Day 58 Sunday August 30 Windy Gyle to Kirk Yetholm

Miles walked: today 12.7 cumulative 878.3

The wind dropped during the night but the temperature dropped to just above freezing and I had to wear a base layer and socks in my sleeping bag. It was misty (and cold) when I woke up but this soon lifted and it became a nice day with sunny intervals. There were excellent views across the hills.

The importance of wild camping is to leave no trace behind.

I only had half a bottle of water left so breakfast was cereal bars and an apple. I then set off along the ridge. The Cheviots look beautiful; green, rounded hills but they are one enormous bog. There are only a few short sections of paving stones. Simon Armitage wrote in his book that most of these come from old mills and the grooves on the stones are where machinery was attached. I read on a notice by the path that peat is an important carbon store and erosion by walkers leads to increased carbon emissions. The causey stones therefore help mitigate the effects of walkers on climate change. Bodies such as the National Trust and National Park Authorities are also trying to re-seed denuded peat to help prevent further erosion.

As the day went on the cloud dispersed and there were fine views over the moors. I passed the second mountain refuge on the ridge, very similar to the first. Finally the last peak of the Pennine Way came into view: The Schill

The Schill. The border fence is still on the left

Stunning views from the top. I could see the Solway Firth to the West and the North Sea to the East. Behind me the ridge I had been following was spread out in a semi-circle. In front was the lowland between the border and the Southern Uplands. I was so taken by the panorama I forgot to record a video.

I descended from the top and crossed the border fence for the last time to enter Scotland. The Pennine Way splits into two and I selected the lower route, I had had enough bog trotting for one day. I soon was walking through farmland. I knew I was in Scotland when I saw:

A trailer full of Tunnock’s wafers. Heaven!

I was soon in Kirk Yetholm and the end of the Pennine Way. I have walked across England. Just 450 miles of Scotland to go.

That evening four of us sat in the bar reflecting of the high and low points of the Pennine Way. We agreed High Cup Nick and the Yorkshire Dales were the best bits and the waterlogged moor above Greenhead the low point. The others were going home but I had one more day planned.

Day 57 Saturday August 29th Byrness to Windy Gyle

Miles walked: today 14.3 miles cumulative 865.6

Today was the first half of crossing the Cheviot Hills via a long ridge. I found today one of the hardest on the PW, despite the short distance. There was 2616 feet of ascent and I have had a northerly gale blowing in my face the whole day. Oh yes, it rained most of the morning.

The path from the campsite goes through the forest to Byrness. There is not much at Byrness. It was a base for the workers planting the forest and building the Catcleugh reservoir. Now there are a couple of houses, a hotel (which was shut) and a church.

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The church was built in the 1790s. In 1903 a stained glass window was installed in memory of the 64 men, women and children (a 12 year old was killed by a stone crusher) who were killed during the bulding of the reservoir, using money raised by public subscription. According to a sign outside the church, it is a site of pilgrimage for trade unionists.

There was a steep and muddy climb up through forest to gain the ridge. I was passed by another couple who I had met before on the Way. They had also stayed at the campsite but had rented a pod. Luxury!

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Looking along the ridge from Byrness Hill

The path runs alongside the Otterburn military range. A short, but succinct warning to take care:

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The path then went past the Roman camp and fortlet at Chew Green. Later, there was a medieval settlement here. There is little to see now apart from a few ditches. I took the opportunity to fill up my water bottles from the river Coquet as there was no more running water until Kirk Yetholm.

I then followed an old Roman road, Dere Street, up to the ridge and the Scottish border. Dere Street went at least as far as the Antonine Wall and some LeJogers leave the Pennine Way here and follow in Roman footsteps to Jedburgh. I will meet Dere Street a few times on Lejog but I wanted to complete the PW, even though it entailed a 2 day detour.

The English/Scottish border runs along the ridge

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Border Fence

Not very substantial and the gate is no Checkpoint Charlie. Ms Sturgeon will have her work cut out if Scottish independence occurs. I will follow the border for most of the next two days, the path dipping in and out of Scotland.

The path was boggy, steep in places and the head on wind was tiring. There were good views over the desolate but beautiful Cheviots. A walker passed me at about 3pm carrying a full pack. He had walked here from Bellingham, about 22 miles. He was hoping to stay in the mountain refuge hut about a mile further on. When I passed it, it looked more like a shed. Welcome shelter in a storm but I wouldn’t fancy spending a night in there. Later on I passed another walker who said the hut was full. I don’t know whether the previous walker found a space there.

Pairs of Starburst sweets started to appear on the path at intervals of about 200 yards. What was this? An offering to the Hill Gods? Something Angela had planted to goad me on?? It transpired that a couple with a dog had walked along the ridge planning to meet another family and then walk back. The sweets were to encourage the children to walk on.

I arrived at the top of Windy Gyle very tired at about 7pm. The combination of the bog and the wind had made me very slow. I had planned to go on another two miles and drop down to a waterfall to camp. There was a large cairn and a wall on the top of the hill which sheltered a grassy patch on which to pitch the tent.

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It was clear and I had high hopes of a star filled sky. As it got dark the cloud and mist came in and my hopes of experiencing the Northumberland dark sky were dashed. Maybe it was because I was camped on the Scottish side of the fence and not in Northumberland.

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.

Day 55 Thursday 27 August Twice Brewed Inn to Bellingham

Miles walked: today 15.8 cumulative 837.9

Today started dry and the sun even made a feeble attempt to break through the mist. I returned to Hadrian’s wall and my first task was to climb Steel Rigg. There were good views along the wall. There was no Wall at this site, but the field wall had stones looking suspiciously like those in the remnants of Hadrian’ wall.

I dropped to a depression between two outcrops of dolerite and there was THAT tree

Sycamore Gap

I have never seen “Robin Prince of Thieves” so I do not know what happens at the tree. It is a long way from Nottingham, but it was a large budget movie so they were able to use locations all over the country and apparently the long shots of Nottingham castle are actually the walls of Carcassonne in Southern France.

I met an Australian walking Hadrians wall east to west. He was wearing a Melbourne City shirt (one of the Manchester City Group teams). Only one other pair of Pennine Wayfarers passed me today. There was another couple at breakfast but I left before them and did not see them along the path. I am no longer the slowest walker on the Way.

After the next outcrop the Pennine Way said farewell to the Wall and turned North. Looking back at the outcrops of rock and the Wall I thought that if I has been a rebel and seen the barrier ahead, bristling with Roman soldiers, I would have turned round and gone home.

There is little else to say about today. Other than a view over Greenlee Lough (Northumberland spelling) the next phase of the walk was memorable only for the bog. The worst bit was going through a forest on Haughton Common where it felt like I was walking on a sponge. My walking poles were used as probes to assess where I could put my feet without sinking up to my knees. The other problem with today was that much of it was through Wark forest (part of the Kielder plantation) meaning there were no views. Red squirrel are meant to live in the forests up here but they were hiding today. Eventually I came to open country and had views over the rolling countryside. It remained wet underfoot but I made my way over the unfortunately named Shitlington Crags.

From the communications mast, there were good views towards Bellingham and back along the walk. There was an easy descent to Bellington. I am afraid that I agree with other bloggers that, after leaving Hadrians wall, today isn’t the most exiting day of the Pennine Way. My legs are tired but at least I am 16 miles closer to John O’Groats.

Day 54 Wednesday 26 August Gilsland to Twice Brewed Inn

Miles walked: Today 8 Cumulative 822.1

I couldn’t find anywhere to stay in Greenhead and my original choice e mailed me, while I was on the Pennine Way to say it still hadn’t re-opened after COVID. Thanks go to Support Services, i.e. Angela, for finding me somewhere to sleep. She has been working overtime this leg! The Samson Inn was next to the Hadrian’s Wall way and only a mile off route. It is run by three local farmers and their best lamb had gone into the Hot Pot.

All of today’s walk followed the Wall. As you know, this was built by George R R Martin, is made of ice and is 700 feet high… what? Wrong Wall?? You know nothing Ray! That’s enough Game of Thrones jokes.

The wall was, of course, built by Hadrian. The Romans actually pushed as far north as the Grampian mountains but withdrew back to Northumberland as the troops were needed to quell an uprising in what is now Germany. Hadrian commissioned the wall to prevent incursions by the Northern tribes who later united to become the Picts. (Antonius Pius later tried to subdue Scotland again and established a wall between the Clyde and the Forth but more of that next year)

Much of Ice and Fire, the books on which the TV series GOT is based, reflects political and social events in medieval European history, so that Wall has its inspiration from Hadrians Wall. If you are a GOT fan it is well worth reading the history of Plantagenet England and trying to work out on whom the characters and events were based.

Much of the wall was built on outcrops of the Whin Sill which formed an extra, natural, barrier. Elsewhere, the Romans dug a ditch in front of the wall

Whin Sill outcrops can be seen in the distance, the defensive ditch is in the foreground

The problem with a wall as a defence is you need men to defend it. It is estimated that up to 1500 men were required to defend the wall. Consequently, when the Romans withdrew the Picts, and later the Scots were able to cross the wall and raid Northern England. It requires consensus to maintain borders, modern day politicians seem not to have learnt this lesson.

Once the Romans left, stone was removed from the wall to build homes, roads and field walls. One such building was Thirlwall Castle, one of many Peel, or Pele, towers built to protect farmers and other residents from raiders (also called reivers) from the North. It was not until the 19th Century that conservationists began to preserve the remains.

Thirlwall Castle

Every 2000 yards or so there are the bases of milecastles, where a garrison was stationed.

Between the milecastles were two turrets where a small squad could be stationed. The milecastles have gateways on both sides of the wall and some historians think that the Wall was important to control the flow of people across the frontier for peaceful reasons and could have provided infrastructure for customs and taxes as well as defence.

Quite a lot of wall was visible on today’s walk.

As you can see, the wall was quite thick. It is believed that the wall was originally 4-6 metres high.

As the walk passes over the rocky outcrops there were widespread views towards Scotland

Looking North from Hadrian’s Wall

While in Roman times much of this would be forest, the strategic importance of the wall could be seen. There was a Roman Road just to the south of the wall and running parallel to it, presumably so troops could be moved rapidly to the site of any possible incursion.

To the South of the wall there was a linear ditch and mound structure: the Vallum.

Historians are not certain what its function was for, but there is a consensus that it marked an exclusion zone for civilians living in the communities that would have developed close to the wall to provide soldiers with food and other services.

So today’s walk was short but interesting. It was strenuous, going up and down outcrops, reminiscent of walking the Cornish coast path. I remembered coming here with Tim when he was an early teenager for some dad/son bonding. We camped near the Twice Brewed Inn and did some walking on the wall. We gave up after a couple of days as Tim had outgrown his boots and got really bad blisters. Bad parent!

I am staying at the Twice Brewed Inn. On check in I was told there is a drying room for residents. Bliss! Dry boots tomorrow. No-one is sure how the inn got its name. There has been a pub here since the 15th century (the current building is modern). It is said that Yorkist soldiers stayed here before the battle of Hexham. They thought the beer was too weak and demanded it be brewed again. It was and they won the battle. I am afraid there is no evidence to support this tale.

Socialising is still possible in this post Covid world. I spent a convivial evening in the company of an ex-prison officer and his wife who live near Lincoln (where Angela is from) and a young couple walking the Hadrian’s Wall path who come from…. West Didsbury. She was brought up about 5 miles away from me in North London. A small world. Another high point of the evening was that we were able to sample various beers from the pub’s own microbrewery.

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.

Day 52 Sunday 23 August Dufton to Alston

Miles walked: today 20 cumulative 797.1

A walk between a mining village and a mining town. Lead mining was an important industry in Cumbria. There is evidence that Dufton has been a settlement since Roman times and is was an important lead mining centre from the 17th to the 19th centuries. It is now a pretty village with nothing to suggest it’s industrial past.

The walker’s field at the camp site was a hive of activity at 6:30. Today’s walk is one of the hardest on the PW. Not only is it long but it crosses Cross Fell, at 893 metres this is the highest point on the Pennine Way and also the highest point on my Lejog, unless I go mad and throw in a few Munros when I reach Scotland. It is also notorious for bad weather. It even has its own wind, the Helm Wind. This was not blowing today, although the conditions were bad enough.

I was the second walker to leave the camp site. There were ominous mists over the lower slopes of the fell but it was dry as I walked on an enclosed path between the fields of the valley farms.

The path the started to climb on to the fells, the cloud base depressingly low

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I was soon in the mist. At first navigation was easy as I just followed the path. The first mini-top was The Heights. This was stony so the path was indistinct and it was too misty to see any cairns or path markers. I unwisely set off in what I thought was the right direction. After about 100 yards I checked my compass and found I had become disorientated in the mist and had veered to the south-east instead of heading north. Of course I should have set a bearing at the top. I did so now and quickly found my way back to the path.

I dropped to a saddle where there was a service road that led up to the radar station in the top of Great Dun Fell. I thought this would be easier to follow than the path and would also save time. On my way up I was passed by several Lycra clad cyclists whose main aim seemed to be to ride up so they could freewheel down. There are meant to be “golf balls” at the top but they were invisible. I could just see two satellite transceivers just beyond the fence.

Happily, there was an obvious path to the top of Cross Fell as it was now raining heavily and I was getting cold. I hadn’t put my fleece on and I didn’t want to open my rucksack to get it out because of the driving rain. There are meant to be good views across to the Lakes and as far north as the Solway Firth. Today I could see nothing. I sat in a wind shelter on the summit but it was not very effective so I set off down the hill. It was difficult to see what was a path and what was a river so again I set a bearing and strode off across the moor. After about a mile I came to Greg’s hut

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There used to be a lead mining community here. The buildings had become dilapidated. Greg was a mountaineer who was killed in a climbing accident in the Alps and his friends rebuilt the hut as a bothy in his memory. As you can see, it is a three roomed hut. The entry is into the lean-to. Then there is a living area with a table, a few chairs and a plaque to the memory of Greg. The third room has a raised sleeping platform and a wood burning stove. I briefly toyed with the idea of staying here but it was early in the afternoon so I made a brew and put my fleece on. I was going to take some pictures in the hut but my phone lost its charge.

The walk down from the hut is along a cinder track. The first part is badly maintained and runs through the old lead mining community. I passed ruined buildings, the tops of the old mine shafts and entrances and hushes. A hush was a channel dug by the miners. Water collected at the top and would wash away the topsoil exposing the underlying rock. If favourable, they would then go and dig the shaft to extract the galena ore.

By the side of the path there were a lot of fragments of fluorspar (calcium fluorite). At the time it was considered a waste product but is now used in various chemical and ceramic processes. Good quality crystals are used to make semi-precious gems

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When polished, a pair of earrings for Angela?

After the mine, the track was well maintained. There were feeding trays by the path for the grouse, so presumably the track is used to convey shooters up on to the moor. I have no problem people shooting birds for food. My brother-in-law farms and he rents out his fields for pheasant shooting. The “sportsmen” are not interested in the birds at all which I think makes the “sport” gratuitous. Usually they leave the shot birds behind when they go home. John can sell the birds to local butcher and some find their way to me when they get turned into roast breast and leg poached in a port and red wine sauce, the carcass used to make the stock.

For the first time in the day the weather improved and I had views over the surrounding hills. The rain soon returned. After what seemed an interminable length of time I arrived in the pretty village of Garrigill. When I was planning the walk, I was hoping to stay here but the pub shut about 2 years ago. It was meant to re-open last month but still looked pretty shut to me.

The rest of the walk followed the South Tyne river. There were numerous rabbits in the fields. Either the rabbit virus that ravaged the country last year didn’t get this far north, or, the survivors have done what comes naturally and bred like, er, rabbits.

I met a JoGLEr on the path, my second of the trip and we swapped some suggestions about routes. Both End to Enders I met walked the A99 and A9 from John O’Groats and hated it. I think the John O’Groats trail is my best option. In his book, Andy Robinson suggests a remote wild camping route from Fort William but this sounds too much like hard work, especially as you would need to carry about seven day’s food.

It was getting late when I arrived at the Cumberland Hotel in Alston and I was tired. A shower, chicken and mushroom pie, a pint and a malt scotch revived me. I retired to try to get my stuff dry and looked forward to a day off.

The following day was a rest day. After a lazy start I bought provisions for the next few days, read the paper and did the crossword. Two friends, Bron and Steve, drove over to meet me for lunch and then we wandered round the town. Alston is an old mining town. It claims to be the highest market town in England. The centre is very pretty with cobbled side streets, an old market place and several interesting antique and craft shops. It reminded me of Hebden Bridge, although it is much smaller. Many of the shops have notices in the window describing their history.

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I have been in County Durham since leaving Yorkshire at the Tan Hill Inn. Tomorrow I will cross into Nothumberland, my last English county.

Day 51 Saturday 22 August Langdon Beck to Dufton

Miles walked: today 13.5 cumulative 777.1 Miles walked towards John O’Groats today 0.

I’VE BEEN GOING THE WRONG WAY! And for a good reason! Today the Pennine Way headed South-West (WSW for the pedants). It is an excellent day’s walk and includes High Cup Nick which is one of the finest natural features in the UK.

I headed off across farmland to reach the Tees. At the river, I turned upstream and had a good view of an outcrop of the Whin Sill

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The Whin Sill is an intrusion of volcanic dolerite from the magma that erupted between the adjacent limestone and mudstone. It extends across north-east England. It is much more resistant to erosion than the surrounding rocks giving rise to several interesting features. Low and High Force exist as the water has eroded the softer rock down to the dolerite.I will see the Whin Sill several times on the walk as the Romans built Hadrian’s wall on dolerite outcrops and it extends as far east as Lindisfarne.

The path was a mixture of easy riverside walking interspersed by scrambles over rocks. Three fishermen passed me, there is a confluence of becks just below Cow Green reservoir where, they told me, there is an abundance of brown trout.

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Falcon Clints

The third waterfall, Cauldron Snout, that I passed on the Upper Tees is very impressive:

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Cauldron Snout

Although the wet weather is detrimental to the walk, it has the advantage of making the waterfalls impressive. The noise of the falling water is amplified by the rock walls around the fall giving the whole thing the feeling of being in a devilish cauldron.

The route ascends to the right of the fall by an easy but fun scramble over the rocks. I then crossed in front of the dam and then followed Maize Beck upstream.

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Looking back to Falcon Clints

To the south of the path is deserted moorland. Every 100 yards or so there are danger signs as this is an army training area. There were no signs of troops or ammunition today.

For the last day I have been following a figure with a big pack who walks about the same pace as me so I never catch up. Today she (as it turned out) was delayed chatting to an Estonian couple studying in Cambridge and up here for a bit of walking. Ann (if I remember correctly) is from Merseyside and is a keen long distance walker. We joined forces for the rest of the day.

After another mile we crossed the watershed. Wee towards Maize Beck and it will eventually come to the North Sea; cross the ridge and it will drain into the Irish Sea. We came to what I think is the most impressive sight of Lejog so far: High Cup Nick

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You have probably seen professional pictures of this on calendars and neither these nor my pictures do it justice. It is an enormous U shaped valley the shape of a bath tub. When I was up here with Angela a few years ago a geologist we met tried to explain to us how it was formed. It is a glacial valley but, because of the watershed ridge and the resistant dolerite (High Cup Nick is another outcrop of Whin Sill), the “closed” end of the bath never became eroded. Apologies if I misunderstood.

Just after these pictures were taken the heavens opened and it was a brisk walk along the right hand edge of the Nick and down to Dufton. Fortunately the rain stopped while I put my tent up. There were about 7 sets of solo or group walkers in the field doing the PW. most of us ended up (socially distanced) in the excellent Stag Inn for dinner

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Day 50 Friday 21 August Middleton-in-Teesdale to Langdon Beck

Miles walked: today 10.3 cumulative 763.6

When I planned the walk I imagined a short day, meandering along the Tees in sunshine and sunbathing on the rocks above Low Force. I mean, it’s August. Instead I had the tail of Storm Ellen. Heavy rain and gusty wind. I thought back to when I was meant to do the walk in May. The driest spring on record. Then, as I relaxed in the hotel this afternoon, I ruminated about COVID. None of my extended family have died, all my ex-colleagues have survived and they were working in the hot weather in full PPE. A few days rain doesn’t seem so bad..

The next three days are fairly remote so I stocked up with food. I accidentally pocketed the room key from the Board in Hawes. I thought that I would be able to post it back from Middleton but the post office is only open on Friday afternoons. I went back to my room, donned my wet weather gear and set off.

Even in the rain Upper Teesdale is delightful. The path partly runs by the river and partly through fields. I made good progress and soon reached the high point of the day, the waterfalls Low Force and High Force

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Low Force
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High Force

High Force is said to be the most powerful waterfall in England. Above High Force the valley opened out with fine views to the adjacent hills. There was then a very windy ascent over a small hill, Bracken Rigg. I crossed the river and the PW was then meant to pass between the river and a cliff. The path was submerged in the Tees. The only alternative was to follow a farm track up to a road which led to the Langdon Beck Hotel.

Angela downloaded “Walking Home” by Simon Armitage, the poet laureate, which describes his PW walk. He walked North to South so he could end at his home village of Marden. It is well worth reading. I cannot compete with his use of prose, metaphor and use of adjectives. I think the main use of this blog will be for me to look back at this adventure in the years to come.

His book informs me that there is an old hag who lives in the Tees called Peg Powler. She grabs people who walk too close to the river by their ankles and drags them down to her lair. The foam on the water tells you she is around and is called Peg Powler’s suds. I am amazed in these days of health and safety that there were no warning notices by the path.

Langdon Beck Hotel was very nice and also features in an old episode of “Vera.” I must keep an eye out for murderers and detectives.

Day 49 Thursday August 20 Tan Hill Inn to Middleton-in-Teesdale

Miles walked: today 17.6 cumulative 753.3

Today was all about crossing the Stainmore Gap. This is a wide break in the Pennines at the border of North Yorkshire and County Durham. The gap was obvious from the Tan Hill Inn.

Sleightholme Moor from Tan Hill Inn. The hills above Middleton can just be seen on the horizon

Perfect weather for walking. Sunny but not too hot, occasional cloud to give a bit of shade, a breeze and good visibility. The path drops down on to the moor and, at first, the flat expanse of moor with the surrounding hills is quite dramatic and oddly beautiful. However this eventually became monotonous. In any case, I had to concentrate on the path, this was good old Pennine Way bog and the going was wet. I managed to negotiate the moor without filling my boots with liquid mud.

As I dropped down on to the moor I left Yorkshire behind and entered County Durham. The path followed Frumming Beck. After about 4 miles it joined a track which I presume has been built to carry the Gentry to the grouse butts that I had walked past.

Frumming Beck

The path left the track and crossed the Beck. It turned north and crossed the river Greta at God’s Bridge, the highlight of the day. This is a natural bridge where the water has eroded the rock under a limestone slab which is left bridging the river. Most (sensible) people split this day into 2 by following the Bowes Loop. But they miss God’s Bridge!

God’s Bridge

I was now halfway along the Pennine Way. I crossed Cotherstone Moor which, to be honest, was a bit tedious. As I have said before, any long distance walk has sections which are there solely to join the interesting bits, and I know there are delights in store for me in the next two days.

The problem with the boring bits is that it was all too easy to focus on the pain in my left hamstrings (again), the weight of the pack and tiredness. In fact, I made good progress

After the moor the PW climbs over two ridges to reach Middleton. In the valleys there are reservoirs that are quite pretty. I passed Low Birk Hatt Farm.

You may remember reading about Hannah Hauxwell who lived here, alone, without any running water, gas or electricity until 1988. She was almost self sufficient, getting occasional deliveries of food which she had to collect from the roadside about a mile away. She collected water from a nearby stream, lit the cottage with oil lamps and kept a few cows. She was the subject of an article in the Yorkshire Post and then an ITV documentary, “Too Long a Winter”. She only left because she became too infirm to live so remotely. She died age 91 in 2018. See her obituary in the Guardian for more details.

Three meadows below the farm are a nature reserve, named Hannah’s meadows. They have never had fertiliser or weed killer used on them and, in spring and early summer, there is a profusion of wild flowers.

My path continued over into Lunedale and up Wythes hill with good views back across the Gap. I could just make out the Tan Hill Inn from the reflection of sunlight on the cars in the car park. Finally, the PW descended into Teesdale. I stayed in the Teesdale hotel in Middleton and, joy of joys a bath! I much prefer soaking my legs in a bath rather than a shower after a long walk.