13th May – Evanton to Tain

20190513 Typical section of road walking near Tain
The sheer joy of road walking again

Today I crossed the Easter Ross peninsula, which entailed 19 miles of almost entirely road walking.

I left Evanton at 8.00 with a blister on one foot and a hot spot on the other.  This was totally down to my own stupidity in leaving my boot inner soles at Braemar.  I had replaced them in Inverness but obviously something was not right.

20190513 Rich agricultural land above Alness
Rich agricultural land above Alness

The best thing seemed to be to get the day completed as soon as possible.  The 7k to Alness disappeared in 95 minutes, so I had a short break.  More road walking took me to Newmore which had some beautiful gardens.

20190513 Beautiful flowers at Newmore
Beautiful floral displays at Newmore

Finally after 13k of roads, I moved onto a forest track and stopped for another rest.  I decided that some music would help pass the time.  Quick look at the guide map.  Follow the path to a road, turn left, get to a T junction, turn right, take the second road on the left.  Right, off we go.

20190513 Back in the forest
Back in the forest

An hour later I suddenly thought, “This left turn is taking a long time to appear.”  A closer inspection of the guide revealed that it was not a road, but the entrance to a farm that I had passed about a mile back.  As the trail only ran parallel with the road I was on, I chose to continue.

Around 1.15, I was less than 3 miles from Tain, when Stuart, my son, rang me.  When we had finished, and as I had stopped, I had lunch by the side of the road – getting some strange looks from the locals.

Entering Tain I paused at a very impressive building, to discover that it had been the Easter Ross Poorhouse.  Closer examination of the information board revealed that the large building was in fact the warden’s house, and what seemed to be a barn was the women’s quarters.

20190513 Easter Ross Workhouse
Easter Ross Poorhouse

I arrived at my accommodation in Tain at 2.45, after a day with little memorable about it.

Tain seems an interesting town, and I am planning to visit the museum before heading off to Dornoch.  I only have 14k to cover tomorrow, so for the first time I will indulge in some sight-seeing.

2nd May – Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit

20190502 Wyn in a fairy glen
Fine weather for walking through the fairy glen

Wyn and I had had a superb meal at the Glenmoriston Arms last night and were pleased that breakfast was not until 8.00.  It was 9.00 before we set off in fine weather but with a poor forecast for the rest of the day.

The day started with the mandatory ascent from the glen up into the forests.  The route took us through some charming woods which had a “fairy glen” feel about them, with thick moss covering the base of the trees and any exposed boulders.  A short detour to the Stone Seat promised extensive views of Loch Ness, which failed to materialise due to the height of the surrounding trees.

20190502 Loch Ness from the Stone Seat
Loch Ness from the Stone Seat

More interesting, and as it turned out useful, was the Stone Cave.  This was apparently constructed to offer shelter to a washerwoman on her frequent journeys from Allsigh and Invermoriston.  We stopped for a short break, and the promised rain began in earnest.  We took advantage of the cave to don our wet-weather gear, which was needed for the rest of the day.

20190502 Sheltering in the Stone Cave
Welcome shelter in the stone cave

A gentle descent down to Allsigh was followed by a long climb up to the day’s high point in Ruskich Woods.  Any possible views of Loch Ness and surrounding area were lost in the cloud and murk.

20190502 Up in the clouds in the conifer plantation
Up in the clouds

The most important question on our minds was, “Would the teashop at the Loch Ness Pottery at Grotaig by open?”  Thankfully the answer was yes.  Not only was it open, but it was crowded with more walkers than we had seen in days.

20190502 Loch Ness Pottery Teashop - A port in the storm
Loch Ness Pottery and Teashop – a welcome port in a storm

After coffee, tea and cake, we departed for the last 5 miles to Drumnadrochit.  Most of this was along a minor road, with a short detour into woodland, before emerging onto the A82 for the final section to our accommodation.  We arrived just after 4.00.

20190502 Wyn on the path down to Drumnadrochit
Bleak walking down to Drumnadrochit

As we had not stopped for lunch, we booked an early dinner at the Fiddlers Restaurant, which we would both recommend.

Our plan for tomorrow is to leave at 7.30 at the latest, as we have a 20-mile day, and the weather forecast is not great.

12th April – Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale

20190412 Malham Cove
Malham Cove

After a peaceful night at the Youth Hostel, aptly named as our combined ages are only 138, we had an early breakfast, collected our lunches, and left at 8.30.

20190412 Wyn at the top of the climb
The climb up Malham Cove

The weather was fine but very cold and with some of Yorkshire’s finest scenery before us we set off with a spring in our step.  This enthusiasm soon waned when we started up the 400 steps to reach the top of Malham Cove.  On December 6th 2015 after Storm Desmond a waterfall appeared for the first time in living memory.  At 70m or 230 ft that must have been quite a sight.

Avoiding the limestone pavement above the Cove, by using a higher route, we dropped into the valley which led the way to Malham Tarn.

 

20190412 Malham Tarn
Malham Tarn

Walking on the level made a pleasant change and although we did not see a roe deer buck in the woods, as we did in 2008, there were some very fine carvings and sculptures.

20190412 Woodcarving at Malham Tarn
Wood carving at Malham Tarn

Leaving the Tarn the track to Tennant Gill was a delight: short, soft grass and easy walking.  From the farm at Tennant Gill the work of the day started, 3k of continuous ascent to the cairns on Fountains Fell.

20190412 Above Tenant Gill farm
The climb above Tennant Gill Farm

By now we had lost the sun and the wind made it very cold. Our lunch stop in a sheltered depression was necessarily brief.

20190412 Enjoying lunch
“Enjoying” lunch

Once at the cairns it was possible to look north across the intervening valley to the imposing bulk of Pen-y-Ghent with Ingleborough visible on the horizon.

20190412 Pen-y-Ghent with Ingleborough behind
Pen-y-Ghent (right) and Ingleborough (left)

The descent of Fountains Fell is rough, long and steep and we were wary of aggravating Wyn’s knee.  Having reached the road at Dale Head around 3.00pm a decision had to be taken.  Taking into account the time and the fact that we were going quite slowly, the nature of the ground and Wyn’s knee we resolved to miss out Pen-y-Ghent.

20190412 Path up Pen-y-Ghent
Contemplating the route up Pen-y-Ghent

By taking an alternative path via Brackenbottom, which still involved a knee jarring descent, we reached Horton in Ribblesdale at 5.30.

20190412 Wyn and Pen-y-Ghent
The alternative route

Wyn and I had a small celebration as I have now linked up with where I recommenced last summer. I have therefore walked from the Lizard in Cornwall to West Linton in Scotland.

20190412 Neil back in Horton in Ribblesdale
Back in Horton in Ribblesdale and the end of the English section of the journey!

Wyn returns home tomorrow and will rejoin me at Fort William for the Great Glen Way. Thanks are due to Wyn for his grit, enthusiasm and, as always, his good company.

Tomorrow I am being picked up by my brother Alan who will take me up to West Linton on Monday. I will restart the walk and the blog on Tuesday.

4th April – Youlgreave to Hathersage

20190404 Chatsworth house
Today’s highlight – Chatsworth

Today has been one of ups and downs.  The weather forecast for the afternoon was very poor, so naturally I could not get breakfast before 8.30 and the shop in the village was closed for repairs.

20190404 River Lathkill
The River Lathkill

I left Youlgreave at 9.10 and immediately dropped down into Lathkill Dale, crossing the river via a packhorse bridge.  I then climbed over the ridge to walk down into the valley of the River Wye at Haddon Hall.  This was the home of William Peverel, the illegitimate son of William the Conquerer.

20190404 Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall, veiled in mist

The route circled around the grounds of Haddon Hall, passing some very impressive cows, before climbing over another ridge and descending into the Derwent Valley near Chatsworth.

20190404 Cows with big horns
Cows with big horns, where I like to see them – in the next field!

The views of Chatsworth were magnificent and I enjoyed the walk through the Deer Park and the extensive grounds.

20190404 Chatsworth house from the deerpark
Chatsworth viewed from the deerpark

Leaving Chatsworth the weather started to deteriorate so I stopped to don wet weather gear.  Suitably clad I continued to Baslow where I had a coffee and bought some lunch.

At Baslow I reviewed my options.  The guidebook route was up over the gritstone edges of Baslow, Curbar and Froggatt. I know these well from climbing trips and a recent visit. Given the poor forecast it seemed wiser to take a low level route and so I choose the Derwent Heritage Way, part of which I knew from a recent MAC trip. This would also be faster.

At 2.00 I stopped near Froggatt village for lunch and it started to rain in earnest. As I watched Froggatt Edge disappear into the gloom I was pleased with my decision.

Walking beside the River Derwent was enjoyable despite the rain, and I think that I saw two mergansers near Curbar.  Leaving the Derwent I climbed up to Hathersage arriving around 3.30.  As there are plenty of gear shops I was able to replace my lost hat on the way to my accommodation.

20190404 Red deer at Chatsworth
Red deer at Chatsworth

I am overjoyed to be back in Derbyshire and especially in the Peak Park.  The paths are well-signed and tend to exist on the ground, which is more than can be said for those in Shropshire and Staffordshire.

Tomorrow my friend Carl is joining me for a couple of days, which will be great.  I am also taking a semi-rest day and only have around 10k to walk.  In the past week I have covered around 190k, about 20% of the total to Dunnet Head. Over the next few days the distances are less but there will be more hills.  Thankfully the weather looks better for tomorrow.

2nd April – Abbots Bromley to Thorpe

20190402 Dove Valley
Today’s destination – Dovedale

After an early breakfast, and thanks to a lift from my landlady, I set off at 8.15 on one of the longest sections of my trip.

20190402 Stile near Ellishall Farm
At least this stile was interesting…

The route to Uttoxeter follows the Staffordshire Way but is described as being the the low point of the whole trail.  “The path follows the edge of huge fields and the walking is monotonous and the scenery featureless.”  So it proved; and to add to the pleasures of the day it was cold and raining.  Definitely a time just to pound out the miles.

Uttoxeter eventually appeared and was left behind via a path through the racecourse.

Next came my first encounter this trip with my bovine friends. I am not sure why they only appear when I have to cut straight across large fields. This herd included some very fine Old English cattle with huge horns and calves. Luckily they were friendly.

20190402 Arkwright's Mill
Arkwright’s Mill at Rocester

Crossing the A50 I entered Derbyshire for the first time and headed for Rocester. Here I passed Arkwright’s Mill – now the JCB academy – and could see the JCB factory which dominates the town.  A handy seat at Rocester Church proved a good place for lunch.

20190402 Rochester church
Rocester church

The weather had now improved and the walk alongside the River Dove was enjoyable. Leaving the village of Ellastone I made my way up to The Hutts Farm.  Here I made a fatal decision.  I was now on the Limestone Way high up on a ridge but the way is not signed.  The guide route left the Limestone Way at this point to drop down to the Ordley Brook Valley.

20190402 Path near Ordley brook
Quagmire and fallen trees on the “good” path

The route description states ” There is an excellent route along the wooded valley bottom, although it is occasionally wet underfoot, the wood is a delight to walk through and mostly very easy walking”.   I went that way.   There followed about 3km of the worst conditions of the whole trip. The path is a quagmire of mud with fallen trees and clinging brambles. When I finally reach a road the relief was palpable.  Even the guidebook’s author admitted that the route proposed from the road was worse so an alternative had to be found.  I therefore walked back up to the Limestone Way on the road to find good conditions and much better scenery!!

A little road walking, during which it started to snow, took me to Woodhouses and soon Coldwall Bridge and Dovedale were in sight. I arrived at the Izaak Walton Hotel at 6.00 after 35k and an almost 10-hour day.

20190402 River Dove at Ellastone Bridge
The River Dove at Ellastone bridge

A few minutes later my sister-in-law Susan arrived with husband Michael and treated me to a delicious dinner.  I slept well.

29th March – Craven Arms to Much Wenlock

20190329 Stokesay Inn
The Stokesay Inn shrouded in morning mist

A perfect day to restart my walk. All went well yesterday. Pam, my neighbour, very kindly took me to Didcot station. All the trains ran on time and I reached the Stokesay Arms by mid afternoon.

20190329 path left the trees
One of the few times the path left the trees

I left the pub at 7.00 this morning, and Subway provided a bacon roll and coffee for breakfast.  I departed Craven Arms at 7.45 and used field paths, basically following the Quinney Brook, to reach Strefford.  From there the path climbed steeply up to Wenlock Edge, which I was to follow for the rest of the day.  Once in Strefford Wood I hit the first problem, a large notice saying no entry due to felling operations.  As it was still quite early, I could not hear any activity and there was no real alternative route I ignored the sign.  Sure enough there was nothing happening and I quickly reached the top and with some relief walked out of the affected area.

20190329 Long Mynd
Temperature inversion – the Long Mynd floats above the mist

The walking on Wenlock Edge is mostly in woods with very restricted views across to the Long Mynd. There was however a good example of temperature inversion with cloud filling the valley and Wenlock Edge and the Long Mynd in sunshine. Despite the lack of views the walking was wonderful with large expanses of wood anemones, violets and some primroses all with the background scent of wild garlic.

20190329 Wood anemones
Wood anemones

I must remember that my guidebook author has a tendency to leave the obvious route and wander up hill and down dale for no sensible reason.  Today I followed his route hoping to see Ippikins Rock, which could just be glimpsed through the trees.  It certainly did not justify leaving an old railway track, ascending and descending about 50m on a muddy path to come back down the the track I had just left!

20190329 Guildhall Much Wenlock
Much Wenlock Guildhall

I reached Much Wenlock at 3.30 having covered around 29k.  The Talbot Inn is very comfortable and provided an excellent meal.

22nd August – Byrness to Jedburgh

20180821 Blakehopeburnhaugh with the Cheviots on the horizon
Blakehopeburnhaugh with the Cheviots in the background

Wednesday

This was a big day in more ways than one.  It was 31k with 830m of ascent as well as the day that I left the Pennine Way and entered Scotland.

After a bowl of porridge, to celebrate my imminent arrival in Scotland, I left Byrness at 7.10.  It was raining with low cloud but likely to improve during the afternoon.  The initial climb up to Byrness Hill (414m) was steep and slippery.  Once there the walking improved as the weather deteriorated.  Short steep ascents up Houx Hill and Windy Crag were accompanied by strong winds blowing 20-30mph.

20180822 Ravens Knowe Summit 527m appearing in the mist
Poor visibility approaching Ravens Knowe summit

A flagstone path led on across a bog and the path then rose to Ravens Knowe, the high point of the day at 527m.  By now the mist was quite thick and the summit cairn eventually emerged from the gloom.

20180822 The Scottish Border
The Scottish Border

I continued over Ogre Hill and Croquet Head where I crossed into Scotland, only to move back to England almost immediately.  Climbing above Roman Camps I reached Black Halls.

20180822 Leaving the Pennine Way for Dere Street
Leaving the Pennine Way for Dere Street

At this point I left the Pennine Way and England behind to follow Dere Street, an old Roman road down to Jedburgh.  In improving weather the first part of the way was fairly easy as it follows the boundary fence.  The weather then took a turn for the worse just at the point where you leave the fence and strike out across a hillside.  Naturally at this point the track disappeared so it was out with the GPS to find a saddle between Woden Law and Langside Law.  Once there the weather finally began to improve and the track was obvious once again.

20180822 Descending from the Cheviots towards Jedburgh

Coming off of the Cheviots, Dere Street crosses farm and moorland before a road section.  All was going well up to this point.  At a T junction Dere Street goes straight ahead and is a green lane.  Unfortunately this is popular with off-road vehicles.  The result is a muddy quagmire where they have rutted and destroyed the trail.  Trying to pick a route through was difficult with the real possibility of a fall.  In the end I abandoned Dere Street, and used a lane to reach Jedburgh at 5.10 after 10 hours on the trail.

The Royal Hotel is very comfortable and they agreed to do my washing.  After a quick shower and dinner I had an early night as it had been a long and tiring day.