Saturday 28 July 2012

Pennine Way 2012 (8days 9Hours)


Withdrawall symptoms were bad and so I needed to get out there on a multi day backpacking trip once again.
Following my two sub 5 day crossings of the Coast to Coast, I had planned a direct line from St. Bees to Robin Hoods Bay and wondered whether I could get across within 50 hours, going Ultra Marathon style.
Then I thought about doing Offas Dyke going North to South, as I already done the normal South to North.
Anyway realizing that I had a couple of extra days available, at the last minute I decided to return to the Pennine Way which again I had previously completed, however this time I would do it North to South.

I arrived in Berwick on Tweed and after checking out the bus timetable decided to bite the bullet and get a taxi to Town Yetholm. I was dropped outside The Plough where I had booked B&B. Settled in I walked down to the Border Hotel in Kirk Yetholm and had a couple of pints sat outside in the sunshine.

CLICK on photos to enlarge.

A couple came over whom I watched walking down the road finishing the Pennine Way. They were with another couple who had come to meet them. They turned out to be Australians and from what they said, they not had a good time at all and looked fairly miserable. " We'll not do it again" the man exclaimed "it was a slog at times", "but the Pennine way is a slog" I replied. he didn't answer and shortly afterwards made off to their B&B.

I walked back to the Plough, had another couple of pints an evening meal and collected my packed lunch in lui of breakfast, as I was going to be off early in the morning.

Day 1. Kirk Yetholm to Byrness. 28 miles - 9hrs 40min.

I was out of the door for 4am and set off from Kirk Yetholm at 4.30am. I didn't have long to wait for daylight to break, I crossed the river and began my climb up to the high level route to start my journey across the Cheviots. By 6.30am it was that hot that I removed my top and walked along like that for a while, until the sun started to burn. Over the Schill I met aguy who was sitting outside of the Refuge Hut. After a brief chat I was on my way once more. I met a few other walkers over the following miles as the heat grew more intense.
                                The start. 0430hrs.

                                The first river crossing before the first climb.

In September 2008 I walked the PW South to North and on the lower level route coming off the Cheviots,
I couldn't get across the stream at the farm as the concrete bridge was consumed by the torrent of water. I had to backtrack and climb a hill on the left then make my way down to where the road to Kirk Yetholm emerged from the flooded valey.
See below the flooded valley near to where the photo above was taken.


                                Looking back towards Kirk Yetholm still in inversion.

                                Viewing the route ahead.

                                Approaching the Schill.

                                6.30am and too darn hot!

                                Auchope Cairns.

                                Turn off for the Cheviot.

                                The Border Fence, England left, Scotland right.

                                Windy Gyle.

                                Path intersection.

Cramping up badly after 23 miles, I must have lost a good hour, being unable to move until it subsided before the next episode. I began to feel slightly sick and shaky and realised that I was suffering mild heat exhaustion, then suddenly after starting out feeling strong and fit and climbing well, all the climb went out of my legs. This was to trouble me on all climbs for the rest of journey with just the odd exception.

                                Taking a breather in the heat.

                                Lamb Hill Refuge Hut.

                                Approaching the Boardwalk section.

                                That Angry Grouse!

As I approached a boardwalk section I stopped to take a photograph and was attacked by a Grouse. It came in for the kill at least a dozen times and despite my resorting to three side kicks with my boot, it still flew back on the attack attempting to tear chunks out of my legs. On stilts for legs solidified by cramp I ran for it down the boardwalk with the grouse in hot pursuit sprinting after me for a good 80 metres or so before it turned away.

                                Beginning th drop down to Byrness.

                                Inside Forest View.
Down to the road, I turned for the Forest View in Byrness run by Joyce and Colin. I had wanted to reach Bellingham today with the thought of attempting a seven day trip. I decided to have a cool drink and see how I felt. I told Colin about the Grouse and he infirmed me that they called it Gordon as they had had reports previously, but it had never been known to attack, but just patrol its area. Well I must have got a little too comfortable because I decided to stay over in one of their rooms. No tent for me tonight. During dinner later on I sat with a young lady whom Joyce had collected from hafway across the Cheviots, she suddenly declared that she had been attacked by a Grouse. I laughed and said "Oh, that'll be Gordon". Soon after I was off to my bed for the night.

Day 2. Byrness to Twice Brewed. 32 miles -11hrs 20min.

I left at 4am the following morning, heading for Twice Brewed and Windshields Farm below Hadrians Wall.
To complete the walk in seven days would mean averaging 40 miles a day from here on. It was not yet 6am but already really warm and no breeze. 40 miles in such conditions was going to be dificult and uncomfortable so I made the decision to go for a similar schedule to last time, that of 9 days. I would stay on route apart from two deviations which I would make out of pure curiosity.

                                          Leaving Forest View Byrness 4am.

                                           Sunrise in Kielder Forest.

                                          Kielder Forest Track.

                                          Turn off in Kielder Forest.

                                           Muddy path in Kielder Forest.

                                          One of the moorland sections.

Coming off the moor I met an American young lady from Colorado doing the LEJOG, she was camping and averaging 25 miles a day as she only had 45 days available. I thought her schedule a little tight as she may struggle to stay on it once into Scotland proper. I wished her well and carried on.

                                          PW sign on the approach to Bellingham.

I entered Bellingham, hot & sweaty, where I re-supplied and went to a cafe for a brew and something to eat, I didn;t stay long.

                                          Leaving Bellingham.

After pasing the comunication mast and descending Shitlington Crags, I came across the stream crossing of Slade Sike, where last time I struggled to wade across with the water above my knees and only a semi tight wire to hold on to through the raging torrent.

                              The same stream crossing where I had to wade last time. See below:-
Notice the water depth, almost to the top of the wooden fence.

Seeing the forest ahead, I was very hopeful of getting some shade, however the forest tracks seemed to line up with the sun position at that time of day, meaning they were in full sunlight and no shade was to be had.

                                 Logging in the forest.

                                 Approaching Rapishaw Gap.

                                 Hadrians Wall.

                                 Twice Brewed in sight.

I waked down the road to Twice Brewed with an Australian walker doing Hadrians Wall path, I left him and carried on to Windshields Farm where I would camp for the night.
Tent piched, showered and changed I headed down to the pub for a good meal and a few pints. I sat with another couple from the camp site and was later joined by the Australian. A good night was had exchanging experiences and having a good laugh. All too soon I had to leave to get some sleep for another early start in the morning.

Day 3. Windshields to Alston. 27 miles. 12hrs 25min.

                                Breaking Camp at 3.45am

                                An earth encrusted Hadrians Wall, heading for Greenhead.

                                The long Moor section.

                                Back onto Green Pasture.

                                Bridge near Slaggyford.

Opposite this bridge I walked down the lane, off route to a pub some PWers going South - North told me about, this was in Knarsdale.  I arrived there just before 1200hrs to find it closed. Dejected, I sat outside under the canopy in the shade, took off my sac and was admiring the view when a local arrived and informed that the pub was due to open. Open it did and I had the best Ploughmans lunch I had ever had swilled down with a pint of orange and lemonade.
Onwards I went and joined the Pennine Way official route briefly before dropping down onto the old railway trail that leads to Alston. This in fact saves no distance as it runs parrallel with the PW.  The heat continued to leave me drained and still no cooling breeze. I found a trail side tree to shelter under and sat down, leaned back on my sac and must have dozed off, because half an hour later I awake with a start, briefly wondering where the hell I was! Up and off once more.

                                Railway Trail into Alston.

I arrived in Alston at around 1630 and found a cafe to have a brew. The owner gave me directions for the campsite. Hot, sticky with sweat and generaly uncomfortable I headed down the road for the site, then caught a glimpse of a signboard outside a pub, 'B&B available tonight, good rates'. I paused briefly then thought 'Oh sod it', and walked in and booked a room. Took a pint of Guinnes up and got showered and changed. Down for an evening meal, a few pints and after chatting to some other walkers retired after collecting my packed lunch in liu of breakfast.

Day 4. Alston to Middleton in Teesdale 35 mile. 14 hours.

Quietly exiting the pub at 4am I headed for the riverside path and Garrigill. Before long it was light and warming up fast. Pleasant walking through green fields and pasture I entered a still sleeping Garrigill and contemplated the long slog up to Cross Fell and beyond. Greggs Hut seemed to take an age to reach. I had a look round inside, then headed for the summit.

                                PW path by the river Tees near Alston.

                                Footbridge over the South Tyne.


                                Long track leading to Cross Fell.

                                Long approach to Greggs Hut Bothy, Cross Fell.

                                Greggs Hut Bothy.

                                Inside second room of Greggs Hut Bothy.

                                Cross Fell summit.

After Cross fell I continued on over Little and Great Dunn Fells and after dropping down slightley on the path to Dufton, I turned off left on a direct bearing for the top of High Cup Nick. I was only going to quickly pass through Dufton so didn't see the point in descending all that way only to reascend again. I was also curious as to whether the direct line was a viable alternative, and only one way to find out.
It turned out despite the very dry conditions to be quite a tiring crossing with many zig zags round and over Peat Hags and  Groughs. I came across the remains of a crashed aircraft, and disturbed a Quale, which unlike the fiesty Grouse, deserted its young ones and fled at speed weaving between the grass with its head down. The chicks fled in all directions.
How much time I saved with the direct line is hard to quantify, I reckon an hour to two hours, not sure I would try it again.

                                Great Dunn Fell.

                                Aircraft remains.

                                Great Rundale Tarn.

                                Rough direct line terrain.

                                Top of High Cup Nick.

                                Approaching another of my S - N overnight campsites.

                                Bridge over the River Tees.

                                High Force, the river Tees.

After what seemed a very long walk alongside the River Tees, I finally arrived at the Camping & Caravan Club site in Middleton in Teesdale.
The office was closed so I went to the camping part and pitched my tent, had a shower and got changed. I then went to the bar which was still closed, but a guy turned up, who turned out to be the barman, the doors opened and in I went. I was their only customer for a while. I sorted out my camping fee, arranged for a packed lunch and drinks for next day and ordered a meal. Within the next half hour the place was almost full getting ready for the bingo. I left at around 9.30pm and headed for my tent, the guy in the next tent was still snoring.

                                 Camp in Middleton in Teesdale.

Day 6. Middleton to Hardraw.  33 miles. 15 hours.

Yet another blistering hot day with my first target being Tan Hill Inn. On the long moorland section before the Inn I met a few South to North walkers. At one point I was walking along the path, I took to be the correct one until it began veering in what seemed the wrong direction (good job it was clear and I could see along way) I stopped to double check the map and on looking up spotted a walker way over to my left. At the same time he signalled for me to come over to the path across a section moorland that he was on. I realised that he was on the correct route so after signalling my thanks I headed over.
Soon I was at the Inn, it was very busy with people gathered outside. I managed to get to the bar and order a drink and some soup. I sat chatting with some day trippers for a while then headed off once more.

                                Grassholme reservoir in the valley.

                                Gods Bridge.

                                 Sleightholme Beck.

                                The Tan Hill Inn.

                                Looking down on Keld from thje path to Tan Hill.

                                Climbing away from Keld with the Coast to Coast path in Swaledale.

Climbing out of Swaledale and looking down upon the Coast to Coast path, brought back some memories and I wondered when my feet would be pounding that route once more.
At Thwaite I went into the cafe part of the Kearton restaurant, and ordered a pot of tea and some cake and prepared myself for the long rise up to Great Shunner Fell summit. I knew it was going to be a hot and sweaty one and sure enough it was, every bit of it. However it was all a pleasant downhill to Hardraw now and on arriving there found the campsite near the Green Dragon Pub.

                                Great Shunner Fell approach.

                                Great Shunner Fell summit shelter.

                                          Camp in Hardraw.

Day 7. Hardraw to Malham. 31 miles. 12 hours.

Left Hardraw at 4am and after passing through Hawes began the steady climb heading for the Cam High road with great views of Pen Y Ghent and Ingleborough. No let up to the heatwave. Once in Horton I headed for the cafe where I had a bowl of soup and a large pot of Tea.
Continuing on, I met a couple on the path heading for P Y G summit. They were taking it very steady, were very chatty, so I decided to drop off the pace and accompany them to the top. It took quite a while with plenty of short stops but I didn't mind as I was  enjoying their company. I left them at the trig point and carried on via Fountains Fell to Malham.
The campsite there had only a couple of other tents errected so I had a good choice of where to pitch. I began pitching when a noisy Pheasant flew in and began noisily patroling the area. Oh not again! I thought, however it was all bravado this time and once it realised I wasn't moving, it flew off.
I purchased supplies from the camp shop and headed for the pub. Very quiet inside and I ended up sat on my own with no one to talk to, except the barman.

                                A distant Pen Y Ghent looms.

                                Cam High Road.

                                Horton in Ribblesdale in the distance.

                                Limestone pavement above Malham Cove.

                                Camp at Malham.

                                Local Pheasant patroling it's patch.

Day 7. Malham to Colden. 32 miles. 13 hours.

I left Malham at 4am and made my way to Gargrave which by the time I went through hadn't yet opened.
Eventually I reached the Leeds/Liverpool canal at East Marton and had a good chat with a couple from 'Down South'. they were having a wonderful time on their hired narrow boat. Apparently they had come 'Up North', for a wedding and had decided to extend their trip, hence the boat hire. They were really taken aback with the scenery and kept on about how beautiful it was up here. They had never been 'Up North' before in their lives and were evidently totally surprised. I was left with the feeling that prior to their trip they had, had the impression, that so many still have, of us 'Northerners', still wearing cloth caps and living in gloomy smog bound towns. I have to say I have never worn a cloth cap in all my 66 years and live in a lovely semi rural village surrounded by trees and green fields.

                                             Check point Dibber on signpost.

                                Leeds/Liverpool canal, East Marton.

                                Descending into Lothersdale.

                                Looking down on Cowling.

Having passed through Lothersdale and Cowling and approaching the shelter on Ickornshaw Moor, I could make out a couple taking a break there. As I reached it, the first thing I noticed was their Osprey rucsacks. "Nice choice of sacs" I said, and we went on to discuss them. During our conversation and them asking where I had come from that day etc, they comented on my mileage, then the guy asked "Are you Dave 'Slogger', off the forum. "Yes I am" to which he replied "we are Les and Heidi". Well I couldn't believe it what a nice surprise, we had shared many a discussion on a walking forum of which we are members, but we had never met before. I took their photo and  wished them the best on their trip, wished them farewell and went on my way.
                                Les & Heidi.

                                Ponden reservoir.

                                Approaching Top Withins.

                                Walshaw Dean reservoir.
On the way I met a guy carrying two, two Litre water containers swinging from carabiners attached to his rucsack shoulder straps. We had a chat for a while and I wondered later whether he found the containers a bit awkward in their positioning.
I turned right up the lane at Colden before Hebden Bridge to overnight at High Gate Farm shop and their little field campsite, where Les and Heidi has camped the previous night. An oasis this place is and £25.. soon departed from my wallet, spent on supplies, ice cream and cakes and a four pack of beer.

                                Camp at High Gate Farm Shop.

Day 8. Colden to Crowden. 29 miles. 12 hours.

Up early again, packed up and sorted, I went down to the shop door and left two cans of beer that I couldn't be bothered to drink, on their doorstep.
Soon I was at the road and canal near to Hebden Bridge and climbing through the woods towards Stoodley Pike.

                                Approaching Stoodley Pike.

                                Inscribed rock outcrop.

                                Blackstone Edge summit.

                                 Approaching the M62 PW Footbridge.

After crossing the M62 footbridge I came across the Butty wagon and had a big barmcake with egg, bacon, sausage and loads of brown sauce, yummy! The owner told me that he opened up at 4am in the summer - just my time of day! Carrying onwards I came to the spot of my first nights camp lsat time near to Standedge.
After came the long haul, which surprised me to the summit of Black Hill, but from there was easy going all the way to Crowden. However I still arrived there puffing and blowing in the heat and went straight to the campsites shop to book in and purchase some food and supplies. An early night was had and I decided to take it easy on the last day tomorrow and not leave Crowden until 6am, a lie in for me.

                                 Site of S - N overnight pitch near Standedge.

                                Black Hill summit.

                                Crowden below Blealow from Laddow Rocks.

                                Camp in Crowden.

Day 9. Crowden to Edale. 16 miles. 7hrs 40 mins.

I awoke to rain for the first time during my trip, the cloud was down. After the reservoir and before starting the ascent to Bleaklow, I stopped and put on full waterproofs and gaitors.
Heading up on the path taking me to the broad ridge, a Red Grouse popped out in front of me!!!
I briefly watched it and carried on walking, it was in front of me on the path running along and stopping often to look round and see if I was where I was supposed to be (AWAY from it nest!). After about 100 metres it turned off into the heather, my legs were going to survive afterall.
A dark and gloomy Wainstones and then Bleaklow summit appeared, then I had to backtrack some as I had gone slightly wrong, missing the stream crossing earlier on, and ended up passed the summit on the path to the Snake Pass. Back on track, down Devils Dyke, I met a young lady with a dog who was backpacking the PW and had camped the night before near the Snake Pass. I warned her about the areas with notices banning dogs on the route, that I had seen. She clearly didn't know about them.

                                The Wainestones on Bleaklow.

                                Bleaklow summit.

                                Pennine way path on Bleaklow.

                                Devils Dyke, Bleaklow.

Making the crossing of Featherbed Moss I was hit by strong cross winds and driven rain. Head down onwards over Mill Hill, up onto the plateau, I crossed the river Kinder near the Downfall and proceeded to Kinder Gates. Using my satmap GPS I crossed the plateau through swampy peat hags and dammed groughs before emerging at the top of Grindsbrook. A swift descent and soon I was at the finish in the Old Nags Head in Edale. Checking my watch I saw that I taken 8 days and 9 hours since leaving Kirk Yetholm. I ordered a pint of Guinness got the key to my room, which turned out to be a cottage round the back of the pub. Taking off my so called waterproof jacket, I found that it wasn't afterall, all my clothing beneath was soaking and had run down inside my Goretex overtrousers and soaked my shorts too, then continued down my legs and wet my socks. My boots had also failed during their first rain test. I had a shower, changed then back down for a meal and a few pints. Phoned my wife and eventually retired for the night.

                                PW slabs on Featherbed Moss.

                                Top of Kinder Downfall.

                                Kinder Gates & river Kinder.

                                Peat Grough dams on Kinder Plateau.


                                The end, the Old Nags Head in Edale & its stopped raining.

Next day I got ready and headed off for the first train to Manchester and eventually home.

Conclusion: Another really enjoyable but testing trip, really glad I had done it, and although I felt satisfied
 (for now) I knew that the pangs of withdrawal would one day soon be prickling once more.

Note, I returned my boots to the supplier and manufacturer for testing and received a full refund. The jacket was only a cheap lightweight one, which I will never again trust in the rain, but will keep as a wind top.

The following weekend I returned with my wife in the car to Hadrains Wall to recover a bag of gear that I had offloaded and secreated in a wood copse. It had gone, probably dragged off by a Fox or similar. Then we had lunch in that pub near Alston with the fantastic Ploughmans before succesfully collecting another bag I had left near the river.

Dilema: Now do I enter the Spine Race next January, or what!?


  1. I'm worn out after reading that lot. Well done on an excellent trip and write up.

  2. Cheers Slogger a fantastic blog, loved reading it. I am planning to do it in the same style this Autumn with a couple of friends although our pace will not be as fast as yours we are aiming off for 12 days. A great read which will help us plan our trip. Any tips for us? Regards Paul

  3. I,m doing it with paul also and i agree it was a great read and very useful thanks for sharing it mate.


    Gary aka kung fu panda

    1. Thanks Gary.
      Im sure you will enjoy the route, just take plenty of good waterproofs, then even heavy rain won't spoil things.

  4. Some excellent reading there, with pictures too - hoping to attempt this in 2016!