November always seems like the end of the walking year to me. So, each November, I try to plan out whatever it is I might do the next year. In the past, this has inevitably had a four (ish) day backpacking trip in April as a pre-TGO shakedown; May is for the TGO and October is a fortnight in Wales. June, July and August each will have a week Hewitt bagging or whatever…. Last year I walked a high level route across Cumbria , for instance. So this year, I decided that in August I will walk the English/Scottish Border and this has now crept up on me and slapped my head asking if I’m ever going to start planning for it. And the answer is “No”. I’ve decided not to. I’m just going to buy a train ticket to Carlisle and walk till I get to Berwick. I start on 9 August (according to my diary) and, roughly speaking, the walk goes like this: 9/8/10 Carlisle to Longtown 10/8/10 Longtown to Newcastleton 11/8/10 Newcastleton to Kielder 12/8/10 Kielder to Byrness 13/8/10 Byreness to somewhere else 14/8/10 Wherever I was the night before to Kirk Yetholm 15/8/10 Kirk Yetholm to Coldstream (ish) 16/8/10 Coldstream(ish) to Berwick on Tweed. And that’s it. Planned. Lets see what happens if you just set off…. Will I make it?
This is yet another of one of those Yorkshire dales 2000 foot tops walks, the tops in this case being Great Coum, Green Hill and Gregareth. These three grassy lumps are arranged neatly in a little horseshoe around the little dale of Easegill. Easegill, of course is much more famous for its 75km of caving system than for a soggy round of three grassy lumps but not for us today. I picked up the brother from Kendal and whisked him off to some lane parking at a high road-end just next to Bullpot Farm. Bullpot Farm is the Red Rose Caving Club’s “hut”. Bullpot of the Witches being a pothole very close by…. But none of this for us. Instead, we had a damp trek through soggy sedges for just a bit more than a thousand fairly gentle feet to the top of Crag Hill, which was occupied by a party of sheep, and then on to Great Coum for lunch. I’d been here before, of course, and I repeated the egg butty lunch. I’m not obsessed by Great Coum or anything, but its on the round y’see. Hill fog had cleared on our climb up Crag Hill but here it rolled in again. We descended to the County Stone, not loking at the extensive view that we couldn’t see due to the hillfog. The County Stone marks the old county boundary of Lancashire, the West riding of Yorkshire and Westmorland. It sports some graffiti which is clearly older than the boundary walls that meet there…. We plodded on to Green Hill and then to Gregareth, meeting with a very stroppy Swaledale (Swardle) ewe who stamped her feet at us and wouldn’t get out of the way. I must say that if you decide to do this ridge, wait for clear weather. Its not that its difficult to navigate the place, its just that in hill fog and without the lovely view of Ingleborough, the ridge is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit dull. Its just too easy. You just walk alongside the wall…. and thats it. We descended to the Three Men of Gregareth – three stone “men” or tall cairns..actually there’s now four of them. Bruno dozed off here whilst we had a snack and a shelter out of the wind and drifting mist. I’m not sure how he achieved this as the stones here aren’t exactly comfy cushions….. We descended further to Leck Fell House and then across the moor to Easegill Kirk. Unfortunately, due to the extreme slipperiness of the carb limestone (its always like this when its wet), we couldn’t explore the Kirk properly. I’ll be back, though – its a fine and interesting gorge… An easy path took us back to Bullpot Farm….. I think Gregareth could well mean Heather(y) Height. by the way. There’s a fair amount of Welsh in the place names around here. Its just a guess… We did 9 and a bit miles and 2000 feet of climbing. There’s only seven Yorkshire Dales 2000 foot tops left to do. Can you guess what they are?
The heat of the sun got me out of bed and I was away by 9:00 ish (ok, I know its not early, but if you’d been to Darts practise at the Hare and Hounds….) I called at Charlie’s and had coffee…. A bit later I slugged up the hill out of Westgate. various people stopped to chat. It took a while. Eventually, at a strategic bend in the road, I headed off along a contour with a lane on it and this took me towards Heights Quarry. it was all very lovely so far. The route follows the old railway line to Rookhope and its all very lovely with some smashing Weardale views until a deep gorge suddenly appears at the feet. There is a moment of doubt (cos its a big drop) – but by poking around, a path on the left is found which drops down gently to the beck and then appears on the other side of the gorge without much at all in the way of drama. For geologists, there’s a very nice mined-out mineral vein here. For about a kilometre after this point, its best to keep your left eye closed. The path goes alongside heights Quarry, which is still working and is very busy. Its well waymarked and fenced off from any danger and eventually industry is passed and the intrepid Pennine Journier pops out on the other side into old railway cuttings with bits of woodland, lots of flowers and many buzzing insects. Its green and damp and beautiful. After that, the Weardale Way goes easily along the railway line to Rookhope where it meets the cyclists’ Coast to Coast route and, of course, the Rookhope Inn where a short period of celebration is allowed. After “lunch”, I climbed the Bolts law incline, a bit wearily and followed PJ instructions to go and bag Bolts Law, scene of recent solstice partying. There’s a lot of grouse living in the Bolts Law heather, and its very heavily managed, so if I had a worry about the PJ route, it would be here. I’m not sure the shooting estate will be too chuffed about this route going through here. There could well be conflict. True, its open access, but its not open all the time, and Journiers with doggies will have to find another route. There is, in fact, a perfectly good footpath system from Rookhope running up by Stogel Clough and then over the North East slope of Bolts Law, crossing the summit and then down to Ramshaw. The path down to Ramshaw, though, is a mess. its difficult to follow, has what appears top be an old leat which is crossed on a rotten footbridge, and there’s electric fences. And lots of thistles. But its a right of way and can’t be closed. It just needs a bit of TLC, really. I followed this path down to Ramshaw, as best I could. I might report this to Durham County Council. I’m not sure its bad enough, though. After Ramshaw, there’s some quiet lanes and some woodland footpaths to Baybridge, then a pleasant riverside path to Blanchland. There’s no phone signal in Blanchland, so I used the phonebox to ring home. I got a minute for 60p. 60 PENCE for a minute. Absolute robbery. I allowed myself to be exploited to the sum of three pints of Black Sheep in the Lord Crewe Arms whilst waiting for Maggie to arrive.
And that, folks, is the sum of my Pennine Journey sampler. It might not be exactly the route in the book. It won’t be far out though. Its not an official route anyway… Today’s was 11 miles and 1300 feet.
Y’see, I just couldn’t resist it. I got Maggie to drop me off in Middleton in Teesdale and I wandered up the Pennine Way up past Low Force and High Force and as far as Hanging Shaw, just by Forest in Teesdale First School just as playtime ended. The Pennine Way here is specially flowery at the moment. And the haymeadows are just starting to be cut, so if you go there after reading this, there won’t be much left in the meadows, but the hedgerows and bits of woodland are really good. I walked along with a Dutch chap for a while and we parted just after Cronkley Farm. I haven’t yet ordered the official guidebook, so the next part of my route was a bit of a guess. the idea is to get onto the path that runs over the flank of Fendrith Hill to the top of the pass at Swinhope Head. I avoided a couple of fields containing energetic beef and made my way through meadows to Ettersgill where it started raining and I joined the path. The route over to Swinhope Head is might well be tricky in hill fog (which was starting to drop as I made my way) and I used my compass to get the right directions. The first landmark is a “shooting hut”, which turns out to be just a ruin, but is easily found just below the 550 metre contour. A path leads off uphill but this turns out eventually to go too far uphill but a gently descending route across the moor brings the low profile of Grey Folds into view. I thought it was a good idea to go there. But first, there’s the small matter of the crossing of Longmere Sike, a deep shaley slot which was a bit slippery…. But anyway, after ejecting the sheep sheltering in the fold, so I could scoff a choccy bar in peace, more hillfog and misty grey stuff brought a power line into view and it was then a simple matter of following these as they go very close to the cattle grid at the top of the pass. It was a bit of a relief to get on the road here. My advice for anybody struggling with the navigation here is to fight your way North-east to the road. Another option would be to follow the power line uphill, though you’d eventually get so close to the road that it’d be too tempting….. The rest of the walk to Westgate follows this road, although there’s a shortcut through deep and damp Juncus (rushes) to Weardale Ski Club’s parking area which cuts out the zig-zags. It gets a bit dull after that, although forward views into Weardale improve with the descent. I camped on the little campsite by the ford. A neo-air takes 28 manly puffs to inflate it properly. I was just inserting manly puff number eight when I heard my name called. I peeked out and there was Charlie, inviting me for tea. We had lamb chops (very nice, Charlie) and then visited the Hare and Hounds for the darts team practise night. I got back to the tent fairly late…….. It had stopped raining. Its about 15 miles and 2000 feet.
More of this shortly…
I’ve mentioned before, somewhere on this blog (you’ll have to look it up yourselves if you’re that interested) about how involvement in the TGO Challenge improves the quality and quantity of a chap’s walking companions. And so it was with this little expedition. Titanium Dude aka Paddy Burrows, TGO Challenger and yet another Fight Club Hiker, once banned from Trail’s Live for the Outdoors forum – a status which many may well envy…) – announced his intention to walk the Hadrian’s Wall LDP on the Peaceful Hiker Forum and , me, having absolutely nothing better to do, asked to join him for a day or so. And Lo! it came to pass that I paid the £3 parking fee at Housesteads Roman Fort and wandered Eastwards along the wall in the calculated belief that at some point T Dude would be met coming the other way. It was sometime after lunch that I arrived at Brocolitia, (site of the temple of Dave Mithras, bull killer and general all-round good-guy as far as Roman Gods is concerned) where there’s a chap selling coffee from the back of a small van in the well preserved Roman Pay and Display Car Park There, I fuelled my addiction to tasty caffeine and, sure enough, a few minutes later T Dude turned up. We had another coffee and marched off towards Carlisle. The weather wasn’t great it has to be said – very humid and spitty and the local black flies were, it would seem, on their holidays too. After trespassing inside Houseteads Fort, and, by using the lie of the land and the walls of a granary, we managed to avoid two individuals in high vis jackets who looked as though they might want to inspect the tickets we hadn’t bought – so we nipped out of the North gate and traversed the outside of the wall to rejoin the path. I noticed that one of the main defences to Houseteads was a sign which said that admission charges applied. This was found to be ineffective, however due to the fact that it wasn’t written in proto-Welsh and the locals weren’t up to reading or obeying rules like that. In fact, we just nipped over the fence. Paddy claimed not to have seen the sign…. A short distance later, i left Paddy to walk on to Winshields Farm whilst I retraced in heavy rain to retrieve the knipemobile from the car park. We met later on the campsite and withdrew strategically to the Twice Brewed pub for our tea and some beer. Later, there was snoring and a rude awakening from heavy early morning rain coming through the tent door that I seem to have forgotten to close. The farm provided breakfast and once more we headed off towards the Solway. More humid stuff – more showers – more blackflies and a few midges later and with lots of up and down work – we eventually arrived at Birdoswald where, after tea in ther cafe, Paddy continued towards Walton and I explored a deep gill to kill time till the bus came. The AD122 whisked me back to Twice Brewed for the princely sum of £3.80. This is a great bus service by the way – the buses are new since last year and, in theory you could walk the wall by staying in, say, Hexham and just using public transport to return to bas eat the end of each day. Anyway, I trust Paddy is yet still forging Westwards – he didn’t seem to be having any problems with the route or the walking, so , all things being equal (which they never are, actually…) – its a fair bet he’ll arrive at Bowness on time and with no significant damage. I have just the one day off to dry my tent, then I’m off again on a little worrif resolution….. For those intent on just sampling Hadrian’s Wall for a couple of days, the best bit is between Chesters and Birdoswald – in my ‘umble….. Altogether, I walked 25 miles with 3100 feet up uphill.
I should explain what a “worrif” is before I begin. Worrif the sky fell in. Worrif one morning we all woke up and we’d turned into Chinese. (This doesn’t apply to those people who are already Chinese…) Worrif God made a mistake… Worrif I did this Pennine Journey thing? But first, a short debate. For those who don’t know, which , no doubt will include many of my colonial readers and those who aren’t English, there is a chap in English hillwalking called Alfred Wainwright (dec’d). AW, as he is often known, wrote and illustrated a fine set of guidebooks to the English Lake District which became very popular. He also did a guide to the Pennine Way and he made up a Coast to Coast walk which many people follow. He did the same thing for the Howgills and for the Yorkshire dales limestone country and, when he got famous, there were TV programmes and glossy coffee table books. He seems to have kept himself mainly to the North of England as far as walking is concerned, which is why I referred to him in terms of “English” hillwalking. He seems to have had no impact at all on Scottish or Welsh walking. After Alf died, a group of people formed the “Wainwright Society” who’s aims seem to be to worship and promote “The Great Man”. This is the bit I have a problem with, not that it will bother anybody in the Wainwright Society. I suspect that one or two may be making a bit of money out of links with “The Great Man”, but mainly, they seem to be raising money for charity – which is good. Now then. In 1938 AW walked to Hadrian’s Wall from Settle. the he walked back again by a different route. Then he wrote a book about it and, in true AW style, put it away and there it lay till he got a bit more famous at which point it was published. I got a copy for my birthday in 1987. Its an interesting book and the first half is well written. The second half seems a bit rushed to me….. But anyway, it was , perhaps, inevitable, that somebody at some point would make up a modernised version of the walk. In this case David and Heather Pitt designed the walk and members of the Wainwright Society drew maps, walked the walk, and so on and now there’s a guide. Proceeds from the guide will go towards waymarking the route and the Great North Air Ambulance. But what of the route? I couldn’t order a copy of the book because the order form from the website is gibberish, but there’s enough information on the website to determine how the route goes. Its not rocket science and much use is made of existing LDPs. But you can look at the website and determine the route for yourselves. Walkers will find some parts of it horrendously busy – specially the Yorkshire Dales bits and Hadrian’s Wall. The Pennine way, which is used quite a lot, isn’t what it used to be as far as traffic is concerned and some parts – e.g. Weardale and the Western scarp of the Pennines could do with a few more pedestrian tourists. I expect that some small businesses along the route will feel the benefit, and this seems to be one of the stated aims of the producers, though why this should animate them escapes me for the moment. And - the aims of the WS have apparently been amended to include the following:
“To foster and enhance AW’s standing on the field of long distance footpath walking.” This strikes me as very odd indeed. It begs the “why?” question…. I really don’t get this. But I’ll leave that there – its nothing to do with me, really. But, despite my reservations – as above, plus the places on the route which are busy enough already, and you could find better ways than those chosen in some places, and it doesn’t really follow AW’s route, but it gets fairly close….. I’m strangely drawn to the idea and , well, worrif I had a go at it… I might just do a local section. I could drink beer at the Hare and Hounds at half time. Maybe have me tea there…. Thats the worrif. Worrif I get hooked….. Worrif I find myself applying for membership of the Wainwright Society and start smoking a pipe and grumbling at women…… nah……
Yes folks, its time we did yet another of those Yorkshire Dales 2000 foot tops. Its been a while. I went to Dent, where the dentists live, paid £4.50 at the car park (note: park by the bridge cos its free….) and allowed superdawg to pull me up Flinter Gill. Flinter Gill is very steep but it has a wishing tree, a limekiln and a view indicator, which indicates the view. There’s no water in Flinter Gill. This has nothing to do with the drought. It hardly ever has water in it, cos it all sinks undergound high up the gill. Anyway, we finally got up to Green lane and followed it for a while, till it noticed, then we pretended to be tying our shoelaces. I think it knew, though. We turned off up another lane and came to the moor where it started raining a bit. It wasn’t supposed to rain. the rain was supposed to be in North East England, which is why we were doing a walk overlooking Morecambe Bay. It wasn’t very heavy, though. We reached a cairn which had been on the horizon but wasn’t any more. It was a big, old, well built shepherd’s cairn. It has a cracking view. This also meant that we were near the summit ridge. We wandered over to the trig on Crag Hill and hid behind the wall out of the rain to scoff the egg (and tomato) butty, a banana and a double decker (choc bar, not bus….). The summit of Great Coum is just a slightly higher bit of grass near a wall junction. There is no cairn. Two other cairns appear not to be on the highest points, but nevertheless have nice views. I descended by the eastern arm of the Great Coum itself. Its not so great, really. I’ve seen better ones. I suppose that if it’s the only Coum you’ve got…. anyway, its a pleasant way down and has a neat little peri-glacial moraine which , today was an effective windbreak and made an ideal spot to sit and count the sheep for a while. I counted twenty eight. Bruno made it thirty. Various lanes brought us down to Dentdale. At one point we came up behind a chap with an industrial strength strimmer, clearing a bridleway. We waited for him to notice us, rather than risk an unpleasant strimming accident. He let us pass into the jungle he’d not go to yet. A bit further on, the path was cobbled, but covered by a stream. Even further on there were stepping stones. We had a paddle and played a game of throw a stick in the water and bring it out again and throw it in again and bring it out again and…… The Dales Way brought us pleasantly back to Dent on a riverside path through haymeadows. We did eight miles and 1800 feet of uphill. It were grand, despite the spitty-spots of rain.
I am a retired NHS Personnel person. All I do nowadays is walk about.
I used to have my pet dog Bruno with me (in the front page pic). he was Superdawg but he died. Now I have Lucky the pup. He's a bit like Bruno, only smaller and more suspicious.