Saturday, 10 November 2012

Pennine Journey - Settle to Bainbridge

Preamble to this blog:

After I joined The Wainwright Society in 2009 I was alerted to a book Wainwright had written called "A Pennine Journey - The story of a long walk in 1938". Wainwright had written this book when he completed the walk but it had lain as a manuscript in a drawer for almost fifty years until he was persuaded by his publishers to submit it for publication in 1986.

After reading the 1938 book I discovered that a man called David Pitt, a fellow member of the Wainwright Society, and who has since become an acquaintance, had researched Wainwright's 210 mile route from 1938 in great detail, and was about to publish a guidebook based on a modern day version of the route which was 247 miles long.  I subsequently bought the guidebook and suggested to my walking club committee at Ryedale Walking Group, that members may wish to join my wife Judy and I on this long distance walk. The committee supported the idea and the first three days walking from Settle to Bainbridge were included in the Summer 2011 walk programme. The take up was low I have to say, however this made the prospect of arranging accomodation for a walk which in our case turned out to be 260 miles in length a practical proposition. In the end although seven members walked a part of the prescibed route, (in two cases most) only four of us actually become what are now known as "Pennine Journeymen" - people who have completed the whole 247 mile route.  We accomplished this more than two years after we started the walk, and I am writing this foreword to the walk report from August 2011 in September 2013 when the walk was completed. In the interim the walk received recognition from various authorities. It was waymarked and a Pennine Journey Supporters Club has been formed - subscription: 247p each year (£2:47) to reflect the 247 mile length of the walk. 

Day 1 Saturday 20 August 2011 Settle to Bainbridge
(7.75m 1750 ft ascent)

Four of us opted to tackle the 30 mile section of the walk from Settle to Bainbridge over a long weekend. In addition  one friend Anne, joined us just for the first days walk to Horton in Ribblesdale.
We based ourselves at The Craven Heifer Public House one mile north of Skipton and used a mixture of our cars and public transport to help us complete the walk. In a nutshell we drove to Skipton and caught the train to Settle. From there we walked to Horton in Ribblesdale and returned to Skipton by train and from the station we drove to the hotel.

Geoff Fielding - in Ribblesdale starting out on a two year mission to complete Wainwright's Pennine Journey
The following day we did similar, but caught the train to Horton and walked across the hills to Buckden. From there we caught the Dalesbus back to Skipton. The last days walk from Buckden to Bainbridge was accomplished using our cars, parking one at each end before commencing the walk. 

A passing steam train on the Settle - Carlisle line in Ribblesdale
From Settle we followed our guide books and map and walked up the east side of Ribblesdale touching the villages of Langcliffe and Stainforth. The tracks and paths were all well used and well marked being within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The walk to Horton proved to be uneventful and took us just over 4 hours.
On Horton station waiting for the train back to Skipton
We returned to the Craven Heifer north of Skipton to check in and discuss over dinner our next days walk from Horton to Buckden over Horsehead Moor.
Hull Pot

Day Two Sunday 21 August 2011 Horton to Buckden
(12.4 miles 2150 ft ascent) 

For those of us who like going over high ground this was a day to savour. We caught the train from Skipton to Horton and made our way on the well trodden track up to Hull Pot. Sadly there were only three of us present - my wife Judy remained at the Craven Heifer with a tummy bug. This meant that we would repeat the walk together a month later and on that occasion we could bring our dog Treacle, who also loves fellwalking.
Phil, Jennie and Yvonne taking a break near Hull Pot 21 August 2011
Heading down the hill to Foxup 21 August 2011
The bridleway took us across Foxup Moor  and we saw nor heard any snared screaming rabbits to rescue on the way, which if you read his book, Wainwright did on his 1938 journey. When we neared Foxup a group of middle aged mountain bikers were heading up the bridleway from the hamlet. This hobby, or should I say sport, seems to be taking over from walking in terms of popularity. 
Lunch again at New Barn near Foxup when I repeated the walk with Judy on 30 September 2011
After lunch at New Barn (seat provided) it was time to tackle the curiously named Horse Head Moor which led us to Yockenthwaite. Allegedly, in bygone days the vicar from Hubberholme Church travelled on horseback over the moor en route to conduct church services in Halton Gill. The locals would look out for him coming into view over the hill so that is how the pass got its name of Horse Head.

Yockenthwaite bridge on 21 August 2011
In resolute fashion we surmounted the moor without too much of a struggle and descended into Langstrothdale Dale. By the time we reached Hubberholme Church at 4.00pm the George Inn was closed, so we had to wait until Buckden for our refreshments. 
Judy enjoys the customary cream tea in Buckden 30 September 2011
Our plan was to catch the local bus back to the Craven Heifer at Skipton and along with several other people, we waited patiently for the bus to arrive. We needed to reach Grassington by a certain time and then transfer to another bus. When the bus did not show at Buckden twenty minutes after the due time I became concerned and rang the bus company in Silsden. They confirmed the bus had broken down but that it was now repaired and on its way. We just made our connection at Grassington I am pleased to report. 

Day 3 Monday 22 August 2011 Buckden to Bainbridge
9.9 miles 1550 ft ascent 

I write this blog sometime after completing day three but I have to say, this stretch over Stake Moss is one of the best days walking on the whole Pennine Journey. You get a taste of what is to come as you cross Buckden Rake and look north towards Cray and the Causeway above it which carries the unseen (from where we were stood) B6160 over the hill into Bishopdale:

Buckden Rake on 22 August 2011

All four of us were to walk on this day and it was 11.00am before we left Buckden. The chore of taking my car to Bainbridge to return us to Buckden at the end of the day had to be done. We realised at the end of the day after completing less than ten miles on foot, that it is almost twice as far by road to reach Bainbridge. 

After we joined the B6160 over the Causeway we took a left on to an old drovers road that led us on to a high plateau for several miles. We stopped for lunch at around 1.00pm and by that time we had started descending Stake Edge on our way to cross a watercourse at Shaw Gill.

The Waterfalls here go to the lake which we were bound for in Raydale - Semerwater. Before that though we passed through the village of Stalling Busk, an interesting village. We dropped downhill here on a path among trees and suddenly Semerwater was in view through a gate between walls:

I have to agree with Wainwright, Semerwater is dissapointing. A story in his 1938 book related how he spent some time in a cottage earlier that year in Bainbridge and the man who owned the place likened Semerwater to Windermere. Well Wainwright did not get to visit at that time, however he did on Pennine Journey when he likened Semerwater to a flooded field.....check it out yourself, he wasn't far wrong. 

Beyond the "flooded field" that is Semerwater (I hope I have haven't upset any Yorkshiremen reading this, I have lived in Yorkshire now for 20 years but am Lancastrian by birth), it was a case of following the River Bain into Bainbridge along field paths before we met the A684 near the village at the end of the walk. We arrived there just before 4.00pm so that was good progress. 

Driving back to Buckden we'd had a great walk and were looking forward to continuing to follow the route in the spring of 2012.... 

Link to Day 4 Bainbridge to Keld and on to High Force

Friday, 9 November 2012

Pennine Journey - Bainbridge to High Force

Pennine Journey continued - Bainbridge to High Force

Day 4 Wednesday 25 April 2012 Bainbridge to Keld
12.8 miles 1875 ft ascent

After driving from Pickering we parked Geoff's car up (Yvonne and Jennie stayed overnight in Askrigg) and we walked from Bainbridge (after a late start) to Keld, where we stayed at the excellent Butt House. 

Yvonne - Jennie - Judy - Geoff at Gyhllfoot Tearoom in Gunnerside where wet & muddy walkers are welcome
Day 5 Thursday 26 April 2012 Keld to Bowes
13.8 miles 1330 ft ascent

We walked from Keld to Bowes via Tan Hill from where we needed to use the wet weather route suggested in the book. Prior to that on the way up to Tan Hill we had to leave the Pennine Way at Lad Gill which was impassable as the picture below shows. We stayed at The Ancient Unicorn Inn in Bowes. Good food, but very poor accommodation, however there was nowhere else to stay.

Lad Gill between Keld and Tan Hill was blocked by a swollen beck
Left to right: Geoff, Phil, Jennie, Yvonne
We spent two hours at Tan Hill drying out. They made us welcome. The Ciabatta sandwiches are much nicer than the Lasagne was! Not recommended, the Lasagne that is...
You can see the amount of water in the River Greta near Bowes
To get off the same bridge we had to climb the fence. The gate was awash.
Day 6  Friday 27 April 2012 Bowes to Middleton in Teesdale
12.8 miles 1570 ft ascent

I had never walked in this area before. We enjoyed lovely sunny weather and stayed that night at the Teesdale Hotel which was excellent in all respects.


A much more pleasant day. We made the detour over Goldsborough Hill to find a pleasant lunch spot in a hollow.

Middleton in Teesdale now in sight
Day 7 Saturday 28 April 2012 (Half day walk) Middleton in Teesdale to High Force
7.1 miles 750 ft ascent

We walked from Middleton to High Force, the first time I've ever been there. There was plenty of water coming over the fall from previous days, yet it wasn't raining that day. Perfect!

My first visit to High Force in Teesdale
We walked back to the High Force Hotel for lunch and then used Hodgsons's Taxis from Barnard Castle to return us and our luggage back to Bainbridge.

We are continuing up to Hadrian's Wall in October and have pledged to finish up back in Settle in September 2013 80 years to the day that Wainwright completed his Pennine Journey.

Best wishes to all Pennine Journey Supporters!

Phil (Report Writer)

Link to Day 8 - 12 High Force to Greenhead ....

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Pennine Journey - High Force to Greenhead

Pennine Journey Day 8 Wednesday 10 October 2012

High Force Hotel to Westgate in Weardale (12.4 miles - 1700 ft ascent)

After finishing off the previous section of Wainwright's 247 mile 1938 Pennine Journey in April we restarted on  Wednesday 10th October from the High Force Hotel. We planned to walk for five days up to Hexham, on to Hadrian's Wall and then across to Once Brewed. As it happened we got further than that and on to Greenhead on what was an eventful walk. Jennie who accompanied us on our previous legs, had to back out on this section due to her work commitments  so her place was taken up by our good friend Chas. So for this section it was Phil, Judy, Geoff, Yvonne and Chas who restarted from High Force on a sunny morning making for Westgate in Weardale. It was after 11.00am when we started our walk. We had driven to Lands Farm (B&B) at Westgate in Weardale in two cars, parked Yvonne's car there and then had driven down to the High Force Hotel in mine.

Yvonne - Chas - Judy - Geoff - Phil (Writer)
To get back to the point where we had left the route in April meant we had to walk just over a mile to High Force and pick up where we left off. This was great for Chas who got a chance for the first time to see High Force in spate (see earlier picture). The area around the force contains Juniper and to prevent  contamination by a disease walkers are required to disinfect their boots when entering and leaving the site.  Here you can Judy and Chas cleaning theirs:

After the boot wash the route followed the River Tees up to cross it at Cronkley Bridge. When we reached Saur Hill Bridge we left the Pennine Way as the Pennine Journey continued east to Hanging Shaw, a deserted farm which was still inhabited with hens. We were to see many more derelict farmsteads on our way through the North Pennines up to Hadrian's Wall. 

An old water well pump at Hanging Shaw - a derelict farm
At Scar End a minor navigational error was made which was soon corrected and we proceeded north over the pathless moorland towards the hill called Black Law (576m). Our Pennine Journey guide book written by David Pitt suggested that we look out for a ruined shooting hut of stone and rusty red corrugated sheeting. We found it:
Yvonne - Chas - Judy - Geoff at the "Shooting Cabin" below Black Law
And so we continued across the pathless moor to the public road at Swinhope Head, this was easily picked out by the prominent power line with two poles located by the cattle grid at Swinhope Head which made navigation easy.  We then used the road and a short section of track near a remote shooting clubhouse south of Swinhopehead House to take us to Westgate. Chatting to locals later we discovered that the much of the grouse moor in the area is owned by shooting enthusiasts from the middle east! Most surprising. 
At 4.50pm we arrived at Westgate. I crossed the River Wear by the ford (as you do) and took this picture of the other members of the group on the footbridge above it:

Westgate is a strip village which dates back to the old lead mining days. Today there are cottages, farms, a couple of camp sites, a pub and a small Co-op. The pub is the Hare and Hounds and we had an reasonable pub meal there later that evening.  The pub no longer offer accommodation - this is down to the increasing "red tape" and fire regulations relating to offering guest accommodation. It is simply too expensive for small pubs to meet the requirements and still make a profit.  This worked in our favour as we found a super affordable B&B at Lands Farm less than half a mile south of the pub. Read my review here on Trip Advisor
A good pub at Westgate in Weardale
Barbara Reed at Lands Farm looked after us well and made us some sandwiches to see us through the second day of our journey north to Blanchland.  Once again we were making use of the bag carrying services provided by Brigantes who provide an efficient service. They collect the bags at 9.30am or later and guarantee to have them delivered at your next overnight stop before 4.30pm. 

Day 9 Thursday 11 October 2012

Westgate in Weardale to Blanchland (11.5/13 miles - 1450 ft ascent) 

The expected mileage today was 11.5 miles however as can be seen above we managed to complete 13 miles. The writer lost concentration after we climbed the Boltslaw Incline and we went staright on. More on that later.....

The further north we walked the more interesting the walk became. Today we saw many industrial relics of the past as we moved from the Durham Dales to enter Northumberland at Blanchland. We climbed out of Westgate in good October weather, perfect for walking. Leaving Lands Farm at 9.30am very well fortified after an excellent breakfast we reached the busy Heights Limestone Quarry, where the path (Pennine Journey & Weardale Way) had been safely diverted and well marked out:

Heights Quarry above Weardale
I think I will add the 77 mile Weardale Way from Killhope to Roker to my "to do" list. This section was lovely as we now made our way with the far reaching views to our right along a former tramway with woodland, cuttings and embankments on our way to the (partly ugly) village of Rookhope.  Maybe I am being as unkind to Rookhope as Wainwright was to Weardale when he wrote about it in his 1938 work Pennine Journey

When we reached Park Burn at grid ref 921388 we were surprised to find a deep gorge, obviously previously crossed via a tramway bridge, now gone. We diverted to the right and crossed the gorge with little difficulty. After crossing I checked David Pitts guidebook and he suggesting crossing to the left....I'm now sure that either side of the gap will enable progress to be made!  Going NNE we passed an area called Hanging Wells - there must be some history in that name. Once again the occasional derelict farmstead appeared. This one is shown as High Bishopseat on the OS Map: 

After passing an engineering business we crossed Rookhope Burn via a road bridge to enter the village centre of Rookhope (locally pronounced as Rookup), which was quite pleasant, with a pub which also offered tearoom facilities during the day. We had our own provisions and so we sat in the village bus shelter where we had a coffee break.  There are also clean public toilet facilities available in the village.  The former mining tramway is remembered by one of the wagons which is mounted in a prominent position in the village:

We now made our way now on the Sustrans C2C cycling route up the Bolt's Law Incline which took us to an height of almost 1700 ft. A lone cyclist passed us as we started the climb from Rookhope but he had to dismount shortly after passing us as he wasn't up to climbing the incline. We were going well with our "pilot" Geoff well ahead of us on the ascent. At one stage I thought Geoff would catch the walking cyclist as he had him in his sights, however the rider got back on his bike when the incline shallowed off and he disappeared over the top out of view. 

Information board - top of Bolt's Law Incline

I didn't take a photo of the remains of the engine shed for the Bolt's Law Steam Engine, but it is worth a look around if you have an interest in our industrial heritage. The substantial walls of the shed and terminus have been restored over the last few years. The walls would make a good windbreak and lunch spot.  We decided not to go over the summit top of Bolt's Law (I now wish we had done!) but instead continued on to see what was going on ahead. From Bolt's Law a track continues east to join the Blanchland to Stanhope road at Dead Friar's Stone.  There was serious work in progress here so I put away my map and PJ guidebook as Geoff chatted to the foreman of the team working on the track.  We discovered that the team of men were excavating stone from the nearby Dead Man's Quarry and bringing it back to rebuild the road surface. The foreman told us that the estate owner was investing in improving the access to the grouse moor. Well, the grouse were certainly there - we saw lots. 


We proceed - but not on the Pennine Journey route!
After continuing on the track for about 3/4 of a mile I decided to check the map and my GPS compass and realised we were heading east - the wrong direction, a mistake which cost us 40 minutes and down to me as the leader of the group. After checking Pennine Journey I realised we should have turned left at the Sheepfold where Geoff had chatted to the foreman, rather than continuing on the improved track.  As we returned to the correct route we caught sight of the former Silkhead Lead MInes western chimney, a prominent landmark on our route which we made for.  It was getting colder now and it had started to rain a little:
Near the west chimney at Silkhead lead mine
From the west chimney our route was less clear and I couldn't grasp the instructions in our Pennine Journey guidebook. My Garmin Etrex GPS wasn't much help either. I had downloaded the route from the LDWA website and their version of the route was not in accordance with the guidebook.  We could see several derelict farms and buildings below us and what looked like a railway goods wagon top, so we made for that. This turned out to be a sealed off mine shaft and this was shown on the OS map as "shaft".  We had detoured west of our intended route by a few hundred metres, however after climbing over a low fence we joined a track going north for 200m to recover our intended route at the derelict building on the mine road which is mentioned in the PJ guidebook.  We then stopped for lunch under the shelter of some trees as it was still raining lightly. 
The public road is joined at a hairpin bend and followed for some distance before we turned off to continue in woodland for almost two miles into Blanchland. Initially the woodland path above Bolt's Burn was quite waterlogged in places. 

Judy looks quite shocked as we enter Northumberland at Blanchland!
I had previously read that Blanchland was a lovely village.  Ancient, almost medieval and rather like the Cotswolds. and this proved to be correct. 
Entering Blanchland
We made for the White Monk Tearooms at the top of the village for a cream tea, passing the now closed Grade One Listed Lord Crewe Arms Hotel.  A local told me with a degree of scepticism that the new owner of the hotel lives in the south and that he wanted to make improvements to the hotel to bring it up to a very high standard which would appeal to the shooting parties who visit the area for the grouse and pheasant shooting. If this proves correct the hotel won't be much use to walkers passing through on Wainwright's Pennine Journey - too expensive and totally inappropriate! 

The now closed (Pictured in October 2012) Lord Crewe Arms Hotel
We had arranged to stay at The Punch Bowl (Trip Advisor link) in the village of Edmundbyers, five miles towards Consett from Blanchland. The fine landlord there, Chris Brown had offered to collect us and return us to Blanchland the next morning, so we needed to phone him. Blanchland is a black hole for mobile phone reception. Neither, Vodafone, Orange or O2 worked. The phonebox was also out of order and it looked like it had been for some time.  Our only option was to return to the tearoom and offer them a 50p tip and ask if we could use their phone, which they kindly allowed us to do.  Chris Brown was with us within 15 minutes and I volunteered to ride in the 4X4 car's boot as we were six up. It was a rough ride....experienced by Geoff on the return trip.

The Punch Bowl Edmundbyers
The Punch Bowl Inn was an excellent pub and we hit it on a busy Thursday - the quiz night! This was great fun. We managed to get 27 out of 40 questions correct but didn't win unfortunately!  Our meals were excellent, you don't get better in a pub. Next morning the breakfast passed muster, only the best local produce being used.  The rooms were adequate although on the small side. Read my review on Trip Advisor (Pending).  

Day 10 Friday 12 October 2012

Blanchland to Hexham (12.2m - 1250 ft ascent)

Punch Bowl landlord Chris Brown bid us farewell after returning us to Blanchland at 9.55am  - what a great guy. We headed northwest on a sunny day up the tarmac drovers road to Hexham.  The hamlet of Shildon is soon reached, a cluster of former lead miners cottages. Shortly after Pennypie House comes into view - an old Coaching Inn set above the road. Here the tarmac ends as you reach the track crossing Blanchland Moor.

Geoff approaches Pennypie House
The two mile walk over Blanchland Moor was enjoyed by us all. The grouse were prolific, the track was good and we had excellent views to Derwent Reservoir to the east. We entered Slaley Forest, a place I had visited years ago. Around 1980 I recall meeting Lionel Blair in this forest. I was up there watching a car rally in the forest. Around that time Lionel was navigating on car rallies in a Triumph Dolomite. It happened that the car broke down right in front of where four of us were spectating and we gave the crew a push!  I've met very few famous people, but I met another two on this trip.  You will have to wait until Day 12 to find out who they were, so read on! 
Judy - Yvonne - Chas - Geoff in Slaley Forest
Our walk continued through several miles of woodland. Part of Slaley Forest has been felled, but there were more woodland paths through to Redlead Mill and onwards towards Hexham. 

Track going west in Slaley Forest
Navigation needed to be perfect today after my error the previous day, so the map was never out of my hand as we searched for somewhere to eat our lunch.  Redlead Mill was found after we emerged from Steelhall Wood. There was no mill there, just a rather nicely sited cottage. Our guidebook said we would shortly come across some gothic arches - a remnant of the Dukesfield Smelting Mill. Sure enough we arrived there for lunch just before 1.00pm.  This marvellous piece of decaying architecture is at grid reference NY 941580 and is not named on the map. It really is worth visiting and is sited near to where Hall Burn meets Devil's Water. 

One of two Gothic Arches - Dukesfield Smelting Mill
A climb through National Trust owned woodland brought us to the village of Ordley were some modern stone built houses had been built. The path here was hidden and ran down the side of one of the houses. There was no waymark. The path existed long before the houses were built. Hopefully when the Pennine Journey Supporters Club waymark the route in 2013 this point will receive attention.  A road section came next and an interesting path which was routed to the side of Hole House, where we paused for a drink. Soon we were crossing a road near a covered reservoir and there was Hexham below us.

Field path downhill to Hexham
Hallbank Guest House Hexham
The final path down to the road running into Hexham was extremely muddy. The wet summer and grazing cattle make for heavy going, but we got through the mud and had walked most of it off our boots as we entered Hexham.  Judy bought some walking socks in Mountain Warehouse as we strolled around the town until we found a cafe that was happy to allow us in despite our filthy boots.  We enjoyed chatting to some locals who were genuinely interested to hear about the Pennine Journey so we did a little PR. The cafe owner told us about an nearby Italian restaurant called Quattro Mori and we eat there that night and the following night. It was excellent in every way.  The same cannot be said of our experience at Hallbank Guest House, where we stayed for two nights. You can read my reviews on Trip Advisor

Day 11 Saturday 13 October 2012

Hexham to Housesteads Fort (16.2 miles - 2000ft ascent)

The River Tyne at Hexham Bridge
We left Hexham to cross the River Tyne at 0940am in good weather on our way up to Hadrian's Wall at Planetrees.  Our initial plan was to walk around 11 miles to Brocolitia Fort and then catch the AD122 bus back to our guest house in Hexham. The plan changed however during the day. We walked through the old part of Acomb village, north to Fallowfield and took a path to east of Crag House where they farm Alpacas. These delightful and most curious creatures came to greet us as we used the path running alongside their field.

We were greeted by around 30 Alpacas at Crag House!
As we left the Alpaca field we could now see the wall. It had been a long time coming - 11 days, a slower schedule than the one travelled by AW in 1938, but now we were at last about to invade the wall! A section was visible at Planetrees but this soon disappeared as we made a detour towards the village of Wall before heading for Chollerford on the North Tyne where we crossed the bridge by the weir. 

Chollerford Weir on the River North Tyne
Interesting fungi by the wall
At Chollerford we stopped off at the Riverside Tearooms for refreshments, before continuing along the B6318, which is the road which runs alongside this section of Hadrian's Wall.  We rejoined the Hadrian's Wall footpath beyond Walwick when the going got rough. With having had such a wet summer the conditions of the footpaths was bad, and this was mainly due to poached ground caused by cattle grazing on the land adjacent to the wall. We soldiered on though towards our intended destination of Brocolitia. As we had made good progress we decided to review the bus timetable.  A unanimous decision was reached that we should continue onwards to Housesteads, and then catch the 5.34pm bus back to Hexham from there. This would mean that on our next and final day for this leg we could reach Greenhead, which is the point where the Pennine Journey leaves the wall and goes south to Alston.  As we had all enjoyed a toasted teacake and tea at Chollerford we were able to continue and have our lunch at 2.00pm when we arrived at the Brocolitia Fort. 

We walk past the remains Brocolitia Roman Fort

At Sewing Shields we could see why Hadrian had built the wall here. For some distance the wall sat upon natural crags with a considerable drop to the north - a natural defence and we found next day that this continued on and off right through to Greenhead. 
Saturday on the wall Geoff - Chas - Yvonne - Phil (Writer) - Judy
We reached Housesteads at about 4.30pm and found that the attendant had knocked off for the day. This also meant that when we reached the visitor centre and car park the toilets and refreshment counter were also closed. Come October they close at 4.00pm.  On this day they had undoubtedly lost some considerable trade as there was a large group of around 20 foreign students waiting for the bus and several car loads of people who were setting off to look at the fort and wall, which lies about 500m from the car park. 

Information board at the bus stop on Housesteads Car Park
Our return to Hexham was later than anticipated so we rearranged our meal booking at Quattro Mori for 7.30pm. The AD122 bus drops off on the car park adjacent to Waitrose in Hexham so we all nipped in and purchased sandwiches for the following day before returning to Hallbank Guest House to get cleaned up. 

Day 12 Sunday 14 October 2012

Housesteads to Greenhead (10.6 miles 1500 ft ascent)

Bill Bryson
An early breakfast was ordered at the Hallbank Guest House for 7.30am. The timing was essential as we had to vacate our rooms and catch the 0905 am bus from the Hexham tourist back to Housesteads.  I noticed a familiar face at breakfast, someone who was famous. It was Bill Bryson OBE, the best selling American travel writer, and yes, he was actually writing as he enjoyed his breakfast.  We got a "good morning" and a smile  out of the author and let him get on with his breakfast. Bill wasn't the only famous person we saw this day - we encountered Stephen Gough, otherwise known as the naked rambler, who came up behind us on the wall near Once Brewed!

The section of the Hadrian's Wall National Trail from Housesteads Fort to Greenhead was very well maintained and unlike the previous day, few animals had been grazing along it, so our route was in better order.  As it was Sunday there were plenty of people walking on the path, which again followed the top of crags over much of its length. This meant the walk was quite challenging with lots of dips to descend and banks to climb. There was a sponsored walk taking place with walkers from the Newcastle area.  We also met two very large groups of young army cadets being guided by experienced walk leaders.  The sponsored walkers had started from the Once Brewed Visitor Centre, which is some distance away from the wall and a place which we must visit another time. Half a mile west of Housesteads we again met The Pennine Way near Cuddy's Crags,  where the PW turned north to head to its destination of Kirk Yetholm. We were to stay with the PW until the end of our day at Greenhead.  

Hadrian's Wall Trail meets The Pennine Way near Cuddy's Crags
L-R: Geoff, Phil (writer), Judy, Chas, Yvonne
We were doing well although Judy was suffering with a large blister on her heal. She had been brave enough to tackle this last day, albeit with some trepidation, by applying two Compeed blister plasters, although she was experiencing some discomfort it has to be said.

The area around Crag Lough was impressive and very picturesque, and the wall had been rebuilt here, although it was less substantial than the sections we saw the previous day

Hotbank Farm and Crag Lough
We stopped for refreshments and took stock of the things we had found on this 5 day 64 mile section of Pennine Journey:
  • A Cardigan
  • A £1 Coin
  • A bin liner under a hedge containing about six "mucky video's" 
  • A Hat
  • A Scarf
  • Two pairs of socks (found in different places)
  • A dog lead
The naked rambler
leaving the wall 
All the above were left were we came across them, apart from the £1 coin which was found and kept by Yvonne at the Housesteads Fort bus stop!  A short distance from Caw Gap where the wall crosses a minor road I heard a walker approaching from behind. I turned round and to my amazement it was The Naked Rambler. I just said "Good Morning, it's the Naked Rambler" to warn the others in the party. The ladies glanced round briefly and got an eyeful as we continued on our way, with me chatting to the activist, about how he washes his socks, the use of walking poles and his problems with the police. He told me he had come down from Edinburgh and was going south. I later found out he had been released from Edinburgh Prison the previous week where he had been serving yet another term for breach of the peace. Prison is something he has grown accustomed to in his determination to exercise his right to walk naked around Britain, having served around six years in custody! As we dropped down to Caw Gap our pace increased as the two ladies did not wish to be overtaken by our new found friend. In her efforts to descend quickly Judy slid sideways and barrel rolled once, fortunately without injury. When we reached the lane at Caw Gap the naked rambler turned left to head for the B6318 saying he was "cutting a bit off". It was quite an experience meeting him as you can imagine. 

Looking back to Crag Lough
Our Pennine Journey Guidebook mentioned that there was a picnic area at the former Cawfields Quarry and it was a good place for us to stop for lunch with picnic tables and toilets. 

As pathfinder I made a  minor navigational error just west of Walltown Crags near a car park and left the wall to follow a track for 300m. We rejoined the national trail as we approached Hole Gap where there was another old quarry with a lake, and cafe.  It was after 3.00pm when we arrived here and with our taxi booked at Greenhead over one mile away for 3.45pm we did not have time to stop for refreshments.  Continuing on we reached Greenhead in the middle of a heavy shower at 3.40pm with our taxi (Advanced Taxis of Hexham - good service and price) already waiting for us, which meant we could not sample the tearoom at Greenhead either. 

Our journey by taxi back to Westgate was via Hallbank Guest House in Hexham to collect our bags. We then proceeded through the now familiar Northumberland and Durham country and moor to Lands Farm at Westgate where we had parked our cars four days previously.  After saying our goodbyes to Chas and Yvonne,  Phil, Judy and Geoff motored down to The Three Tuns public house in Thirsk for a roast dinner before proceeding back to Pickering. Geoff returned to his home in Malvern the following day. 

We plan to continue our Pennine Journey in April 2013 by walking south from Greenhead down to Appleby. Our intention is to complete the 247 mile walk before September - 75 years after it was walked by A Wainwright. 

Link to: Greenhead to Appleby ......