Report: Richard Hulme
Walk Date: Apr 2012
My Pennine Journey was time framed by work commitments, which meant my only window of opportunity this year was in April. As such I was not able to follow David Pitt’s advice that it ‘should be done in comfort and for pleasure or not at all.’ I only had 10 days to complete My Journey and as such I would take my pleasure from the challenge that 250 miles and 37,000 feet of ascent would present. Commencing the walk on Friday 13th April 2012 immediately after finishing a night shift and with a poor long term weather forecast, did not make the challenge seem any easier. Like Wainwright I started my journey by train and paid a personal homage to the blue plaque in the station waiting room. Unlike him I had pre-booked all my accommodation so had none of his worries when I was cold wet and tired.
A personal highlight of the first day was spending time in the Pen-y-ghent café at Horton in Ribblesdale reviewing an entry I had placed in the Pennine Way register 31 years earlier. I still stand by my comment in the register from those years ago – ‘it is a case of mind over feet’ – It is definitely all in the mind when your feet hurt and as I was to add on this journey – ‘and when it rains.’ Hull Pot seemed to lull me into a false sense of security with the weather as it appeared to be almost dry. I am sure now that it would have been a cascade and filling up 10 days later!
After a cold and wet afternoon during which it snowed on Foxup Moor the church and George Inn at Hubberholme with the magnificent bridge between the two are wonderful sights at the end of a weary first day. Snow greeted me as I stepped out the following morning taking the lovely stroll along the river and green track up to Cray, before the snow succumbed to cold driving rain on Kidstone Fell. Again my spirits were lifted with the delightful sights of Stalling Busk and Semer Water. There are few nicer places for lunch on any walk than the Green at Bainbridge, especially when the sun shines, even if only fleetingly. An evening with friends at Birkdale higher up the valley from Keld made for a pleasant end to day two.
The iconic sight of the Tan Hill Inn after walking from Keld into the teeth of a biting northerly wind was soon tempered with a sloppy trudge across Sleightholme Moor, much the same as it had been on my last visit 31 years earlier. My Journey was allowing me to rekindle many memories from walks completed over many years, though having by-passed Bowes on the Pennine Way, It seemed that the village wanted to repay me for the detour taken all those years ago, as I sat having lunch in a short sharp, but bitingly cold snow-storm. At Baldersdale I met a fellow long distance walker, who when I asked his destination replied Cape Wrath or John O’Groats. Having left Lands End seven weeks previously, I was full of questions for my new companion as he was well on his way to completing The End to End, which is a walk I have planned for a few years hence.. We spent a very convivial evening together in Middleton chatting.
Day four saw me leave my companion on a rest day whilst I was aiming for Blanchland on what would be the only full dry day on My Journey. Teesdale is such a joyous walk and the only disappointment to this section of the day was the route did not include High Cup Nick and the unsurpassed view down the gill to the Eden Valley. I will save that delight for my End to End journey. I would have wished for more time in Blanchland, but with there being no accommodation in the village at present, I hitched a lift to Edmundbyers.
A lift back to Blanchland from mine host certainly helped as day five was to be my most challenging so for with a 30 mile trek to Once Brewed. The Slaley Forest saw very heavy rain, but Hexham allowed for a restocking of essentials. It was as I turned west on Hadrians Wall that I believed the weather was going to conspire against me for the whole of My Journey, for at that very time the wind changed for the first time from the north to the west and again straight into my face.
Days six and seven were also very wet and concluded in Alston and Dufton, the reverse route of my Pennine way trip from many years previously. I again met my End to End friend and we shared another night of walking tales. I was certainly grateful for Greg’s Hut on Cross Fell, which saw by far the worst weather of the whole trip – foul. Day eight to Kirkby Stephen was a relative stroll through the undulating Eden Valley, which for me was new territory. However, not to disappoint the weather gods, I again finished the day very wet and with the wind again having changed to be now be coming from the south, it having changed direction as I turned south at Hadrians Wall.
The punishing schedule and weather which had conspired against me started to take its toll and like Wainwright I would now have to push hard to meet my schedule, knowing that I had a punishing last day from Sedbergh to Settle. Day nine was again wet, but additional miles on the road ensured Sedbergh was reached and my targets maintained.
Day ten, Sunday 22nd April was a 6.30am start and a decision would have to be made as to whether it was possible to include Ingleton. 10.45am on the top of Wernside, the decision was easy, through Chapel le Dale and onto Ingleborough. Ingleton which I know old would have to be missed on this Journey. From the top of Ingleborough I knew that barring a calamity my Journey would have a successful conclusion in Settle. I celebrated with beer and chips. Though again very wet and cold, hardly ever have the two indulgences tasted so good. As with Wainwright I looked a sight and smelled none to fresh on my train journey home.
David, you and Heather are to be congratulated on the truly wonderful Pennine Journey you have created. Though I was not able to enjoy a comfortable daily schedule, I challenged myself, from which I took great pleasure. My Pennine Journey and personal challenge complete, I am a proud journeyman.