Ok, not quite a marathon but I knew this day was going to be tough and so I was mentally prepared for the long walk ahead. 26 miles of bog trotting over moorland, it was going to take all of my willpower to keep going.
Bryness to Kirk Yetholm (25.75 miles/ 41.2 km)
I set out from Bryness campsite at 6.30am in order to make sure I had plenty of time to do the final leg of the walk and to be able to sit and have lunch (a thing I rarely do) and rest when I needed to (also not common).
From Bryness the Pennine Way heads straight up through the woodland to access the moorland. This is the last view of trees or civilisation I would have for hours as I headed our over the Otterburn Ranges. Much of this area is used as military training ground and so signs keep you from straying from the footpath.
Not the wettest day of the Pennine Way, but certainly not the driest! It was also not a particularly long day, which was good as by the time I arrived at Bryness at just after lunch it started and didn’t stop raining.
Bellingham to Bryness (15 miles/ 24 km)
Leaving Bellingham from the north of the village I could see I was heading for the rain and into the clouds. Unlike the day before when I’d tanned quite nicely whilst bog trotting from Housestead, it was immediately clear that it was never going to get sunny on the way to Bryness.
As the Pennine Way heads northwards it drifts from towns to only crossing through small farms and villages. Heading to Bellingham the only conversation I had all day was with the odd sheep!
Housestead to Bellingham (13.5 miles/ 21.5 Km)
I was lucky enough to get dropped off on the road just below Cuddy Crag where the Pennine Way turns off Hadrian’s Wall to head northwards. I could see right away though that it was going to be a day of wet feet.
A day off from wading through bogs was much appreciated as I headed out over the section of the Pennine Way which overlaps with the Hadrian’s Wall national trail. This section of the route is possibly the best signposted along the whole route, probably due to the popularity and that two national trails link up here.
Greenhead to Housestead (10 miles/16 km)
It was nice to know I only had a few hours of walking today and that I would be able to avoid bog trotting, so it was even nicer to have the sun shining too. Starting at Greenhead the first encounter with Hadrian’s Wall is Thirlwell Castle, which was actually built in the early 14th Century by John Thirlwell as a family home; built from recycled Roman stone. It did however prove to repel attacks during the Anglo-Scottish border raids in the 15th and 16th centuries until it was abandoned in the 17th century. Saved from further dereliction by Northumberland National Park Authority there is an information board highlighting the castle’s history. Despite it being at the start of the walk, it’s worth a look.
I’m not exactly a purist, always happy to get off the beaten track to get to where I’m going. But when tackling the Pennine way the whole point is that you remain on the route as much as possible. Alston to Greenhead was one of the only days on the route that I had wished I’d taken an alternative path to get to where I was going. Ok, that’s a bit unfair as there are some really lovely sections along the route, but there are also some very boggy bits!
Alston to Greenhead (16 Miles/26 km)
So be warned, look at the map carefully and decide if you really want to bog trot over moors or head along the South Tyne trail for part of the way, which uses the old train line and runs along the valley bottom. Its possible to take this route as far as Lambley before picking up the Pennine Way again. You could go all the way to Haltwistle if you wished, but then you’d be missing out the day walking along Hadrian’s Wall which would be a shame.
Alston is only a small market town but boasts the fame of being the highest in England.
I have to admit to being a bit excited about the prospect of finally finishing the Pennine Way over a final week of walking after having started this route 8 years ago. So taking a week off work and roping in my parents as willing sherpas I headed out on the fells.
Dufton to Alston (18.75 Miles/ 30 Km)
Heading out I had a skip in my step, eager to get on the fells. I did however have a minor hangover from a great night in the Stag Inn, the fantastic pub in the village (which does excellent meals). Despite being in sunshine in Dufton I could already see that Great Dun Fell and Cross Fell were shroud in mist.
I was grateful for cloud when I rose this morning, although its still quite warm and humid. I trudge on, nursing two huge blisters from racing yesterday section in the blazing hot sunshine in inadequately thin socks, I’m indifferent to the prospect of walking over the moors in the mist. Anything is better than the baking sunshine of yesterday. However, it would be nice to have a view of High Cup Nick when I get there.
After leaving what must be the most deluxe wild camp I’ve ever had (I must save up for a motorhome!) and heading out across the moorland there is not a soul in sight after only 40 minutes of walking. It doesn’t take long before you feel like you’ve left civilisation completely. Its 9am, as I reach the middle of the moor, already over 20 degrees C and I’m starting to feel like I’m walking in the desert.
Its been 7 years since I started walking the Pennine Way. I always intended to walk it in sections but long distance walking has taken a side step for climbing ever upwards to reach summits and the sky and so for a few years I haven’t walked any of the route. But I decided it was about time I got around to finishing it, and so dedicated a few days to making a dent in the remaining miles.
I’m not much of a cyclist but if someone put a gun to my head and made me walk this section of the Pennine Way again, I would attempt it on my bike. Its simply just not a very interesting walk I’m afraid to say, and I’m not usually that disparaging of an opportunity to get out. It was a hot day as I recall but the route undulates, has no significant peaks and is therefore a long dull slog. Only the promise of cheese in Hawes at the Creamery was a motivation!
Day 6 Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes – 13.5 miles/ 21.6km
Setting off from Horton in Ribblesdale the route heads along a track circling a large woodland. These pictures are looking back along the route to Pen-y Ghent, Horton and nearby Ingleborough.