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Day 18 / 19 – Pennine Way – Bellingham to Byrness

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Day 18 rest day in Bellingham was a mixture in terms of a result.

The Cheviot Hotel ensured a restful stop however Wednesday’s in Bellingham are not a hive of activity.

Bellingham is a lovely village however it is somewhat of a one horse town.

A couple of shops, the walking kit shop closed down, and three pubs that seem to open on 1980’s licensing hours ensure very little to do unlike Hawes on our first rest day.

The long day was broken by the arrival of long time friends Steve and Rich whom arrived to walk the final three day 43 miles into Kirk Yetholm.

A fantastic show of support I will always be grateful for.

The evening meal in the Rose and Crown was hearty and was punctuated by a surprise entrance from Fred, the Lands End to John O’Groats walker we had previously left at Hebden Bridge.

With tales told of how heavy Steve and Rich’s rucksacks were and what they should do to cut some backpack weight (the kitchen sink and 1000 page book was a tad OTT!) we headed off and arranged a 9:00am start the following day.

The warmest day yet ushered in Day 19 with a 15 mile hike to Bryness.

The walk itself was very much a link walk – getting across to be able to do The Cheviot – a rather uninspiring trek over farms and the Kielder Forest.

This was however a good warm up for Steve and Rich with (over) full packs – a taste of what attrition backpacking takes on feet and limbs.

With a couple of miles left on the day the mileage started to tell on the new arrivals whilst Paul and I were very much in the groove on one of the least testing walks of The Way so far.

Forest View (the old Youth Hostel) at Byrness were our beds for the night, and a delightfully sunny evening ensured a couple of coolers and homecooked evening meal were taken in the garden before retiring to sort out our wild camping rucksacks for the following day.

240 miles done, 2 days and 28 miles and 1 wild camp to go. 🙂

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Day 16 – Pennine Way – Greenhead to Twice Brewed – 200 miles done!

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Greenhead Youth Hostel was a surprise. It seems it is no longer running under the YHA however still operates under the running of Greenhead Inn across the road.

The sign on the Youth Hostel door of ‘Please check in at the Inn’ gave us hope of an upgrade and we were not disappointed!

A cosy ensuite with TV and pub grub for dinner with the World Cup on rose our spirits after a sodden, tough day 15.

So after a cosy B&B at YHA prices it was off on the shortest day on route, a loosener of 7 miles over Hadrians Wall.

The weather had dried to give perfect walking conditions giving rise to views back to Cross Fell which we had crossed two days prior, and northerly views to the Cheviot which is where we are heading in the next couple of walk days.

The walk itself was somewhat of an ‘A’ road after days of walking and not seeing many people.

A mixture of day trippers and many walkers walking the whole Hadrians Wall (only 70 miles!) meant a host of ‘hello’s’ along the route.

The wall is a fine walk. It is constant up and downs with some quite sharp pulls up to get the muscles moving, all worth it for the views.

The 200 mile watershed was celebrated with a cooler in Twice Brewed Inn half a mile off route before heading to our stop for the night at Saughy Rigg, another mile off track, so some more miles in the ‘extras’ column.

With a 16 miler tomorrow before rest day a restful evening beckons!

205 miles done!

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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 1 – Pennine Way – Edale to Crowden – First Day Conquered!

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20.50 and i’m lying in the relative luxury of my dormitory bunk after a satisfying day on the hills.

It didn’t all start so optimistically when we arrived yesterday in Edale with low heavy cloud cover and persistent rain. Things didn’t look much brighter either upon reaching our YHA accommodation.

It seemed we’d arrived in the land that time had forgot with it’s ancient facilities that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Harry Potter movie.

Our “dorm” was in a “cottage” high up on the hillside aptly named Jacobs Ladder probably because of the amount of steps required to reach it.

Our saviour and “sherpa” councillor Ian Greenwood rescued us and treated us to our “last supper” in the Old Nags Head before we returned to our dorm to find we were now sharing with some youths and some middle-aged twitchers who could snore for England! I should talk!!

Thankfully 7.00am arrived and provided a welcome opportuity to hastily depart our digs but not before a heartily satisfying in house breakfast.

Our sherpa drove us to the start, the waiting finally over. We donned our boots and posed for one final photo before the start of our quest.

The forecast was windy with occasional showers. It remained windy throughout and we were relentlessly buffeted by the bitingly cold wind.

We’d soon “layered” up and I’d got my woolly hat on finding it hard to believe only a week ago I was up here training on the hottest day of the year.

However rapid progress was made up Jacobs Ladder and we marched quickly to Kinder Downfall. Still windswept but luckily dry we left the Kinder Plateau via Mill Hill and across Featherbed Moss to Snake Pass.

A brief stop for lunch having broken the back of the first day we progressed purposely up Devils Dyke to attack the top of Bleaklow and proceeded on our long slow descent for the day towards Torside Reservoir and Crowden amidst stunning scenery.

What a difference the YHA at Crowden is, smaller in comparison to Edale but virtually new with modern facilities. We were greeted by Lauren, our superb hostess who invited us to take the weight off our feet and make a brew which was most welcome.

I’d said to Harvey the previous night my legs were itching for a walk, which they were. However three quarters the way through today they’d changed their mind!

The last couple of miles hurt and this was probably were all my aches and pains come from I’m nursing now.

Once camped in our superb accommodation and gratefully showered we went for dinner in house and was joined by two fellow walkers brothers Tim and John. Who had been following us from Edale intending to do half the PW.

Poor John was dead on his feet but we couldnt help but chuckle as he shuffled creeked and groaned across the dining room floor. We wonder what condition he’ll be in tomorrow and if he’ll make it to the end of the day.

I’ll let you know later……..

By Paul Courtney.

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