Pennine Way… the last day. Wild Camp to Kirk Yetholm.. 09/11/13

It was quite warm and smug up on the 610 m contour line. It must have started to freeze at one point, as I found the inner stuck to the outer by frost at one point.Caused by me rolling into it. I had though that where I was camping was quite flat, the night proved it wasn’t. Despite that, I felt that I had slept well, and awoke to a still dark sky and with an aim in mind  – to complete the Pennine Way.

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The tent was coated in frost as I pushed it into the drybag, and I was soon gingerly making my way down the hill, my feet aching with the cold before they had a real chance to warm up. They soon had a chance as I the route climbed back up again to the knoll that the mountain hut sits upon.I didn’t stop to have a look, my aim being to get to the end. The route gradually climbed upwards along the ridge, the views getting better as the light lifted, how ever the Schil was coated in cloud.

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It was a cold,windy and steep pull up to the top of the Schil, the last real mountain of the Pennine Way. Up there, it was like an artic wilderness. The fence coated in ice, and a white dusting on the grass. It was not a place to linger and soon I was dropping downwards.Near some crags I stopped and watched the cloud drifting in and then away again to reveal a warm and golden vista.

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The path led down to a saddle, where for the first time, Kirk Yetholm was mentioned. I had a choice to make, either the high road or the low road, I took the latter, and as I stepped into Scotland, and made my way along the path, the sun rose and bathed me in sunlight. Christ, what a great feeling. It may be the low route, but it was still a steep route down, with good views. 

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The track led down into a lovely glen, and the way was followed  until it reached a road  which ran along the route of the Halter Burn. The sun was out, and the last pull up and over a ridge to Kirk Yetholm did not seem too much of a struggle, it was watching out for the ice on the road that was more of a concern. 

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Walking down into the village, I had that feeling of completion, that I had done it. Looking at the sign, I just stood and thought of the journey that I had made. It was done – Pennine Way completed.

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Pennine Way. Redesdale Forest Wild Camp to Auchope Cairn Wild Camp (610m contour line). 08/11/13.

The night was a warm one, and I awoke at times to the noise of rain showers on the tent. Even though it was not raining when morning came, the tent was still damp when I put it away, and packed up with the aim of getting as far along the Cheviot Ridge as possible. The question was also in my mind, could I do it all in one go? Darkness was still apparent as I made my way along the track, eventually coming to a path along the river. Across the fields I could see the lights of vehicles on the road, but in reality it felt like that no one else was awake. Reaching Bryness, I had the choice of a ford or a bridge, I took the later, and walked up to the small church. This would be my last glimpse of civilisation for many miles, well actually until I reached near Kirk Yetholm, but to be honest there is not much at Bryness, and I was quickly through it.

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A quick walk along the road took me a hole in a hedge, and that was it, the start  of the final challenge of the Pennine Way , the Cheviot Ridge. The path quite quickly gains height first up through a wood, but then drops down again, only to climb again, this time for good with no relent up through autumnal colours.

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Reaching the edge of the forest, the views opened out, to the south I could see the route of yesterday, vast woodlands, whilst up ahead was a craggy route upwards until I reached a fence.

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On the fence there was a sign proclaiming it was the start of the last section of the Pennine Way, and the distance to the end, it felt to be a long way.

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The path was soon at the top of Bryness Hill , at 414m just a baby compared to what was to come, but I could see the way ahead along the ridge to Houx Hil and Windy Crag, and for now the views just kept on coming.

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As I progressed along the ridge to Raven’s Knowe, I could see into Scotland and the Eildon Hills reared up in the distance. Here and there it was boggy, but it was easily avoided by a bit of common sense.

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At Raven’s Knowe I stopped for a bite to eat, but the inactivity quickly made me chill so I was soon on my way, this time dropping height then climbing back up again to Ogre Hill. The route was over slippery duckboards and it was slow going as I made sure that I didn’t slip.

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From Ogre Hill it was down hill to the Roman forts at Chew Green, their outline being visible from afar. The drop in height, I knew would mean more climbing later, but it also meant I could find a reasonably sized stream from which I could fill up with water.

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From the path down to Chew Green , I could see the hills which I would be crossing later.The water at Chew Green was clean and fast and I filled up with 3 litres. Yes, more weight to carry, but probably the last chance of water without dropping a height off the ridge later. The more I stayed high, the quicker and more distance I would achieve.  Leaving Chew Green, took me up a nicely nibbled path, and then onto the route of the old Roman road – Dere Street. By now, I was getting hungry, and my aiming point for lunch – the Yearning Saddle Hut was still some distance off.

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I knew that the hut was beyond the hills in the distance and the GPS gave me a reading of just over two km, but that meant another uphill before I could drop down to the hut. The hut must be a welcome spot in bad weather, for me it was somewhere quiet and out of the wind where I could get the stove out and make some lunch. It was by now about 1200, so I had 4 hours until the light would start to dip, so after eating, it was time to get a cob on.

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After leaving the hut, it was uphill again now onto the main ridge that would lead me to the Cheviot. First Lamb Hill was climbed, the vistas being of wide open spaces and a feeling of being up with the gods.

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The names of the hill had character, from Beefstand to Mozie Law. Up on Mozie, I could see all the way across to the Cheviot and the Schil, and it came into my mind, could I make it before nightfall. My spirits were up, and my pace increased.

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Soon the path was dropping down again to a junction of paths, and a signpost. Here a couple passed me, and from then on, until I got near the top of Windy Gyle they seemed to be out in front. They then just disappeared.

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It was a real physical effort to get up to the cairn on Windy Gyle, then again it is 619 m up and a great viewpoint. Across to the east I could see the cloud blowing over the Cheviot, and the Schil felt within touching distance, but my route would circuit round, and they were both some time away.

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Away to the south I could make out the sound of small arms fire in the Otterburn training area,as I made my way along a mostly flag stone path towards the King’s Seat. It was also getting late in the afternoon and the light was starting to drop, with the sun drifting downwards to the horizon. Time to get a move on. Kirk Yetholm and my dream of a steak there in the Border Hotel was now out of my reach, but rather than a night in a damp tent, I decided on the Auchope Mountain Hut. Still a distance away, but at that time I felt that it was doable.

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By  the time that the path turned up towards the Cheviot at Crookedsike Head I was beginning to tire, and with it nearly being darkness I decided to give the added excursion to the top of the Cheviot a miss. It was more important to get bedded down for the night. I still had the mountain hut in mind, and down below I could see it in the distance. Now I am an advocate of letting the map work for you, and at about the 700m point, I made a decision to start to contour round and down towards the hut far below. In the quickly dropping light it was slow going, but I made progress, whilst in the distance I could see the lights of the Border towns. On the map it is a steep collection of contour lines, which would make it not the best place to camp, but after a while I started to notice some areas of small shelves, and after a rest at one, just decided it was time to be realistic and call it a day. So on the slopes below Auchope Cairn at 610 m, I got the tent out. My last wild camp on the Pennine Way, and one of the most dramatic. The hills rose high as far as I could see, and I felt relaxed that I had nearly done it – the Pennine Way nearly completed. By the next day I would be at the end – in Kirk Yetholm.

Pennine Way. Haughton Green Bothy to Redesdale Forest Wild Camp…(07/11/13).

I awoke in the bothy, warm and feeling refreshed. There is something about that bothy smell, that is just reassuring. Bothies also mean that there is space to spread out, and an ability to pack without having to worry about the confined space inside a tent. It was still dark outside, and as I ventured outside to answer the call of nature, the stars were sparkling bright in the sky. The stove had gone out in the night, so out came the stove, so that I could have something warm before I set off.

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I packed up as the stove cooked the noodles, and after a sweep up, the bothy was clean and tidy ready for the next occupant. Shouldering my rucksack, I bolted the door and started off on the next stage of my journey. My aim was to get to Spithope bothy, which is to the north of Bryness. A long haul, but I would need to get to Kirk Yetholm by Saturday am, so it was just to be a case of gritting the teeth and getting on with it. The sky was clear as I made my way along the forest path towards the Pennine Way, the bothy soon going from my view behind me. 

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The Pennine Way was reached, and the way ahead for a while led along a forest track, until it turned off along a boggy forest path.

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The path led to a gateway with a view looking out over Haughton Common, the path snaking its  way across it, it was wet in places, but as I progressed the sun began to rise from the east, with a golden glow emitting across the countryside. 

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The path led to the edge of a harvested forest on the crest of a ridge, with views of the way ahead to the north. The path led downwards, and led through the woods, at times being boggy but generally good going. 

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The path eventually led downwards to a road near to a place known as Willowbog Farm, where according to the sign they grow Bonsai trees.

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The road was followed for a short distance then it followed a really muddy track to another road, where a full breakfast was advertised, but on a Sunday. Oh, well my appetite would have to wait.

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From the road the path followed a path into woodland, into what I can only describe as one of the worst parts of the way. People rant about the bogs on Kinder, but the path here was just a quagmire, at times up to my knees and really slow going. I was glad to reach the gateway back onto open land, but it was still boggy underfoot. Whilst in the distance I could just make out the distinctively named Shitlington Crag, which would be on my route later on. 

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The path was vague in places as it led north over moorland to the valley holding Warks Burn,  with at the bridge a promise of refreshments being promised next to the gate.

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The path led up to Horneystead, where I spotted a sign about refreshments, but wanting to crack on I didn’t stop, maybe that was a mistake as I was soon to run out of water. By the time that I reached Lowstead, it felt like at times no headway was being made, I was but sometimes distance on a map just does n’t seem to correlate with what is done on foot. From Lowstead, it was quite a bit of raod walking, my only company being a number of frisky cattle, which I quickly made my way past, swearing at them to keep them at a safe distance.

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The road turned north and in the distance I could see the fabled Shitlington Crags. I knew once I got to there, Bellingham and a break would not be too far.

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As is the Pennine Way, there is no easy way to it. To get to Shitlington meant a descent downwards to the Houxty Burn, where a footbridge was crossed. Here I decided to have a rest, and just have a couple of minutes. 

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The rest gave me time to charge my batteries, and I was soon back on the path with a renewed vigour, the path leading up through a farm, my progress being closely watched by the farm dogs, which thankfully kept their distance. Leaving the farm, the route then led uphill over closely nibbled grass to the fence line at the base of Shitlington Crags. However, my route was blocked  – by cows. Luckily they soon moved after a bit of encouragement. Before heading up the path, I had a chuckle at the nearby sign.

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Getting up to the crags was a good feeling, the views wide and I was soon up the ridge top track.

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Bellingham was now within reach, and to the north I could see my way ahead the hills rising upwards. For now it was down hill and then along the road eventually crossing the River North Tyne and into Bellingham, where I stopped at the Cheviot for a bite to eat.

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At the Cheviot I had burger and chips, and restocked on water. It was a long way to Bryness, but boy was I going to try and get there. The route leads up the road out of the village, the views opening up as the height is gained before turning off onto a farm track which takes you up to Blakelaw Farm. 

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Soon I was up in the hills again the route only  marked by posts. I had read in the Wainright book about an alternative route, which I stupidly took, it was hard going over boggy terrain in places. I would have been better following the normal route. It would have been higher, but I am sure in retrospect that I would have been quicker.

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Reaching the B6320, it was back on to open moorland, and the feeling of being remote arose. From now only, in reality it was just me and me, I had then  tent in my rucksack, but still had the aim to reach Spithope bothy. Climbing up Deerplay, I could see the Cheviots to the now, and I whooped with joy, I could taste Kirk Yetholm at last, and it felt well within my reach. Whilst to the south I could see the slately grey outline of Cross Fell, Dun Fell and Great Dun Fell.

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On reaching the top of Whitley Pike, I could see the monument on Padon Hill, and also the hills above Bryness, but the weather was also to close in. The rain and wind started and I would soon have to make a decision. At the road there is an option, whether head over the slopes of Padon Hill, or to take the original route to Gibshiel into the mass of the border forest. 

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I decided to take the road route, and was glad that I did, as soon it was belting with rain, and the light started to dip as I reached the isolated house at Gibshiel.

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Entering the wood, I had thought that the going would be good on the forest track. I was wrong, forestry operations had been going on, and the track was rough, boggy and slow going underfoot in places. 

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I soon rejoined the Pennine Way which came down from Brownrigg Head, but the going got no easier. On the way I had past a massive forestry vehicle coming along the track. I made sure that my headtorch was on as it went past, not wanting to get flattened. 

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On the way I past a sign welcoming Pennine Way walkers, at that time with the track the way it was, i didn’t feel that welcomed. The next couple of hours were in the dark, along a forestry road, which dropped height, the sky wide and bright at times, then beginning to cloud over and spotting with rain. Suddenly in the distance I spotted headlights and a lorry came past into the woods. Again I was alone,  and realising the distance to Spithope began to think about camping. Everywhere seemed to be boggy and rough and I continued onwards. I had come far, according to the guidebook, what I had done, should have taken me two days, but had further to go the next day,so I pushed on. I reached Blakehopeburnhaugh, and seeing that the path runs near a river started to plan. My eyes looked through the torch lit gloom looking for good spots to camp. Then I saw a path leading off into the woods, and I found  a nice flat area. I needed no persuasion, and then tent was soon up. 

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Pennine Way. Greenhead to Haughton Green Bothy. 06/11/2013

The time had come to start the final section of the Pennine Way, that being the section from Greenhead up to Kirk Yetholm. To get to Greenhead meant a bus to Bury, then Bolton and the train to Carlisle. A short walk in Carlisle led to the bus station and then the bus to Greenhead. The bus driver dropped me off right where the Pennine Way leaves the road, and here I was ready to walk the final 107km.

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The path led along the side of some brick houses then crossed the railway line. It was muddy underfoot, and a bit of a squelch towards the ruin of Thirwall Castle. 

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To the side of the castle a footpath led to a bridge over the stream, and then it was the start of the uphill. Not much of a hill in respect to the others on the way, but it still took a bit of effort.

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There was not much to see of Hadrian’s Wall so far, just a ditch which was followed up to a ladder stile. The path then led to the  old Walltown Quarry, where I passed a lady walking a spaniel puppy. Up on the hill I could Hadrian’s Wall, and after another pull up a hill I was at my first real relic of the wall. By now, there was a cold wind blowing, and it was hat and gloves on whilst I made my way along the up and down path.

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To the east I could see the way ahead, a series of cresting crags rising upwards, though with quite a bit of the downward in between.The next bit of downward soon came, and  below there was a land rover parked up, most probably a farmer working nearby. The downhill was short and steep, and the uphill was the same to a ruin of an old mile castle. Here I stopped for a breather, and had a mars to eat.

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To the north of the wall, it seemed that there was just wilderness, a brown scope of moorland and forest reaching into the distance. You can just imagine this being described as the end of the world. 

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The path followed the ridge and soon I was in the woodland of Cockmount Hill, though lead back out into the open landscape along side the wall. Work was going on next to the footpath, the ‘wall’ being repaired, though in reality it was a drystone wall, the original being just the foundation.

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The vestiges of Great Chesters Fort were past, though to be honest just lumps and bumps and nothing to write home about. The path led down to Cawfields Quarry, where there is a car park, and here I encountered the beings known as the Japanese Tourist. Their cameras were snapping away, with two of them perched on a stone at the side of the water. it seemed at one point that they were going to dive in, maybe I thought, that they were the Olympic swimming team, no wonder they never win anything.

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They moved on, and the path led up to what can only be described as one of the best parts of the wall. Here the path led upwards alongside it.

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For the next couple of Km, it was a matter of just up and down, which to be honest felt like a slog at times, but it had to be done. At the trig point on Windshield Crags I watched a helicopter manoevering up and down, it turned out to be an apache attack helicopter.The rain soon started and stayed for a while.

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Next to Hotbank Lough, the path ran alongside a sheer drop to the depths below, then followed a woodland path down, and then began the final climb on the wall up to Hotbank Crags.

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Up on Hotbank Crags, the view back was impressive and I could see back along the way that I had come, all the ups and down.

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Whilst to the north was the way forwards into the wilds of Northumberland, and my aim for the night – Haughton Green Bothy. First the path led steeply downwards to a ladder stile and a sign that pointed northwards.

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After leaving the wall, it was easier walking in respect to gradient, but it was boggy and muddy in places. I managed to avoid the worst of it, until in I went up to my knee in claggy clay, thankfully I had gaiters on, otherwise it would have been a very wet and uncomfortable walk for the next few kilometres. 

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As the light began to dip, I reached the start of the forest track that would lead me to where I would turn off onto a footpath that points in the direction of the bothy. 

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The path led off into waist high grass, along a boggy path, which really gave me the feeling of being away from it all. 

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Soon I could see the roof of the bothy, and I found it empty but  in a clean condition. The main priority was to get the stove going. Next to the stove there was some logs, but they were too big to fit in, but in the wood store I found some wooden lumps which soon were burning. Stove on the top to cook the pasta, I gathered more wood and as it got dark sat  eating my pasta whilst reading the bothy book.

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21/09/13. Tan Hill Inn to Kirkby Stephen. Bog Trotting, Mooning and Sore Feet.

I awoke to a quiet morning, in the distance the lights of the industrial east were still evident, and it looked like a nice day. I needed to get water and looked at the map for a route, it would be either the road or cross country. Cross country, would be the  shortest option, but possibly the hardest option as well. 

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As I prepared to leave the cloud came rolling in, and I could envisage a day of walking on compass bearings and  macro navigation in the hills. I left along the road west, and past some day walkers getting out of their cars. They said it was sunny over in the Eden Valley, so it gave me a bit of a boost. The road walking soon made it clear that I would not last long, my right heel was burning with a blister, and as I knew I had no option but to continue, I soon took to the moorland. Here and there were bumps and filled in mine shafts, and as I dropped down to the Drover Hole Sike the cloud began to lift with a warming sun illuminating Great Shunner Fell and the other hills. It all felt golden and my heel felt the benefit for being off the road.

 

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The sike crossed I contoured upwards through tussocks and reeds, gradually gaining height, eventually reaching the fence line on the flat saddle between Hugh Seat Nab and Thomas Gill Hill. In the distance I could see Nine Standards and the back of the Mallertang Hills.

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My aim was to get to Nine Standards and low and behold there seemed to be a fence line leading in that direction. It soon became clear that it wasn’t that easy. Sandy Rigg Gurren, is a watershed, and it was a rolling terrain of peat hags and bog.

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I remembered that sheep don’t like getting their feet wet, so I tried to follow a sheep trod. In the process I found a lovely stream. Now I needed water (that at Tan Hill was a bit too cloudy for me), so I stopped and got the stove out. Here I was in the morning cooking pasta with sun dried tomato sauce, it was delictable. I filled up with water here, it may have looked like pee, but it was fresh and peaty filtered – hence the colour. One of the most refreshing drinks you can have on a hill, apart of course from the odd can of Irn Bru. 

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The fence line was only  about 50 m away, and looking at it from a vantage point it looked to get better and easy walking. As I got nearer, it levelled out, but became increasingly boggy, and by boggy I mean a quaking bog. One step onto it and the rest of it moved. Not knowing how deep the water would be beneath its crust, I quickly back tracked.

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I had to circle round, and eventually got on firmer ground, and then followed Sandy Rigg Gutter, walking through heather and short grass at times. It took me to a ridge which lead to Ravenseat Moor. Nine Standards looked closer, but up here it was peat hag time again. Looking back they were like a black sea. 

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Between me and Nine Standards was the head of a valley, I could walk all the way round, or cut across contouring as I went. I did the latter and tried to stay as high as possible. At times  I got on sheep trods and at others it was a case of just getting on with it.  I came to Brownber Edge, then dropped down and climbed up along the edge of a shallow valley past a waterfall known as Winton Force. Nine Standards was now within my reach, and crossing Millstone Hags I could see figures around the cairns. 

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I was getting hot, so stopped to take off my  jacket and put on my bright blue keela top. As I got nearer the bottom to the Rig, I saw a figure next to one of the cairns. They turned round, dropped their trouser and mooned!! They then squatted down and did their business. How they didn’t see me is beyond belief. On getting up to Nine Standards, the mooner turned out to be an elderly lady, who was setting off with her walking group.

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Near where she did her business, a group of four walkers had stopped. I went over and warned them of what may be around their bags. Turns out that they were from California, I wished them on their way, and started my descent. The could had come back in, but on my way down it started to clear – Wild Boar Fell, the Howgills and the Eastern Lakes were in view.

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I met more walkers including two Texans, and a group asking about how boggy the track was. To get to Kirkby Stephen would mean more road walking, so I turned into a limestone valley to Ladthwaite.

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A nice little spot, and saw a red squirrel. The path then took me down near the dramatic Ladthwaite Beck, which runs along the limestone strata at an angle.

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The path took me down to an old railway, and from near here the views were great  – the heights of Cross Fell were bathed in the sun, to think that I was up there a couple of days ago.

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The route now took me along to the Millenium Bridge, a hidden limestone gorge.

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It was one final pull uphill to the railway, where I just stopped and sat for a little while.

Day 11. Pennine Way. Upper Teesdale Wild Camp to Tan Hill Inn. 43km. A long slog.20/09/13.

I went to sleep last night with the sound of the River Tees rushing and I awoke to that. Unzipping the tent door, it was dry and I was hopeful for the day ahead. My plan was to get to Kirkby Stephen by tomorrow, so I would need to put some effort in either today. My aim looking at the map was to get to Tan Hill Inn. It would put me in striking distance of Kirkby Stephen and also complete my aim of getting the middle section of the Pennine Way done, that would just leave the Northumbrian section to do at some point.

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The best bit of sleeping next to a river is that you can just pop down the bank to get the water. Now you may say that water is water, but this was nice water, a bit brown, but that is the peat from the hills.Breakfast was a beef noodle concoction, and after washing up, the tent was packed away and I was on the go. The path followed the river for a while, then  crossed over pasture land to the Langdon Beck.

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Cattle are animals that worry me at times, they move in mass and can be nervous. On the way I passed a Bull warning sign and it said to try not to walk through the herd. On walking down through a field, the herd was spread across the path. Now what should I do, should I just trek on through or take a wide berth round them.

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As I got nearer, they started to get restless, so it was the latter course of action. Of course, it being in the outdoors, it also meant through boggy ground. Soon I was at the wall on the other side of the herd and able to continue on my way.

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Langdon Beck is a substancial tributary of the Tees, and the path followed it to where it joins the Tees and then to a bridge. Looking along the route past Cronkley Farm it was up hill again, so much for the assumption that following a river is flat. Behind the farm were a number of rams, and the path climbed up a little crag, to an area with small juniper bushes.

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By now the rain had come, and looked liked it was to stay,I would just have to out up with it, and hood up I continued onwards.

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After the crag the path drops back down to the Tees, passing more Juniper  bushes, and for a while it was a walk on lovely level turf, passing a quarry on the other bank.

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At Bleabeck Force a small bridge was crossed, and the path started to become more well used and constructed.

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The river also got faster and rougher and soon the roar of High Force was heard.

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From the path it is possible to get very close to the top of the falls, which boils and roars as it drops down.

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Getting back to the path, it was tree and fern lined, which dropped water on me as I went past. A viewing area allowed a view of the whole falls, an impressive sight.

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The next bit of the trail was about 2 km to Low Falls, but is just seemed to be longer, and each time that I came to a waterfall, I would look at the map, and find out that it wasn’t where I was going.

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I was a bit demoralised by the time that I got to the old suspension bridge at Low Force, so decided to go for breakfast at the BowLees visitor centre. I was glad that I went, somewhere warm and dry, and a breakfast that i would like to have again. I took my time, had a chat to the staff there, and then went on my way walking the short distance back to the Pennine Way.

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I felt rejuvinated, and in the distance could make out the mound of Kirkcarron on the horizon. That is where I would be heading and it was the above the turn towards Tan Hill Inn. The path went through farmland and followed the river at times, and then started to climb again, a positive sign I felt, as it meant that I was making some headway.

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Near a small climb I met a couple from Buckinghamshire, who were also walking the route in sections. They were having an easy day, but were aiming to get to Dufton eventually but not today. I said my goodbyes and continued onwards.

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At times, the mound of Kirkcarron felt like it was getting no closer, and the map just seemed to have no progression. Then I saw a group of teenagers up ahead. Walking behind a group gives me the incentive to pass them, and I picked up the pace, whilstling as I went. By the time that I reached them, one of them held the gate open. I suspect that they were doing some type of outdoor expedition as they seemed to shadow me for a while through part of the day. At Middleton-in-Teesdale, the way meets a road. Now I could have been tempted to sample the delights of the town, but I had a destination to reach, so it was up the tarmac that I went. The easy going river side walking was now in the past, and it back to the hills and moors again.

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The path climbs up the grassy flanks of Harter Fell, and at times I had to stop to check my route, there being a number of paths, and I did not want to wander off route on a sheep trod. Looking back a rainbow framed Middleton, and I was soon at the top, where there were more teenagers.

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Passing through Pin Gate, I now had the descent down to Lunedale and Grassholme Reservoir. Up there, the weather was strange, I must have been right on the edge of a weather front, as on one side it was sunny whilst the other it blustered with drizzle.

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Soon though it was dry, but the path led down through muddy fields and on reaching a wall above Grasshole Farm, I just couldn’t get over and fell back in to the muddy depths. It felt a right effort to get over, but I did in the end.

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At Grassholme Reservoir, I stopped for a while, changed into my windproof top and had some wine gums. On the Harveys Map, I was working my way down it towards Tan Hill, but still had a way to go. Setting targets in my mind the next one was to reach Baldersdale. It meant crossing a broad boggy ridge.

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Here I started to meet some Pennine Wayfarers on their way north. Two heavily laiden ones, recalled knee deep bogs further back, whilst further on, another just seemed to have his sleeping bag strapped to the outside of his rucksack.  As I gained height, the views opened out, and to the east I could see the North Yorkshire Moors, whilst behind me where the wild interlands of the Pennines. The ridge was crested and I was soon down at Hannah’s Meadow in Baldersdale. It is a lovely spot.

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Between Baldersdale and Tan Hill, was the subject of moors to be crossed, and then the A66. The route led past Clove Lodge, which the guidebooks seem to give as a destination point, after it I started across the broad boggy moorland that is Cotherstone Moor.

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Here and there was patches of Spaghnum which was crossed with out a lot of trouble. It can’t be nice crossing the moor in the mist, but for me it clear and at Race Yate I started to drop down towards Deepdale. Here I ran out of water, but I had in my mind maybe I could I rest a bit at the shooting hut next to the stream, which is meant to have a room for walkers.

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As I descended I could see the hut and two figures coming towards me. Turns out they were also on the way, they recalled how the bogs leading up to Tan Hill were treacherous and deep, with ‘Brian having gone in up to his waist’. That made me think, and at the hut there was a sign which also gave details of a bad weather route up to the Inn, I kept it in mind.

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The shelter was locked apart from the room at the end for walkers. It was bare, and would be useful in bad weather. There is also a loo at the back. Seeing that made me decide not to get any water here, and I started to climb again over more moorland.

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In the distance I could hear a low rumbling, it was the A66, and on reaching Ravock Castle, I could see south towards the hills rising up from the Stainmore Gap, I’m sure I could see Tan Hill, but it looked a long way away. I would have to pick up the pace, in order to get there today.

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At the A66,  the path runs through an area covered with rubbish then goes through a tunnel under the road and drops down to Gods Bridge, a natural limestone bridge over a stream.

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It was now 1700 and I had two and half hours of  daylight left. It was time to start digging in, especially on getting to Trough Heads it started to rain and the clag moved in. At Bog Scar, I lost my concentration for a short while, and nearly ended walking over the cliff. Luckily I didn’t, and soon found the path leading down to the bridge over Sleightholme Beck.The path leads up a road, which after the empty and for sale Sleightholme Farm becomes a track. It must have been a road at sometime, I began to wonder why it wasn’t used by transport. In the distance I could make out Tan Hill, and with the light dipping and in the rain, I had a decision to make, should I follow the boggy route, or take the bad weather alternative. The latter would mean more height, a longer route and some road walking, but walking through deep bogs in the dark is not fun, so I decided on it. I’m glad that I did, even before I reached the point where it begins I started to misinterpret things. I thought I saw a walking group and it was an old railway carriage, whilst what I thought was a cow was actually a sign.

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The route follows the Sleightholme Moor Road,  and climbs up to 470m near to Great Cocker. I really pushed myself up that track and must have done quicker than 4km /hr. It was dark when I reached the top, so my headtorch was on. I was hopefull of reaching Tan Hill quickly, but that was not to be, the road seemed to go on for an age, and after a while my right heel started to hurt, later on, wet cold and what I suspect was hypoglycaemia I started to wonder across the road and what I thought was the inn was actually a grassy tussock. I went from road sign to road sign, trying to keep going, when the road started to climb again, what a sod I thought, but I just had to carry on. I switched the GPS on and it was 450m to the Inn. It felt like the longest 450m I have done for a long time, and with much apprehension I saw the golden glow of the lights from the Inn. I stumbled up to the door, took my rucksack off and left it in the vestibule, then entered the pub. A fire was roaring away, and I was glad to sit down and have something to eat. I asked about camping and was told it was £2. After eating I headed back out, and round the back of the pub to a craggy area, where I put the tent up. To the east I could see the lights of Darlington and Middlesborough, and for a while I just laid there with the tent door open.

Day 10. Pennine Way. Greg’s Hut Bothy to Wild Camp. Upper Teesdale. 19/09/2013.

The night in the bothy had been a cold one, with no fire going in the stove the fact of being 700m up on the side of a big hill really hit home. I seemed to be awake nearly every hour, shivering, trying to keep warm.

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The bothy is a damp place, and the outside of my sleeping bag was getting damp. I should have brought my down bag and bivi bag to go over, but I decided to carry my summer bag. Lesson learned, one which I won’t forget for a while. At one point I felt something scurry over me, no not a ghost, but most probably the bothy mouse. It must be a fat one, judging by the amount of rubbish, some of it food left in a rubbish sack nearby. Why can’t people carry out their rubbish, or maybe they think that there is a refuse collection up here.

There always comes that point in a bothy on a cold morning when you need to have a pee, you try to delay it, but it just doesn’t work. So trying to be as quick as possible you shuffle to the door and out, only to shuffle back again later. It was time to get some hot scoff down as it would be a long day ahead. Barbecue beef noodles was on the breakfast list, and they were soon eaten.

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Packed away and bothy tidy, I shut the door and made my way up the track.

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The cloud was still down, but for a while it cleared, a gap in the  clouds and I was able to partially appreciate the remoteness of the location.

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As quick as it cleared it clagged back up again. Soon I was turning towards the bulk of Cross Fell, its final heights guarded by a steep climb upwards past Cross Fell  Well, and then up on to the summit plateau.

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Visibility being limited, meant the need for a careful bit of navigation, but stick to the cairns up there and the summit is gained with no hassle. It is not however a place that I would like to walk round in circles, as I could envisage that it would very quickly become all the same and disorientating.

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The route was vague in places as it reached the drop down to Tees Head, and the path seemed to become a raging stream at one point with spaghnum bog all around.

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At Tees head a slab points in the right direction and after a sojourn to the site of the real beginning of Tees Head, I was following a flagstone path up to Little Dun Fell, it may be called little, but it still is some  walk.

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The top is barren, closely cropped grass, and then you are back down for another climb up to Great Dun Fell. Up on top is a big white ball used for navigation and the highest road in England. Due to the mist it was hard to actually see the white ball.

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Nearby, I passed my first people of the day. Two young wayfarers who had come all the way from Edale. After a bit of chat, we were all on our way, for me it was passing the man made gash of Dunfell Hush. What a spooky place in the mist, and despite reading about it, it really hits home about how man has altered the landscape up there.

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Then comes the road for a short while, and it is back to track and slab up to Knock Fell.

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Just below Knock Old Man, I met a bloke who had come from near Barnard Castle, and we had a long chat about the hill, after I left him I came to the cloud base the green patchwork of the Eden valley opened out below.

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With the views, so the route seemed to lighten. Nothing had changed to my kit, but the views and the fact that I was going down hill gave such a boost. Near the bottom of Knock Fell Hush is a rocky area where there is a cairn. Here I just sat for a while taking in what I could see. The vista ranged from Wild Boar Fell, The Calf, High Street, Helvellyn, Blencathra and far distant Criffel. When I lived in Dumfries I used to go up Criffel and be able to see Cross Fell, now I was in the reverse, and boy was the view good.

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Looking down the track, I could see figures, I got on my way, and we soon met each other. Turns out they were also Pennine Way walkers but from the south of England. They asked about the visibility on Cross Fell, I advised them when I was up there it was about 25m. Turns out they were also doing the Pennine Way but in sections. The day before they had been up on the section which runs along Hadrian’s Wall, oh the joy of having transport, but I suppose it is also a bind. They also looked back to the Lakes and remarked about how good they were, I would say that the Howgills, Pennines and Southern Scotland are better, with a greater feeling of remoteness and not as heavily pounded by footwear.

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After leaving them I dropped height quite quickly and soon was crossing the footbridge over Great Rundale Beck.

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At Halsteads, I was surprised by a really nice sheepdog and had a good chat to the farmer.

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The walk was now a lowland one, along muddy paths and I was glad to reach Dufton, where I made frequence of the Stag Inn.

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I was about the only one in there, apart from an old man who was reading the paper.  Refreshed, I set foot outside, by now the sun shinning bright and the cloud had lifted off the tops.

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I knew what lay ahead, uphill all the way to High Cup Nick from the village.

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I had come off the ridge, only to go back up again. Near Bow Hill I met a friendly farmer, with two lovely sheep dogs. They were having a good run. Towards Peeping Hill, more walkers were met, it being mid to late afternoon they were coming down off the hill.

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Across the Eden valley, I could see rain showers blowing in, and the warmth of earlier seemed to go with the wind. Hat back on, and jacket on, I took the height gain slowly but at an even pace. Another farmer went past this time in his landrover towing a trailer in which there were two sheep. I caught up with him at the track end, only to find a walking group also up there. High Cup Nick beckoned for me, though a squally shower brought a short battering of rain, though the weather coming from the west it was behind me. Soon some more walkers passed me, one had an orange buff covering his face. I said my hello, and nice day, he just replied gruffly. All I will say, if you go up hills expect to meet the weather.

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Middle Tongue and Murton Pike rose majestic on the other side of the valley, with a taster of what was to come in the form of the cliffs at the end of the tongue.

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Looking at the map, the path up to High Cup Nick looks flat as you get nearer, it is not though,and undulates up and down for a while, before eventually showing you what most come up here for – High Cup Nick. It is a cliff lined valley, a perfect example of glaciation, with a winding silver stream running down the middle. Getting nearer its apex, the wind started to blow, and with it blew back some of the streams tumbling over its edge, an unexpected shower was gained. At the apex, I sat for a while, and just as I was setting off, a Hercules came up the valley and roared over head.

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Now my route was to take me into the wild isolated area around Maize Beck. It really has a special feel, one which makes you feel so small amongst the work of nature. The sun was now back up in the sky, and I had the wind at my back, unlike the solitary walker who came past me with a face of determination. Up ahead I could see a quad bike going for it over the  bumps on the trail, must have been one of the gamekeepers, as he had a shotgun on the front.

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After that, it was just me. Maize Beck was crossed and then it was up hill again on the path towards the spoil heap that is known as Moss Shop. I’ve got to admit that this must be one of my favourite places, the views over to Mickle Fell were great and  to the east I could also see Falcon Clints.

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It meant that I had crossed the watershed and now was in Upper Teesdale. To the south Mickle Fell is a live firing area which is part of the Warcop Ranges, though I didn’t notice any sign of firing when I was there. Then again I  suspect it does n’t occur during the early evening. At times I do wonder about the Pennine Way route, as it leads down hill then up again, this time on to a track which led to a full on view of the Cow Green Reservoir Dam.

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A bit of water was spilling over, but the real treat was the roar and boiling water of the Cauldron Snout waterfall. It was a delicate journey down the rocks to the bottom, and I was glad that I had got here before nightfall.

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Now it was time to start to think about camping, it was 1700, and nightfall was at 1930. Earlier when I could see Falcon Clints, there looked to be a nice flat area next to the River Tees, but on getting there, it was all bog, and the path led along a rocky route next to the river.

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Little chance to camp it seemed, but I did get to one spot,but it just didn’t feel right.

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I began to resign myself into walking through nightfall, then after what seemed ages I could see light brown golden grass further on. It was flat, next to the river and in an ideal situation. I just wanted to put the tent up and get my head down. So here I was at 1900, tent up, kit stashed away, wine gums eaten and in my sleeping bag. The next thing I knew it was 0130, then 0430. One of the best nights sleep I had had on the hills for a while.

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