Day 15 – Pennine Way – Alston to Greenhead

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After yesterdays toils my first tentative steps confirmed what I already thought – I couldn’t walk!!!

Harv soon woke, I asked him if he’d walked yet. He said “no” I chuckled. He then proceeded across the floor, ooh, ouch, ahh. Quite funny, but you have to be there I guess.

This now made todays 18 mile hike over undulating terrain appear much more challenging. Breakfast at the excellent Alston House hotel was consumed with ease in preparation for the day ahead.

Full waterproofs were required as it was raining steadily as we set off. However to our annoyance the showers were intermittent all morning meaning constant costume changes.

We struggled to find any rythym as a result and the stiffness of yesterday lingered. By midday the rain was now constant and very unpleasant.

The going underfoot was sodden, boggy and treacherously slippy in parts. To make matters worse waymarking was inconsistent or non existent and the easily navigable well trodden paths of the southern Pennines were a long way behind.

The map and compass was in constant use over the boggy moorland terrain in the torrential rain. We were soaked through with squelchy boots and getting cold from constantly having to stop to confirm our directions.

We did however leave Cumbria behind as we entered the county of Northumberland. It was around 18.30 before we reached our destination Greenhead yha, but only to find it closed!

A note was on the door referring us to the Greenhead Hotel were we walked further to find a warm welcome and a hot shower!

Glad today was finally over, refreshed we retired to the bar for some much needed refreshments.

By Paul Courtney.

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Day 14 – Pennine Way – Dufton to Alston – The Big One

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An early start with a hearty Dufton YHA breakfast ushered in walk day 13 with the anticipation of the biggest Pennine Way day so far with a 20 mile hike over 4 peaks including the highest point on the Way – Cross Fell.

Daytrippers David and Una were on catch up as Paul and I left 8:30am on the dot.

Perfect walking weather of light cloud, dry with a light wind encouraged our walk out of Dufton around Dufton Pike and onwards to Knock Fell.

The daytrippers soon caught up with us (even after a southern detour of the Pennine Way on starting!).

The views from Knock Fell were fantastic with a clear vista across our path ahead and 180° views across to the Lake District.

Moving swiftly across the ridge Great Dun Fell was soon conquered and lunch taken beside the radar station (Helens packed lunch carried by David was very welcome!) with stunning views across to the Dales we had left behind days ago.

Another quick step saw us top Little Dun Fell and then dip through Tees Head and climb the scree to top Cross Fell – the highest point of the Pennine Way.

This was another watershed moment for us made even better with 360° views as far as the eye could see including the Cheviot in the distance to which we have to head towards and climb.

The descent to Garrigill is a long trudge over a painful stoned track, sore feet all round!

The final 5 miles down the valley to Alston was very pleasant although tired legs, knees and feet ensured the view was not necessarily the main thing on our minds!

Alston became an oasis in view and coolers were taken as throbbing feet took hold.

So the Pennine Way Challenge team delivered our Big Game result – just a shame England didn’t in their first game at the World Cup!

Now less than 90 miles to go – total walked so far 180 miles.

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Day 13 – Pennine Way – Langdon Beck to Dufton.

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After a restful nights sleep at Langdon Beck YHA (went to bed at 9pm!) We stoked up on a filling breakfast at this highly recommnded yha.

The path took us back to the beck where we finished yesterdays walk and we proceeded in a westerly direction for around 3.5 miles to Cauldron Snout. This was to be our first treat of the day.

Cauldron Snout is one of the most magnificent cascading waterfalls I’ve ever seen and Harv was so excited that he called for a snack break (he doesn’t normally let me stop for lunch!).

The scramble/climb up the side of the waterfall was exhilarating and thoroughly enjoyable. Upon reaching the top we crossed the head of the waterfall in front of the dam and climbed gradually upwards towards the danger area.

There’s a huge area of land that’s closed for public access to protect nesting birds that the Pennine Way runs alongside. Don’t know why it’s designated a danger area though.

After another three to four miles Harv called for a lunchbreak alongside the magnificent spectacle known as High Cup Nick. The proportion of this hollowed out bowl of a valley can’t really be captured on camera. But worthy of lingering to cement the memory to savour forever.

Even after escaping High cup on its right flank we were further rewarded with a full panoramic view of the Lake District peaks in the distance.

We then continued to descend into the village of Dufton to the 4 star yha. We showered and enjoyed a reminiss of a wonderful day in the hills at the Stag Inn opposite our accomadation.

Our thoughts then began to focus on to tomorrow and our biggest challenge yet…..

By Paul Courtney.

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Day 12 – Pennine Way – Clove Lodge to Langdon Beck

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After a full wet day from Tan Hill Inn the decision to upgrade from camping to B&B at Clove Lodge Farm was a great decision.

We ended up in the cottage with full living room, dining room, kitchen to add to the bathroom and beds. RESULT!

Carol and Chris the hosts were fantastic and made us feel very welcome. A definite recommend!

Day 12 started in cool, overcast conditions again.

The 15 mile step for the day started with a couple of moderate ups and downs over farmland and between reservoirs and around Harter Fell which opened up in to a great view of Teesdale looking down to Middleton in Teesdale.

Once the descent to the valley floor had been made it was a very pleasant walk along the River Tees for the afternoon.

Lunch was taken sat on the riverbank before heading up the valley to pass Low Force and then on to the fantastic High Force which was in full flow after 4 days of rain.

The remaining part of todays journey was then made along the riverside with a final step to Langdon Beck Youth Hostel – another tranquil spot in a remote area.

Teesdale has shown a real change in scenery. Gone are the barns of the Yorkshire Dales replaced by the white washed cottages distinctive of the dale.

My feet are still causing problems but are under control, Pauls knee is much the same and we both feel strong otherwise.

The next few days are going to be testing and more remote so lets hope the feet and knees hold up!

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Day 11 – Pennine Way – Tan Hill Inn to Clove Lodge Farm, Baldersdale

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Last night we retired to bed with the wind and rain lashing against our window. Nothing could be seen outside through the eerily gloomy foggy murkiness and we hoped for better conditions in the morning.

Morning came but the weather hadn’t changed after we’d slightly overslept. A hearty full breakfast was despached greedily in the hope it would prepare us for the journey ahead.

Full waterproofs were donned for the fourth consecutive day, the lambs were dodged in the bar as we set off on our tenth walking day that would see us over the halfway stage.

Having failed to connect with a razor for a few days the intrepid hairy hikers got their first taste of the wilder North Pennines as we left behind the Yorkshire Dales.

Into driving rain, hill fog and wind we set off for Baldersdale on a remote, soggy and isolated trek across Sleightholme Moor.

There was little to be enjoyed on todays march and the theme was to get the job done! Hill fog prevented any chance of enjoying the views and meant navigation required close attention.

The going was sodden, all the water-courses that only a few days ago were dry had now become raging torrents. Harv was quietly biting his lip and seemed to be struggling somewhat today. Later I found he’d developed more blisters, one about the size of a 10p and his knee was also giving him problems. My knee was also painful but nothing I couldn’t cope with for the time being.

We crossed the River Greta via Gods Bridge and crossroad the A66 via a subway. Careful navigation across the next few miles of empty heather and sodden grasses found us at our remote stopover place for the evening – Clove Lodge Farm.

Our b&b accommodation comprised bedroom, kitchen, dining room, sitting room with log fire and a bathroom – definite recommend and worthy of a longer stay if visiting the area.

As I write Harv is getting some shut eye as I eagerly await dinner that’s being prepared for us by our hosts………

Total trail miles – 137

By Paul Courtney.

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Day 10 – Pennine Way – Hawes to Tan Hill Inn – Highest Highs

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After a welcome rest day in Hawes and lovely hospitality from everyone at the Old Board Inn – a definite recommend for a stopover in Hawes – it was back on The Way again.

New walking trainers on board were tested with a wet start in full wet gear and were to be tested all day.

The long drag out of Hawes, passed Hardraw and up to Great Shunner Fell was made with fleeting showers, summiting the highest point on route so far in good time in cloud but with dry feet!

The descent to Thwaite via a flagged path and drovers road was wet and swift.

With good time made a pleasant stop was made at Keartons for tea and biscuits just as the heavens opened with the heaviest shower of the day arrived – perfect timing!

After the rain subsided the trek continued on a wonderful traverse over to Keld with stunning views down the valley.

Keld was to be our original stop however with the predicted poor weather forecast it was a wise decision to transfer from camping at Keld to a warm room at the Tan Hill Inn – the highest pub in Great Britain at 1732ft – a further 4 miles along the Way.

Continuing in consistent rain the Tan Hill Inn was welcome respite after our highest one day mileage clocked in with 17 miles – a day of highest highs – and dry feet!

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Day 9 – Pennine Way – Hawes – Rest Day, Well Earned!!!

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It seemed strange this morning to break with the usual routine of fuelling up walkers style.

Filling of water bottles, filling rucksack with snack bars, fruit or anything else that could be had from the breakfast offering.

A full english breakfast felt a real treat with lashings of toast and cups of tea.

Conditions outside weren’t condusive to walking anyway so a trip to the kit shop Cunninghams was in order.

Harv tried out every lightweight walking shoe in the shoe more than once under the knowledgeable guidance of sherpa Ian who had joined us along with Harv’s parents and daughters.

New shoes were purchased and I bought a map case to replace my other one that had began to expire.

The girls were becoming restless so we had lunch before taking them to see Gromit and Shaun the Sheep at the Wensleydale creamery. There’s a museum and you can see the cheese being made but I opted for sampling in the shop where you can buy a multitude of different flavoured cheeses – yummy!

A sit in the sun and cooler before we were left alone once more. Laundry was sorted and accomadation for the next two days was changed from camping to b&b’s because the forecast for the following week has been given out rather wet.

A rather good fish & chip shop was recommended so it was rather difficult to miss the opportunity and they were delicious.

Hopefully good preparation for our extended 18 mile walking day tomorrow because of our change of stay tomorrow evening although fortuitously at the Tan Hill Inn.

Our restful day continued into the evening with a relaxing pint of Black Sheep before adjourning for the day at the Old Board Inn which we can recommend in terms of comfort, dining and hospitality.

By Paul Courtney.

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