Day 53 Tuesday 25 August Alston to Gilsland

Miles walked: today 17 cumulative 814.1

I can heartily recommend the Cumberland Inn in Alston. Good food both nights. Last night I had a starter of Bhaji , samosa and potato curry with raita thinking there would be one Bhaji etc. Instead I got a large plate full of the above with a side salad. It was almost main course size. It was also delicious, as was my chilli con carne to follow. PW gives you an appetite, I scoffed the lot. Amazingly I managed a cooked breakfast this morning.

Today started with storm Francis. PW and Lejog bloggers all seem to hate this leg as unrewarding boghopping. I also didn’t fancy driving rain and 50mph winds on the hill top. A sensible walker adapts to the conditions so I set off along the South Tyne Trail which follows the valley. In fact, the PW crosses this several times as it meanders over the adjacent hillsides.

The trail follows the old branch railway line that ran from Haltwhistle to Alston. The stretch between Alston and Slaggyford has been restored as a narrow gauge railway by enthusiasts.

A cycle route runs along the course of the old railway. A couple of miles outside Alston I crossed into Northumberland, my last English county. The names of the streams have changed from “Beck” to “Burn” so I must be near Scotland.

It was raining heavily but I was protected from the wind. I had reasonable views over the adjacent farmland and low hills. I decided I had made the right decision to keep low when I saw that even the sheep were trying to find shelter by huddling against a dry stone wall

The railway ends at Slaggyford and the path goes through the village. There was a deconsecrated Methodist chapel that looks if it now a private house. Unusually, the stained glass windows were still present. There was a stone lean-to building alongside which was the Sunday School.

After a further six miles I reached the Lambley viaduct. I have seen several examples of Victorian engineering on this walk and every time I am amazed what they managed to build without modern technology. The stones that make up the viaduct each weigh about 500kg.

I turned uphill to rejoin the PW. I was now in the northern foothills of the Pennines and had one more moor to cross before reaching the lowland between the Pennines and the Cheviots. For the first time I had true PW conditions. Hartleyburn Common and Blenkinsop Common were one massive bog with not a causey stone in sight. The footpath was under 2 inches of water and at one point a burn had overflowed and I had to wade through about 10 yards of knee deep water to regain the boggy path. I squelched my way to Gilsland.

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