Journeyer Frannie Stephens
Report: Frannie Stephens
Walk Date: 9th July to 4th August 2019
I partially camped, partially hostelled the Pennine Journey carrying my kit. I did the first 16 days alone and the last 8 with my mum. I had 3 rest days. For pictures see my Instagram at www.instagram.com/frannies.pennine.journey/
Day 1: Settle to Horton-in-Ribblesdale via Pen-y-ghent
It was a very rainy and cloudy day to start the walk on, but nevertheless I decided to add in a Pen-y-ghent detour as I just couldn’t resist. The visibility on top was about 5 meters but the satisfaction was worth the climb!
Day 2: Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Buckden
It was marginally less rainy and miserable, but the fantastic walk well made up for the weather! A detour to Horse Head trig in the afternoon provided fantastic views and the weather cheered up for a delightful stroll down the river in the afternoon with a pub stop in the middle.
Day 3: Buckden to Askrigg via Buckden Pike
The weather was back to gloomy and the view from Buckden Pike was non-existent, but the afternoon along the lake was gorgeous, if it did drag a little at the end going from Bainbridge to Askrigg.
Day 4: Askrigg to Keld
A truly lovely day- fantastic walk with great weather! One of my favourite days on the whole journey, which was helped by the stop at Gunnerside in the mid-morning. I had first encountered Gunnerside cafe just over a year earlier on my Coast-to-Coast, and it was just as good an experience when returning. The truly lovely man who runs it, the walkers’ portions and the amazing food makes it a must-stop for me whenever I’m around the area. The route up to Keld in the afternoon is lovely and gentle as well. By this time the wet weather had meant that I was nursing several blisters, but this walk managed to make me completely forget about my feet, aching shoulders, or the prospect of a very midgey campsite in the evening!
Day 5: Keld to Bowes via God’s Bridge
After a quick morning walk to a disappointing Tan Hill Inn (desperately overcrowded and ridiculously overpriced), and an afternoon slog through a moor that was more bog and less path, God’s Bridge was a bit of a let-down- despite the solid rain for the past week the river underneath was just a trickle. The detour meant that I was met by a heard of bullocks in a field going into Bowes, which is not a situation I enjoy. My campsite that night was completely swarming with midges, making this possibly one of the worst days of the trip!
Day 6: Bowes to Middleton-in-Teesdale
I got up at 3am and left camp by 4 due to the omnipresent midges- I truly thought I would go crazy if I felt them on my face any longer. This problem has now been remedied by the addition of a midge net to my bivvy bag, however I didn’t manage to buy that until I was safely back in Settle. However, watching the sunrise completely alone on a bleak moor and a lovely walk along a reservoir in the afternoon somewhat remedied my spirits, along with the prospect of a B and B in Middleton-in-Teesdale.
Day 7: Middleton-in-Tees to Langdon Beck
Having sourced some antihistamines at a pharmacy in Middleton-in-Tees for the 90% of my skin that was covered in midge bites, the day went by in a bit of a drowsy haze. Luckily it was a simple walk following a river with some stunning waterfalls and little chance of getting lost. It was also a beautifully sunny day and I got very sunburnt taking a nap in a field in the afternoon.
Day 8: rest day
I compounded the sunburn with more napping, this time on a picnic bench. The blisters got chance for some much-needed recovery.
Day 9: Langdon Beck to Westgate-in-Weardale
It was a short day, albeit over a moor with lots of heather and no path. I had run low on supplies, but when I got into Westgate-in-Weardale not a single shop was open! Luckily there was a bus service to St Johns, which I gratefully took to resupply, otherwise I would have had no meals for the night or the next day as I was camping.
Day 10: Westgate-in-Weardale to Blanchland via Boltslaw
This was a truly lovely walk over gorgeous heather-covered moors with a cool abandoned railway in the middle. The detour to the top of Boltslaw provided amazing views and the weather was cheery to match. Another really great day!
Day 11: Blanchland to Hexham
The morning was nice but the afternoon dragged a little. It was great to stock up on supplies (and boot waterproofer) in Hexham, which seemed like a buzzing metropolis after so many days alone or in hamlets.
Day 12: Hexham to Chollerford
A super relaxed, short rest day where I got the first glimpses of Hadrian’s wall! The campsite that night was much less midgey!
Day 13: Chollerford to Twice Brewed
Another relaxed day with some really interesting roman ruins along the way. Lots of cows but they were all gentle. This section was very busy with lots of Hadrian’s wall walkers, which isn’t what I usually look for in a long distance path, but it made a nice change of pace having been on my own over bleak moors for so long.
Day 14: Twice Brewed to Greenhead
A short day with clear but windy weather. Passed the half-way mark and, at the end, said goodbye to Hadrian’s wall!
Day 15: Greenhead to Kellah
This was supposed to be a short rest day but turned out to be anything but. As the route joined the Pennine Way I was met with a very angry bull. A lady I had met in a Langdon Beck pub had told me that she had experienced a similar problem a year previously, but I had assumed that a farmer wouldn’t keep a bull in a field that not only the Pennine Journey but the Pennine way went through for a year. Having ascertained that there was very little chance of leaving the field the way I intended, I took a detour along the A69 which was incredibly unpleasant as there was no footpath and rejoined the Pennine Journey route on Black Hill where I took a detour to the trig point. The rest of the afternoon was incredibly hot but nice and I reached the lovely B and B in Kellah early.
Day 16: Kellah to Alston
The morning was brilliant- fantastic weather and easy walking along the South Tyne Trail and a great view on top of the Lambley viaduct. It was a long day and the afternoon dragged a bit but it was nice to get to Alston and stock up on supplies.
Day 17: Alston to Garrigill
It was absolutely baking hot (over 30 degrees) so I was very glad that it was a rest day- only 4 miles. I took it very slowly and arrived in Garrigill bunkbarn in the late morning, having paddled in a refreshing river on the way. The only disappointment was that the promised pub in Garrigill was shut, however there was a delightful old-fashioned post office that sold dried food and tins.
Day 18: rest day
I had another rest day to wait for my mum to arrive from London
Day 19: Garrigill to Blencarn
Forget Keld-to-Bowes- THIS was the worst day of the trip. Dense, low down cloud and torrential rain meant that we were warned off Cross Fell- something that irritated me no end as I am rather a stickler for the ‘official’ route when it comes to my long distance walks. Instead we walked along an A road for several miles before finding a nice route along a farm track. The 12.5 mile day turned into a 17.5 mile slog, only mildly improved by a warm and friendly tea room in Melmerby. By the time we got to Blencarn (another publess village) we were exhausted and wetter than I’ve been before or since (under the constant deluge even the best waterproofs were less than perfect).
Day 20: Blencarn to Appleby-in-Westmoorland
A lovely walk on a drizzly day. Route finding in places was difficult, especially due to the torrential rain on the day before but it was a much better day than the previous one!
Day 21: Appleby-in-Westmoorland to Kirkby Stephen
A pleasant day with some slightly tricky navigating. We had an adventure in the afternoon where we were first stuck behind a farmer moving sheep, and then another farmer moving cows! These cows were lovely, however, and greatly improved my impression of their whole species. This newfound appreciation for cows was not to last long, however. It was a long day but an enjoyable one.
Day 22: rest day
Kirkby Stephen is the perfect place to rest and refuel, having an abundance of walking shops and cafes. I also got to reminisce about my Coast to Coast with some walkers in the youth hostel who were currently doing it.
Day 23: Kirkby Stephen to Garsdale Head
Another wet walk but also one with brilliant views and lovely scenery! Some of the streams were tricky to cross but none were impassable and the view from the top of the ridge was worth the work.
Day 24: Garsdale Head to Sedbergh
A very mixed day! Started off wet with a bit of a climb onto a moor where I got chased by a horse (an animal I normally like). The path across the moor was non-existent and going was painfully slow, however the sun did come out for a brief period. The afternoon walk was very pleasant and the Cross Keys inn was truly wonderful- like it was taken straight from the 1930s. We were in good spirits as we left for the final leg into Sedbergh, however a very angry mother cow who we had accidentally separated from her calves (the calves were in a field we had walked past, which the mother had escaped from), had other ideas and chased us into a gorse bush. At this point we decided to abandon the ‘official’ route, backtrack and take the road into Sedbergh, where we were told by a man with binoculars who had been watching our progress that the mother cow had been chasing hikers all afternoon!
Day 25: Sedbergh to Dent
A short rest day along a lovely river. The sun was out and the walking was easy!
Day 26: Dent to Ingleton
Brilliant views from the top of a cloud free Whernside! The afternoon walk along a well-pathed moor then down through the waterfall trail was also lovely. Another highlight of the journey.
Day 27: Ingleton to Settle
Ingleborough was gorgeous and almost free of people, which quickly changed as we went down towards Gaping Gill as there was a potholing event. The afternoon was easy walking, if a little drizzly, and we arrived in Settle just before the heavens opened. After a quick picture on the bridge over the railway we headed to our B and B for a well-deserved rest (and a bottle of celebratory champagne).
I thoroughly enjoyed the walk- through rain, sun and wind (although thankfully not snow), and would definitely repeat it in future. I would like to say thank you to the people who run the website as the route changes were invaluable.