Journeyers Ian & Margaret Antill
Report by: Ian Antill
Walk Date: May / June 2022
Background – having read AW’s wonderful book the PJ seemed to offer many of the benefits of the Pennine Way, but in a more convenient package. Had to finish the Pennine Way first though, which was done during the covid pandemic period. So I was aware of the interfaces between the two. And reminded by some PJ way markers whilst walking the PW.
So wife Margaret and I walked the PJ in 18 days split into two sections, roughly 150 miles in May then the rest in June with a fortnight’s break in between.
Firstly, it is a wonderful long-distance trail, full of variety and interest – we can heartily recommend it (and we have done about 10 LDFPs in the UK so far).
The Settle to Carlisle railway was a terrific benefit for us to join up the two sections, as well a wonderful journey in itself.
The day schedule we used was slightly different to that in the Guidebook, often to stay in some of the great B&Bs we had used on the PW. Which meant we had a few multiple long days in succession, something we would not repeat in hindsight.
We stayed in B&Bs, pubs or hotels as now too old for camping ! Point of note is the limited selection of such in a few places, so we booked ahead. Another topical point is in certain locations the pubs didn’t do evening meals, at least on all days of the week post covid. For several getting & keeping staff was a real problem and many showed signs of ‘stress’. Where accommodation was limited, it could be very expensive and in one case previous guests at a Westgate B&B had found it cheaper to get taxis to shuttle, than stay in Blanchland’s hotel, grand though it is.
The weather was good so no issues there, although we were hoping to ‘pop up’ to the top of Cross Fell if it was clear and fine, but it was wet windy and low cloud, so we didn’t ! Signage along the PJ we found to be mixed. Some sections were good others non-existent. Also, as a merely adequate navigator I found the Guidebook notes just right to help for some days but poor for other days, and sometimes lost the relationship between maps and notes.
Generally I like to use a Guide book as the first point of reference when navigating due to the local insights they provide. I also have an OS map and GPS as reference and back-up, but the inconsistency was frustrating. Would it be possible to have x refs in the notes to which map they were covering ? (something I started doing manually). Thanks to David Pitt for his help with this issue in our break.
Another point of note is to be aware when Appleby Horse fair is on, as that complicates things all around the area because of it’s dominance. We thought we had avoided it, but it had been deferred due to the Queen’s Jubilee…certainly prebook your accommodation and confirm dinner plans. It certainly added something different to our experience anyway !
Highlights? In no particular order and avoiding many obvious ones:
The Greta valley into Bowes, fruit cake and pint tea at Gunnerside café, Heights Quarry in working mode, Blanchland village, Hexham Abbey, Chesters Fort, Lambley Viaduct, Alston Station café and museum, Milburn village green & maypole, Dufton Ghyll, Belah Scar, massive dinners at Moorcock Inn, walk through Sedburgh School. And many varied and impressive churches along the route (too many to list!).
Final note – it is one of the few LD walks I would like to do again, maybe in the other direction. Congratulations to David and Heather Pitt for their work to create the modern Pennine Journey.