Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Reflections, Factsheets and comments.


Initial thoughts are that walking the Pennine Way was a personal achievement. Spending 16 days, of often difficult walking, together – as a couple who’ve been together 41 years and married for 38 of them – was a great way to relive the intensity and excitement of our earlier years. We’ve done this together and I’m proud of that. Now, where did Margarette leave her foot cream?

Margarette also kept a diary during the walk and may publish it as another blog…if she does, we’ll link to this.

Factsheets and comments.


We used Brigantes throughout. They were excellent.


Everyone will have their own opinion and there is probably no “one size fits all”.

We found both lightweight and heavyweight waterproofs to be essential. As always, you get what you pay for: my jacket was Sprayaway, Margarette’s was Berghaus. We both had Berghaus waterproof trousers and carried Trek Mates Pak Ponchos.

Upper body clothing was either Berghaus or Helly Hansen. On the one occasion I wore short sleeves, I got badly sunburnt.

Lower body was Craghopper trousers (Margartette’s had knee zips). Neither of us took proper shorts, but should have.

Both boots were Berghaus. We also carried and frequently wore knee length gaiters and we found these invaluable.

Each of us carried a whistle; small torch; mobile phone (one Vodaphone, one Orange) in a ziplock bag; space blanket; survival bag; Silva compass; Harvey map or National Trail guide.

I carried a Berghaus 35 litre rucksack with integral waterproof cover; Margarette had a 20 litre Blacks day bag which fitted under her poncho.

Each of us carried 3 litres of liquid per day plus a flask of tea. On the last day we each carried an extra litre.

Most days we had packed lunches from the Hostels but these were usually too much and were rarely finished during the day. We each carried a heavy-duty polythene sandwich box to ensure the lunch stayed dry.

I had a Silva GPS running Version 2.15 of the software. It was rarely used and was never accurate: this inaccuracy caused me to lose confidence in it.. Very disappointing and I’ve sent it back to Silva. Others, using Garmin, were more satisfied.


Listed below are the addresses we used. Whilst some were better than others, all were perfectly acceptable.

Overnight: 25th May (Friday)

Castleton YHA, Hope Valley Derbyshire S33 8WG
Telephone no: 0870 770 5758Fax no: (+44) 1433 621767

Grid Reference: SK150828
Then taxi to Edale to start walk.

Day 2 26th May (Saturday)
Crowden-in-Longdendale YHA



SK13 1HZ

Telephone no: 0870 770 5784

Fax no: (+44) 1457 852135


Day 3. 27 May (Sunday)
Eric & Sue Langdon
Wellcroft House
Bleak Hay Nook

Day 4: 28 May (Monday)
Mytholm House
Mytholm Bank
Hebden Bridge
West Yorkshire
01422 847493
Grid ref: SD 983 274

Day 5: 29 May (Tuesday)
YHA Longlands Drive Lees Lane



West Yorkshire BD22 8RT
Telephone no: 0870 770 5858

Fax no: (+44) 1535 643023

Grid SE038378

Day 6: 30 May (Wednesday)
The Masons Arms
Marton Road


North YorkshireBD23 3NL


United Kingdom

Day 7: 31 May (Thursday)
The Crown Hotel
Horton-in Ribblesdale,

Nr. SettleNorth


BD24 0HF
Telephone 01729 860 209

Day 8 1 June 2007. (Friday)
Lancaster Terrace

Hawes North


Grid Reference: 868898

Day 9. 2 June 2007 (Saturday)
Ernest & Doreen Whitehead

Butt House



North Yorkshire.

DL11 6LJ

Tel: 01748 886374.

Web Site:
O.S. Map Ref: NY 893 009.

Day 10. 3 June 2007. (Sunday)
Ancient Unicorn
DL12 9HL
Telephone: 01833628321

Day 11 4 June 2007 (Monday)

Barnard Castle

Co. Durham

DL12 0XN
Telephone no: 0870 770 5910

Fax no: (+44) 1833 622372

Grid Reference: 860304

Day 12 5 June (Tuesday)
YHA Dufton



CA16 6DB
Telephone no: 0870 770 5800

Fax no: (+44) 17683 53798

Grid Reference: OS 91, GR688251

Day 13 6 June (Wednesday)
The Firs



Telephone no: 0870 770 5668

Fax no: (+44) 1434 382401

Grid Reference: NY717461

Day 14 7 June (Thursday)
Greenhead Hotel



Telephone no: 01697 747411


Day 15 8 June (Friday)

Mrs Wallace


NE48 2HU
Telephone: 01434 220940

Day 16 9 June (Saturday)
7 Otterburn Green




NE19 1TS
Telephone no: 0870 770 5740

Grid Reference: 764027

Day 17 10 June (Sunday)
YHA Kirk Yetholm
Roxburghshire TD5 8PG
Telephone: 8700041132
Fax: 01573 420631
Grid Reference: NT825283 (OS Map) Map Reference: O.S.74 (GR 826282)

Day 17, 10 June 2007, Byrness to Kirk Yetholm

05:30 hrs: Departed from Byrness in light rain and thick mist. 200yards from the YHA, began the steep climb through the trees on the rocky path up Byrness Hill, scrambling over the crags at the top. Visibility about 20 yards in thick, low cloud. Deadly quiet, not even the birds were up and the only faint sound the dripping of water from the trees and our laboured breathing. Walking poles slipping on the wet stones…don’t look up because the route is steep and the Way hidden by overhanging branches. No real path, only the deep, muddy footprints of our predecessors and polished rock from their boots.

40 minutes later we’re at the top. Visibility still hasn’t improved and we’re already into walking on a compass bearing. Deep bog over to Houx Hill and we find a fence-line to confirm our navigation. Margarette’s sense of humour shines through and she leaves a note for the others telling them we’ve just had our first tea stop of the day and they should get a move on.

Wet and cold, but at the beginning of our long day, we plod on, changing direction every few yards to find a dryer, sounder route. Then off to my left, a splash and a cry. Margarette is flat out, up to the waist in bog and leaning forward to hold some firmer tufts of marsh grass. Off comes her pack, to slow down her slippage into the bog then slowly she is dragged to firmer ground, soaked through and a little shaken. Survival bag and space blanket were ready, but she decided to move to firmer ground and keep moving in the hope of staying warm that way. So far we’ve covered about 2.5 miles with 24 to go and discuss turning back. But not for long. Margarette is determined to continue and the poncho cape is keeping her warm enough for now.

The weather doesn’t improve all morning. We slog on, having short tea stops and trying to reduce the weight of our packs by drinking the extra liquids we’ve brought. Nick catches up with us and stays as far as the bothy at Yearning Saddle. At least his presence confirmed our navigation and his company reassuring if Margarette had got any colder. However the bothy lived up to its reputation and afforded a chance for a rest and some (relative) warmth. Whilst we were there, Peter, Tony and Ron also passed.

By early afternoon the cloud lifted a little. The many miles of paths laid by the National Trust were worth their weight in gold given the low visibility and boggy conditions. We caught up with Ron having a break, prior to his descent at Clennell Street and he cheered us up by saying some of the others were only a little way ahead. In moving forward, we met a party of three, one of whom was blind, coming South and starting their long day. Shortly after, Richard and Adele caught up on us and we walked on together for some time.

We four then caught Peter and Tony at King’s Seat, relaxed as usual and deciding to tackle the top of The Cheviot. Whilst we were gathered at King’s Seat we all had a moan about the weather (visibility was dropping again) but knew that by now we had not only broken the back of the longest day but were shortly to start the first descent.

Margarette and I rounded The Cheviot and had our final tea stop in the bothy just west of West Cairn Hill. Margarette was able to change into dry socks for some respite, despite still being otherwise soaked, even inside her boots. She was bearing up wonderfully. Once over the last major hill (The Schil, at 605 metres)

we took the low route towards Kirk Yetholm. Hilltop visibility was still effectively zero and we had only seen the Cheviots for about half an hour all day. Then, ascending towards us on the wooden boardwalk, were three younger walkers out for a day walk in t-shirts and shorts, proving there are madder people in the world than us! They in turn were followed by a party of four on a circular walk: they had completed the Pennine Way many years before and were just out for a ramble for the afternoon…in low visibility and light rain.

Eventually we reached Kirk Yetholm, just after 6 o’clock and 13 hours walking. No bands! Even better, Kenneth – our son – was there with a bottle of champagne and transport home. A pint in “The Border” pub then off to the SYHA to shower and change. However, later that evening we gathered in The Border for a celebratory dinner and a great time was had by all.

Day 16, 9 June 2007, Bellingham to Byrness

An easy and pleasant 15 miles today, mainly in company of the group who are also aiming to complete the Way on Sunday.

...Adele and Richard from Sheffield, known to ourselves as “The Ferrarris” who seem to have gradually adopted a more relaxed attitude to timekeeping and average speeds over the last few days.

...Nick, from Bournemouth, who is fitter and faster than any of us yet occasionally drops back to join one of small groups for some company.

...Peter and Tony, completing the second half of the Way from Bowes to Kirk Yetholm. Totally relaxed, loathe to pass an open pub and like two English cricketing gentlemen out for a day’s stroll, simply eating up the miles with a rolling pace.

...Ron, probably the more experience walker, especially as he keeps leaving things behind and ends up gong back for them therefore walking twice the distance yet never loses his sense of humour…and always the first to offer help to anyone.

…and finally Mark from Adelaide. Mark was walking from Land’s End to John O’ Groats. In his gardening shoes. With 300+ small pieces of paper making up his strip map. A diet of chocolate. And the smallest backpack of any of us.

None of us were in a formal group, but all the way to Byrness we mixed and matched as the conversation took us, finally stopping for coffee and ice-cream at the cafĂ© – and only shop – in Byrness. A good, happy and satisfying day although in the back of all our minds was the thought of tomorrow: the 26 mile slog across deep bogs and up steep hills to the finishing point.

YHA Byrness is two small, converted Forestry Commission houses. Frozen meals are available for dinner and the warden will take orders for early breakfast (which she leaves out and you heat yourself) and packed lunches. No alcohol for sale. An alternative is to make a prior meal booking with the Byrness Hotel: not really a hotel at the moment, but a B&B. Nearest pub is 5 miles away (price for a taxi was quoted as £10 each way).

Day 15, 8 June 2007, Greenhead to Bellingham

A long day ahead across the crags from Thirwall Castle and along Hadrian’s Wall for miles and miles. Hottest day so far and exhausted by the steep climbs and equally difficult descents. A fun interlude at Walltown where three school parties were having a Roman Day, with staff and pupils alike dressed in their versions of Romans, Picts etc.

We had walked this area last year when we did the whole of Hadrian’s Wall but it was no consolation as we knew ahead just how difficult it would be. Also incredibly hot and our water was running out fast. By the time we reached Hotbank Crags we were tired and soaked in sweat Just then a young Buddhist came along in bare feet, with no pack and looking delightfully cool: we just stared. Then up came an older woman leading her blind partner, again both looking quite relaxed. Time to stop feeling sorry for ourselves!

With about 5 hours walking ahead, in the hot sun, we headed north through parts of Kielder Forest and Haughton Common, dropping off the Way into Stonehaugh to top up our liquids at a local Forestry Commission house.

Then onwards to our B&B for the night at Bridgeford just outside Bellingham. No meals provided here but by prior arrangement the owners drove us into town and collected us again (the local taxi driver had gone to Newcastle on a job – 45 miles away by local roads). Bellingham is a quiet little town but with enough eateries to give a choice…we used the Cheviot Arms which was OK and as we were the only customers, we had exclusive service.

Bridgeford was an excellent B&B, even if we did have a 2.5 mile walk into town next morning. Still run as a farm but, in common with other farms in the area, the B&B is now the main income provider.

Certainly the longest day so far, particularly with the heat. But by this time our fitness level was rising and we didn’t feel as bad as we thought we should!

Day 14, 7 June 2007, Alston to Greenhead

Out of Alston YHA for 09:00 hrs, running straight into a Police checkpoint for the Appleby Horse Fair which is on this week and has both equine and human visitors from all over the world. Along quiet country lanes which ramble across the countryside – in this area, the Way seems to lose impetus and meander gently northwards as if to give you a rest in preparation for the harder days to come.

Stopped in the wonderfully named village of Slaggyford for our packed lunch, sharing it with a local horse and three free-range hens. The on northwards across easy going which turned out to be just lulling us into a false sense of security. Blenkinsopp Common was approached as evening was just beginning and we should have had just a couple of miles to go.

The Way passes through an untidy, run-down farmyard immediately before the Common. Signposting is good until you cross the stile into the thick marsh grass. Nominally, the Way curves in a lazy left handed sweep for a few hundred yards then you take a path almost due North. This we never did see nor did any of those travelling that day. In fact, a more experienced member of the people walking that day was on his second attempt to cross the Common, having lost hi compass and been flooded out on a previous occasion.

Hard walking over heavy going, with detailed map and compass work was required…a real nuisance as we knew the town could only be a few miles away, round one of the small valley heads. Reception for the GPS was poor so it was useless: we decided to walk on a bearing to a marked fence line and navigate out from there. In the jostle a few days later, we discovered everyone had the same problem on this piece of moor: perhaps National Trust should reassess the signs there.

Eventually into Greenhead and a short walk down the old A69 to the YHA. Again, a privatised dormitory style YHA recently taken over by the (new) owners of the local pub, the Greenhead Hotel. The YHA doesn’t do meals (although there is the usual Members’ kitchen) so it was over to the hotel to eat. Accepting that the owners are new and managing both the YHA and the local pub, they still have some way to go on the YHA side to reach the normal standard, but nothing that some maintenance, a lick of paint and the gaining of more experience by the young Warden won’t put right.

Good news of the day: end of the “Pennine Way Central” map…on to the last sheet!

Day 13, 6 June 2007, Dufton to Alston

Breakfast in Dufton YHA: No scrambled eggs as Annette hates washing the pan! But her poached eggs were great. Red squirrels, cat and cockerel (plus all the rabbits) in the garden. A really friendly YHA.

Clear, warm to hot day as we started the climb to Great Dun Fell and Cross Fell – the highest points on the Way at 848 and 893 metres respectively. About 4 hours climbing, but on an easy and well marked route. Some photos of the NATS radar installation (old habits die hard!).

The descent was another matter, as we passed through multiple old fluorspar and lead minings which had left their scars on the scenery. The old mine road formed the path, about 4 Km of mine tails and another 6 Km of rough stone. Really hard and slow walking, sore on both boots, feet and ankles. Main point of interest was Greg’s Bothy, still in use and well maintained.

We eventually took the Leadgate Road footpath as an exit from this torment, also shortcutting the route by about 2 Km. Across the South Tyne River then through pleasant meadows up to Alston, tired, sore and hungry. We ate in the YHA: again, food plentiful and good. Met up there with a group from Rawlins Community College riding the Coast to Coast over 4 days at about 154 miles. Lots of noise late at night, but surely no surprise with 12 or so teenagers in the building!

Alston is one of the privatised YHAs and is run by a couple with previous experience in Swaledale and they are a great example of how privatisation can work well.

Haven’t been able to get into Alston as feet are too sore and we’re tired (being wimps). Another 20 miles tomorrow, from Alston to Greenhead.

Day 12, 5 June 2007, Langdon Beck to Dufton

Back down to the River Tees, not in full spate but rather gurgling rapidly…even as far upstream as this it clearly lives up to its potential as a river to be harnessed for power in the industrial revolution. From Widdy Bank the Way runs adjacent to the Tees and the path is easily followed and clearly marked. Not too much further along however there are scree and boulder fields which slow transit to a crawl. Walking poles are put away as all hands, knees and other protuberances are put to maintaining balance and progress. The area was dry as we passed: in wet weather this would be good ankle-snapping territory. We covered three scree and boulder fields in all, each about 200 yards long and each taking about 30 minutes.

In the distance was the thunder of Caldron Spout, where a major tributary to the Tees emerges from Cow Green Reservoir. As we neared, no obvious route round the waterfall was visible and it became clear that we would have to climb the rock walls. Seriously not funny, with rucsacks and boots. We lost track of time, but a guess is about 45 minutes from bottom to top and a height estimated at 30 metres.

Tired, we moved forward through Birkdale and had a tea break, entering the Warcop range area. For me this was my second visit: I had learned how to fire Chieftain main armament here in the early 1970’s. Major changes here, reflecting the withdrawal of UK forces from German training areas whilst retaining the requirement to be able to conduct live firing. There used to be a saying in Germany: “Jet noise, the sound of freedom”. Perhaps in today’s atmosphere, we should be reinforcing the peace-keeping and peace-enforcing role of the military rather than encouraging people to carp about their overseas commitments.

Across the training area to High Cup Nick, possibly the highest hanging valley in England with a sheer drop of about 270 metres on three sides. Spectacular barely describes the view on a clear day. Moving north round the valley edge on (usually) well-marked paths, we had a gentle descent into Dufton.

Into the YHA there at 3.30 pm, just as the manager – Annette – arrived to check the building. Opening is at 5.00 pm, but she gave us the run of the building including tea making, washing machines, showers, in advance. The YHA serves meals on request but the Stag’s Head, across the village green, has a reputation for good food: and lived up to it. This YHA is one of the older style but has most of the usual modern facilities – except Internet access: this is something YHA really do have to sort out. But certainly YHA Dufton is a happy, comfortable and clearly well-run establishment and a credit to its manager (and perhaps to the cat, cockerel, red squirrels and rabbits in the garden!)

Tomorrow it’s a long haul over high peaks to Alston.