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

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!


Monday, 30 September 2019

Peninine Way 2019 - Photo Gallery, Final thoughts & Review

Total miles: 280.2
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:

Byrness Hotel
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
Bellingham campsite
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.
Alston YHA
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
Crowden campsite
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.
Edale YHA
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

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Pennine Way day 18: Crowden - Edale

Friday, 27 September 2019

Miles:  21.3 (including 2 miles from Edale to the Youth hostel)
Total miles: 280.2

There was some rain in the night, but I was snug in my camping pod...
I set off about 8am and began the long climb up to Bleaklow Head. It started to rain again, and with a few brief interludes, it rained the whole day long.
After Bleaklow, a long descent to cross the A57 road, then the seemingly endless trek over Ashop moor and Featherbed Moss. I remembered and was prepared for this, and plugged in and listened to my audiobooks.. the whole way is paved nowadays, which makes a huge difference. The moor either side is awash, and would surely be practically impassable in these conditions, if the flagstones were not there.
Finally, Kinder Scout comes into view, and up we go, and along via Kinder Downfall and Kinder Low to Jacob's Ladder. A nightmare journey this, frankly, with a howling wind that makes walking difficult, and makes the rain actually painful when it hits your face. I love the Kinder plateau, but not in that mood. At last down Jacob's Ladder, with some relief, and finally, along to Edale and the Nag's Head

I did not have a lot of time to spare, as I still had to go the extra two miles to the hostel, and it is getting dark quite early now. But I did have time for something to eat, a celebratory lager, and most important, getting the staff at the Nag's Head to sign the certificate they gave me before I started.. it has been on the journey with me, but was still in good condition. Nice, to have documentary proof..
So, that is it, a third Pennine Way completed, and this was the hardest, I think. I will do one more post, after I get home, and sort out a gallery of photos.. I have over 500, though with many duplicates.

Thank you for listening! (but do read the final post)

A camping pod .. mine was the same, but without the fancy furniture or picnic table

Tiny ponies above Torside reservoir .. very friendly

Looking back at Crowden and Torside reservoir

Bleaklow Head .. 633m but no trig. point ..

Featherbed Moss, with the Kinder Plateau in the distance and a little of the paving slabs at right

Final destination achieved .. never was any good at selfies!

I earned this :-)

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Pennine Way day 17: Black Moss reservoir - Crowden

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Miles:  14.4
Total miles: 258.9

A very difficult night last night... when I pitched the tent, it was dry and there was no wind, but that did not last. As the night went on, it got wetter and wetter, and windier and windier. My tent has many fine qualities, but it does not like wind, and the rain makes a lot of noise in a small tent.. I had to go out every hour or so and check that none of the guylines had come adrift, and put them right if they had. Not at all a restful night!
In the morning, I got myself going as soon as it was light - about 7am. It was still raining, so I had to pack up my rucksack inside the tent, then collapse the wet tent and stuff it into the outside pocket of the rucksack. I plodded on down to Wessenden reservoir. I passed a couple of streams that were looking very lively as a result of the overnight rain, and a rather impressive waterfall. The consequences of this, did not immediately strike me.

After a steady climb up to Wessenden Head, the next part of the walk consisted of a gradual climb over two or three miles up to the top of Black Hill, followed by a long descent down a valley to Crowden, beside Crowden Great Brook.
The word "ford" appears eleven times on the OS map, between Wessenden Head and Crowden and when I got to the first one, finally it dawned on me that this could get rather interesting. I got across that one ok, but the next, Dean Clough, was bigger and posed a problem. Fortunately, a local with a dog turned up as I was considering my options. He pointed out the best place to try to cross, and proceeded to jump over, and I followed him. Having got across that, I was feeling more optimistic, until I met a walker coming the other way, at the top of Black Hill. He said he had twice had to take off his boots and wade across Crowden brook.. and so it proved. Most of the ensuing fords were across tributaries into the Crowden Brook, and could be negotiated with care, but when the Ford was across the Brook itself, there was no help for it, and I had to wade. I wasn't looking forward to it, but actually  it wasn't too bad. The water was quite forceful, but with the walking poles I could keep my balance ok.
I have never had to do this before, even in the Pyrenees.. but the streams were carrying three or four times the water they normally do.
All of this took time, but I still managed to reach Crowden by 3.30pm. The campsite there is small but it does have a little shop and the manager is friendly. The weather was still iffy and I was not looking forward to another night in the tent but he offered me use of a camping pod for a reasonable price and so that is what I did. The pods have light and an electric heater, and this one had a sofa bed too, but nothing else.. no other furniture, not so much as a coat hook. Still it was warm and dry, and much more roomy than a tent.
In the evening my friend Wayne Boothman appeared, with whom I did the Snowdon Horseshoe two years ago. He lives quite close by, near Ashton under Lyme. We went into Glossop and had a curry and a beer and a good chat. However we had quite an adventure getting back to Crowden.. we set off back the way we had come, but found the road had been closed overnight for road resurfacing. So we go back, and round by the main road only to find that that had been closed too! There were workers at the barrier and they explained that if we went to the barrier on the other road they would let us through... so off we go again. We did get back to Crowden eventually! Why both roads were closed at the same time is a mystery.

Off to Edale, tomorrow!

Looking down from Standedge at the first of a series of reservoirs

Just a trickle usually, but it has been raining ..

Wessenden reservoir

Black Hill. All those creases in front have streams in them. With fords!

Looking down the valley to Crowden .. with tomorrow's task, Bleaklow Head, behind

Who doesn't love a Swaledale? Everything a sheep ought to be :-)

Pennine Way day 16: Hebden Bridge - Black Moss reservoir

Wednesday, 25 September 2019
Miles:  18.5
Total miles: 244.5

Set off just after 8.30am, weather dull and cloudy but not raining. My first objective was Stoodley Pike, that extraordinary monument to... well, I'm not sure exactly what. I've seen it a number of times before so did not linger long, impressive though it is, but set off towards my next objective, the White House pub at Blackstone Edge. I wanted to reach it in time for lunch, and was pleased to get there not long after 12. Not only is the food there excellent, it has a rather unusual system whereby you can't book, you just note your table number, order drinks at the bar, then order your food at the kitchen door. It works well.. and my Barnsley chops were just what the walker ordered.
Progress after lunch was a little slower, but I kept a steady pace and reached Standedge about 6pm. Unfortunately there is nothing there at all nowadays, no hotel or pub, not even a B&B. So I walked on another mile or two, to find a suitable spot for camping and am now ensconced in my tent, beside Black Moss reservoir.

This was my antepenultimate walking day. Crowden tomorrow, and then back to Edale.

Sorry for late publication of this (and following posts) but I have had no signal all day and there appears to be none in Crowden either.. and no wifi at the campsite.

Dawn view from my window at Hebden Bridge .. promising, I thought

Stoodley Pike is visible from miles away

You can walk up a spooky staircase inside, to the balcony

View from in front of the monument

Nice little bridge .. better than the Bronte bridge, but no photographers

This is a Roman road. Whether the paving stones are Roman is not certain, but they are very, very old

The Shap Fell M62 motorway, that the PW passes across .. it is quite a shock to the system. You can hear it from miles away.

Might still be a true statement but county boundaries are very confused around here nowadays, ever since that consummate idiot Ted Heath destroyed a thousand years of English history

You love this scenery or you don't .. I do

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Pennine Way day 15: Hebden Bridge rest day

Tuesday 24 September 2019
Miles:  1.4 miles in Hebden, not added to total
Total miles: 226.0

For only the second time since I set off, it has rained solidly all day. The big difference this time is that I have decided not to walk today.. so I can sit and watch it rain with some complacency, and hope for better weather tomorrow. The photo gallery is a bit thin of course,  I will look through the ones I have taken so far and pick a couple of unpublished favourites, perhaps.
I will be staying in my tent for the next two nights before finishing in Edale on Friday, so I have been to the Co-op to do a bit of food shopping. The Co-op has a virtual monopoly here in the North. In Alston there was a Spar at the local petrol station as well as a Co-op, and I asked which was best.  The lady said "Most people use the Co-op, because it's the Co-op." Brand loyalty, or what?

First, a video.. (!) but note that I got the order wrong. It is Pen-y-Ghent, then Ingleborough, then Whernside ..

Hebden Bridge, a nice little town even in the rain

This Is a view down towards Dufton, from the top of Cross Fell 

And this is a view across the Cheviot Hills, from near Auchope Cairn, in a rare moment between clouds..

Monday, 23 September 2019

Pennine Way day 14: Cowling - Hebden Bridge

Monday 23 September 2019
Miles:  12.5 (+1.4 miles in Hebden, not added to total)
Total miles: 226.0

I was woken up about 6.30am by a very heavy shower of rain. Not a good omen, but after 1/2 hr or so it slowed, then stopped, having done its job of frightening me. It did not rain again all day, I am very pleased to say. Actually it is raining now, but I am safely tucked up in the Hare & hounds so have escaped once again.

I had a coffee and a fine bacon bap with Olwen, packed up and said goodbye to my summerhouse, and set off.

Getting to my destination for the day, the Hare & Hounds in Chiserley, was tricky. It is about a mile from Hebden, and about half a mile above it! It is also on the wrong side from the PW, which does not actually go through Hebden but passes by it to the West. Nowadays they have instituted a "Hebden Loop," for those wishing to visit this remarkable town, but that doesn't go near the H&H either, so a bit of creative route finding was required. On my phone it is quite easy, all the maps are there.. in the end I decided to follow the official PW route as far as Ponden reservoir and then work my way across the moor to the Aire & Calder Link path, which goes the way I wanted. En route I would take in the Bronte Bridge and the Bronte Falls, since we are deep into Bronte country here.. my route goes within a mile of Haworth.
For me, the highlight of the day was crossing Ickornshaw Moor, a wide and majestic expanse of open moorland, nature in full flow. Curlews and lapwings, though not so many as the last time I came this way.  As for the bridge, it was nothing special and it is a replica anyway. The falls, not even worth a photo. Despite this, there were quite a lot of people there.. more than I saw the whole of the rest of the day. Our human concentration only on ourselves and our works, to the exclusion of virtually all else, never fails to astonish and dismay me. No wonder the natural world is in crisis.

Looking back towards Cowling from Ickornshaw moor

Little cabins up on the moors are a feature of this area.. some still cut peat for the fire, too

Ickornshaw moor 

Looking down towards Ponden reservoir 

The Bronte bridge, complete with annoying photographer. 

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Pennine Way day 13: Malham - Cowling

Sunday 22 September 2019
Miles:  16.6
Total miles: 213.5

Thunder and lightning, very very frightening...

Well I can't complain. I've had no rain for a solid week, it had to come, and today it did but it could have been worse.  From Malham the PW follows a lazy path alongside the River Aire. Malham is in Airedale, and is where the nice Airedale terriers come from, who knew? When I left the very nice B&B, Miresfield Farm, it was not raining.. but I had not gone 1/2 mile before it started, and it was quite spectacular. Stair rods, accompanied by thunder and lightning. If I were up high it would have been quite alarming but down in the river valley I decided to just keep on going. Fortunately it did not last very long, only 30 mins or so before it eased off and eventually stopped altogether. From then on it rained a bit every now and then but was not a big issue.
It did reduce visibility though, and there were no huge climbs, so the photo gallery might be a bit thin.
I had an early lunch in Gargrave, phoned wife Sue to wish her a happy 46th wedding anniversary,  then plodded on to Thornton-in-Craven, then Lothersdale. In the pub I enquired about accommodation.  They don't do it but someone at the bar (Peter) said there was a campsite up the road at Cowling, and offered to drop me off there as it was near where he lived. He is a steam boiler maker, and I have promised to buy from him next time I need a steam boiler.
At the campsite I met Olwen and Tony, a quite delightful couple who have offered me the use of their summerhouse at no extra charge. It has two camp beds in it, light and electricity, kettle and mini fridge.. luxury, and saves me getting my tent wet as well. So all in all, a good day. Hebden Bridge, tomorrow.

Airedale, looking back towards Malham 

The river Aire..

For a mile or so, the PW follows the towpath of the Leeds - Liverpool canal. 

My summerhouse residence