Journeyer Simon Lawrence
Report by: Simon Lawrence
Walk Date: 7th to 25th July 2014
Several years ago I came across a copy of AW’s A Pennine Journey and have read it several times. Subsequently I was intrigued by the story behind it of how he wrote it, showed it to several colleagues then put it in a drawer for 50 years! I have often wondered how things may have turned out if AW had got it published; would he have gone on to be a novelist and we would never have been blessed with The Pictorial Guides? Then I thought of walking the Journey myself and even got as far as working out his route as far as Blanchland on modern maps (remarkably most of his 1938 route is still practicable to that point). However much like AW I then ‘shelved’ it until my interest was reawakened by hearing via The Wainwright Society that a guide book was being written. I decided at the outset I would walk it in one go and also read AW’s book a chapter a day (in the evenings) to really get the Wainwright experience. So this then is My Pennine Journey from 7th to 25th July 2014……
Travelled up from Bristol by train to Settle (arr 1145). I disagree with the guidebook regarding Wainwright walking over the footbridge as it was only installed in the 1990‘s. After a look round the station,signalbox & restored watertower walked through Settle admiring the Men of The Flowerpot Festival (good way of recycling all those old flowerpots!). Climbed up to the flag atop Castleberg for lunch sandwiches, then down to start the walk proper along to Horton. At Lower Winskill opted to take a short detour to see Catrigg Force (a hidden gem), then down the resurfaced lane used by the still uncomplete Pennine Bridleway to Stainforth. A delightful village but almost went astray by following the track by the church (correct route is further right by the big house). Up to Moor Head Lane and then rather tiring plod up Long Lane with grand views over Ribblesdale before grassy descent to Horton (reached at 6pm).
Started the day with the unexpected sight of a tornado over Penyghent (no not the RAF, but a funnel cloud). Rather appropriate as the fell is known as ‘the hill of the winds’. Up Horton Scar Lane to Hull Pot where had to don waterproofs due to a prolonged shower, then across Foxup Moor on good path (recently improved by the ‘inversion’ method to make a causeway across boggy ground). I had hoped to go via Penyghent & Plover Hill but low cloud & a stormy sky put paid to that idea. Down to Foxup & along lane to Halton Gill for the well graded ascent of Horse Head Pass. Spotted remains of a settlement across the dale just west of the road via Hesleden Bergh (oddly not indicated on OS map). After taking in the summit trig on Horse Head easy descent on improved path down to Yockenthwaite then pleasant riverside stroll with lots of wild flowers to Hubberholme. As I was staying at Cray I chose to leave PJ route to go on along lane via Stubbing Bridge & up footpath by attractive cascades on Cray Gill. Arrived 6.20pm.
Took path across stepping stones opposite White Lion Inn & up escarpment to rejoin PJ along to Kidstones. On reaching the main road here found the road surface covered in messages,pictures & encouragements to the Tour de France cyclists who had toiled up here just days before. Across Stake Moss (not quite as grassy a path as in AW’s time but a fine promenade nonetheless) where found myself financially better off by picking up a 10p coin! Down via Stalling Busk to Semer Water and the popular parking spot with beach by the outflow. Riverside & field paths to Bainbridge (lots of yellow flags and cut out yellow cycles adorning buildings a la Tour de France),then to Askrigg (yellow flag flying from church tower). Steep & lengthy ascent on road up over Askrigg Common where I got overtaken by a pick-up truck on a 1 in 3 section which suffered a dropped load of boxes & tins which literally ‘fell off the back of the lorry’. The driver stopped looking a bit sheepish saying “Shucks these hills are getting steeper!”. At Oxnop Head enjoyed a fine view forward to Swaledale (visit the top of Oxnop Scar for dramatic peeps down the limestone cliffs). Just beyond Gill Head took field path down to meet the valley road at Oxnop Bridge and along road to Muker at 7pm.
Took path up over shoulder of Kisdon,along escarpment edge high above Thwaite to reach Keld where viewed Kisdon Forces (Upper & Lower). Then along Pennine Way above West Stonesdale to reach Tan Hill Inn (highest pub in Britain at 1732′) at 5.20. A short day today. At the planning stage intended to stay at Bowes some 8 miles further but the only accomodation was (& still is) closed.
Long day of 18 miles to Middleton so away promptly. Took Sleightholme Moor road to avoid slow progress by Frumming Beck. Awkward route finding at Trough Heads (secret is to get out of the course of Sleightholme Beck asap to avoid cows & bracken). Avoided Bowes altogether to go via God’s Bridge,under A66 and a long drag over bleak moors to finally reach civilisation at Clove Lodge above Blackton Reservoir. By Low Birk Hatt and Hannah’s Meadow, up over Mickleton Moor to Grassholme Reservoir then lots of stiles via Wythes Hill to finally reach Middleton in Teesdale at 7.10pm
The walk along the Pennine Way by The Tees seemed long until Low Force, soon followed by the roar of High Force. On by Cronkley then left the clear path at Saur Hill for long grass and invisible paths across the B6277 to Hanging Shaw. After battling across pastures reached a farm access track which followed via Etters Gill to the farm at Scar End then picked up PJ route up to Black Law and across the moor to Swinhope Head. This would be a nightmare section in bad weather & I would suggest taking the road out of Teesdale from Wynch Bridge by Low Force via Newbiggin up to Swinhope Head. Upon reaching the security of the tarmac road marched down towards Westgate in Weardale (arr 6.20).
Down the hill through Westgate then uphill to follow part of The Weardale Way towards Heights Quarry. However despite carefully following all the directions & waymarks I found myself scratching my head when the path disappeared. As I seemed to be NORTH of the quarry instead of south I elected to follow the open ground above it’s north edge in the hope of meeting the PJ route again. This I did where the path follows the embankment of the old Rookhope railway. At Rookhope ascended the Bolt’s Law Incline where saw the odd sight of a lady walking a FOX on a lead! A rescue animal apparently. On leaving the gravel track to pursue a course across heather to Bolt’s Law elected to cross the prominent stile to a signpost at a path junction then up & back to take in the summit (good views north to The Cheviots). Then down to Ramshaw, along a lane to take the path via woods above Bolt’s Burn before rejoining the lane (I wished I had kept to the tarmac as the path was very muddy). Finally down the hill and a pleasant,dry path in woodland by the R.Derwent to reach Blanchland. With few people about I was able to soak up the medieval atmosphere of this ancient place.
Up by Shildon Burn across Blanchland Moor then among forest by Ladycross Quarry to a muddy woodland path by Devils Water,past Redlead Mill to the remains of Dukesfield Smelt Mill (conservation work being carried out). Marched on to Hexham via Pethfoot Bridge,Ordley & Newbiggin to reach the abbey grounds at 4.15. After a rest & look around headed off by a very busy road across the Tyne bridge to escape the traffic along the old road to Acomb. As I was staying at the village of Wall had to divert from the PJ route at Fallowfield to reach the hotel at 7pm. A plodding along sort of day this with stretches of little interest, but these days have to be done on any long distance walk.
Took advantage of early breakfast at 7.30 to be able to take my time enjoying the target of the walk: Hadrians Wall. Like AW I wanted to come to the wall fresh & able to take in the historical experience. My first fragment sighted was at Brunton Turret a short detour up a field. On to Chollerford bridge where took a detour on new path to see the remains of The Roman Bridge abutment which takes a bit of studying to visualise in the minds eye (but it‘s worth seeing). Back to Chollerford & a long march by the road past Chesters Fort (opted to go on by as coach parties were there) and uphill to Walwick. After a couple of fields finally got to grips with The Wall at Black Carts (passed some American tourists here “gee, there‘s miles of it!”) and on to feel & see the fresh breeze & open views at Limestone Corner. By Brocolitia Fort for the long miles by Shield on the Wall to the escarpment of Sewingshields Crags leading to the premier Roman site of Housesteads Fort. Made sure I had enough time in hand to see this (not to be missed as it lies right on the PJ route). I consider the Roman latrine the best part as you can actually see how the water systems worked, even after 2000 years! Finally tore myself away to walk on to Twice Brewed via Hotbank Crags,Crag Lough & Peel Crags arriving at 6.35. A day full of interest, rounded off by a short ascent up behind my B&B to Windshields Crag to see a wonderful sunset in absolute silence.
Resumed the walk up to Windshields Crag (highest stretch of The Wall at 1132‘) & on over Cawfield Crag,by the old quarry to Great Chesters Fort (scant remains),over the rollercoaster Nine Nicks of Thirlwall to the rather abrupt end of the Roman Wall at Walltown Quarry. Next by The Ditch to cross Tipalt Burn to view the recently saved ruin of Thirlwall Castle (built using most of Hadrians Wall from nearby). With rain threatening hastened along by railway arriving at 4pm at Greenhead with heavy rain later on.
Following the rain last night the route was over wet fields to tussocky Blenkinsopp Common with an abrupt return to noisy ‘civilization’ in the form of the crossing of the A69 en-route. A twisty route via Gap Shields Fan (no visible path & easy to go astray),but once over the fence-stile a clearer path over Black Hill with short detour sw to ‘bag’ the summit trig. On via Greenriggs to Batey Shield and a stretch where care is needed to follow the guidebook. In fact after crossing Hartley Burn I took the path across a field (shown in the guide) to a nearby parallel lane for a foolproof route to the house at the 137 mile mark (this also avoided a short stretch along the A689). Easy going across meadows to Lambley & down under the viaduct (beware crumbling wooden steps) to climb up the other side to the old trackbed (The South Tyne Trail). Had a late lunch here (1.30) on a handy bench in the shade. A steady march followed to Slaggyford Station where met an ‘enthusiast’ who regaled me with a potted history of the railway! The option is available to continue along the S.Tyne Trail all the way to Alston but I opted to follow the guide through Slaggyford village to Lintley. In the field under Lintley viaduct I regretted that decision as I encountered 8 feet tall trifids in the form of Butterbur (aka Wild Rhubarb). With relief I was able to rejoin the comfort of the railway route at Lintley Station (the current terminus of the narrow gauge South Tynedale Railway) & with 12 miles done & 5 to go opted to continue this way (a good cinder path has been built next to the single track railway) to Alston instead of the numerous stiles & gates to be encountered through the adjacent fields. Duly arrived at Alston tired out at 6.15pm.
Girded my loins for the 17 mile route over Cross Fell today. After a potter around Alston (as AW remarked it clings to a hillside so steep the houses seem to be piled one above another) headed along by the river to Garrigill (noticed the George & Dragon Inn boarded up but the Post Office still doing B&B and teas). The long ascent up the old mine track took hours but all things come to an end & eventually reached the extensive mining remains at Blackstone Edge (look out for purple Fluorspar crystals) & Gregs Hut. After the obligatory signing of the Visitors Book (surprising how many people visit, although I had seen just one walker) headed up to Cross Fell summit. Pleased to find a brand new professionally constructed cross-wall cairn at the top. Found the wind increasing and cloud dropping as I contoured around the western edge of the summit plateau (for the view) so hastened back to the PJ route. Descending westwards to Kirkland found the path splitting into two or three routes but they all seem to meet up again to follow a good well graded track above Ardale. The wind hereabouts was incredible blowing down from the fells to the east (was this a touch of The Helm Wind I wondered?). Down in the valley & across fields to reach Crowdundle Beck, which is now crossed by an enormous footbridge (and the power of this tiny beck in spate is evidenced by the concrete steps on the far side already being pushed out of line: the beck seems to have carved a new path and it’s not under the bridge span!). On to pass through Milburn (huge Maypole) to reach my B&B at 7.30pm.
Weather forecast for heavy rain & lightning. Thankfully a short day to Appleby (8 miles). With drizzly rain already at breakfast dressed accordingly for a drenching. After trudging through wet fields to Milburn Grange opted to follow drier underfoot conditions along road via Knock to Dufton. Had a brief look around the village (worth seeing) and a sandwich in the dry bus shelter,then into the leafy arcadia of Dufton Gill (this was a surprise to me having stayed at Dufton before,but not being aware of it). The exploits of the quarrymen are evident with vertical walls of sandstone. The rain had eased & thankfully no lightning. From Redbanks Bridge to Flakebridge carefull route following was needed before reaching Appleby Station & the glorious sight of A4 Union of South Africa taking water on a steam special. Into the town to find my B&B arriving at 4pm.
On by St.Michaels Church to view The Primrose Stone & across The Eden. Riverside walking to Great Ormside,Warcop,Great Musgrave & Brough. Excellent view of castle ruins (worth a closer look),then ducked under A685 to cross fields & by River Belah to Kaber & Winton.Opted to follow quiet lane to Eden Place (instead of numerous stiles via nearby fields) & beside The Eden to Franks Bridge (a big crowd here listening to a religious speaker) & so to Kirkby Stephen at 7pm. A longish day at 16 miles but easy going & pastoral.
Back across Franks Bridge (no crowds this time) to follow riverside path to Nateby. Realised I had lost a sock (hanging off rucksack to dry after washing!) so backtracked to find it snagged on a stile. On past Wharton Hall,Lammerside & Pendragon Castles to Mallerstang. A glorious parade followed via The High Way past The Water-Cut sculpture and on across Hell Gill to Johnstone Gill. Here descended on new path (part of the as yet unfinished Pennine Bridleway) to reach Ure Force and Garsdale Head.
At the planning stage realised I had a day ‘in hand’ so I decided to stay 2 nights at Garsdale Head and spend this day on the ascent of remote Wild Boar Fell. Went up via Turner Hill & Swarth Fell, descended via The Nab to High Dolphinsty, down by Angerholme Wold to Mallerstang & back along valley road to the inn.
On with the PJ again. Opted to follow the Pennine Bridleway to add interest via Dandrymire Viaduct & by Garsdale Station to cross the A684 & up above Clough Force into lonely Grisedale. Also avoided the ‘wet & reedy,with nettles…field’ west of the S&C railway and the road walk to get to the footbridge. Reached the dale road at Beck House & up past East House to rejoin ‘official’ PJ on by Flust to the wilds of the open moor. Pleasantly surprised to find a distinct track on mainly dry ground by Holmes Moss Hill to reach Rawthey Gill & the environs of Uldale House. Strolled along tarmac to Fell End where intended to drop down lane to Rawthey Bridge but made the mistake of taking little used bridleway down across plank bridge over Sally Beck to A683 below Murthwaite. I wanted to avoid the steep ascent up to Murthwaite & the large farmyard there. So had to walk along the road until a stile afforded an escape along footpath north of Rawthey Bridge & Gill to reach farm track (PJ) up to Narthwaite. Straight forward going next past Cautley Crag and on via Fawcett Bank to reach Sedbergh at 6.30pm
On to Millthrop to take The Dales Way path via Gate Manor (worth a short stroll up the road to see) & beside the River Dee to olde worlde Dent. At Mill Bridge at foot of Deepdale ascended the green lane (Craven Way) to Whernside, passing the strange tarns on the northern shoulder en-route to the summit. Grand views to Ribblehead Viaduct, Penyghent & Ingleborough. Decided to descend the SW ridge on good path by the wall leading unerringly to the ‘fluted pothole’ & Twistleton Scar End (don’t know why the PJ route descends to Bruntscar in the valley instead). Then followed Goodies Lane to reach Ingleton somewhat late at 8pm.
Final day. Up road towards Storrs Common (care here as road has no pavement for some distance & used by quarry lorries) to escape along Fell Lane to Crina Bottom with Ingleborough looming ahead. A well pitched path lead ever upwards with several false tops before the airy summit plateau was reached. Although I have been up here many times I always enjoy the perambulation around the edge following the walls of the old fort. Descended to Little Ingleborough then down pitched path to peer in the crater of Gaping Ghyll before dropping down impressive Trow Gill towards Clapham. Somewhat oddly The PJ misses out the village (despite strong AW connections) to cut up to Long Lane & Thwaite Lane. On by Robin Proctors Scar to Austwick & Feizor then some tricky route finding via many stiles & gates to descend steeply to Stackhouse. With Settle in sight marched (staggered?) triumphantly towards the town (with a moment of doubt at a path junction by the football club) to cross The Ribble bridge at 6.45. No welcoming brass band, but there were those Flowerpot Men.
I was extremely lucky with the weather as it only rained on 2 days! Otherwise it was warm & sunny & the raincoat stayed firmly in the bottom of my rucksack! Definitely a walk to savour & remember & a fitting tribute to AW’s original Pennine Journey.