Journeyer Mark Abbott

Journeyer Mark Abbott

Report by: Mark Abbott
Walk Date: 8th Oct 2021 / 26th Oct 2021

My Pennine Journey [PJ] was solo and continuous but included two planned rest days at Blanchland and Appleby. Using accommodation recommended on the PJSC website, bar two, I booked all the overnights in mid-June 2021. I travelled up to Settle by train. I feel railways are a significant feature of many of the landscapes through which the PJ passes and I am an enthusiast.

It was a mid-autumn walk. There were obvious advantages to this, the beautiful autumnal colours for sure and the fact that the more popular locations would be quiet. The days were drawing in though so the time of sunset was of great importance when planning the day’s walk. Some days I arrived in darkness, just as Wainwright had done in 1938. On the very first day I repeated AW’s experience by walking into Buckden well after sunset.

The weather encountered on my PJ was again, similar to AW’s; pleasant north and west bound but deteriorating once I turned south particularly over Cross Fell and Ingleborough.

For navigation I carried 25k OS maps backed up by a GPS fitted with 50k mapping. I also had A Pennine Journey by David and Heather Pitt with me. This helped greatly when more detail was required regarding the route. I also found it provided excellent background information. The mapping and sketches are superb. Additionally I had notes from AW’s wonderful A Pennine Journey, to compare as I progressed. I photographed the whole journey.

The Pennine Journey is of course coincident with several other long-distance walks. It was a highlight to follow new routes whilst returning to many enjoyable walks of the past.

Day 1: Buckden 8th
‘autumnal scorcher’
This was a challenging walk due to the terrain and time constraints but it was also a very hot day. First though a massive breakfast at the Golden Lion in Settle went down well.  Starting with a glorious hike to Langcliffe care was  required descending the limestone steps of Stainforth Scar. As I had ‘done’ Pen-y-ghent a few times I gave it a miss on this occasion. I stopped for lunch at Hull Pot, although it was nowhere near as spectacular as it can be. Reaching Foxup, an orange was a great thirst quencher before the climb over Horse Head. I reached Yockenthwaite as the sun was setting and decided to road walk to Buckden. It was a mild night with light traffic. It was a great welcome at West Winds B&B.


Day 2: Keld
‘dark hours’
After the previous day’s blue skies the day opened overcast. The route was of a comfortable gradient initially, up to the Causeway and then across the moors. It was Saturday, there were a few people about, including a chap bound for Buckden Pike. Then over Stake Moss passing Great Silky Top and looking into unspoilt Cragdale before descending to Stalling Busk. It was here in Oct 1998 that a meeting of The Ramblers was instrumental in the writing of the ‘Right to Roam Bill’ which led ultimately to the CROW Act of 2000.   Lunch above Semer Water was followed by a riverside walk to Bainbridge then the short, dismantled railway section (Hawes branch) to Askrigg. Next a steep climb out and it was drizzling. On Askrigg Common, with time tight, I forked left and descended by road, as AW had done, with splendid views of Oxnop Scar high above. From Muker the route lay across fields, initially flagged then grass and stone paths up Swaledale in darkness, to Keld Lodge for the night.


Day 3: Bowes 10th
‘blue sky start’
I had not stayed at Keld Lodge since it was a youth hostel, it was good to be back. Time to remember the first Pennine Way [PW] and Coast to Coast adventures in the 1980’s. Still great hospitality and an excellent drying room! Fine weather again, over the moors to Tan Hill with sufficient time for a lunchtime pint. Familiar territory, Sleightholme Moor, but I’ve always turned left at Trough Heads, it was interesting to try the Bowes Loop for a change. The only negative was the level of road traffic noise nearing the A66. Despite this it was a lovely walk into Bowes, round the castle and arriving at the ‘Ancient Unicorn.’


Day 4: Middleton 11th
‘Hannah remembered’
Charles Dickens visited Bowes in 1838, I wondered if he had as good a sleep as I did that night. Climbing out of the town I was though somewhat amused at the Roman name for Bowes: Lavatris. The sun shone all day, perfect. Paused for my ‘statutory’ coffee break on Ladyfold Crags, and just enjoyed the ambiance. Goldsborough hill provided fine views, with climbing pitches evident. Dropping down to Blackton, once a YHA property. I recalled the hostel’s description in an old handbook as ‘a green oasis on the Pennine Way. For traditional hostellers seeking rural isolation.’ On a sunny grass bank before Birk Hat lunch beckoned. Through Hannah’s Meadow Nature Reserve I thought of Hannah Huxley who farmed here and lived to 92 years of age. The walk over to Middleton was most enjoyable. I met a couple of ladies doing a section of the PW. The Teesdale Hotel was undergoing some refurbishment but the welcome was great none the less. I also had a single room, a rarity, which as a solo walker, is always highly appreciated.


Day 5: Westgate 12th
a walk of two halves’
Before leaving Middleton I picked up some lunch in a superb deli, then set out on this spectacular walk through  Upper Teesdale. There was enough water in the falls to impress but very few visitors around.  I seemed to reach Cronkley Bridge quickly, stopping for lunch close to the confluence of Langdon Beck with the Tees. At Saur Hill Bridge rain demanded waterproofs which I quickly donned. Soon after I had my first PJ close encounter with a bull [nose ring]. Although standing astride the path, fortunately he was placid. The crossing to Weardale was very testing. The initial fields to Scar End were easy going but underfoot this turned into rough, tussocky grass. The old shooting cabin looked a total wreck as if a bomb had hit it. After Black Law top it was a poor experience plodding across this terrain in gloomy conditions and fading light. It took me an hour to cover the 1¼ miles up to Swinhope Head. However, it was an easy road descent to Westgate, with only a couple of vehicles passing. I arrived at Lands Farm pleased with the day thankfully.


Day 6: Blanchland 13th
‘ long incline’
A lovely stay at the farm, very comfortable and great hospitality from the family. However, a 20% stiff climb out of Westgate immediately after a big breakfast was a memorable resumption. I paused for a while, looking into the enormous hole that is the very active Heights Quarry. The wind was getting up but it was sunny and this helped  make the hike to Rookhope, along the sheltered, raised trackbed, an enjoyable experience. In the village I made a  nav error, corrected on seeking advice from an elderly local. There followed the one mile Bolslaw Incline, mainly 10%, 14% near the top but COLD in that wind. I was glad to reach the old winding house at the top and eat my butties behind a wall. A further stretch on the trackbed then across deserted moorland to the old fluorspar workings near Ramshaw. The final one and a half miles were through beautiful woodland to Blanchland.


Rest Day 14th
The Lord Crewe Arms, excellent, what a treat. My wife joined me here.  We stayed in the village for the whole day. Of interest were the Abbey, the White Monk café, a fine gift shop and the impressive Post Office.


Day 7: Acomb 15th
‘sun throughout’
Another beautiful start to the day, up the road, passing Shildon and Pennypie House, on to Blanchland Moor. AW had enjoyed similar conditions across this attractive moorland. Slaley Forest is largely conifers but in woodland near Steelhall Crags there were fine Scots Pines. Few people about though, I met one dog walker in the forest. Good path above Devil’s Water, passing the Old Smelt Mill site. Road walked to Newbiggin, then path again, heading north to Hexham. After a brief pause by the 7th Century Abbey I crossed Hexham bridge over the iconic Tyne and headed up to Acomb, arriving at the Sun Inn at 1735. A great atmosphere in this traditional hostelry.


Day 8: Once Brewed 16th
‘Reach The Wall’
My earliest start, slipping out of the pub at 0700 and road walking to Plane Trees. Even after several visits to ‘The  Wall’ it is always a special feeling to return. There was no one there, a bit of an anti-climax. The road section from here is quite dreary with the proximity of road traffic, and the long slog up from Chollerford Bridge, past Chesters to Walwick. At least the weather looked promising for the Wall walk, when often it can be the opposite. Doing Hadrian’s Wall Path [HWP] in 2005 it rained heavily all day on this section, this time it was dry, a definite bonus, With reasonable visibility the views were good in all directions. It was even possible to study the layout of Vallum and Ditch rather than march on through a relentless downpour.  Paused at Milecastle 34 for lunch, looking out over a ‘ring and bailey.’ A brief pause at Housesteads to eventually arrive at the now ‘celebrity’ sycamore tree as a  photographer was setting up his tripod.  I stayed the night at the YHA Sill At Hadrian’s Wall. Opened in 2017 this new  hostel is part of the National Landscape Discovery Centre,  a partnership with Northumberland National Park [NNP]. The YHA have run a hostel here since 1934. The first YH was named ‘Once Brewed’ with reference to the nearby pub ‘Twice Brewed’. The second hostel was also built jointly with NNP in 1968. The latest building has a stunning design and combines modern facilities with many of the traditions of the YHA.


Day 9: Longbyre 17th
‘milecastle & turret’
It was interesting to visit The Sill after several stays at the previous 60’s hostel. The new name was a bit of a mouthful though. Great staff but international guest numbers were still down due to the covid pandemic. Returning to the walk it was an early climb up to the trig point on Winshields, where temp a cool 4°C. The initial light drizzle cleared though providing excellent visibility. Extensive views towards the border forest while below to the south, the farm where we had camped in 2005.  Throughout the morning the course of the Vallum was very conspicuous, frequent milecastles and turrets on the Wall, then a short climb above the old quarry at Cawfield Crags, before Great Chesters.  The combined PJ and HWP then trends west sou’west to Holmhead with a final short roadwalk up to Longbyre and ‘Four Wynds’ B&B for the night. The proprietors met me outside in the lane on arrival. The accommodation was a very comfortable and cosy pod, ‘Eden Lodge.’


Day 10: Alston 18th
‘ex-industrial land’
Back to Greenhead in the morning to cross the A69 onto rough grassland, following the PW throughout the day. There were plenty of grazing cattle for the next few days. The route passed through a number of farms then into the ex-industrial landscape of disused pits and shafts at Lambley Colliery, crossing the old railway that once linked Lambley to Brampton. Dropped down beneath the soaring arches of Lambley viaduct, part of the defunct Haltwhistle to Alston LNER branch. Walked south then on the trackbed of the latter, pausing for coffee on a bench resting on old cinders and clinker from steam days. The elevated trackbed provided expansive views into South Tynedale. Passed Burnstones where in spring a there is superb display of colourful azaleas. Continued up to Castle Nook, where met and chatted with the local farmer busy with his tups and yows. Road walked in to Alston as the sun set. Great welcome at this beautifully cared-for Youth Hostel, which was though, very quiet, with only one other guest.


Day 11: Dufton 19th
‘the big one & strenuous’
For a fortnight I had monitored the weather forecast for this day and it was soon apparent that very poor conditions could be expected. So far I had been exceptionally fortunate but my luck was about to change. Ironically the conditions anticipated were almost the same as AW encountered, notably very strong headwinds. Before tackling Cross Fell though there was another bull [no nose ring] meeting. On the footpath (of restricted width) maybe thirty minutes after starting, stood this powerful animal with a calf and facing me. Fortunately a wave of the walking stick and some authoritative ‘instructions’ persuaded the pair to turn 180° and clear off allowing me to continue unhindered to Garrigill. The excellent path to Cross Fell was sheltered until 1600ft, but after that the SWl’y wind quickly increased in strength and ferocity with visibility falling rapidly but this was not the local Helm Wind. From the village it took 3½ hours to reach Greg’s Hut and whilst eating a late lunch in the deserted bothy I considered a night there but decided against. I resumed after thirty minutes still only half-way to Dufton. I had been up to the summit in June so saw no need increasing the risk on this occasion by diverting. I plodded on, with back up compass bearings although the path was still good if boggy. Reaching 1600ft on the descent, the cloud dispersed and that wonderful panorama of the Eden valley opened up with the fine ‘green lane’ (ex-miners’ track) down to Kirkland. With daylight fading I decided a road walk was more prudent than struggling over the rough land before Milburn, a route I had checked out in the summer. So tarmac it was, via Blencarn and Knock Cross. I was offered a lift by a bloke going to a yoga class in Dufton, but after initially accepting the kind offer, I turned it down. More irony as Wainwright had rejected a lift only some ten miles away when he was south of Appleby. So torchlit to Dufton and Brow Farm B&B, arriving 9pm, it had been quite an adventure.


Day 12: Appleby 20th
‘High Cup bonus’
Leaving the farm after an early breakfast I had time in hand plus it was the shortest mileage day. This enabled my only serious diversion on the PJ, High Cup. There was insufficient time to reach the ‘Nick’ but plenty to find a good High Cup viewing location about ¾mile past AW’s ‘limestone grotto’ [PW Companion]. Not bad views for a dreary day. So used three hours, returning to the farm and the PJ. Dufton Ghyll woods in autumnal colours superb, then farmland and forestry walking to the outskirts of Appleby arriving at the Tufton Arms for a rest day.


Rest Day 21st
Sun and blue skies added to the enjoyment of a trip on the Settle-Carlisle Railway (S&C) from Appleby to Horton aboard a scheduled diesel train. However, shortly after arriving at Horton we were privileged to see A1 Pacific 60163 Tornado speed through on the down line, what a sight. The lovely weather had enabled great views from the diesel train though, especially of Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang. To think that the S&C was scheduled for closure in the 1980’s. Back to Appleby with time to view this fascinating town, home of the notorious horse fair.


Day 13: Kirkby Stephen 22nd
‘renowned lady’
AW reckoned Boroughgate was ‘Westmorland’s finest street’ [Westmorland Heritage] the PJ’s route out of town, up to the High Cross and the Castle. The latter once owned by Lady Anne Clifford, ‘No other person has done more to influence the social history of Westmorland’, AW again with a sincere appreciation. This day’s walk, was one of red sandstone buildings and many fields. St Theobald’s Church by the river Eden, a stunning, peaceful place. Apparently Theobold was the patron saint of charcoal burners. At Hall Garth an array of dead moles on a fence. Passed Brough Castle, another property once owned by Lady Anne. Blacksyke Farm featured a line of calves sheltered in a barn. The river Eden was ever present with fine stone bridges. Arrived in Kirkby Stephen about 6pm to stay in Fletcher House, a striking building originally built in 1833. Once again a warm welcome by the proprietor.


Day 14: Garsdale Head 23rd
‘the high way’
This was a great walk with mostly dry conditions again. Over the Eden by Frank’s Bridge, the route sticks close to the river, passing Wharton Hall and the ruined Lammerside Castle before crossing Mallerstang and climbing 180ft on the ‘Old Road’. This solid track passes the modern ‘Water Cut’ sculpture, contouring round at 1300ft  to Hell Gill Bridge. In the valley a whistle sounded and Tornado re-appeared steaming south this time towards Garsdale station, once a junction to Hawes.  From here the path becomes ‘The High Way’ on the lower slopes of Abbotside Common. High Abbotside is currently one of the largest moorland re-generation projects in England with an aim to re-introduce the black grouse. PJ passes above Shaws, another simple ex-youth hostel which famously required members to pass through a graveyard to reach there. Soon after the PJ follows the Pennine Bridleway down to Garsdale Head. I stayed at the friendly ‘Goats and Oats’ B&B, next door but one to the Moorcock Inn.


Day 15: Sedbergh 24th
a familiar ford’
Waterproofs on after early super pancakes for breakfast, 7°C outside. A short ½m road walk up to a crossing of the S&C via a classic iron railway footbridge. South Lunds pasture was rough grass but a steady climb with fine views of Dandymire viaduct in particular. The PJ then crosses four miles of boggy moorland, hard going. There is though a great view into quiet Grisedale. AW described ‘this pleasant valley’ as ‘an oasis of emerald fields’ [Walks on the Howgill Fells]. Whinstone Gill Bridge provided a splendid array of autumnal colours by the falls. From Uldale House roadwalked to Foggy Hill where a number of deep shake holes are a feature.  Steep 200ft climb up to Murthwaite and then walking west above the Rawthay. Fording Backside Beck below Narthwaite is always a challenge especially when the path down is blocked by cattle! The route to Sedbergh is well used, providing a glimpse of the lower part of Cautley Spout and passing through a number of charming hamlets. The PJ keeps about 100ft above the river before eventually descending to the outskirts of the town. The penultimate overnight was at the Dalesman Country Inn, another cosy and hospitable hostelry.


Day 16th: Ingleton 25th
cold Whernside’
This was an overcast day but with an odd heavy shower and occasional sun. Porridge once more powered me out of this likeable town through lovely Millthrop and over into Dentdale. It was only three years since I last walked the Dales Way but in the opposite direction. Just before Howgill bridge the heavens opened, torrential rain but a very handily placed roadside limekiln provided unexpected shelter. At Mill bridge the long climb commenced to Whernside. Today it was laborious, but visibility was good and once again the S&C came into view, isolated Dent station and Arten Gill viaduct lying like model kits below the huge mass of Great Knoutberry. It was cool with the wind increasing as height was gained. At Boot of the Wold the 90° turn put the strengthening sw’ly almost right ahead as a superb rainbow developed above upper Dentdale, while the powerful wind roughed up the tarn waters. It took me 2½hrs to reach the summit. Time enough though for a late sandwich then down to Bruntscar but the wind still required care on the descent. Once over Ellerbeck ford the wind decreased quite significantly allowing a beautiful walk across this wonderful limestone landscape. It was truly idyllic dropping down to Scar End with the sun sinking over Morecambe Bay. I arrived at Ingleton hostel an hour after sunset.


Day 17: Settle 26th
windy Ingleborough’
Ingleton hostel was run by the YHA for more than 75 years but in 2014 it passed into private hands. However, it remains part of the YHA network as an ‘Enterprise Hostel’ but owned by a local family. I received a hearty welcome there despite the continuing covid pandemic restrictions. Built in 1885, as a private residence Greta Tower, stands very conveniently in the centre of the village. I left at 0830 and was soon climbing out on Fell Lane, reaching Crina Bottom at 0945. Passing Quaking Pot (1500ft) the wind picked up significantly with visibility reducing quickly. There were some very strong gusts, vicious at times, especially during the final push onto the Ingleborough plateau. I had seen no one since leaving Ingleton but another solo walker arrived as I was leaving the summit. Headed east to the Little Ingleborough path, which was another tricky descent in the prevailing conditions. Briefly paused at Gaping Ghyll, continuing down through Trow Gill, which was congested with hikers. At Ingleborough Cave purchased some food items including a celebratory ‘strawberry cornetto’ to accompany lunch. The final miles along Long Lane and south of Norber to Austwick were very pleasant and the well-maintained path to Feizor a luxury.  That just left the final descent to Stackhouse to join the Ribble Way, passing the the goal posts of Settle United, before crossing the river and finishing my Pennine Journey at the railway station just after 1800.                         

A truly superb and memorable walk.

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