Other North - South Walkers seen: 3
No. of hares seen: 3
No. of deer seen: 8 or 9
No. of unbelievably cute red squirrels seen: 2
No: of times wading across streams, with socks off: 3
No. of days dry: 10
No. of days wet: 4
No. of days extremely wet: 4
No. of wrong turnings taken: 2, neither serious
No. of blisters: 0, as usual :-)
First of all, here is a photo gallery of the walk. It may or may not work if you are reading this in an email, you might have to go to the website link to view it. Also, if you choose the slideshow option, for some reason all the photo captions seem to disappear. Instead just click on the first one, and then click on the arrows, left or right ..
I have also been through all the other PW posts, tidied up the grammar etc.
About the route:
The first time I did the PW I followed the official route religiously from start to finish, every stile, every turn. Since then, I feel a little freed up, to fiddle here and there with the route - there are lots of places where changes can be made, to the advantage of a sole walker. The officials have to allow for maybe 10,000 walkers each year and this does colour their route choices in various places.
This time, I did follow the official route most of the time, albeit in the "wrong" direction. The only material changes that I made were:
- from Hadrian's Wall, rather than follow the PW along the Wall I kept going straight South, through to Bardon Mill and from there along part of Isaac's Tea Trail before finding my own path over Mohope Moor to Blagill and Alston to rejoin the offical trail.
- from Great Dun Fell I went over Knock Old Man but then, where the path starts descending towards Dufton I found my own path (this was not easy!) from below Green Fell over to Blackstone Edge and thence to High Cup Nick where I camped near Hannah's Well. I would happily do this again, but next time I will try to allow half a day, because unless you find a path it is slow going; and plot a careful route that includes the Great and Little Rundale Tarns. Hard work but it was oh, so exhilarating, to be all alone, out on the wild moors!
- from Hawes I followed the PW as far as Old Ing but then turned South and from Birkwith Caves, followed the dotted black line across Burnrigg and Todber Moss to Hull Pot Beck, just before it rejoins the PW. In this area all the footpaths are well trodden and easy to follow, because of all the "Three Peaks" farrago.
I did have plans for a couple of other diversions but when I came to them, the weather conditions were bad and it seemed best to stick to the PW, and its flagstones, rather than strike out across country...
North to South, versus South to North
I've done it twice S-N, and now once N-S. I did find this one hard but I do not think the direction of travel played much of a part. I had a couple of days facing into the wind and rain, especially at the end, but then I had a couple of days where I didn't, and mostly it made no matter either way. Be prepared for a difficult start from Kirk Yetholm, traversing the Cheviots, but from Edale, the first two stages are no picnic either. I would be happy to do it N-S again, and probably will, one day.
The only other difference, starting from the North, is that you will tend to meet more people coming the other way!
I will be 70 next year and I was very pleased to finish this time with no aches, pains or blisters except for my knees, which did ache the last few days, and which slowed me up significantly on any long descent. I could moan about my knees, but they did not actually impede my walking, (apart from the long descents..) and it seems better just to consider myself fortunate to still be able to do this sort of thing at all.
It is many years since I had a blister, thanks to my footcare regime.
Equipment, food, supplies
I bought no new equipment for this trip, so the equipment reviews I did after traversing the Pyrenees still hold.
My Zpacks rucksack and sleeping bag continue to be excellent. The tent is also excellent, provided that it does not get windy. If it does, you are in trouble and no mistake. Two nights I spent this last trip, clinging on to the poles to stop it all collapsing and blowing away. It may be that any tent that only weighs 500g, uses walking poles to keep itself up and has enough room for a 6'5" adult would be just the same. Still, I am on the lookout, for one that doesn't! Suggestions welcome, but do bear that 500g weight in mind.
Almost all my clothing was from Rohan, and I simply cannot speak highly enough of it. Socks, trunks, long-sleeved Ts, fleeces, waterproofs .. everything was brilliant in every way and never once gave me any cause for complaint. Rohan kit is not particularly cheap but it is excellent value.. and they have sales :-) ... and actually, if you compare it with stuff like Paramo, Haglofs, Arkteryx, it is in fact cheap as well! Long live Rohan. Best walking clothing there is.
Overall, I thought my overnight stays worked better this time than either of the previous two trips. Many of them were excellent, none of them were bad and there is only Tan Hill that I would not recommend as an overnight stop, and even that is an institution, that you should definitely visit if you haven't .. (but if you do have a tent, use it :-) .. and if not try to continue to Keld or Muker.
I stayed in the following places. Links are to the website if they have one, Tripadvisor if not. In some cases I will be doing a Tripadvisor review, in due course:
Not really a hotel any more but a characterful B&B, at once elegant yet slightly spartan (spacious, nice rooms, but no soap!), but Kate is a lovely, friendly & welcoming hostess (should it just be host, nowadays?). Good breakfast and she does evening meals too. £45. Well recommended. Tripadvisor says "quaint" and I suppose it is, but if you can do better in Byrness I would be interested to know
This is the one a 1/2 mile south of Bellingham, not the one near the town centre. Bang on the PW but awkward if you need to go back into town after booking in. I really warmed to this site .. it is quite large and has excellent facilities including a small shop, recreation room with tv, all that sort of stuff. £8 for a backpacker, recommended.
The Byre, Bardon Mill
Five years ago, I stayed at the Bowes Hotel. Since then it has been completely revamped at vast expense .. when I arrived, they were fully booked and outside my price range anyway, but the food was brilliant and the staff welcoming. The owner found me an overnight bed at The Byre .. whose proprietor was in the hotel eating .. and ran me up to the B&B afterwards. It is on the main A69 road a mile out of Bardon Mill but although I can be sensitive to road noise it was no problem at all. £45, maybe more if booked through AirB&B. Cosy outbuilding, lovely owners, recommended.
Third time I have stayed here, each time better than the last. It is a lovely cosy hostel, no catering but Alston has plenty of restaurants and if all else fails there is the co-op, Spar or a takeaway and the self-catering kitchen .. £28 for a private room and breakfast. Highly recommended.
The Teesdale Hotel, Middleton-in-Teesdale
I stayed two nights here, and loved it. "Faded elegance" is what Tripadvisor reviews say, and so it is. Elegance, at half the price, with good wifi. The staff here are especially friendly, they did some washing for me and the food was excellent. Highly recommended, one of the best places I stayed.
The Tan Hill Inn
The extraordinary thing about the Tan Hill Inn, is that it is there at all. It is not just the highest pub in Britain, but also one of the most remote. It has no main services .. its own generators, its own water supply, don't even ask about sewage .. and if you haven't been, you really must. They have their own excellent Tan Hill lager and beers, and the food is OK. To lose this place would be a dreadful disaster. But having said all that I would not recommend staying the night there. The accommodation is not up to the job. Do go .. but if you have a tent, use it, for only £5/night. If not, carry on, to Keld or Muker.
Cockett's Hotel, Hawes
Ah, Cockett's .. absolutely the best place I stayed this trip. I appreciated it all the more because Hawes is quite touristy, and has some pretty dodgy B&Bs and hotels. It is a small family hotel run by Bob and his wife. It is elegant but in no way faded, the food is excellent and the rooms are comfortable and have all you could want. Sometimes you just know you are in the hands of someone with good standards and an eye for detail, and this was one of them. And it was not even expensive. £80 for dinner, bed and an excellent breakfast. Totally recommended.
Miresfield Farm, Malham
I phoned up Malham YHA.. they were fully booked, but they suggested I try here, and so I did. The room I was in (room 9) was frankly dated, but it was roomy and had heat. There is a lounge with an open fire, and Peter was very friendly and welcoming .. his wife did an excellent breakfast, so I warmly recommend this place too, just don't look too closely at the decor. £45
Winterhouse Barn, Cowling
This is a small campsite, with the usual facilities, a summerhouse (think camping pod) and the possibility of a coffee and a bacon butty in the morning. I turned up at the door at 8pm one evening and was welcomed in .. such a nice couple, that run the place. there is one other campsite in Cowling and apparently the owner has something of a vendetta against them, tried to shut them down but has failed. I really strongly recommend that you go here instead. You won't regret it, and give Olwen and Tony my very best regards. £10 including the bacon butty and as such, a total bargain..
Hare & Hounds, Hebden Bridge
The accommodation, staff and food at the Hare & Hounds were fine.. just be aware that it is a mile away (and half a mile up!) from Hebden Bridge itself, and not that close to the Pennine Way. Fine for an overnight stop but I had a rest day there as well, and it didn't really work. £130+food etc., for two nights
not a lot of choice in Crowden, now that the YHA has shut. There is the Old House B&B, or there is this campsite. It is quite small and not overburdened with facilities, though it has a little shop, and showers etc. are just fine, and the manager is very friendly and helpful.. having had a traumatic night the day before, rather than stay in the tent (£8)I opted to rent a camping pod (£35) and since it rained in the night and I was warm and dry I thought it good value.
I have stayed here a number of times, four this year alone. Important to note that this is not a normal YHA, it is an Activity Centre. You may be sharing the accommodation with 200 Danish schoolchildren .. or you may be pushed up the hill to the Kinder Cottage, 100 wifiless steps above. The staff here are wonderful; and if you can book the dates you want, I do recommend it. It is excellent value for money .. £28 for private room and breakfast .. just be aware, it might be a little bit different. Accommodation in Edale is not easy to find though, and nowhere else is such good value.
A last word
The Pennine Way is not a warm, cuddly, sociable sort of walk like the Hadrian's Wall, the Coast to Coast or the West Highland Way. It is a hard, muscular walk that will take you more than a fortnight and will inevitably involve bogs, rainstorms and all sorts of other difficulties. Imagine yourself standing all alone in the middle of Ickornshaw Moor, with curlews calling, grouse complaining, and absolutely nothing but heather and bog as far as the eye can see, in all directions. If that is an exhilarating thought, and is where you feel you belong, fine, you will have a truly great time. If however you feel worried or alone, then maybe build up to it gradually .. but please, do it anyway, because it is the finest long distance walk in Britain, bar none.
jerry at jerrywhitmarsh dot com
|A view from near Edale Youth hostel|