Pennine Way – Gunstone to Byrness

Gunstone to Byrness-624th October 2017 – 14.9 miles

We parked near the cattle grid on a minor road over the moors, where we had turned round yesterday, and headed straight uphill. Not nearly so boggy, but the weather was a little damp and misty. We followed the wall/fence line for a good way. I was taking note in case it got mistier on the return journey!Gunstone to Byrness-2

Once at the top of the hill, we turned north-west, still following the boundary and the edge of the forest. Now we were on a plateau, it did become boggier in places where it had been well trodden, but still not too bad. It is called Black Hill (again!) which is always a bad sign …

Further along, part of the forest alongside the Pennine Way had been felled and there were occasional fallen trees along the route. The roots loomed over us. Some trees had fallen across the path and we clambered over or under some. Others, we had to edge past as the soil under where the roots had been had turned to what can only be described as gloop! (I learned afterwards that this section has always had a bad reputation, even without the forestry works, and some avoid it, as we did on the return journey).

It was with some relief that we reached the forestry road and followed that for a short while, until the Pennine Way was signposted off to the left. “Good job I noticed that,” I remarked, as it had looked a straight route. Sure enough, the path ran parallel to the forestry road. It was difficult and overgrown and eventually led us back on to the forestry road, where other walkers had obviously also had enough and headed back to the gravel surface. There was one other loop like this which we avoided.Gunstone to Byrness-7

The weather had brightened up and it was good to be able to see the colours in the forest and the view to the hills in the north. The forestry road continued all the way to Blakhopeburnhaugh, where there was a small car park. We decided to carry on a bit longer, following the path along the river, turning round where the way met a road at a campsite on the edge of Byrness. Gunstone to Byrness-5

We returned along the forest road and actually met another person, walking the Pennine Way! That’s the only walker we met in 4 days!

We kept to the forest road, going cautiously past the forestry worker piling up logs, and followed the forest road down to the country road where we had parked the car. Gunstone to Byrness-8

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Pennine Way: Bellingham to Gunstone

Pennine Way23 October 2017 – 15.4 miles

We parked again in Bellingham near the bridge and followed the river into town. The Way was not signed at all from here and we initially headed up the wrong road before checking the map. Cycle routes are well signed here so why they couldn’t at least have added an acorn somewhere, I don’t know. Still, it gave us the chance to see this rather nice Harvest cross outside a church.Pennine Way-2

We headed uphill on a road for quite a way before heading off on a farm track then slightly uphill and onto moorland. There is a choice of route here – we went for the one further uphill, hoping it might be drier. It wasn’t too bad, certainly not compared with previous days, and was straightforward to follow. We followed the course of an old mining railway down to the road. It was a bit of an effort to get through the gate on the other side without mishap, but we managed.  Pennine Way-6

However, I think the adventure of getting round the puddle distracted us from the map and we headed off along the track until we came to a fork, where we checked the map and retraced our steps! The correct path was not obvious from the gateway, but became clearer once we were on it. The guidebook says to head towards grouse butts, but we didn’t see any. Pennine Way-8

The path through the moorland heather was narrow but clearly defined – so unlike the heavily-used and eroded paths further south on the Pennine Way. It was wet in places, but solid.  Strangely, the 1:50000 OS map shows a public footpath routed to the west of where it shows the diamonds of the Pennine Way, whereas the 1:25000 map shows the Pennine Way being contiguous with the footpath! Our GPS track shows us following the diamonds of the 1:50000 version and it was the only path visible on the ground.Pennine Way-9

We continued on to where the Way meets a minor road across the moors at a cattle grid, marked on some maps as ‘Gunstone’. From here we could follow tracks and roads back into Bellingham. It felt like a bit of a slog on the road but preferable (and twice the speed) of returning by the same route over the hills. PW Bellingham to Gunstone

Pennine Way: Bellingham to Warks Burn

Pennine Way-822 October 2017 – 12.2 miles

We parked on the outskirts of Bellingham on a clear, bright Sunday morning, admiring the bridge over the River North Tyne and this building, which must once have been a bridge-keeper’s lodge.

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We walked along the road for a while, until the Way headed uphill over fields of sheep. It was rough and a bit wet, but nothing like as boggy as yesterday had been. However, on top of the hill – flat and peaty – bog! There were waymarkers and a few boards across the worst part. Of course, the trouble with boards is that everyone gets on and off at similar points so that in turn becomes bog!

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We then turned along a more solid track, past a radio mast on the ridge which we had been able to see from a long way off yesterday. Again, from this vantage point, it looked like we had the map spread out in front of us. We came down off the ridge through a rocky path, and past some old farms, one of which rejoiced in the name of Shitlington Hall, where we said hello to a cheery farmer. We were surprised to have to ford a small stream as there is no mention of this in the guidebook.

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We headed down to a stream (the Houxty Burn – another great name)and followed this a short way, catching a brief blue flash of a kingfisher. Across the bridge, we headed steeply uphill, and had lunch sitting on a fallen tree.

Today was far less boggy than yesterday, and seemed to have more variety which helped. It was still nice to have the next section along a quiet country lane, up to a house, Lowstead, where the Way has been slightly deviated to go around the newly renovated garden which, presumably, it used to go through! Who can blame them for that? We didn’t have a rest on their garden seat though!Pennine Way-3

A few more fields brought us to the footbridge over Warks Burn, our turnaround point.

On the way back, we saw a mother and small son sitting on another seat outside Lowstead, the only “walkers” (we assumed they had been!) we met all day. We deviated slightly on the way back to walk further along the road and have it easier underfoot.PW-Bellingham-to-Warks-Burn

Pennine Way: Hadrian’s Wall to Warks Burn

Pennine Way-321st October 2017 – 14.8 miles

We stayed at a hotel in Chollerford, having been booked in there on Thursday evening when we were told our cottage in Bellingham was double booked! At least the letting agent sorted it out before we left home …

We started out planning to park at Housesteads, but then worked out how much it would cost for the full day (priced at 3 hours, then every additional hour! It would have been well over £10). We found a lay-by further along the road, conveniently opposite Rapishaw Gap where the Pennine Way heads north away from Hadrian’s Wall. It was hard work heading uphill, as I am just about recovered from a cough/virus  but it was a steep hill!

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Rapishaw Gap – the Pennine Way heads north

The view from Hadrian’s Wall is impressive as you could see the landscape and our route laid out in front of us. We headed downhill, past some noisy cows, and across a muddy field, picking our way around the wettest parts. We realised we had headed a bit to the west and corrected a little to meet the farm track at the right place. (On the way back, we managed to follow the route across this part and it was better)

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Boggy underfoot

We headed into the woods, pleased that it would be drier underfoot – how wrong can you be? A short way into the woods and the ground became a quagmire. It was worse than out on the fields and common land as you were hemmed in by close-growing conifers with hardly any room for an alternative route. I used my trekking pole to test the ground in front of me – I poked one firm looking piece of green grass and it wobbled! It was a relief to get out onto the boggy moorland again.

It felt fairly empty and bleak, with not much to look at, apart from this old tree-filled sheep fold. It was quite nice to look back and see the ridge that Hadrian’s Wall runs along. We did say it was no wonder the Romans hadn’t come this far north, especially in those sandals (yes, I know …).

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Group of trees in a sheepfold – a landmark in bare moorland

The next section of wood wasn’t nearly as bad as the first, and we stopped here for lunch. It had quite a creepy feel about it though, and I was rather glad not be alone. That’s not like me, but I really didn’t enjoy today at all! What a relief to get to the road, by a house rejoicing in the name of ‘Willowbog‘, which was a bonsai nursery. The next section of wood had a tarmac byway. Normally, this would look rather boring, but it was dry and solid.

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Byway near Broadpool Common

We got to the bridge over Warks Burn and turned around as it was 2:30 p.m. which was our cut off time. We were only a little short of our target which was the farm and road about half a mile away, but it had been slow and heavy going.

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Warks Burn

Unfortunately, there was no alternative route back. It didn’t seem quite as bad returning – perhaps knowing what was coming helped – and we didn’t pick our way round but just trudged through the mud! It was just getting dark when we reached the car.

PW Hadrian's Wall to Warks Burn

 

Haltwhistle to Housesteads

pw-haltwhistle-housesteads-527 October 2016 – 11 miles

We packed up our holiday cottage and drove a short way up the road to park on the roadside. We headed across a field to Hadrian’s Wall. The way today followed the Wall and so wayfinding was no problem at all. There were also more people around than yesterday.

The Wall itself is extant for most of the route, with the foundations of some turrets visible, and some of the milecastles well preserved.pw-haltwhistle-housesteads-2 It would be good one day to take it a bit slower and actually look at what is visible on the ground. The weather was a lot duller and cooler today with a cold wind.

Views stretched for a good distance in all directions, and it was good to look west and see where we had walked two days ago. Looking forward, there were outcrops of crags as good visible landmarks. We had lunch sheltered in a wood on top of one of these crags.pw-haltwhistle-housesteads

Rather nice to see Sycamore Gap, such a famous view. pw-sycamore-gap

The Pennine Way leaves Hadrian’s Wall at Turret 37A and we could see it heading north across what could be rather wet ground!pw-haltwhistle-housesteads-4 As Housesteads was less than a mile away, we kept going to turn around there, expecting coffee and cake. What a disappointment – they only had a drinks machine! – so we had an ice-cream and a toilet stop before heading back.

We did try to go for some of the way along the Military Way, just south of the Wall, and rather more level! We didn’t stay on it all the way, but we missed out the worst of the ups and downs.

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Lambley to Kirkhaugh

pw-lamley-kirkhaugh26 October 2016 – 14.4 miles

We parked in the village of Lambley then walked the short distance to the Pennine Way (where we should have been yesterday!). Despite being along the route of a Roman road – the Maiden Way – it wasn’t terribly dry going. However, there were boards set around the stiles to get you over the worst bits.pw-lamley-kirkhaugh-2

The weather was a bit greyer than yesterday and getting a bit chilly. We could hear shooting going on up higher on the moors and at one point, as we walked past, a man shouted and waved a red flag, signalling for the shooting to stop as we passed. I assume they weren’t firing towards the Pennine Way, but that they stopped to lessen the danger of someone swinging round in our direction!pw-lamley-kirkhaugh-3

We got down to the valley at Burnstones, crossed by a railway viaduct, and had lunch above the river, facing a rather nice manor house (Knarsdale Hall) which we decided was where the shooting parties were based.

The Pennine Way then runs parallel to the disused railway line and we could see a few people walking along it – nobody on the Pennine Way! At one point, behind a small row of cottages, the Way takes you over their back walls and through their gardens (there are fields behind!).

We reached the delightfully named village of Slaggyford, where there was work going on along the railway as the narrow gauge line is being extended to here.

pw-lamley-kirkhaugh-4A short walk along the road took us to a path along the River South Tyne and then to Lintley, the end of the narrow-gauge railway, where we stopped to watch a train leave!

pw-south-tyne-railwayIt was drizzling off and on by now, so it was good to finally reach Kirkhaugh Station for the return journey along the railway. We did have to retrace our route around Slaggyford for a while because of the works, but otherwise it was an easy and straightforward route back. pw-south-tyne-railway-2We did end up walking through the front garden of the disused station house at Lambley, but in our defence, the sign that makes it clear that this is private was on the far side! We got back to the car at dusk, not as dark as yesterday!

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Haltwhistle to Lambley

pennine-way-hadrians-wall25 October 2016 – 18 miles

Today was possibly one of the best and worst days of the Pennine Way!

Staying in a holiday cottage just outside Haltwhistle, we had a short walk up the road to join the Pennine Way where it runs alongside Hadrian’s Wall. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. Walking along Hadrian’s Wall was great, interesting and easy wayfinding. There were quite a few walkers about, some obviously just visiting the Wall with others looking as if they were doing some long distance walking. We had lunch at Walltown Crags picnic site, showing how the area had been quarried in the 19th and 20th century – it seems unthinkable to be quarrying until relatively recently in such an historic area!

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Walking further along the route of the wall, we came to the rather impressive ruins of Thirwall Castle.

pennine-way-hadrians-wall-3Shortly after this, the Pennine Way splits from the Hadrian’s Wall Path, and we saw no othe walkers – apart from one man in the distance on the moors.

After crossing the busy A69 we headed towards open moorland, first on a good track which soon petered out. Some of the ground was very wet – there was a board walk along one stretch but as there was a huge muddy area in front of it, we skirted round. The path was very difficult to find and we ended up following a fence line to get back on course. Even looking back, the path was not really visible on the ground. Blenkinsopp Common was very wet, and we just had to find the best route across while staying on course (luckily the Pennine Way runs in a pretty straight line). This was where we saw the other walker – he was walking alongside a wall – I wonder if the ground was any more solid? At least it was just wet, not as muddy and peaty as some sections further south.

pennine-way-hadrians-wall-5The next section was similarly wet, with some boardwalks, but not nearly enough! I think we were not quite on the route for some parts, but we were just keeping going to get off the moor!pennine-way-hadrians-wall-6

The next section was rough ground, but a lot drier. The GPS had been going through batteries all day, and now the last set gave up. But we set off in what we thought was the correct line, then ended up at the road about a mile north of where we should be. We had over-compensated to the left, but this was no bad thing as we walked down the road to where we had intended to be – much easier!

This took us to the village of Lambley from where a disused railway line has been turned into a foot & cycle path to take us back to Haltwhistle. It began at this viaduct over the River Tyne.pennine-way-hadrians-wall-7pennine-way-hadrians-wall-8

We had realised that it would be getting dark and so a railway track would be a feasible walk. It was completely dark when we got back to Haltwhistle, very glad to be there and very glad of the hearty dinner in the Black Bull (which had been recommended!).

haltwhistle-to-lamley