The Pennine Way Revisited - 1994

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 3 - Byrness to Greenhead

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Day 3 - Tuesday 14th June - Byrness to Bellingham - 15.1 miles - 1420 ft ascent

Accommodation: Bellingham Y.H.A. - 5.90 bed only (no meals service)

I got up at 8 a.m. and had breakfast of bacon and fruit malt loaf that I had brought with me. The malt loaves are quite useful to take when walking as they are quite nice to eat on their own without butter, they keep well without drying out, and come in a compact size which makes them easy to carry. My washing had dried quite well overnight and I set off at 9.20, calling at the filling station cafe to buy a couple of ham and tomato rolls for lunch for 1.90, and a postcard which I wrote and sent off home.

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River Rede and Byrness
River Rede and Byrness

It was again a day of intense sunshine, but at least there was now a fresh wind to cool things down a bit. The first couple of miles by the river and the edge of the forest were quite pleasant as it was not too closed in by the trees, but there was some welcome shade from the sun. The next few miles along Forestry Commission roads were not so good as the view disappears to be replaced by rows and rows of identical trees. However, after a couple of miles there is a considerable improvement where there has been a lot of felling and replanting towards the top of the hill. This means that there are now fine views of the Cheviots and will be for some years to come, until the newly planted trees start to obstruct the view.

I stopped for lunch at 12.15 a.m., about half a mile from Brownrigg Head, out of the main area of forestry but near the edge of a young plantation to the south. I removed my boots and socks to give my feet an airing and examined my insoles, as I had been having a few problems with the tops of the toes on my left foot, caused by them rubbing on my boot. The problem was caused by the lower one of the two insoles having moved forward and crumpled up, so I straightened it out and hoped that it would bring about an improvement. Apart from these minor problems, my feet were doing quite well and even the problem with my left ankle was almost gone, although I was still using a hanky as padding.

The weather was now much cooler although there was still plenty of sunshine between light clouds making it perfect weather for walking. A couple of walkers, Scottish by the sound of it, came past carrying camping gear but didn't stop to chat. I set off again after a good rest and met a couple of chaps who were walking the Pennine Way, near Padon Hill. They were taking 17 days and had fared quite well for weather so far.

The rather impressive cairn, which looks more like a beacon, on Padon Hill is a little way off to the east so I walked over to it as it provides a fine panoramic viewpoint, particularly to the north and east. The scenery in these parts is somewhat less spectacular, but there are views for many miles in all directions across unspoilt country. This makes it good walking country even though it is not so photogenic. When I walked the Pennine Way for the first time, I had a tendency to dismiss much of the intermediate scenery and was only interested in pressing on to the more dramatic parts. Second time around, knowing much more what to expect, I was finding that I could appreciate many more aspects of the landscape, especially so with such good weather to see it at its best.

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Looking towards The Cheviots from Padon Hill
N from Padon Hill
Looking West from Hareshaw House
W from Hareshaw House
Overlooking Bellingham from the hill
Bellingham from hill

In the guide book there was mention of a possible detour near Bellingham to a waterfall called Hareshaw Linn, although it suggested that most people would not want to add to the day's walk by taking this in. As I was interested in making as many variations to the route as possible, I decided to walk as far as the hill overlooking Bellingham and then to head over to the west, then follow the valley down past Hareshaw Linn and into Bellingham. It wasn't quite clear from the map where the path was supposed to be so I made my way to a point above the waterfall thinking I would be able to follow the stream down. This soon proved to be impossible as the waterfall cascaded down into a steep-sided gorge, so I made my way around and eventually found a rather steep path leading down below the waterfall. It certainly was well worth the detour as it is in a very spectacular setting. I tried taking a photograph but the light level was very poor because of the gorge and the trees so I ended up by taking a 'brief' exposure with the camera on my home-made monopod. Unfortunately, I must have rather underestimated the light level as it turned out badly overexposed, but it was worth a try. The walk into Bellingham then followed the wooded valley into the middle of the town, the detour having added about a mile extra to the walk.

Bellingham Youth Hostel was very busy, mainly with groups of cyclists, but also with several Pennine Way walkers, some of them sounding Dutch. One older chap was walking with his wife acting as backup, driving from hostel to hostel with his luggage. There was quite a queue for the shower and there was quite a shortage of floor space in the dormitory for all the rucksacks. As this was another hostel with no resident warden, there was no telephone, so I made my way back into town to 'phone home and to find something to eat. On the way to the telephone box I passed a fish and chip shop, so that solved the evening meal problem. The other thing to consider was breakfast and lunch for the following day, so I did some shopping in the Co-op before they closed at 8 p.m.

Back at the hostel two of the older, retired couples were recounting all of their travel stories. They are able to take advantage of all the cheap offers and discounts for travel and seemed to have been almost everywhere round Europe. They were particularly taken by the value to be had in Eastern Europe these days, especially if you don't go through any organised agency but find accommodation when you get there. With the exchange rate being so favourable to westerners, it is possible to live like a king for next to nothing.

After eventually tiring of their non-stop travelogue I made my way back down to the Rose and Crown for a drink and met up with a group of cyclists who were staying at the hostel. They were from Newcastle and were on a four day tour, having broken off as a splinter group from a cycling club who were doing something similar but had made the route more and more difficult each year. After a couple of pints of very reasonably priced Ruddles bitter (1.19 a pint), I made my way back for an early night as I had a 22 mile walk the next day, the longest in my schedule.

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Day 4 - Wednesday 15th June - Bellingham to Greenhead - 22.2 miles - 3130 ft ascent

Accommodation: B&B The Vicarage, Greenhead - 18 B&B (hostel full)

I got up at 7.30 a.m. in an attempt to get off to an early start and started to make my breakfast of sausages and beans. The sausages took ages under the rather poor grill but eventually they looked well enough cooked to be edible. The warden came up at 8.30 a.m. and I made the mistake of asking if there were any jobs to do, so I ended up vacuuming the dormitory with a rather useless vacuum cleaner and it was about 9 a.m. before I got started into a strong wind and an overcast sky. After sending a postcard from the Post Office in town, I started off down the road. This is one of the longest stretches of road walking on the Pennine Way, amounting to about one and a half miles from entering the town on one side to leaving it on the other. This is a fair achievement when compared to the amount of road walking involved in some other walks.

For the first time since I started I had to put on my pullover to protect me from the wind, which was very strong in exposed places. My feet were not in bad condition although they had started to ache a little at times, but far less so than at a similar time on the last walk in these boots. This I put down to the combination of insoles I had assembled together which fitted the contours of my feet and helped to spread the load more evenly. My ankle was also sufficiently well recovered to allow me to walk without the hanky in my boot. After a couple of miles the weather deteriorated to a fine misty drizzle but was not quite bad enough to need waterproofs as yet.

About six miles into the walk is the isolated farm at Horneystead where an old lady of about 80 was selling tea and scones when I last walked the Pennine Way. I was looking forward to a break from the rather dreary weather by calling in there to see if she was still going strong. She obviously was, because all the signs were still up, but when I got to the house there was a note in the window saying she had gone out and would be back at 2 p.m., so I found some shelter from the elements down by the nearby stream to have a rest at 11.30 a.m. with 16 miles still to go. I set off again after about a quarter of an hour and soon entered one of the forest sections where I met a couple who were just doing some of this section in the day. The weather started to get wetter but one advantage of the forest sections is that they give shelter from the wind and, in this case, also from the drizzle which was being driven across horizontally. After a mile or two through the first section of forest there is a clearing for about half a mile before the next mile of forest. As it was 1 p.m. I decided that it would be best to stop for lunch in the shelter of the trees and hoped that the weather might improve before having to go back into the open again.

The drizzle did start to ease off by the time I was ready to set off again at 1.25 p.m. with 13 miles to go, but I still decided to wear waterproofs just in case. Within the space of about a mile I saw three pairs of Pennine Way walkers, all coming from Greenhead - one lot were doing the walk in 14 days. As I came out of the forest and started to approach Hadrian's Wall I decided to head off over to the east to meet the wall at Housesteads, which is a quite extensive Roman fort about a quarter of a mile off the Pennine Way. I looked around it from the outside and tentatively walked through the open entrance, but turned away when a man came marching towards me obviously wanting to collect the 2.20 admission. I didn't have enough time to spare for it to be worth paying the entrance fee, so I headed off along the wall to rejoin the Pennine Way.

Although the rain had stopped before I reached the wall, there was still a very strong wind now coming at me head on, which I would have to do battle with for the remaining 10 miles along the wall. It was hard enough as it is with all the ups and downs over the crags at the end of a long day's walk, but the strong wind made it twice as hard. Even in the rather poor weather conditions the scenery around this section of the wall is beautiful and there is the added interest of the wall and the milecastles along the way. The last few miles were hard going as I was getting tired, so I was glad when I eventually reached Greenhead at 7 p.m. I had no deadline as far as time was concerned as I had no evening meal booked, just bed and breakfast at 'The Vicarage' as the Youth Hostel was full with a school party.

The house was huge and set in extensive wooded grounds, and the hallways alone were big enough to house a few homeless families! I had a bath and was told that a pot of tea would be waiting for me in the lounge. When I went back down I forgot which door had been pointed out to me as that of the lounge so I ended up going into the wrong room where an old chap was sitting in front of the television. I made my apologies and went out again, but I don't think he even noticed I had gone in there.

After my pot of tea I set off to 'phone home and to go to the pub, where I had a large plate of Cumberland sausage, chips and peas for 3.95 and a couple of pints of Boddingtons. I seem to have had nothing but sausages since starting the walk, but it is generally one of the more reasonably priced but substantial meals on the menu in many places. There were a few others in the pub who looked like Pennine Way walkers but they were sitting in other areas so I didn't get to talk to any of them and headed back for another early night after a rather tiring day.

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