Journeyer Valerie Leigh
Report by: Valerie Leigh
Walk Date: September 2010
Since I retired it’s become a habit to go off walking for 2 to 3 weeks at a time every year. I’ve exhausted most of the long distance paths in the north so I was delighted when I read about your planned guide book “A Pennine Journey”. I bought the guide when it came out and started planning my holiday for late August/September.
Many of the places en route were familiar to me, particularly those on existing long distance trails but I found the route interesting because the familiar places were approached from unfamiliar directions. The bits that were new to me were from Teesdale to Hexham going north and Milburn to Kirkby Steven going south.
I found the guide book invaluable; the stretches of the route that coincided with other recognised long distance paths were well signed and maintained but I was disappointed that many of the other rights of way appeared to be neglected and falling into disuse. I particularly remember the climb out of Teesdale when, after leaving the Pennine Way, the foot paths deteriorated markedly. If I hadn’t had the reassurance of the guide book I might have given up in places but thanks to your excellent directions I was able to navigate over tumbledown stiles and decrepit, locked gates – I was so happy to find those green markers by the gate!
And, then, there were the sections across the moors (memorably, Swinhope which I renamed Swine Nohope) where there was an encouraging sign post pointing across the moor but no trace of a path on the ground!
I was unable to find any accommodation in Milburn so I missed that bit out and followed the Pennine Way from Alston to Dufton. It was a deliberate choice to go over Cross Fell as I’d missed it out last year when I was walking home from Edinburgh because the weather was so bad (real Wainwright conditions wind and rain!). Not that it was much better this year and I probably would have chickened out had not the hostel warden left a note with my breakfast to wish me a good walk! It was dry and visibility was good but the wind was horrendous, I was practically crawling over the top. Ironically, I met more people that day than on any other and they were bowling along like ships in full sail while I was struggling across like a drowning man!
The weather was mixed, as one would expect in northern England in August/September; the first couple of days were pleasant, sunny and warm. Then it was waterproofs on for the next three days followed by a delightful dry spell of over a week, although it was very windy at times. But the final 4 days were pretty wet, although going over Whernside visibility was excellent in contrast to the last day when I couldn’t see in front of my nose on Ingleborough.
I stayed in a mixture of Youth Hostels, B&Bs and Pubs. I had difficulty finding accommodation at Westgate (I stayed at a farm in Eastgate which was very nice but added a few miles each way), Milburn (Where I diverted from the route to reach Dufton) and Garsdale Head (where the Moorcock Inn was full so I carried on to Hardraw and the Green Dragon).
I met very few walkers; the odd one on the Pennine Way, a few more on Hadrian’s Wall and, briefly, even more coast to coasters at Keld. Most days, like Wainwright, I had it all to myself!
So, thank you very much for producing a challenging and interesting route and an excellent, comprehensive guide.