Day 56 Friday August 28 Bellingham to Byrness

Miles today 14.4 cumulative 851.3

Spoiler alert! I have reached the end of the Pennine Way and I am back home. I have not had good WiFi since Bellingham so I have a bit of catching up to do. I hope I have remembered everything I was going to write as I don’t keep notes as I go along. As you know, if you have followed the blog, I have to go back and do the bit I missed when I was unwell.

A late start today. First I had to queue outside the Co-op before I could buy food for the next three lunches. Then I found out there has been a landslide so there are no buses between Jedburgh and Edinburgh. After a bit of dithering I have booked a taxi. Finally, when I left the hotel (Cheviot Hotel, recommenced) I thought I was on the opposite side of the road so it took a while to find the Pennine Way. I eventually left Bellingham at about 11am.

It was another cloudy day. There were some showers but I was confident it was going to dry up before I had to put up my tent. The path headed steeply uphill though farmland with views back towards the way I had come and the end of yesterday’s walk.

Bellingham

I soon entered moorland and most of the rest of today’s walk was spent keeping my eyes on the ground in front of me trying to avoid the deeper sections of bog, no causey paving today. This is where the walking poles come in useful, by probing ahead you can decide whether it is safe to proceed (pole stops after an inch or so); hop across quickly (pole sinks slowly); look for another route (pole doesn’t stop sinking).

Eventually I came to the main part of the Kielder forest. When you look down on it from Padon hill you can see how vast it is

The path descended for several miles through the forest. At first there were views forwards, towards tomorrow’s walk. Eventually the path descended below the treetops and there was nothing to do but press on. There are meant to be red squirrel in the forest but they were hiding again today.

I stayed at the campsite at Cottonhopeburnfoot, about 2 miles south-east of Byrness. Backpackers were shunted off to a small field, only part of which had been mown. There was a loo and a shower but it was somewhere to sleep. There were three other groups of PW walkers in the field. One was sitting in a Lounger outside a large tent. I thought this was unnecessary weight to carry but it transpired he was following his wife and her brother while they walked and he carried a lot of their gear in his van. I recognised the other two tents from Dufton but the occupants didn’t emerge. We had some spectators.

Not the best days walk but it gives me a chance to tell you about the Pennine Way. It was the brainchild of journalist and open spaces activist Tom Stephenson. He first raised the idea in 1935; three years after the Kinder mass protest (see day 42, Edale to Crowden). In 1938 there was a conference of interested walking groups, although the Access to Mountains Bill had still not been passed by Parliament. This was eventually passed as the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949. Despite this, access to the route was not finalised until 1964 and the PW was opened in 1965. Andrew McCloy has written a book on the history of the Pennine Way and a good summary (from which much of the above is derived) is published on the Cicerone Press web site.

I was now at the foot of the Cheviot Hills, the final barrier to finishing the PW.

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