Saturday, 30 June 2012

Pennine Way Day 7 - Dufton - Langdon Beck

June 30, 2008


1140 High Cup Nick 4.1 miles from DUF
Spectacular, as advertised ;)
Dufton YHA.
Leaving Dufton.
Panorama from High Cup Nick.
Imagine coming the other way - this would be a spectacular surprise!
1325 nr Birkdale 8.4 miles 
Right knee is now very very sore. Every step is difficult and painful. Stopped for a little rest to see if it improves. Must summon depths of stamina...
On the side of High Cup.
1605 Langdon Beck YHA
Apparently it's closed today but they are letting me stay anyway.

Went for dinner in the Langdon Beck Hotel down the road from the hostel. Must think clearly about the way ahead, given knee situation. Obviously I can't carry on for another 9 days of pain with every step. Misery.
Cow Green Reservoir. This is the source of the River Tees.
Anyway, drank some nice beer in the hotel, stopped contemplating failure as knee pain not there at the moment. "The Plan" is still good - tomorrow Middleton - go to Co-op and chemist for supplies. If successful - push on. Need to call home from there too because not likely to be signal for some miles tomorrow. Crazy fool plan to make for Tan Hill tomorrow - 25 miles. Crazy probably. But the first 8 miles should be reasonably easy going. Success in the whole endeavour is probably going to depend on what happens tomorrow. I don't want to go out from Middleton over those moors in the middle of nowhere if there's any doubt about my knee.
Cauldron Snout.
The highlight of today was definitely High Cup. The footbridge over Maize Beck is substantial - I guess it's new because the books tell of dodgy river crossings here. Cauldron Snout was brilliant too - the scramble down the rocks there wasn't particularly dangerous. Those people in the Dufton YHA were exaggerating. On the other hand they did put their bags into a taxi this morning, so perhaps they have a different outlook to me.

At Langdon Beck.
Langdon Beck YHA.
Day 7 Statistics
13.2 miles (121 miles since KY; 44.1%)
809m ascent
604m max elevation
time stopped: 0h42m
time moving: 5h31m
overall average: 2.1mph

Today was a nasty surprise. Years ago I had my anterior cruciate ligament reconstructed in my right knee. It has never given me much problem since but for some reason today it started hurting like hell. Every step on any kind of downward gradient - even a very slight one - was accompanied with a sharp knife-like stab in my knee. It's possible that I hurt it on the long descent yesterday from Cross Fell - it really is a long way all downhill - and I did it pretty quickly. In any case, this was a major low point morale-wise. I knew I couldn't possibly go another 9 days in this condition. My only hope was that it would correct itself by the morning. Otherwise, the PW adventure would end at Middleton-in-Teesdale. It would be an extremely bad idea to leave Middleton, knowing where the route goes (basically into the wilds), with any kind of physical problem.

View today's photos on a map at Flickr.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Pennine Way Day 6 - Alston - Dufton

June 29, 2008


0854 The Crown, Alston
Breakfast in the bar. Lovely. On my own of course, but Vicky has made it all really good. Slept like a baby last night. Legs ache, feet are sore, but getting used to that now!
Plan: shopping, leave Alston 0930-1000, Garrigill ~1200, Cross Fell sometime 4-5? Let's see how that goes...
The River South Tyne south of Alston.
1148 Garrigill 
Looks like rain. Of course it's Sunday so everywhere is closed here but it looks like a pretty sleepy place anyway. On the way here went through a field with bull in, kids going in other direction scared to enter field, amazed that I just walked through with a red jumper on ;)
On the track up to Cross Fell.
Old mine workings on Cross Fell.
Later on Cross Fell
On the top of Cross Fell, at the hut - bumped into Keith again - he's staying here overnight - strange! But anyway, weather is good and clear, lucky I guess, it could be an absolute nightmare up here!
Greg's Hut (Mountain Rescue Hut) on Cross Fell. If the weather was bad, you could 
stay here. It wouldn't be comfortable, but it'd be a roof over your head. 
Cross Fell summit (893m), highest point on the Pennine Way.
DIY self portrait on the roof of the walk.
The route ahead to Great Dun Fell from Cross Fell.

Later on Little Dun Fell
V. v. windy. In windbreaker here not too bad but cannot stay long. Still, this is more like what the PW should be. Enough of that farm nonsense!

That's Cow Green reservoir. I'll walk past it on the other side tomorrow.
1637 Knock Old Man
Still v. v. windy. Apparently this ridge is one of the windiest places in the UK. There's a reason for it which I can't remember.
Knock Old Man. V windy here, just before the descent to Dufton.
1817 Arrived Dufton
V. sore. Contemplating whether to camp, weather is not bad. In the Stag Inn to think about stuff - food looks good here, will come back later. Maybe I should YHA it tonight. I'm also wondering what happened to those two guys I saw just outside of Alston - going in this direction. Looked like one of them was struggling with some knee or ankle problem.
In Dufton, looking back to Cross Fell.

Later @ The Stag, Dufton
OK, so decided to go to the YHA. Nice lady, Annette?, who runs it, had a chat about YHA general stuff. Shame how things have gone with that - profit apparently does matter, although it is a registered charity. Met Tim in the YHA - staying in the same room - he's doing the PW for the 10th time!! So obviously he knows the route like the back of his hand. Chatted route a bit, he told me how to avoid the bogs just north of Byrness. Apparently you just cross the border fence - and then cross back later. Hmm.

Dinner in the Stag - massive portions! Good. And a few beers. Nice. Today I really enjoyed, on account of the 'proper' walking - not just crossing farmland which after a while does my head in.

Day 6 Statistics

20.3 miles (108 miles from KY; 39.4%)
1481m ascent
893m max elevation
time stopped: 0h46m
time moving: 7h14m
overall average: 2.5mph
average while moving: 2.8mph

Dirt tracks are a bit boring but you can make good time on them (ascent to Cross Fell).

What a day! Probably the best day so far. The weather was very good to me, lucky like on Day 1. It could have been really awful up there on Cross Fell and along the ridge. It was very windy, but it remained dry and clear throughout. Even in poor weather the only place it could really go wrong from a navigation point of view is on Cross Fell summit because it's flat and featureless. There are numerous cairns up there which would help but it'd still be tricky in poor visibility.

The Stag, Dufton.
View today's photos on a map at Flickr.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Pennine Way Day 5 - Greenhead - Alston

June 28, 2008


Campsite shower, no hot water. An inauspicious start. Have decided to skip the nasty bit and road walk until the Maiden Way. Packing up camp now.
Outside Greenhead, contemplating wet moorland tramp ahead.
4 miles into the day - decided in fact to do the proper route after all. In for a penny, etc. Would have regretted not sticking to the route if I'd done the wuss-out option. Walking with a guy called Keith who left Greenhead at the same time as me. He's OK, but I don't want to walk with someone else all the time. Actually, the 'worst' stretch there on the moor wasn't nearly as bad as reported.
Smart stone PW sign, somewhere near Lambley.
1043 Maiden Way 6.9 miles from GHD
Changed left foot socks. Back in heather moorland again now. Nice.
On the Maiden Way, Roman 'road' (!)
1200 Kirkstyle Inn 9.8 miles
Perfect timing - said closed on the door when we arrived, but 12 is opening time. Had a nice beer, a coke and ordered some chips.
Like this picture. Rain, with Keith ahead on the hill in the distance.
1700 Alston
Managed to drop Keith upon entering the town - he's going to the camp site but I have been forewarned about it so am not going. Doing this walk alone, remember, anyway. Uncharitable perhaps. Went looking for rooms therefore - tried everywhere, but everywhere full - apparently there's a wedding on. Anyway, came into The Crown and Vicky the landlady said "if you're not fussy I can sort you something out". I almost replied "do I look fussy?" but was too relieved to be smart. She seems very nice anyway and it turns out that they used to do B&B but are redecorating. Actually, the room she made up for me is just perfect. I went across to the Victoria Inn to give her chance to get it ready, but it's just fine. In the Victoria I overhear a conversation about the Crown being the 'late nite' destination in Alston... Hmmm... should be interesting later on then.
The PW follows alongside the South Tyne Trail, a disused railway for part of today.
1915 The Crown, Alston
Had a bath! Fantastic. I like this place. The room is lovely. There's working radiators so everything can get dried out. Would have paid twice as much for that convenience alone!
The beautiful Gilderdale Burn, just north of Alston.
What can I say about this section then, Greenhead - Alston? Well, i) the weather wasn't as bad as it could've been, but ii) it was very boggy in places - remember that stile in a lake? Only careful inspection revealed a well-placed stone, otherwise I would certainly have got soaked - there was barbed wire too along the fence, so just climbing it was not possible either. iii) there was more to see today than I expected, railway stuff (disused), viaducts, Gilderdale Burn - v. beautiful, Kirkstyle Inn (not perfect, but a welcome sight).

1950 The Cumberland Hotel, Alston
Sharing a table with a nice if quiet old man. He is reading a map and so I (wrongly it turned out) assumed he was a fellow PWer. He's not, turns out he's interested in all the old mines and is going up Cross Fell tomorrow to explore. Well, I'm going that way too, but I won't be hanging about!

Interestingly just now a couple came over and asked if I'd like to join them in their room later for a drink! Well, of course I accepted but I think they must think I'm staying there - but clearly I'm doing the PW - books, maps, etc. - and they are too I guess and want to pick my brains :)

Day 5 Statistics

18 miles (88 miles from KY; 32.1%)
1037m ascent
346m max elevation
time stopped: 1h11m
time moving: 6h56m
overall average: 2.2mph
average while moving: 2.6mph


This is the day when the PW joins the Pennines! North of the Wall it's really more like the Cheviots. So it is curious that the walk decides to go down the South Tyne valley rather than take to the high Pennines as early as possible by going a bit further west from Greenhead and starting up Cold Fell. From there a high-level route looks possible to join what is the actual PW at Cross Fell. Wainwright makes remarks similar to this about the route - it's as if the PW somehow wusses out by taking this low-level route to Alston. I need to look up the history of the trail and see if there's a reason for this. It might have been a land issue or something.

The man I met in The Cumberland Hotel reminded me of Daniel's dad Colin.

I really don't understand still why that group invited me up to their room for a drink, but they did pick my brains about the route north of Alston so maybe it was that simple. Anyway it was fun.
The Cumberland Hotel, Alston.
View today's photos on a map at Flickr.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Pennine Way Day 4 - Once Brewed - Greenhead

June 27, 2008


1013 Twice Brewed 
Up, breakfasted, packed, ready. Made foot repairs, dried socks on hair dryer ;) Plasters on feet, etc.

1051 Once Brewed Visitor Centre
Not much to see, but they sell socks! So I bought some. Weather forecast says rain. Nice.

1130 Windshields Crags (345m) 1.1 miles from ONCE 
Up on Windshields Crags, nr. Trig point. Windy, but no rain yet.

Looking south from Windshields Crags. That lump on the
horizon is Cross Fell, for the day after tomorrow.
Windshields Crags (345m).
Later nr. Walltown Crags 5.6 miles 
Sun is out! Still undulating hills with the wall. Not far to Greenhead. Tempted to push past and make for Garrigill tomorrow but trying to reign myself in and remain sensible :)

Following the Wall.
1412 Thirlwall Castle 7.1 miles
Arrived at camp site outside of Greenhead - to get here the PW takes a rather circuitious route around a golf course. Put tent up, and one of the little material bits has ripped off. So now one end of the inner will forever sag, but I suppose the tent has got a tiny bit lighter as a result ;)
Thirlwall Castle, reportedly build with stones pilfered from Hadrian's Wall.
1529 Greenhead 
The Greenhead Hotel is open - they have some nice looking real ales which I will try... The Roam n Rest campsite is run by a doddery old lady who is very nice. Apparently it's normal to split up this stretch the way I am doing, so OK. We see now the value of not planning everything ahead down to the last detail. The original plan was to go from Once Brewed to Alston today. Had I booked everything, obviously I would've needed to make Alston otherwise everything else would have gone wrong. But really, I needed a short day today just to give my body a chance! So while there is no doubt that there is more risk in making it up as you go along - camp site could be full etc., no room at the inn - it is also more sensible in a way. Also, if you're being completely 'self-sufficient' like me and carrying a tent and everything, you can always wild-camp.
At the Roam n Rest camp site, Greenhead.
My thoughts turn now to the plan for tomorrow - this stretch between Greenhead and Alston is reported to be very miserable - boggy, wet, etc. just what I need.. There exists the possibility to miss out all the nasty bogs by going east and walking down the South Tyne Trail (a disused railway). However, that's cheating - but it is an option. I think I will try to leave dead early and see what happens, what the weather is like, what my feet feel like, etc. I probably will need to stock up on supplies in Alston, and I'd like to stop and get a beer in the Kirkstyle Inn after about 10 miles - maybe I could get there for lunch?
So, a tentative plan:
1. leave early, pub for lunch ~13km 4 hours, 8-12?
2. Alston before 5 (~ 6 miles further on).
14 miles tomorrow then. We'll see what the 'worst stretch' is like, unless I decide to skip it :(

1730 Greenhead Hotel 
Have written postcards. It's raining now, surprise surprise! Making it nice and boggy for tomorrow!

Had a nice lamb shank dinner here in the Greenhead Hotel... Just now finish my beer and off back to the tent.

Guess what? Raining! I think tomorrow is going to be miserable.

Day 4 Statistics

8.5 miles (70 miles since KY; 25.5%)
613m of ascent
345m max elevation
time moving: 3h19m
average when moving: 2.2mph


I see now that today I was contemplating leaving the route of the PW proper to make it easier. Looking back I'm surprised at myself, but I think my memory has painted out the shock of all the blisters, wet feet and dragging a heavy pack across this terrain. I really wasn't prepared for how badly it was going to affect my feet. 

You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see if I cheated or not, but I suspect you already know the answer.

This is also the day where it would've definitely all gone wrong if I'd booked ahead. There was no way I could've made Alston today.

View today's photos on a map at Flickr.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Pennine Way Day 3 - Bellingham - Once Brewed

June 26 2008


Today's highlight will be Hadrian's Wall. But before that, more forests and farmland. Please, no bogs. It's raining a bit just now. Sore. Compeed seems to be reacting with my foot - the broken skin area has gone all white - interesting!

Making coffee...

Breakfast time :)
Had bacon sandwiches - raining hard now. Think I know how Dad might have felt! There is a strong temptation to stay here a day and wait out the weather. Some nice person came over and asked if I'd lost my watch - actually I had. So I got it back! I must have dropped it on the way to the wash barn (Beware of the Bull! [see yesterday's photo]).

But now I have this new problem, the weather. It's tipping it down. I reckon I can afford to wait a bit to see if it calms down but of course the tent is not getting any drier while I'm waiting. I think that today should be about 8 hours so in theory I don't need to set off until 1300.

Started to think about things I should bring if I ever do this sort of thing again. More plastic bags; cloth to dry stuff other than myself; pan scourer? Oooh, as I write this it may have stopped raining. I guess this weather is 'showers' now.

1145 Ealingham Rigg 2.53 miles from BEL
Rain finally stopped. Packed up, off! Met 2 nice people who started the PW in 2003! (They're doing it in stages spread out over summers). They were impressed with my homemade map book. Feet OK so far...

A common sight - the PW trail marker. A common task - crossing a stile.

1330 Warks Burn 6.47 miles from BEL
Lunch time. Weather changeable - sunny spells. Seen 5 people so far and 1 idiot running it! Honestly it's bad enough walking - but of course I know those people, fell runners, are different. Wonder how he goes through bogs - probably just blasts over them without caring.

Not more wet feet, please! Crossing a common nr Wark Forest.
1600 11 miles
First glimpse of Wall!

1700 13.64 miles
Arrived Wall - hilly but very cool!

Hadrian's Wall.

~1830 Once Brewed 16.3 miles
Arrived, but no room at the Inn (that's the YHA to you and me) :) So, I'm in Twice Brewed, which is a pub/hotel :) Lots of real ale - be lucky if I can leave here tomorrow.

Hadrian's Wall amazes me. I had no idea it was so hilly. When Hadrian said "Build me a wall here" the centurions must have said "You're having a laugh!" It goes over the most unlikely slopes, and apparently when it was new it was 7 feet tall! I was at the bit with Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The bit where he plucks misteltoe off the tree (nonsense) - I was there! Took me 2 attempts to get the photo, but I couldn't for the life of me have jumped up and pulled off a sprig from the tree.... Oh well, more later, my knees are seizing up...

At the Robin Hood tree. I'm not fat - my other little bag is under my coat.

Back down in the bar now after sorting kit out in a plush room - looks a bit odd, all my (already) quite manky stuff laid out in a beautiful hotel room. But hey, I'm paying! Had to call Mum of course. I've ordered a peppered steak with chips for tea. I will probably call Ciska later.

Milecastle 39 on Hadrian's Wall.
Tomorrow I'm changing the schedule - there's no way I can make Alston and still be having fun - so I'm going to go a mere 7 miles to Greenhead, instead. Nice Wall walking, hopefully. That means I can take it easy and look in the Visitor Centre here as well. Good stuff. I've had to use more Compeed - now got a blister on my right foot too. It must be the combination of wet and weight distribution. I'm obviously going to have to get some more Compeed. Lesson for the future may well be to put it on before blisters appear. Not sure. But anyway, it does work really well.

I was thinking of course about how I'm going to write up this adventure - a book? Or something [typing it now nearly 2 years later!] [err, actually finishing it 4 years later!].

One of the overriding messages of it anyway will be [and is!] that the Pennine Way is NOT EASY. However you split it up, most of the stages will be well within your grasp taken by themselves - in fact even 20 miles / day like me is well within the capability of most above average fitness walkers.

But here's the thing - you have to string a lot of those days together! Normally you'd do a long walk and then go home and rest the next days until maybe next weekend and do another. But here you have to keep going - long walk (with pack of course) - then repeat in my case 15 times! 15 is a big number in that sense. That's why it's difficult.

And, there's no such thing on the Pennine Way as an 'easy' day. Unless maybe you stay put. Example - today I thought there wouldn't be much up and down, because there are no 'famous' hills or climbs to go over. But I suspect in fact today will turn out to be a top day in terms of ascent - 1340m! Madness. There are no summits of note at all! Look at KY - BYR. Once you're up there (= 1 climb, approximately) - there's actually not that much climbing any more for the whole day. Today I've never been above 320m, but have managed to climb 1340m! Up down, up down, up down. That's the PW.

Day 3 Statistics

16.32 miles (62 miles since KY; 22.6%)
1340m of ascent
320m max elevation
time stopped: 1h36m
time moving: 6h18m
overall average: 2.1mph
average when moving: 2.6mph

See today's photos on a map on Flickr.

Hospital visit - leg update - struts loosened

Yesterday I was at the hospital again, for my routine x-rays and check-up. I didn't take a photo of my x-ray this time, but suffice to say that there has been more improvement! Looking at the cross section, two-thirds of the bone seems to be healed now. There's still a gap on the inside of my leg, but it doesn't look as big now.

So, the struts have been loosened. This means that they're still there (see photo), but are now not under tension. I was a bit nervous at first because basically this means that the two sets of rings are not firmly connected together anymore so in principle my leg could shift if the break hasn't healed enough. If I notice it shifting at all now I have to reapply the strut tension and set them back to how they were before yesterday.

But after 24 hours it now feels almost the same strength-wise as it did before - I think that's a really good sign. What's odd now is that it rattles a lot which is a bit disconcerting! Also, the rings at the bottom can move if you press on them, which is also very strange because they are bolted to my bone so it must be moving too. I guess this means that the bone hasn't calcified yet, but that would be normal - I saw this last time when they took the frame off.

What's next? I'm going to be like this for 2 weeks - enough time to see on a new x-ray whether the bone has shifted. If it has, I think the tension will be put back on and the struts put back in position. But on the last 24 hours' evidence, I don't think it will shift, so then I think the struts will be removed completely. That will be another adjustment mentally for me but it might be better because at least there won't be the rattling! Two weeks after that, assuming no shift of the bone, will be the earliest the frame can be removed. That would be early August I think.

The consultant said he'd like to see a bit more growth into the remaining gap before he removes the frame completely. I agree. In fact I'd be in favour of erring completely on the side of caution this time - I don't want to end up needing another corrective operation, and it's been so long now that another month or two is insignificant. Of course, the frame is awkward and uncomfortable and causes some pain at the pin sites, but leave it on as long as possible I say.

And I like it that I'm going back in 2 weeks - these visits are the milestones which I have to pace myself against - the more frequent the better.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Pennine Way Day 2 - Byrness - Bellingham

June 25 2008


0730 Byrness
Awake! Stiff as a board, as expected, but hopefully after a few miles everything will be fine :)

That lump on the horizon, that's The Cheviot.
1013 in Redesdale Forest
The Forestry logging trucks do indeed thunder past with no regard for your safety, just as the guide book says. Weather is OK. Path went along quite wet riverbank outside Byrness and then into the forest. I guess there's about another 3 miles of trees to go... There was this strange Dutch guy in the hostel who I think is walking around England on the roads - today I think he said he was going over to the north east, but on that big trunk road. Like I said, strange.

in Redesdale Forest, beware thundering trucks.

~1200 Brownrigg Head 
Left the fire road now, but there are Bogs. Lots of them. And foot repairs... What a nightmare! Never been so glad to see stone flagging as after that stretch of path near Padon Hill. Walking on roads now not seeming like such a stupid idea.

Very wet underfoot, stone flagging a welcome sight.

1402 (10.65 miles from BYR) 
Left foot very sore now - big blister. Done some repairs on it but fear it won't be enough. It stopped raining at last but is very windy. This is what it's really all about ;)

Approaching Bellingham.
What a bloody miserable day. Upon descending into Bellingham, guess what? the sun comes out. Now I'm not complaining about that as such, but how come it waits till I'm there? Typical! Pitched my tent at Demesne Farm for a reasonable £5. In the village I bought some batteries and first aid stuff - we'll see if this 'compeed' stuff is any good tomorrow, won't we?

Today I saw 3 people going the other way.

Demesne Farm camp site, Bellingham.
At Demesne Farm, beware of Bull!

~1900 The Cheviot Hotel 
Had dinner - homemade lasagne which I think was actually homemade. Took some pictures around Bellingham and phoned Alison. Watched the amazing Germans play rubbish and win, as usual.

The Cheviot Hotel, Bellingham.

Today was hard. I bought some blister stuff, I just hope it works, otherwise this adventure may be over before too long. No! That's defeatist. Maybe I've already seen the worst bit - the stretch between the forestry road and Padon Hill. There is actually a way to avoid that section, but that would be cheating. This walk is probably going to be about exertion in the stamina sense. In the end, all that bog dodging didn't matter anyway because my feet were still wet. I had to squeeze my socks out three times today, and treat my feet for blisters. I've never had to do either of those things before, ever! Which means either there's something about this walk, or about carrying a large pack over this terrain that's special. On my preparation walks this didn't happen though, although my feet were dry. A combination, no doubt. After the joys of day one, today has brought home the magnitude of this undertaking.


Not much to add to this, except that I guess this was really a day when my mind and body woke up to appreciate what I'd set out to do. No amount of planning, reading maps, books, whatever, can substitute actually getting out and doing it. I was also very confused about the soreness of my feet and blisters. Honestly, I've hardly ever had blisters from walking, and I'd walked a lot in these boots and socks, so wasn't expecting any trouble, certainly not this much and so soon. I really think it must have been the extra weight and the fact that my feet were wet.

Day 2 Statistics

15.99 miles (46 miles since KY; 16.8%)
794m of ascent
370m max elevation
time stopped: 1h18m
time moving: 7h10m
overall average: 2.2mph
average when moving: 2.7mph

View today's photos on a map at Flickr.