Byrness to Windy Gyle: 14miles

Fourteen miles and then a hurried descent down to a red tin barn to be picked up a little while later. 

Walking away from this up a steep slope into the forest and up onto the heathland was tough but the sun was shining and birds were happy and so were we. The weather defied the forecast and we made the most of it. We reached the Cheviots and Scotland. 

My pictures do not them justice. Wonderful row upon row of mountains and hills and not a person or car in sight. Glorious. Great walking. 

We walked with two new friends who are discovering the joys of through hiking, which is what it’s called now. And two Irish guys who had walked past their drop off point. They had to walk back another couple of miles with us and all went well until Windy Gyle and Russell’s Cairn. 

At this point we had a one and a half mile scamper down the hill in sleet and driving rain. Very wet. And silly me didn’t put her rain pants on. 

We made it to the barn for our pick up and spent a happy twenty minutes not very discreetly taking off our wet stuff and putting on our rain pants – a strange sensation but dry. 

Then a switchback drive back to camp. These four huddled, steamy and pasty in the back.

All good fun. And tomorrow is our last walking day. We have to scamper back up that mountain and along to Kirk Yethom and claim our pint of beer for finishing the longest and toughest of Britain’s national trails. And here is a picture of me, looking bemused but happy doing something I love. 

Thought you’d like it. 

Greenhead to Bellingham: 22 miles

Twenty two miles! As one of our friends said “No walk should be that long.”

Walking away from the dank and musty hostel at Greenhead was not hard but the rest of it was. You walk beside Hadrian’s Wall for eight miles (up and down and up again) and then more moor and a bit of bog and forest thrown in for good measure. 

We all got wet feet and hard pads and blisters and Sue’s wrenched her knee. I fell over and lost my buff. We ate every last ration except some nuts which we’ve carried from Edale. Even some bananas fit only for baking. 

(The pics won’t upload but words will. I’ll try when the wifi is better.) 

Anyhow after much traipsing we made it and did what we do before bed. Only 15 today, such larks. 

ps I do enjoy it really – in a perverse way.

Bellingham to Byrness 

Fifteen miles: not so hard but over some dodgy terrain. More moor and bog. Slippery and puddlesome. Wet socks. Such  I’ve had enough of that for at least the next decade. Next time I’m coming in a car with a flask. It rained steadily for an hour or two and we ploughed on with Haribos for comfort. And co op sandwiches for lunch which we ate hunched against a five bar gate. 

Then more forest, which was strangely deserted for a bank holiday – no dog walkers or mountain bikers. It was ok. It’s done. I want to be in Kirk Yetholm now. We are so nearly there -27 miles to go – but there’s no accommodation, barring bothies, on the way so we have to come back here tomorrow. 

A stiff climb through a forest first today, then over the Cheviots to Windy Gyle, past a fortlet(?) Ogre Hill, Hardens Edge. You get the picture? 

But so nearly nearly there. 

Alston to Greenhead

How can a 17 mile walk be an easy day? But it was, or easier at least. A normal time for breakfast and a flat start and a little cheat along the South Tyne Way. Delightful as it runs alongside a steam railway track. 

But here our luck ran out and we had to rejoin the PW, still, it was a comfortable three miles. Not a memorable walk but ok. And done. 

And then the weather changed. 

We are tucked up in a converted chapel working as a Hostel and safe against the storms. Relief. Veggie burger tonight. 22 miles to Bellingham tomorrow. 

 Dufton to Alston very long and over High Cross Fell- the highest point in the PW.

Awake at 5.30am. Queasy breakfast. Then up and over the fells before it got too hot. 

And it was hot again. No one predicted this and we are carrying wet weather gear and down jackets and all. 

Down into Garrigal which provided some warm pop from a Caminoesque shop, underlit and under supplied. But we so enjoyed it under a gracious spreading tree. 

We had another five miles to go. Hot and bumpy and many stiles but we got here and  got our washing done and cooked our pasta and wolfed it down. Then sleep. 

Gregs hut – very welcome shelter.

Walking into Alston. A lovely welcoming Hostel. 

Day 10 Middleton to Dufton 21 miles

Rated by our guidebook as Pennine Way gold. What can I say? It began so well with a lovely breakfast st the Brunswick Hotel in Middleton. I encourage you to stay there and marvel at their hospitality. A super breakfast and top packed lunch, including a delicious pot of salad and gherkin to go in the ham roll. Tyrell’s crisps! And homemade brownie which oozed in the heat but was yummy just the same. They also did our skanky washing and returned it neatly folded and sweet smelling. 

Walking away was tough but the riverside was beautiful and full of wild flowers. 

After this point I need to be brief because the walk was immense. 

Highlights: Three waterfalls Low Force, High Force and Cauldron Snout an impressive waterfall but a cheeky little climb/scramble up the side. Don’t look down or back. 

And bouldering. Should middle aged women do this? Ankleturning and dangerous I’d say. But there was no alternative. So onward ever onward. Through an airless hot valley which thankfully held the bubbling Tees where we drenched our buffs and head gear and dangled our feet when we could. It was 27′ – nothing had prepared us for this. 

Until we came on this – High Cup Nick. I was blown away by this, even in my utter weariness. 
Only a few more dusty hot miles into Dufton where we sank onto the YHA beds and inspected our feet. Not great. But it’s done. Tick. Shower, eat, sleep rinse, repeat. 


Tan Hill to Middleton in Teesdale 

Breakfast at Tan Hill- go, go tomorrow. It’s Fawlty  Towers with a Latvian Manuel. 

Let’s just say organisation is not their strong point. But there was a lot to look at while you’re waiting. 

We got away later than we’d hoped. 

Then a boggy walk over Sleighthome Moor. 

The more moor and reservoir and bog, but kind people all the way offering water on this ridiculously hot day. We tramped along for many hours admiring the views, feeling grateful to be able to do this but wishing the day were at an end. 

We reached halfway in miles today and some long days to come. Tonight we’re in Co Durham and eating with the sisters walking to remember their mum, but passing the time of day with other walkers who cross our path, some of whom are doing Lands End to John O Groats. Gasp. They left on April 1st and have only had one and half days of rain. 

There’s a common enemy, the Pennine Way itself, and the heat. I’ve bought after sun to anoint my farmer’s tan but so far, so good. No blisters. Twenty one miles tomorrow. Yikes. 

Hardraw to Tan Hill 16 miles

The best day yet walking and weather wise: hills and dales bathed in sunshine. And the moorland not too boggy. It’s windy though and my arms are red from too much exposure. This is where we started – Hardraw bunkhouse which I recommend. It’s basic but a good space and excellent showers. 

From there onto Great Shunner Fell which Wainwright said he could climb all day even though he was fat and senile. It was a pleasant climb with birdsong and shadows of clouds passing over the hills. 

We passed Thwaite which had an excellent tea shop and fine cake, and Keld another pretty village. We saw streams and waterfalls and all round loveliness. 

But while the villages are pretty, on a walk like this it’s the cairns and shelters which most appeal to me.

A thoughtfully constructed four way wind break so walkers are protected no matter which way the wind blows. 

This is not the work of an afternoon and we appreciate those who gave their time in the cause. Indeed Becky coined a new Beatitude: Blessed are the slab layers, for they help us walk on dry land.

Tonight we are at Britain’s highest inn, with lots of other crazy people who enjoy pounding their feet on long distance trails. Outside farmers are constructing sheep pens for a show on Thursday. Downstairs two women are marking the death of their mother who passed away two years back. She took them on a cycling holiday in this area as teenagers in the 70s on bikes with no gears. Respect. They are not seasoned walkers but are doing it to honour her. And loving it and feeling proud. Another grizzled looking  guy from LA has walked the Appalachian Way, Pacific Crest Trail, two Caminos and many long distance paths in the UK. He clearly is addicted to this. 

We are now halfway in days and tomorrow we reach halfway in mileage. Some monster walks to come: but for now I’m happy to be in the second column. 

Horton to Hardraw Day 7 

An easier day but there were still points when I was out of love with this walk. Had one of you turned up with a car I might have walked away. But we made it, against all the odds. 

Totally wonderful breakfast with slightly sad Steve who runs a super duper B and B with this

And Pen y Gent from the porch.

Long walking then Hawes. Pretty market town. 

The to Hardraw bunkhouse. 

And the most macabre pub you’ve ever come across. Fortunately we have supplies to eat here because it offered little but taxidermy. 

We’re near Dismal Hill but this was in another league. We were glad to come back to our strange but wholesome bunkhouse. 

Lots of adventure books. 

And ours continues tomorrow to Tan Hill the highest pub in Britain. 

Day 6 Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale

Yesterday was a walk which started well in the sunshine – but ended in a damp scramble into Malham. All the wet weather gear went on. 

Some lovely views but very wet feet by the end. Our room in Malham youth hostel was like this.

Only one person could stand at a time. But friendly staff and some witty signs. 

Hostels have changed for the better – there’s a far more relaxed regime which combines well with a traditional drying room. And they provided a decent breakfast which meant we were on our way early to see this

Malham Cove – impressive. After a wicked climb out of Malham there was a lot to admire and we had the weather to do it. 

Lovely walking. Some ‘stiff sustained climbs’ but a very satisfying day. 

Lunch=dry ham sandwich and a falling apart gluten free cookie. I ate it anyway. 

Down Fountains Fell and up Pen y Gent with Sue’s brother and his dog who joined us for this bit, and dinner. For those of you who long to join us on these ridiculous rambles, but who fear we are Amazonian – which is all tosh btw – a day or two’s walking with us is a good way in. You’ll see that we stumble and trip and I stay at the back, most of the time because I’m not a whippet, let alone an Amazon. 

Climbing Pen y Gent looked worse that it was, my fitness is improving, but still involved a little scramble and a few dicey moments when the wind caught my rucksack. No retaining wall to catch the flyaway rambler. But we all made it and after a stomp down a three mile stony track we found ourselves in Horton where the Three Peaks events start from. 

Horton is a pretty village but full of bossy signs like this :

But the staff in the cafe were superb and attentive and we got tomorrow’s tuck in there which I won’t show you because you ll only be jealous.

Then showers, washing, pub, (a roast lamb dinner since you’re asking) bed. 

A good day, and aren’t we glowing and gorgeous?