The forecast for today was for heavy rain so I was a little surprised not to hear the patter of raindrops on the tent when I woke at 6.00. I was just about warm enough last night, when the temperature dropped to single figures. I only have a lightweight sleeping bag with me and will need an upgrade when I reach Fort William. Taking advantage of the fact that the forecast rain had not arrived I quickly struck camp and moved to a covered area, near the bar, to have breakfast.
Today was a short day to reduce the mileage I have to do tomorrow to reach West Linton. I left at 8.55 and retraced my steps back to Traquair. From here, in worsening rain, I took the road to Peebles. The planned route diverts from the road to Castle Knowle or Kailzie Hill but these seemed unnecessary excursions. I arrived in Peebles at 12.30. A quick visit to the Tourist Information identified the position on my digs for the night. I am writing this in a Wetherspoons, having had lunch, while I wait for 3.00, when the guest house opens. It is also giving me the opportunity to dry my kit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After an interesting conversation with a Dutchman at breakfast and getting his view on Brexit, “We think you are all crazy”, I left at 9.10.
The official Pennine Way wanders up and down the slopes of South Tyne, the only purpose of which seems to be to visit a Roman Fort at Whitely Castle. As this made no impression on me last time I took an easier option and walked the South Tyne Trail through Slaggyford to Burnside, where the two trails meet. This had the additional advantage of a tea stop at a buffet car at Slaggyford station and the chance to see a steam train.
Leaving Burnside the trail climbs up onto Hartleyburn Common along an old Roman road, the Maiden Way. By now the wind was getting up and I was glad of a hat and jacket it was also beginning to spit with rain. The trail descends to Glendue Burn before climbing over a watershed and dropping down to the A689 and Hartley Burn. It then climbs to the wilds of Blenkinsopp Common. Thank heaven for a long dry summer as the bogs were bad enough but could have been a nightmare. Eventually passing the trig point at Wain Rigg I dropped down to the busy A69. Taking my life in my hands, I crossed and wandered down to Greenhead via pastures and the golf course arriving 4.00.
The Greenhead Hotel was open and welcoming. The owners now run the bunkhouse, having taken it over when the YHA wanted to close it. Once again I had an 8 bed room to myself. Dinner at the hotel was substantial and they also offered breakfast for tomorrow.
The forecast for Sunday is rain gradually easing and I am glad that I have a short day.
Today was a big day, over 20 miles and 1070m of ascent, to get over Cross Fell, at 893m the highest point on the Pennine Way. Yesterday walkers had turned back because of the high winds. Luckily, thanks to Alan and Katy providing up to date weather forecasts, I found that there was a window of opportunity between 10-12 before 40 mph winds and rain arrived.
I left Dufton at 7.10 and almost immediately began the first climb of the day. I crossed Great Rundale Beck, via a clapper footbridge and came upon a large black bull which took rather too much notice of my progress, but eventually decided he would let me pass unmolested.
The way continued up to cross Swindale Beck, before arriving at Green Fell (794m).
From here the path crossed a bog, before reaching a flagged path leading to the road to the radar station on Great Dun Fell. By this time the wind was getting up and storm clouds were racing in from the west.
I had left Dufton following an Australian lady, and we had swapped places throughout the morning, as one or other of us stopped for a rest. She led over Great Dun Fell (848m), and having crossed a col, stopped at the shelter on Little Dun Fell.
By now it was raining so we donned our waterproof trousers and decided that it would be sensible to keep one another in sight until we reached the track, leading to Greg’s Hut bothy, on the other side of Cross Fell.
Heading up into the mist we reached the intermediate cairn and followed a bearing to find the summit cairn. Another quick bearing led us safely out of the murk and the crossing was complete. In truth it had been quite easy. I have to confess that this is the first time I have climbed Cross Fell. 10 years ago I could not find the summit, in much worse conditions, and must have traversed round until I picked up the path down.
I stopped for a while at the bothy and then walked down the track to Carrigill. The track was being remade, to allow vehicles to access the moor for shooting, and the walk out was long and tiring. At Carrigill my colleague and I were looking forward to some tea, so it was a disappointment that the pub was closed.
A quick look at the map enabled us to follow a parallel track and we arrived at Alston at 4.45.
Once again I was the only person in a dormitory for eight. After a shower and sorting out all of the wet kit, I went to the Cumberland Hotel which provided a substantial meal. Then I had an early night.
My roommates were not early risers. and some were still in bed when I left at 8.15 so packing was done in the dark. Luckily I remembered that I had forgotten my Kindle when I was only 500m from the hostel.
The route goes up the Tees Valley past the cliffs at Falcon Clints. There are a couple of places where you have to cross large awkward boulders, which proved a pain with a large rucksack.
Eventually Caldron Snout came into view. This is the outfall from Cow Green Reservoir and is very scenic. You have to scramble up the rocks at the side of the falls, and a combination of wet greasy rock, heavy rain and a heavier bag made the trip rather more exciting than I needed.
From Cow Green you head off into the moors on a good track to Rasp Hill. Turning left I descended to Maize Beck which is followed to High Cup Nick. This should be the highlight of the day but yet again it was pouring with rain and very misty so there were no views. Keeping High Cup Nick on my left I eventually found the path and a straightforward descent took me to Dufton for 2.30. The hostel did not open until 5.00pm but the kind people at the Stag Inn let me get changed. In exchange I bought beer and passed a mellow afternoon.
Dufton Hostel was very comfortable, and I met an interesting character who claimed to have been everywhere and seen everything. Amazingly all the people in the dormitory were in bed by 9.30 so it was early to bed.
Leaving Keld at 8.55 I was delighted that the sun was shining and the overnight rain had not materialised. However, within 30 minutes I was putting on my rain jacket and over-trousers, which stayed on for the rest of the day. I can only say that the weather has certainly changed for the worst, and at times the rain seemed to be falling in biblical proportions.
Two hours after leaving Keld I reached Tan Hill Inn. Like the Windmill they never close, so I was able to get a mug of tea, and a very kind gentleman gave me a £5 donation for Sobell House.
Leaving the pub you enter Sleightholme Moor, best described as bleak and boggy. Unfortunately this goes on for around 8 km. I am sure it would have enjoyed it more without the driving rain. Eventually Sleightholme Farm came into view and the path goes through a delightful limestone valley before reaching Trough Head.
Turning north the path descends to God’s Bridge, a natural limestone slab bridge, before climbing to cross the A66. From here to Baldersdale it was a hard slog. My rucksack was uncomfortable, the path was straight and boring and in danger of being washed away, as was I. The only interest was listening to the guns blasting away at the grouse on the hillside opposite. Eventually, just before 4.00 the best thing I had seen all day hove into sight: Alan’s car.
I barely had a stitch of dry clothes on me so did a rapid change at the car. Sometimes the small pleasures are best: just to be in dry clothes and out of the rain.
Returning to Middridge I was able to get some washing done but, as Alan does not have a dryer, I will have to use my Scotland kit until Jedburgh. The Bay Horse next door provided a fine dinner and it was good to catch up with Alan.
After a quiet night, as there was no one else in the dormitory, I left Hawes at 8.45. It took over 2 hours 30 minutes to climb up to the summit of Great Shunner Fell. For over 2 hours the views were magnificent, if you like the inside of a cloud. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, but luckily it improved after the summit.
Great Shunner Fell used to be notorious for its peat-bogs, but these now have large slab walkways. When these were introduced they caused some controversy with traditionalists. Personally I think they are wonderful as I have never found any pleasure in tracking through peat-bogs, a much overrated pastime.
From Great Shunner Fell the path descends to Thwaite, where I stopped for a pot of tea. Leaving Thwaite, I climbed up to Kisdon with fine views of Swaledale.
Traversing towards Keld I was swarmed by horse-flies which was very unpleasant. Do they serve any useful purpose?
Coming down to Keld it was time for more tea before arriving at East View, my B&B. Doris, who came from the Philippines, gave me more tea and cake and could not have been more welcoming. I dried off and visited Keld Lodge for a beer before a delicious dinner back at East View, which is highly recommended.