My Pyrenees HRP Diary - Introduction

This blog was begun in 2015, to record my walk along the Pyrenees HRP from Hendaye to Banyuls. If you want to read about that, I suggest you start here.

But that is all in the past now, and I have expanded the blog a little to cover more recent events.. such as:

Snowdonia Way
Hebden Bridge
Equipment Reviews
North Downs Way

and now the Pennine Way .. which I am walking for the third time in September 2019, this time from N to S

I hope you will find something interesting. Please do provide a little feedback or comment, and if you are interested in something that I didn't say enough about, please let me know .. happy walking!


Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Pennine Way day 8: Rest day in Middleton-in-Teesdale

Tuesday 17 September 2019
Miles: 1.7 (not added to total)
Total miles: 129.6

The original schedule gave me a morning off with a 6 mile walk to Blackton Bridge in the PM. But I decided I deserved a full day off. Also my knees ache. They are not impeding progress, but when you are on a long walk such complaints must be listened to. I will give them a rest. However, I will walk on to Tan Hill Inn tomorrow, then to Hawes the next day, when I will be back on the original schedule.

A bollard cosy..  Middleton has lots of bollards, and lots of cosies

.. and another

Middleton is a lovely little town, hard to capture in a photo. Wish I could see it without any cars

Teesdale Hotel, where I am staying. Comfortable and pleasantly old-fashioned

Pennine Way day 7: High Cup Nick - Middleton-in-Teesdale

Monday 16 September 2019
Miles: 18.8
Total miles: 129.6

Imagine waking up at High Cup Nick and putting your head out of the tent to see this:


About 8am

Definitely a high point of the walk so far. 
Then a long and slightly dull walk to the next highlight, Cauldron Snout. This is actually the outfall from Cow Green reservoir (do good names up here, don't they?) but still quite impressive:

Cow Green dam and outfall, initially quite innocuous..

.. but it soon turns into this. Wish I could photo the noise it makes!

Then after a tricky scramble over loose rock, which I would call talus but hereabouts are "clints," we reach the River Tees valley.
The upper Tees Valley for some reason retains an arctic alpine ecology, left over from the last ice age. One way it manifests itself is in a large number of.. well, what tree is this?

Yes, a juniper tree, obviously.. there are lots, which must make gin distillers very happy.

After four miles or so, the next highlight, High Force:

Not the highest waterfall in England but apparently it does put more water over than any other, when in spate. Fairly quiet at present, wikipedia has some impressive photos of it following a storm.

After that Low Force was predictably a bit of a let down, so I went on and was glad to reach Middleton at a reasonable time and check in.

Wildlife update: I have seen thousands of sheep and cattle, a fair number of bunnies, but not much you could call wild life.  The haul so far is three hares, one so close I almost trod on it, two small deer, not at all frightened, we stood and looked at each other for a minute and then they sauntered off. A number of big birds in the distance, and a number of smaller birds not familiar to me. Oh, and some boggy bits in Northumberland were jumping with small frogs, had to watch where you put your feet.

One or two more random photos:

Low Force

A sheep sculpture. On it, it says "It reverts to scrub, when it's gone it's lost. A farmer" .. not a sentiment I would agree with, especially as this area was once forest. It is more a reminder that there is now no part of Britain left that is completely natural, unaltered by man

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Pennine Way day 6: more photos

More photos around Cross Fell and High Cup Nick..

Looking down towards Dufton

Looking back from Gt Dun Fell towards Little Dun Fell and Cross Fell 
This is a hushing (google it!) and once the highest mine in England. This is the top end, it goes down the mountain for almost 1/2 mile

View at dusk from High Cup Nick. It was not as dark as the camera makes it look. In fact there was a full moon and never did get fully dark

Part of the moor between the fells and High Cup Nick. Not a place to get lost... 



Pennine Way day 6: Alston - High Cup Nick

Sunday 15 September 2019
Miles: 21.4
Total miles: 110.8

I knew today was going to be a long day. I set off about 8.15am and fairly flew along to Garrigill. I found I had inadvertently left two pots of yoghurt in the fridge at the youth hostel, which was annoying, but there was a little village shop in Garrigill so I was able to replace them, and add a banana or two to boot.
From Garrigill you walk up an apparently endless track to Greg's Hut, nestled on a shoulder below Cross Fell. Through the good offices of my daughter and Amazon Prime, I have all three volumes of Mark Twain's autobiography on my phone as audiobooks, so I kept my head down, pressed on steadily and listened to that to help the time pass.

Got to the hut in good time, and sat there for a bit to have lunch. Just as I was leaving three more people arrived, one of them had twisted his ankle coming down from Cross Fell and was hobbling badly. I did not envy him trying to get all the way down to Garrigill in that condition.

Then on to the summit of Cross Fell, highest point of the Pennine Way at 870m (2854ft). The weather was fine and breezy, but not windy. The view was hazy but not obscured. I carried on across the summit, then over Little and Great Dun Fells, (the 2nd and 3rd highest points in the Pennines) past the surveillance station there. Allegedly part of UK air traffic control nowadays. Then on over Knock Old Man, to start the descent to Dufton.

So far, all part of the official PW route. But instead of descending to Dufton I turned sharp left and headed straight across the moor towards High Cup Nick where I would camp for the night. I had done the same thing in 2014 in reverse, spending the night at HCN and then nipping through the heather to rejoin the official route without having to go down to Dufton. A cunning trick that saves a whole day and in my memory took no time at all but it was definitely not like that this time.. crossing the high moors is easy enough if there is a path to follow but if not it can be an awkward business. Large peat bogs, ravines and streams impede progress and there are unexpected holes "shake holes" etc to watch out for. To cut a long story short I got to HCN ok, but it was a slow business and it must have been 7.30pm by the time I got my tent out.

But my legs felt good, the high moors in decent weather are a fine place to be, and to have High Cup Nick all to yourself is a great privilege. I was a tired but happy bunny.

A few photos follow (not in the right order!) ... there are more but I am having trouble adding them. I will do another post with just photos. Doing this on a phone is v. frustrating!

The River South Tyne nr Alston

The long and winding track up to Cross Fell (in the distance)

Great Dun Fell

Inside Greg's hut. He was killed in a climbing accident in the Alps

Tbe trig point atop Cross Fell. The Great Dun Fell installation visible in the distance, over a mile away

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Pennine Way day 5: Bardon Mill - Alston

Saturday 14 September 2019
Miles: 19.8
Total miles: 89.4

A second day in succession with no rain, yay!

It was supposed to be 17 miles to Alston, so where tbe extra 2.8 miles comes from I am not sure. There was one unfortunate incident where I tried a promising shortcut that came up short and I had to retrace my steps... I think the rest comes from tracking across pathless moors and wandering around Alston looking for a meal.. no joy, Alston apparently likes to party on a Saturday night. But my Spar ready meal was surprisingly edible. Spot of red wine too and all for less than £10.

Still, today was a good day with some fine views and pleasant walking.  For much of tbe day I followed Isaac's Tea Trail.. easy walking and fun, with teapots turning up in unexpected places. Isaac Holden sounds to have been an interesting man.

I am back on the official route now and will follow it tomorrow except I will not go down to Dufton but instead will cut across the moor to High Cup Nick and camp there. It will be another long day that includes climbing Cross Fell, at 893m the highest point on the Pennine Way. Tbe next day goes to Middleton-in-Teesdale. I have a rest day in the bank, and might use it then.. we shall see.

Looking back at Allendale from the huge Mohope Moor

Isaac's Tea trail, miscellaneous teapots 

Even tbe waymarks are interesting!

A herd of goats! Not like Buttercups of course but they were very friendly. 

The river South Tyne .. there is a river North Tyne too

Pennine Way day 4: Bellingham - Bardon Mill

Friday 13 September 2019
Miles: 17.0
Total miles: 69.6

Today went well (take that, Friday 13th!) and exceeded my expectations in several areas. I woke up quite early but the sun was peeping over the horizon already and it stayed there all the morning. As the day wore on it clouded over, but it never rained, the first completely dry day so far.
I had been expecting another tramp through the the pine plantations and there was some of that but most of the walk went across the wide, rolling hills of Northumberland. It is all very scenic, only close to, you find there is an inordinate amount of bog and mud. I was so pleased I had decided to take my proper leather boots rather than trail shoes.
For some reason I felt a bit sluggish today and took my time. I got to Hadrian's Wall about 5.30pm and immediately carried on to Bardon Mill, a pleasant little village about 3 miles south of the Wall. It has a pub, the Bowes Hotel, which I had stayed in five years ago. Since then it has acquired a new owner, and has been gutted and completely refurbished at huge expense. From being a rather old-fashioned (but cheap) hotel it has been transformed into a very modern (but pricy) boutique hotel. I had an excellent meal and did enquire about rooms, but they were fully booked. However the owner got on his phone  and soon found me a room, really nice place about a mile outside Bardon Mill. I was really pleased as otherwise I would have had to carry on walking and look for somewhere to put the tent up, and it was starting to get a bit late fir that.
Alston tomorrow, and I am already booked in to the youth hostel there.
Health update: I am feeling pretty good and am walking well, if a little slowly today. The soles of my feet are a little bruised, painful after you get up but it soon wears off once you start walking. My knees a little swollen, but not painful. Otherwise all fine.

I should mention that I am deviating from the official route here, which runs along the wall for some miles. I went directly south from the wall to Bardon Mill  but I will rejoin the official route tomorrow evening when I get to Alston.

Photography doesn't really capture the majesty of Northumberland. Wide spaces that say "I'm bigger than you are"

 These are nice crags but I mainly put them in because they are called Shitlington Crags. They are next to Shitlington Hall. 

Approaching Hadrian's Wall... 

Hadrian's Wall. Sadly neglected. If the Chinese can look after their wall, why can't we look after ours? 

A lime kiln

Friday, 13 September 2019

Pennine way day 3: Byrness - Bellingham

Thursday 12 September 2019
Miles: 19.4
Total miles: 52.6

Picture the scene: you are wading through an endless bog, hopping from dry bit to dry bit and trying to avoid the worst bits. You have been doing this for miles and the bog still extends as far ahead as you can see.  it has rained steadily all day and everything you possess including your socks etc are soaking..

Well, that was today, for the most part. Still I got to Bellingham and to be honest, today and tomorrow's stages are the worst of the whole pennine way so I don't feel too bothered. My clothing clothing dries easily and I expect ti be in good working order tomorrow for the walk down to Hadrian's Wall.

It is 15 miles to Bellingham, the remaining time was spent wandering around trying to find accommodation and a meal.  now I am booked into a campsite a mile out of town and a very nine place it is.

The photo gallery is again a bit thin, hard to take photos in pouring rain:

Six miles of this to start with.. I didn't photograph the teen miles of bog!

A fairy ring. These pine plantations have a lot of fungi along their edges.