottles.

When she returned with them, she was very friendly and chatty, then explained:  "I try to be cheery now, because I know how horrible the next bit will be for you."

The hell of Blenkinsopp Common awaited me, made even more disgusting and filthy by the recent downpours, which had seen a month's worth of rain fall in two days.

In principle, a route runs north-west-ish over this morass, but in practice, crossing it consists of trying to keep a reasonable line, while avoiding dropping into the filth too often.  I sank up to each knee once, and went in over the top of my boots on several more occasions.

For those who have not experienced bogs such as this, you need to appreciate that the water is so laden with filth that when the water has drained away, one's legs and feet remain black.  It is truly revolting.

I finally escaped and descended to Greenhead, where I had some of the nastiest cod and chips of my life at the Greenhead Hotel.  The cooking oil had clearly been too cool, as it had left the batter soggy and unpleasant, and the fish content was so thin that I think the cod must have been anorexic.  The chips were also discoloured in a way that suggested to me that the oil was well past the point at which it required changing.

I called Maureen then walked on to Holmhead, a camping barn that had been flooded during the downpours.  I was allowed to camp in the grounds and use the barn's showers and toilet.  This was the best, and most relaxed shower of the trip to date.  I was able to wash socks in hot water and inspect my feet under a decent light.

The property is virtually in the shadow of Thirlwall Castle, built in the 14th Century with stone plundered from Hadrian's Wall, and a very attractive location.

Sunday September 2

Greenhead to Bellingham, NY 84063 83198, 21.5 miles

In the morning, I took all my kit into the camping barn and packed there, avoiding any possibility of being caught by rain.  I also cooked my breakfast indoors, although this did not improve the appeal of the noodles.

I set off at 7.45am, diverting from Hadrian's Wall to seek breakfast at Twice Brewed, but I seemed to be the only person awake.

Back at the wall, I found myself in company with half a dozen day walkers.  This in itself qualified as a crowd, compared with my experience of the walk so far. Then I was suddenly faced with what looked to be the entire Regiment of Gurkhas striding towards me. They passed in a steady stream, and I received quite a few smiles and cheerful nods.

I hauled myself up more steep climbs before quitting the wall at Rapishaw Gap.  (My wife Maureen and I walked a long stretch two years ago, so I was well aware of the trials of going up and over every bump in the landscape.)

En route to Wark Forest, each foot sank into the mire, so my feet were wet and filthy once more.

At times, the Way is diverted from forestry tracks onto paths through the woods, and stretches of these were often abysmal, with barely negotiable bogs and pools.

At one break in the forest, I went astray in trying to negotiate a sea of filth, but fortunately turned round and spotted a guide post a few hundred yards away.  Even more fortunately, when I reached it, it read: "Pennine Way".

The sun came out and the temperature rose considerably.

The conditions meant that I was constantly watching my footing, which meant I spotted an adder sunning itself on the path six feet ahead of me.  I reached for my camera, but it slithered away.

At noon, I stopped in the forest and ate half the ginger cake (remember that?) and drank copious volumes of water.

More depressing muck lay ahead. Horneystead Farm posted signs a mile in advance advertising refreshments, but there was no sign of anything or anyone when I arrived.

The final rise, to Shitlington Crags, was a muddy torment followed by a scramble over rocks, and the two-mile descent to Bellingham seemed to take an age.

I arrived at about 5pm, and at Demesne Farm campsite, actually encountered another Pennine Way walker, who, it transpired, had set off four days before me.

Tuna, tinned potatoes, tomato and buttered cobs made a fine dinner, having been preceded by a large tub of cherries, yoghourt and a bottle of fizzy water. (The Co-op was selling off short-dated items, so I did rather well.)
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday September 3

Bellingham to Byrness, NT 76410 02742, 15.4 miles.

I didn't set off until 8.50am, having breakfasted on a buttered cob and a Cup-A-Soup.  At the Co-op, I supplemented this with a banana, and I bought a ham and cheese sandwich, crisps and an apple for lunch.

A steep hill led to more bogs (early foot-wetting) then the traverse of Lough Shaw and Deer Play.

After finding my way to the summit of Whitley Pike, I took the wrong line of descent by following a track made by a four-wheel drive vehicle.  I realised my error, but decided to continue, instead of thrashing cross-country or reclimbing the hill, as I could see from the map that I would intercept a country lane that would set me aright.

I followed the original line of the Pennine Way past Pit Houses, to join a forest track, avoiding the appalling bog that was substituted at the insistence of the local Ramblers' Association branch.  (They also pressed unsuccessfully for Byrness to be bypassed, which seems, on the face of it, to have been a particularly brainless suggestion.)

The tedious forestry tracks were quite steep, but I arrived at Blakehopeburnhaugh sooner than expected, then had a tramp beside the river and through forestry operations to Byrness.  There I checked in at Forest View Walkers' Accommodation (actually two converted houses in a terrace) where at 3.30pm I camped free of charge in the back garden, in exchange for agreeing to buy an evening meal.

I had an excellent shower, did some washing, and even hung up my boots to dry, for the first time in two weeks.

Dinner was goat's cheese tart (delicious) and chilli with naan and rice (ditto) - all for just £8.

I ordered an "early bird" cold breakfast, as service did not start until 8am.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday September 4

Byrness to Kirk Yetholm, 27.4 miles

My intention was to go only to the second mountain refuge hut, leaving me about seven miles from Kirk Yetholm, on this long crossing of the Cheviot Hills, as I felt it was possible that I would have insufficient light for the complete crossing.

With a vertical mile of height gain on the journey,  I expected the walk to be strenuous and demanding, but if necessary, I could find somewhere to pitch the tent.

I was conscious of the fact that I was unlikely to find water en route, so I carried 3.5 litres: a litre for the first day's walk, 1.5 litres for reconstituting my dinner and for drinking in the evening, and a litre for the final day.

The early bird breakfast turned out to be an individual box of cereal, a low-fat yoghourt, a banana and half a litre of milk, which I supplemented with some extra calories from my own supplies.

I had also bought a corned beef sandwich for lunch.

I set off at 7.30am, and the direct ascent of Byrness Hill meant that battle was immediately joined with a vengeance.

My clothes were clean, and for the first time, my boots were bone dry, so inevitably, I went into the mire, over the top of my boots, within a couple of hours. (The previous day, I spoke to a lady who had, alarmingly, sunk into the filth to the top of both legs.)

Later in the day, I dropped up to both knees - thankfully, on this occasion - into  comparatively clean water, which dried without leaving too much evidence.

The magnificent volcanic hills kept coming  and coming, each seeming more challenging than the last.  The Cheviots are said to be the most remote country in England, although I did meet one day-walker who had popped up from one of the two minor roads that reach valleys within 2.5 miles of the plateau.

Navigation provided few difficulties, as the border fence was a regular companion.

I passed the first refuge hut and had a 20-minute lunch break on top of Windy Gyle, which certainly lived up to its name.

A springy, 20-year-old boardwalk on the approach to Auchope Cairn (2,380ft) provided some of the most comfortable walking of the journey, but the summit was wild and exposed.

The descent from was very steep indeed, and with the side wind buffeting me, I fell several times.

After a 10-minute rest at the second refuge hut, I decided to continue, as I was walking well.

I realised I should reach Kirk Yetholm by 7-7.30pm, but I always had the option of throwing up the tent if circumstances delayed me and darkness fell.

Perhaps it was a mixture of impatience, imagination and anticipation, but the final hill, 1,942ft The Schill, seemed to be the most awkward brute of the day.

Finally, however, the onward route was virtually all downhill, and it felt unsettling to be turning my back on the remote uplands that I had passed over, slept in and stumbled through.

An episode of my life, an inspiring fortnight in which I had enjoyed a relationship with some of Britain's most isolated countryside, was suddenly coming to its conclusion.

As I approached KY, I decided to spend the last night in a bed and breakfast house, preferably the Border Hotel, so that I could clean myself thoroughly before the journey home.

But then disaster struck. I fell into a great deal of noxious and malodorous "mud", coating my trousers, and splattering my jacket and rucksack, and I became concerned that I would be turned away.

Closer to KY, I unpacked my waterproof overtrousers, with the intention of wearing  those, but they were also filthy, so I unzipped the two bottom sections of my trousers, to leave me in (almost) clean shorts.

Somehow, I passed muster in the Border Hotel, where I arrived at 7.20pm, having phoned Maureen so that she was on the end of the line and with me in spirit when I touched the wall of the finishing spot.

I had a luxurious bath at the hotel, ate well, signed the Pennine Wayfarers' book and was given a certificate of completion, but I slept very badly, as I couldn't switch off.  Next morning, I awoke as usual at 6am, ready for the walk I wouldn't be doing.  The manager of the Border Hotel's last words to me were:  "I'll see you again."

I wonder.

 

Company

There is a much-quoted statistic, allegedly from the Peak District Park ranger service, that typically, half of those who start the Pennine Way drop out after the first day, and another half before Tan Hill, although the origin of this is lost in the mists of Pennine Way legend.

The perception is that the popularity of the walk is very much reduced since its heyday in the 1960s-70s, and that nowadays perhaps an average of 20-25 walkers a week complete it (ie 1,000-1,500 a year).  In places, I found the route so overgrown that it was difficult to believe that anyone at all had walked it in recent days. 

Until I reached Byrness, I met only one other person who was walking the entire south-north route, one who was stopping at Hadrian's Wall, and no one who seemed to be walking north-south.

In fact, once past the day-walking honeypot of Kinder Scout, I met very few people at all.

In Byrness, by coincidence, I encountered a female member of the Peak District rescue organisation, who had been called out on the search that disturbed my sleep on Bleaklow.  She was walking north-south.  At the same time, I met a German couple going south-north.  Both they and the lady from the rescue team had already walked half of the Byrness-Kirk Yetholm leg, and had been collected from a spot on a road that approached within two miles of the route, to return them to their bed and breakfast accommodation. On the day that I set off for Kirk Yetholm (while they were still abed!) they were taken back by car to their previous finish point.

The walk

It's a long way.

When the walk was introduced in 1965, it was said to be, suspiciously, the conveniently memorable distance of 250 miles.  Since then, it has been variously estimated at 255-275 miles.  When I returned home, I plotted my own route as accurately as possible on Memory Map, which provided me with a personal total of 269.4 miles, which I covered in 14 days, 4 hours: about 19 miles a day. 

It's hard work. 

According to the National Trails agency, there are 287 gates, 249 timber stiles and 183 stone stiles to break your stride. There is also a little scrambling, and a few dodgy fords after heavy rain.  I probably approached 4mph on the well-surfaced, level reservoir roads, but the Pennine Way is a very up-and-down route, and that blessed rucksack slowed me down considerably going uphill, and sometimes made me step very warily downhill.

There are few dramatic highlights (Kinder Downfall, High Cup, Hadrian's Wall are the obvious ones).

It's a solitary experience - I refrain from calling it "lonely" because that's a state of mind.  I was never lonely; I enjoyed the experience of isolation and I discovered that after 63 years, there were still things for me to learn about myself.

I lost half a stone - down from 10st 7lbs to 10st - because my calorie intake was too low.

My kit

The previous year, I wore a pair of very comfortable Grisport Storm boots for the Coast to Coast walk.  These were put away in anticipation of the Pennine Way, and called into service on only four or five occasions during the intervening year, when my work-a-day boots were soaked, or otherwise unavailable for my twice-weekly walks in North Yorkshire.  (I generally walk 20-plus miles a week on the moors and surrounding country, so fitness wasn't a concern.)

When the Grisport boots were brought out for Pennine Way service, they had covered 710 miles, and were showing little sign of wear. I thought that as far as my feet were concerned, I was leaving little to chance.  However, after the first day, my feet were almost constantly soaking wet while walking, and that was certainly the prime cause of my crop of blisters. Once I returned home, it took only three or four days for my feet to heal reasonably well.

Coleman Avior X2 tent
Berghaus Verden 65 + 10 rucksack
2-3 season sleeping bag
Sleeping bag silk liner
Inflatable sleeping mat
First aid kit
Washing kit, 2 * 60ml bottles hand steriliser
Mobile telephone and charger
GPS (used for a total of 18 minutes)
Small hand torch
Headlight
Spare AA and AAA batteries for GPS, torches and radio (none needed)
Gas stove and cartridge - used only for heating water/food in water.
Aluminium cookpot and lid
Thermoplastic knife, fork, spoon, plus tin opener and penknife
2 lighters
Soft shell jacket
Quick-dry zip-off trousers
Rain jacket
Waterproof overtrousers
Grisport Storm leather boots
2 technical tops, 3 sets each of socks,  underwear, handkerchiefs
Visor Buff (lost); standard Buff
Excellent Trailblazer guide book, Harveys strip maps, map case
Notebook, 3 pens
Camera
Bifocal glasses
Spare reading glasses
Sony Walkman radio
Reserve dehydrated food (Mountain House main meals)/cereal bars, etc for (nominally) at least two days
4 * half-litre collapsible water bottles; 1 * 1 litre collapsible water bottle (generally for use in sterilising ground water, or filled for use in tent/for cooking at end of day); 1 * half-litre bottle (added before final day's walk).
Water sterilising tablets.

Harry Whitehouse

Please feel free to email me.

 

 

Pennine Way, 2013 (Edale-Dufton)

I decided to tackle the Pennine Way again ten months later, in the hope of seeing some of the sights that I had missed through the rain, mist and cloud of the previous year.  Despite a nagging doubt, I persisted with my Avior X2 tent, trusting in the strength of my Araldited repair of the main alloy pole.
 

Monday June 3

Edale to wild camp SK 08948 93336 10 miles
Walking 3pm-6.50pm.

By complete contrast with 2012, the walk started - again at 3pm -  with scorching sun, and climbing Jacob's Ladder  was a very sweaty and tiring affair.  I was already having concerns about carrying or finding sufficient water for the walk.

I phoned Maureen from Kinder Downfall, where barely a trickle was passing over the edge.

Soon after, I tripped on a rock and fell, tearing my new walking trousers.

As last year, I camped at Doctor's Gate.  The difference on this occasion was that because of the extended daylight, there were still a few people (two cyclists passing along the old track that parallels the Snake Road, and one walker) out and about when I pitched the tent.


Very little water in the River Kinder

Tuesday June 4

Wild camp SK 08948 93336 to Great Western pub Standedge, SE 03293 09888 19 miles
Walking 7.20am-4pm.

Because of the forecast of continuing hot weather, I decided to start as early as possible each day, finishing if possible no later than mid-afternoon.

Initially, although the sun was out early, a mild breeze made conditions pleasant.

However, I still felt shaky from yesterday's afternoon's sun, and I fell twice on Bleaklow.

I started with only a litre of water to hand, but took a further litre from streams.

Uphill walking was a real trial as the sun grew stronger, as I was having trouble regaining concentration after yesterday's exertions in the heat.  At times, I was taking only 15, 25 or 50 steps (I was actually counting them) before stopping to draw breath.

Eventually I had a break to eat nuts and dried fruit, and drink almost a full litre of water, and this perked me up.

From 3pm-4pm, the sun was as hot as on Monday, but I reached the Great Western in reasonable shape at about 4pm, put up the tent and dozed for a couple of hours before eating in the pub.

Wednesday June 5

Great Western pub, Standedge, to Colden, SD 96340 28860 19 miles
Walking 7.20am-3.10pm.

Another 7.20am start, but this time in my rain top, as it was very damp and overcast.

I had only a pot of instant porridge for breakfast, in anticipation of the delights of Brian's snap wagon five miles ahead.

As I was descending the final sloping 300 yards to the van, I had a sudden, inexplicable intense pain in my left little toe.  I hobbled to the van, took off my boot and discovered that the toe was very red and swollen. 

I feasted on a bacon and mushroom bap and a mug of tea, and discovered that I had been very lucky, as Brian was due to close for a holiday at noon.

I applied a Compeed to my painful toe, and this eased matters somewhat.  I fell twice on the moors: I really am becoming a very clumsy walker.

The Whitehouse pub was closed when I passed at 10.10am. Last year, I arrived there about two hours later and stopped for a soda.

During the long trudge beside the reservoirs, I took off my rain top, as the overcast had cleared and the mercury was rising.

I stopped for peanuts and raisins at Stoodley Pike. The climb up to May's Farm shop, where I arrived at 3.10pm, was very hot and unpleasant.

I rewarded May for again allowing me to camp free of charge by buying fizzy water, tinned potatoes and peas, tuna, dried apricots, a sausage roll and ice cream for dinner...with a tube of fruit gums for an occasional treat.

Apples and bananas were bought for the next day.

Above: The welcome side of Brian's bacon butty van.
Below: The unwelcome side.


Thursday June 6

Colden to Cowling, SD 96887 42907, 15.6 miles
Walking 7am-2.40pm.

Banana, nuts and dried apricots for breakfast.

It was very cool and overcast when I set off at 7am for the steep climb from the valley.

At Walshaw Dean Reservoir, I met for the first time Ian and his daughter Robyn from Malvern - although we didn't introduce ourselves at the time.  They, it transpired, had set off at 5.30am from a farm site close to May's shop.

Our paths crossed throughout the day, and I learned that they were also heading for Winterhouse Barn in Cowling.

The day ended at 2.40pm with a hot, uninteresting trudge over the moors, but my early starts were minimising exposure to the worst of the sun.

The grocery shop in Cowling had no fresh fruit, but I tried Chinese express rice for the first time, and this worked well, with tuna, and tinned potatoes and mushrooms swimming in melted butter. Two orange Club biscuits and a tin of pineapple followed.

I camped in the company of the landowner's hens, which needed some gentle discouragement to keep them out of the tent.

I was in bed and trying to sleep by 8pm, but the church clock and traffic noise kept me awake until midnight.

Friday, June 7

Cowling to Malham, SD 90103 62889, 18.5 miles
Walking 7.20am-3.10pm.

I was walking at 7.20am, after a breakfast of instant porridge and the last of my dried fruit and nuts, having decided to walk past last year's stop in Gargrave. 

Ian and Robyn started before I was awake - I learned later that it was their practice to start at about 5.30, and stop for breakfast after about an hour.

The sun was out from the start, but it was tolerable for the first couple of  hours.  There were lots of tiring ups and downs through farmland, well-populated with sheep and cattle.

I stopped at Abbot's Harbour again for an all-day breakfast, but it failed to match last year's standard.  My tea was lukewarm, but quickly replaced on request, and although the breakfast was tolerable, there was much excess oil spread around and over the food and plate.  This saddened me, as I'd been looking forward to this stop.

In Gargrave Coop, the staff were far more pleasant that last year's snide grumps, and I stocked up.

The day was very hot, and I was drinking copious amounts of water.

I usually get into a good rhythm in the afternoon, and on this day, I did seem to be walking more fluently than had been the case so far.

In Malham, I camped in a small plot at Miresfield Farm.  Once again, there were resident hens, although these were less persistent than the ones in Cowling.

I went to the Lister Arms for a caesar salad, as I felt in need of greenery, and realised later that I had been charged a record sum of £2.60 for a pint of soda water and lime. 

Had I twigged this at the outset, I would have walked out.  Some pubs are happy to charge £1 and make a reasonable profit. £2.60 isn't just profiteering, it's racketeering. While I'm having a rant, it's simply not acceptable for a member of staff to snap at an overseas visitor:  "We don't sell J2O.  We've got orange cordial.  Do you want it or not?"

PLUS I'm not convinced the caesar salad had any anchovies, and a pool of liquid in the bottom of the bowl doesn't count as dressing in my book.  So there!

I listened to The Archers while perched on a shady seat on a nearby green.

More abandoned boots


Saturday, June 8

Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale, SD 80910 72237, 15 miles
Walking 6.50am-2.20pm.

I set off at 6.50am, and the sun warmed up by 7.15, but there was intermittent cloud during the day.

This was a real contrast from last year, when I walked in the area of Malham Tarn in a torrential downpour.

For the sake of nostalgia, I found my old wild campsite on Fountains Fell and had elevenses there.

I climbed the south approach to Pen-y-Ghent very slowly, marvelling at the airy location, then encountered Ian and Robyn on the stony, knee-jarring descent into Horton.

I camped at Holme Farm at 2.20pm. 

After an excellent carvery meal at the adjacent pub, I retired to my tent to listen to The Archers, then tried to settle down for the night.

The racket from revellers at the crowded site was terrible, with one cretinous man in particular shouting unfunny remarks, laced with obscenities, which inspired pathetic cawing and cackling from crowds of women.

At midnight, some wit climaxed the evening's festivities by screaming: "Wakey! Wakey!" across the site.

The noise then began to diminish, but a couple in a neighbouring  tent decided to start discussing the temperature of the showers.  Finally, the woman ran an electric compressor for five minutes, to pump extra air into her mattress.


My home entertainment system

Sunday, June 9

Horton to Hardraw, SD 86792 91238, 16 miles.
Walking 6.40am-1.50pm.

Lots of trudging along stony tracks, at first in overcast conditions, but with much sun in the final couple of hours.

Last year, there had been very little visibility, so I was delighted during the ascent to Cam End to see all three Yorkshire peaks and Ribblehead Viaduct in one scene.

I met Ian and Robyn at the 99-mile mark.

In Hawes, I bought a sandwich and crisps for lunch from the Spar shop, and Wensleydale cheese, ham, tined potatoes and mushrooms and bread for dinner.

While I was erecting the tent at the peaceful tea rooms campsite, the main arc pole of the tent broke for a second time (I had fixed it with Araldite before setting off for the walk).  I bodged a repair by removing one section of pole, and bridging the break with a short length of alloy tube.  Unfortunately, this did make the tent a little saggy, causing some interior dripping during the showers of the next two nights..

I had tea in the café, wrote a postcard to Maureen, and did lots of washing, in the hope that most, if not all of it would dry in the sun.  This meant that I was lying around sweating in my waterproofs, as virtually everything else was wet.

Wensleydale cheese, local ham, freshly-baked bread, and potatoes and mushrooms swimming in butter.  Wonderful!

Monday, June 10

Hardraw to Tan Hill Inn, NY 89687 06703, 16.5 miles.
Walking 7.20am-3.50pm

Lots of climbing, starting with the very long ascent of Great Shunner Fell in the (thankfully) low cloud.

Piles of new slabs have been lowered onto the moor by helicopter, and I spoke to  two men who were preparing to lay them.

I had a pot of tea in a café at Thwaite, then had a superb walk above the Swale to Keld, meeting Ian and Robyn en route.

They stopped in Keld for an ice cream, while I diverted to the phone box to call Maureen.

I ate a large lump of cheese, crisps and a banana while relaxing on a bench in Keld.

There was a long pull over the moors to Tan Hill, where an off-road cyclist was swearing uncontrollably about the bicycle of his lady companion. It appears that the front wheel was binding.

"F*****g hell!  You f*****g a******e!  First the f*****g car and now this f****r!  I've f*****g had enough!  Hold it f****g still!"

These two lycra-clad individuals were facing each other, an uncooperative bicycle between them, on a stretch of barren moorland.  The man was becoming progressively more agitated, while the lady stood silent and cowed, holding the bicycle.

First I, then Ian and Robyn, appeared over a rise to witness the man's violent, bullying boorishness. It was none of my business, of course, but I felt sorry for the lady, and wondered if this cowardly abuse and lack of restraint was a feature of her home life.

By this time, I had also met Sarah, a very fit young lady gardener, now living in Sheffield, who had recently returned from several years in southern Spain.

Ian, Robyn and I had drinks at the inn, camped nearby after discouraging the local sheep (and almost inevitably, hens), then had an excellent dinner - a giant yorkshire pudding filled with vegetables, chips, a monster cumberland sausage and gravy.

Back to the tent for chocolate, tea, an apple and bed.


 

 

Tuesday, June 11

Tan Hill Inn to Low Way Farm, Holwick, NY 91530 27057, 20.5 miles
Walking 6.40am-4pm

The night was very cold, and at 3am I had to don some clothes before returning to bed.

I didn't appreciate that in doing so, I had caught the adjustment knob on my watch, stopping it.  Eventually, I realised that on the last three occasions that I had consulted my watch, it had shown 3am, so I switched on my telephone and discovered that it was somewhat later.

I also found that I was quite short of food, and breakfasted on the remains of packets of nuts, raisins, dried apricots, a crumbled flapjack and a cup of green tea.

My left little toe was still painful, and had become rather stiff, but this eased with movement.

Sleightholme Moor provided occasional navigational challenges, and there were many ups and downs during the day, but a cool breeze and occasional slight drizzle provided some of the best walking conditions to date.

I had pleasant breaks at God's Bridge and the refuge hut at Deepdale Beck, and passed Ian and Robyn.

Having shopped at the Co-op in Middleton-in-Teesdale, I had an all-day breakfast at The Conduit, where the sausage featured the same strangely textured soft skin that I remembered from last year. At this point, I discovered that I had brought with me the wrong telephone charger.

The shopping was quite heavy, and I had a wearisome walk along the three miles to Low Way Farm campsite.  The notice promoting the site had disappeared from the Pennine Way, and although there was one unoccupied frame tent there, there was no sign of any site supervisor.  I phoned the number given in the book, which turned out to be the YHA (who disclaimed any knowledge of the site) then left a message on the answering machine at the actual Low Way Farm.

At 6.50 a cheery chap arrived on a mini-tractor and relieved me of £4.

I examined my little toe and discovered that under the Compeed, a blister seemed to have formed, burst, gone septic, and oozed yellow pus, which had then dried into a crumbling, caked wedge.

The toe was red, painful to touch, and throbbing.  I picked off the dried pus, discovered that there was more waiting to ooze out, cleaned the toe as best I could with a sterile wipe, then applied a clean Compeed.

Dinner was a very satisfying collection of chicken bits, a cheese cob, two Club bars, tinned pineapple and an apple.

The spooky hill of Kirkcarrion

Last year, these stones were submerged in rushing water, necessitating a long diversion over barbed wire and stone walls.

Wednesday, June 12

Low Way Farm to Grandie Caravan Park, Dufton, NY 69105 25000, 18.5 miles
Walking 7.15am-3.15pm

There was rain in the night, and the tent had to be packed damp.  I donned waterproofs, as there were still spatterings of rain, and much moisture in the air.

The River Tees was very low, compared to last year.  After a few miles, I passed Ian and Robyn, who were tucking into their bacon cobs, having walked from Middleton.

About two miles before Cauldron Snout, the path beside the Tees acquires a few boulders.

When I put my foot on the very first one, it skidded off and propelled me into the river. Fortunately, it was so shallow that only my left arm and leg were submerged.  However, this did mean that my left boot was soaking, and I was concerned that this might cause extra problems with my toe.

My £5 watch was wet, as was my camera case, which was attached to the left-hand side of my rucksack waist strap, and my mobile telephone was in an inner pocket on the left of my jacket.  Fortunately, everything seemed to be in good order, although the camera case was very damp.

I trod very gingerly across the fallen boulders of Falcon Clints, and climbed with great care beside Cauldron Snout.  To round off my minor misfortunes of the day, at the top of Cauldron Snout I managed to submerge both boots in peaty squelch.

High Cup was spectacular, especially as a flat-bottomed cloud kept rising and falling like a lift to reveal the chasm, then conceal it.  I tried to identify the route of the public footpath that descends from the Nick, but without success.

After last year's trepidation, I found a safer, higher track through an old quarry as I passed around the edge of High Cup.

There followed a long trudge down to Dufton during which I started experiencing a sharp pain above the outside of my left ankle.  Strangely, this was cured if I unfastened my boot lace, but I could not see any sign of rubbing or pressure.  My little toe continued to be troublesome.

At the caravan park, I handed over £7 for the pitch. The owner told me that a camper who set off from the site that morning had returned after several hours, having wandered around, lost on Knock Fell in heavy mist, and had taken a taxi to Alston to catch up with his tent and bags, which were being transported from site to site.

I was well settled when Ian and Robyn arrived at 4.30.

The weather forecast tomorrow is quite ominous - heavy rain and winds arriving from Wales.

Innocently pondering the coming days.  I wondered if tomorrow I would decide to stop in Garrigill or Alston, but Friday was more in my thoughts, as I was looking forward to diverting over Lambley Viaduct en route to Winshields campsite.  Little did I suspect what fortune had in store for me.

Thursday, June 13,
The end, 8 miles
Walking 6.50am-10.55am

Disaster struck when I took down the tent, as the main arc pole snapped at the end of the tube that I had used to support it.  Clearly, the straight tube forced onto a curving pole had imposed stresses.

There would be no means of erecting the tent, but I set off in the hope that some solution would occur to me.

Ahead lay Knock Fell, Great and Little Dun Fells and Cross Fell.

As I covered the first couple of upward miles, I realised that there was no point in simply carrying 2.5 kilos of useless tent. The options were (somehow) to replace it, to switch to B&Bs, or to give up.

Apart from the prohibitive expense of staying in pubs and guest houses, I felt it unlikely that I would be welcomed in my dishevelled, bewhiskered state, with no proper change of outfit. In any case, where was the adventure in B&Bing?  That would be a poor substitute.

I turned back to Dufton and walked four further miles by road into Appleby, the old county town of Westmorland, where I was told of a large shop on the A66 out of town. which stocked premium-price tents, and to whose premises I could take a taxi.  Failing that, the most practical option was to catch a train to Leeds to do my tent shopping.

Either option would mean a delay of one or two days, and the forced purchase of a tent that would almost certainly not be my one of choice.  

I decided that my trip was over. Once I'd turned back on the track to Knock Fell, the fun had begun to evaporate.  It was time to stop.

I bought a ticket to Scarborough and munched my walking rations on the train.  In Leeds, where I had to change trains, my toe and ankle had become so painful that I had to use the lift between platforms, and in Scarborough, I suffered the final indignity of ending my journey by taxi.

Total: 177.9 miles

 

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Harry Whitehouse