day on the Pennine Way is a toughie. 16 miles with nothing on the way, so first
I stocked up with food in Edale village. Then it was up Jacob's
Ladder and into the wild stuff. Past Kinder Scout, the crowds thinned out,
and by the time I reached the summit of Bleaklow I was on my own - which was a
bit spooky when I got lost. A spot of compass work put me back on track, and fortunately
the weather was clear. Down in Longdendale, I had a two mile slog off the PW to
the B&B at Padfield.
It was fine again next day,
with great views as I made my way up Black
Hill, into Yorkshire and the B&B at Marsden. There were few people about.
I had been expecting the PW to be quite crowded, but my guess was that fewer than
10 people a day were going the distance.
Next day was
windy and progress was slow through reservoir land. It was a relief to descend
to lower ground after Stoodley Pike.
Susan came to meet me at Hebden Bridge and replenish supplies.
4 of the PW was wet almost all day - the first continuously wet day of the trip.
It was eerie crossing the moors alone in mist and rain, real Wuthering Heights
weather as I passed Top Withens. By
late afternoon the weather had cleared for the crossing of the last
peat bog before the Dales and the descent to the B&B at Lothersdale. Next
day was easier going, a gentle walk by the Leeds
and Liverpool Canal and up Airedale to the youth hostel at Malham.
By now I reckoned I had passed the halfway point to JOG.
mountain climbing started on Day 6 of the PW, first Fountains Fell and then the
steep end of Pen y Ghent. By this stage I had found that a plus point of the PW
was the chance to chat and share experiences with other walkers - I kept meeting
up with the same people over 2 or 3 weeks. All sorts make the trip - the wild
campers saving every penny, older couples doing it in style with baggage carriers
to take the load, those who had done it 2 or 3 times before, those with private
reasons for getting away. Many, like me, were walking alone, but we did not lack
company when we wanted it. That evening, 6 or 7 of us were swapping stories over
pints in the pub at Horton.
Day 7 of the PW, Day 44
from Land's End, was a short day, to Hawes. But my leg muscles, which had played
up for a few days, were getting really painful. Next morning
I kitted myself up with a second walking pole and a compression bandage, which
made life easier. I stayed at Keld youth
hostel that night, and next day, after the obligatory stop
for a drink at Tan Hill Inn I left the
Yorkshire Dales behind. Then across two more peat bogs, the PW brought me to the
isolated youth hostel at Baldersdale for the night.
pain in my leg returned with a vengeance on Day 47. This was not going to get
better of its own accord, so in Middleton in Teesdale I sought medical advice.
A 15 minute telephone conversation with the doctor on call (this was a Saturday
afternoon) diagnosed shin splints, with a recommendation to slow down to one-third
pace for a couple of days, apply ice and take Ibuprofen. Great news - this meant
minor rescheduling and did not jeopardise the whole trip. The advice turned out
to be spot on. The National Health Service can be wonderful.
Susan was meeting
me again that day, and we stayed at the pub in Holwick. Next
day we took a short walk to see the waterfalls at Low
Force, and I stayed a second night at the pub. On the
Monday, Day 49, I walked a few miles up the dale to a B&B at Forest in Teesdale,
and by Tuesday I was ready to go again.
50 started ominously. This day was supposed to be the highlight of the whole PW,
but upper Teesdale was blanketed with thick mist. As I passed the spectacular
waterfall at Cauldron Snout and neared
the watershed, the mist lifted. High Cup Nick was awesome, as billed.
the B&B in Dufton that night I had a dilemma. Would my leg be up to the next
day, 20 miles over Cross Fell, the highest peak on the whole trip? Fortunately
the owner of the B&B was a walker himself and had an answer. He arranged for
a baggage carrier he knew to take my pack to Alston for a modest sum. He also
arranged for the mist to lift off Cross
Fell just as I arrived at the top, so I even managed to find my way down the
Day 52 from Alston to Greenhead was easier,
apart from navigational problems on Hartleyburn Common where the trail disappeared
into yet another peat bog. Next day was a short day, a gentle
stroll in the sun along Hadrian's Wall
to Once Brewed, time to get psyched up for the rigours of the Borders.
the Wall the PW led across a mix of moor, forest and farmland, and at one point
a back garden where a family were having a party in the hot sun. I never found
landowners at all hostile where rights of way crossed their land: the Northumberland
family offered me a drink as I walked across their lawn. I stayed that night at
a B&B in Bellingham. Next day was warm and sunny again
- a pleasant route across the moors and down through the cleared forest to Blakehopeburnhaugh
and the youth hostel at Byrness.
The last day of the
PW is a challenge, 27 miles of wild and empty country. Ever since Derbyshire the
talk on the trail had been how best to tackle it. I opted for a one-day attempt,
and found a baggage carrier to take my bag to Kirk Yetholm. For company I had
Jeff, whom I first bumped into back in Malham. He was an expert in survival techniques
from his army days, who delighted in telling tales of staying alive by killing
and eating sheep. Jeff
was a useful guy to be with in the Cheviots, except that he had a blind spot when
it came to navigation (he must have missed that course). So he needed my map and
compass. We set off at 7.30 am, hit the rain at 7.35 am, and it never let up all
day. We crossed into Scotland soon after 9 am, and for most of the day followed
the border fence across wet and desolate hills. Halfway we caught up with two
lads from Manchester whom I had last seen at Hawes. They were the only people
we saw all day, apart from two maniacs heading south from Kirk Yetholm late in
the afternoon. The four of us rolled into Kirk Yetholm at 7 pm and claimed our
free drink at the Border Hotel.
The signing-in book at the Border Hotel
recorded the relief of the PW finishers, but for me another 400 miles of walking
lay ahead. In the youth hostel that night I met Chris and his daughter Kate heading
from JOG to LE. It was good to swap info on the route ahead, and to be reminded
that I was not the only crazy out in the hills.