Day 13 Knarsdale to Twice Brewed
25.9 km, 740 metres ascent, 8 hours 30 minutes
|The Pennine Way follows the Roman vallum (ditch) after Greenhead golf course: clearly this bit isn't walked much|
Actually, in my opinion it wasn’t the most dreary. That was yet to come.
We set off from Knarsdale. The way as far as Greenhead was dull, with little excitement or merit, but I was thankful that the paths, such as they were (for very often they were not in evidence) were relatively dry. Some boggy sections, yes, but not as bad as most of the guide books made out. Whilst I have various pictures in my mind of the landscape we crossed during the morning I do not have the literary skill to describe them. Grass, reeds, green-brown, a little tarmac, a gravel track and then a descent to the A69, a locked five bar farm gate which had to be climbed, despite this being a major National Trail. This was followed soon after by a walk across the golf course at Greenhead, with more obstructions on the Way at this point, including a barbed wire fence. And no, our navigation wasn’t at fault. The photo above, taken immediately after the golf course shows how little this stretch is walked. Walkers have clearly been forced to divert on to the adjacent Hadrian’s Wall Path rather than following the Roman Vallum, the actual route of the Pennine Way here. I have contacted the Rights of Way people at Northumberland County Council about this twice now. Despite their promised ten day response time I’m still waiting, almost two months later.
|An old wall|
Just above Greenhead is Thirwall Castle. John raced around it recreating some of the photos he had taken there in the 1980s. I plodded on, in the knowledge that he would not struggle to catch me up. We then came to a far more interesting stretch of the Way which for the next several miles followed this old wall thing. I really ought to do some research and find out who built it, when and why. I heard a whisper that it was put up by some chap called Hadrian who led the set building team for the film ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’ starring Kevin Costner, and abandoned once filming was over. I think that may well be true.
Lots of short, steep uppiness and downiness bits followed, and then a longish downiness bit to our camp site at Twice Brewed. The grass pitches suffered from either bogginess or slopeyness and midgeyness, but the site does have a very good communal bit with a kettle and things, and turned on radiators which John and I purloined and covered in rinsed through socks and shirts. Better still, the camp site is only about half a mile from the Twice Brewed pub so we spent the evening pumping money into the local economy and real food and beer into our stomachs.
|Twice Brewed Camp Site|
Day 14 Twice Brewed to Bellingham
24.9km, 618 metres of ascent, 7 hours 50 minutes
|Hadrian's Wall looking to Crag Louth|
“Didn’t you want to get a photo of the tree”, I said. “Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman rode past it you know”.
“Ermm. Not that tree they didn’t. Sycamore Gap is twenty minutes further on." Well trees all look the same to me, but John has a degree in Forestry so I didn’t argue.
|That Sycamore: Kevin Costner has a lot to answer for|
Soon after the genuine film star tree we left the old wall thingy and headed on to what I came to regard as the worst section of the whole of the Pennine Way. I knew much of it would be in forestry plantations and envisaged long, easy-but-dull walking on forest tracks. And indeed, that was the case as we entered the forest. The route then degenerated into narrow, wet, boggy paths that seemed endless.
|Into the forest: unfortunately the track soon deteriorated. Significantly|
Anyway, you will recall that John had bought new boots a few days back after ruining his original pair in a drunken stumble at the Tan Hill Inn. The new boots were made by Hoggs of Fife. Now they were very good boots and very reasonably priced but being new, and higher than his normal mids they were causing the poor chap quite some ankle pain. My joke, I knew, would take his mind off his not inconsiderable discomfort.
“Those boots”, I cried, "made by Hoggs of Fife. Are they still hurting?”
“They are indeed”, replied the poor chap.
“Well then", I said, "perhaps we should refer to the makers as “The Pigs of Fife”.
Well, I couldn’t stop chuckling for the next few kilometres and kept referring to his boots as “The Pigs”. I’m pretty certain John was very amused and that my joke had done wonders for his morale. As I laughed away to myself he walked off ahead of me, my joke clearly having taken his mind off the pain, which must have been slowing him down but now he was able to race on at pace again.
|This was the only stream of any width we had to wet our boots in on the whole Pennine Way. And once over we realised we were a couple of hundred metres off the path and we had missed the footbridge.|
|A small rocky outcrop. Possibly the only interesting feature between Hadrian's Wall and Bellingham|
We arrived at the Camping and Caravanning Club site on the outskirts of Bellingham. The facilities there are brilliant for backpackers, which was just as well as the evening walk to the village to support the local economy was rather longer than we would have wished.
|Above the mist, looking back towards Bellingham|
I hadn’t especially been looking forward to this day, as much of it was to be in forestry plantations again. However, it turned out to be delightful and one of the most enjoyable.
After the steep pull up the lane from Bellingham we crossed fields and attractive moorland. On crossing a footbridge we came across a plastic bag pinned to the wooden rail labelled “For Danielle”. It looked like it contained a bar of chocolate. Later there was another bag for Danielle containing what looked like mints. We speculated. The mystery would be resolved two days later.
|Crossing pleasant fields and moorland beyond Bellingham|
|On the summit of Whitley Pike|
|Heading through the forest to Byrness|
|The Walkers Inn, Byrness|
|Camping in the garden: John on his daily sleeping bag airing routine|