Journeyer Judith Sager
Report by:Judith Sager
Walk Date: 5th to 21st October 2015
I walked the Pennine Journey over 17 days in October 2015 using B&Bs but carrying all my gear myself. As I don’t like to rely on guide books and prefer maps, the guide book was left at home, and thanks to the great people at Aqua3 creating me three custom strip maps I managed to get the map count down to just 5 for the whole journey.
Day 1 Settle to Horton-in-Ribblesdale
A short day due to having to travel to Settle by train in the morning. I included Pen Y Ghent which meant I deviated from the official route at Moor Head Lane to follow the wall up on to the summit. Due to strong winds and rain rather than reversing back down the steep steps of Pen Y Ghent I went over the summit and into Horton via the Pennine Way accepting that I would have to repeat some of this the next day.
Day 2 Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Buckden
A cloudy start but the weather improved as the day wore on. I followed the route as described in the guide book, and was pleasantly surprised to find it took me past a camping barn owned by an old work colleague which enabled me to have a sneaky cup of tea before my ascent over Horse Head.
Day 3 Buckden to Askrigg
Overnight there was torrential rain which caused me to delay my start as late as possible in the hope that the rain would ease off by mid morning as forecast. The rain made fording the many streams entertaining; certainly one was crossed courtesy of a farm gate that fenced the stream, which would otherwise have been impassable. Semer water had all but reached the road it was so full and the car park was somewhere under it. The rain eventually eased off and with a quick cafe stop at Bainbridge I had just about dried out by the time I reached Askrigg.
Day 4 Askrigg to Tan Hill
The road section from Askrigg to Gunnerside was more pleasant than I was expecting with virtually no traffic, and due to making good time I stopped at the cafe in Gunnerside before continuing onto Keld. Having done the Pennine Way a couple of times the final stretch up to the Tan Hill was known although I had only ever previously done it in descent. This was my first overnight stay at the Tan Hill. Rumour had it that I should have been able to see the Northern Lights that night following a good display the previous night in Leeds. Despite braving the chilly night sadly only a faint green glow was seen.
Day 5 Tan Hill to Middleton-in-Teesdale
Having crossed Sleightholme moor several times previously I’m pleased to say I know its quirks and managed to keep my feet dry. The Tan Hill staff do recommend in or after wet weather that you stick to the road. Rather than divert into Bowes I opted to stick to the Pennine Way into Middleton, the last few ups and downs of which are quite wearying on the legs.
Day 6 Middleton-in-Teesdale to Westgate
The day started well with quick progress made to Langdon Beck, and I managed to negotiate the fields between there and Scar End without too much difficulty, albeit an interesting stile or two. On leaving Scar End I found a reasonable path on the ground but soon determined that it was heading in slightly the wrong direction so struck off across the moor to find the ruined hut. This I did with little problem but could then find no trace of a path to take me to the invisible road. Not having the guide book I took an educated guess reasoning that the road would be where the telegraph poles were visible on the skyline and just headed across boggy tussocky ground to the highest pole. Miraculously I found little earthen bridges for many of the water courses, which meant my feet stayed dry and the chosen route got me eventually to the road. The owners for the B&B were awaiting my arrival having been forewarned by one of their neighbours higher up the valley that I was on my way. The B&B was superb and as they had the guide book I looked up the route description for the moor section to find it tallied with my findings. I am yet to decide whether forewarned and forearmed is better than the surprise that I got.
Day 7 Westgate to Edmundbuyers
Due to a lack of accommodation in Blanchland I opted to walk off route to stay in Edmundbuyers leaving the route at Bolt’s Law to drop slowly down a good track all the way to Edmundbuyers. This was a pleasant day with generally easy walking, although I was glad to reach my accommodation.
Day 8 Edmundbuyers to Acomb
This was to be a long day so I had an early start to walk across the moor to Blanchland to regain the official route. Fortunately the bridleway across the moor was well trodden and easy going and I quickly regained the official route at the pretty village of Blanchland. With many miles still to go I made fast progress to the ruins of Dukesfield Smelt Mill where I stopped for lunch. Surprisingly I made it into Hexham for 1430 so stopped once more for coffee and cake before the short climb to Acomb.
Day 9 Acomb to Twice Brewed
After my long day the preceding day I found this day hard going. I never like road walking and I found it hard going to Walwick with not much to distract from the pounding of the feet. The going was far more pleasant from there onwards but for those who don’t know be prepared for a surprising amount of up and down along Hadrian’s Wall.
Day 10 Twice Brewed to Greenhead
A short day due to lack of other suitable accommodation points but I have to say I was glad of the rest, although again the ups and downs of Hadrian’s wall made the day feel harder than it should. Given the shortness of the day I took my time conversing with the many people who were walking the wall and stopped to have a good look round the remains of Thirlwall Castle. Interestingly I almost missed the left turn into Greenhead as there is a new cycle route which I didn’t take, but then only just noticed the narrow path down the side of the railway line.
Day 11 Greenhead to Alston
A fast pace meant I was in time for lunch at the Kirkstyle Inn which requires a short deviation from route but is well worth it. Previously I have then always just followed the South Tyne Trail into Alston, but with time on my hands I decided to stick to the official route that is also the Pennine Way. Sadly there is little to see of the roman fort at Whitley Castle, although there is an information board and a beautifully carved bench to sit on. But for those in hurry the South Tyne Trail provides an easier route into Alston with little difference in scenery.
Day 12 Alston to Dufton
This was to be my longest day so it was approached with some trepidation. Fortunately the YHA does a 0730 breakfast allowing an early start for the pleasant walk to Garrigill. The long track up to Greg’s hut was done in almost zero visibility with low lying cloud and drizzle, and the hut was a pleasant respite for lunch. On crossing the ridge the weather improved dramatically for the descent into the Eden valley. The stretch between Milburn and Knock was entertaining as I seemed to be masquerading as the Pied Piper of cattle. A herd of curious bullocks were clearly having a good game of ‘who dares’ following me as closely as possible through several fields, getting a telling off from me every now and again when they got just too close for comfort.
Day 13 Dufton to Brough
It was great to have a day with plenty of refreshment facilities although I arrived too early in Appleby to justify stopping. I therefore briefly diverted off route for a pint and sandwich at Sandford. The advertised route problems at Ploughlands have clearly been resolved as I had no issue. And oh what luxury thanks to a booking deal I had managed to get a cheap room at the 5* Inn at Brough and what’s more the manager when she heard how far I’d walked upgraded me to a Kingsize room with ensuite bath… Bliss!
Day 14 Brough to Moorcock Inn
Another long day, but points worth noting for my fellow walkers who aren’t intending to stop at Kirkby Stephen is that there are public toilets just off the path near God’s Bridge, which saves having to find a quiet spot. If you want to look at Pendragon castle then it is all but invisible from the route due to trees so if you have the energy you will need to divert off. Despite seeing very few people on the walk so far I happened to bump into someone I knew near Hell Gill Bridge which led me to have a very welcome break. The Pennine Bridleway down to the Moorcock Inn is now very pleasant and makes for easy walking.
Day 15 Moorcock Inn to Sedbergh
Yet another day where perhaps reading the guidebook properly before you set out would mean forewarned. The pleasant bridleway heading over Grisedale disappears at about the halfway point leading to some tussock hopping. Whilst there is a path on the ground I certainly lost it in a couple of places, and in fact the very pleasant farmer at Uldale farm congratulated me on making it across in good time. I have to admit the weather was on my side with clear blue skies. The rest of the day into Sedbergh is straight forward and after periods of wet weather it is probably worth making a quick diversion to see Cautley Spout.
Day 16 Sedbergh to Ingleton
Once again I was lucky with the weather with early morning mist gradually clearing to give clear blue skies and superb visibility. Rather than follow the advertised route from the summit of Whernside I followed the summit wall all the way until regaining the route near Twistleton Scar End. This path is pleasant walking with only a couple of patches of bog to avoid. On reaching the top of Ingleton falls the cafe/pay point was closed, but people were still walking the falls path so I managed to tag along and see the beauty of the falls.
Day 17 Ingleton to Settle
Sadly the weather changed for my last day and I roughly resembled a drowned rat by the time I reached the summit of Ingleborough in very poor visibility. Fortunately knowing the summit I just headed diagonally right from the trig and reached the descent path that passes Gaping Gill with no difficulty. The path through Trow Gill was slightly slippy due to the rain, but the good news was the rain had now eased. It is then very pleasant walking to Settle and the improving weather gave me chance to dry out before arriving in plenty of time to catch the train home.
In summary a very enjoyable walk in lovely scenery on often unfrequented paths. Thanks must go to those who put all the hard effort in to devising the route.