Jim Cash - from Malham to Kirk Yetholm


Malham to Horton: This was a lovely day with weather that was tough to beat. Connie drove to Malham Tarn and met me there and we walked around the tarn until the path disappeared into the trees where she said goodbye until Horton. From that point on it was pretty easy including the long pull up Fountains Fell. One of the things that made it not bad was I did not take a wrong turn. At the top, the views were spectacular and I spent some time trying to figure out how the path went up Pen-y-ghent. I finally figured out it was a waste of time since I had to climb it anyway and headed down hill. At the turn off by Dale Head I met Brian, a fellow through walker and recently retired. He is from Stoke-on-Trent and he is my age. He asked if I fancied some company, I did and we completed the walk to Horton together. We met Connie who was just starting up the path to meet me. The night was spent in the Golden Lion; it was OK but no Lister Arms. Brian and I agreed to meet to walk to Hawes the next day.
Horton to Hawes: This was another pretty easy day although Brian and I started off by taking the wrong track at the Crown at the north end of town. Although it was our fault, both he and I felt the Pennine Way could use a few more way markers. We soon righted ourselves and pressed on over Cam Fell. On the way we met a couple, Andrew and Evonna, I had passed the day before. He is from Yorkshire and she is Polish and they work in Luxembourg. He was showing her some of The Way. The day was breezy but clear and Brian and I ate lunch in the shelter of a wall at the top. The four of us carried on to Hawes. Andrew had a wonderful suggestion dealing with having a pint at The Crown. Since it was a warm day we all agreed. I found Connie at the pub where we were staying, dropped my pack and back to The Crown. The five of us sat and talked and drank and enjoyed the day. That evening the five of us had another pint and then an excellent East Indian dinner. This was a good day, particularly in light of several that followed.
Hawes to Tan Hill: Brian and I walked together to Keld where he was spending the night. He was taking 18 days to do the walk with no layovers. We agreed to meet in Dufton and do the last 6 days together. The pull up to Great Shunner Fell was long but not difficult. The weather was not bad but the wind was definitely a factor. The walk down from the fell was worse than going up. I like the paving stones but as you know they are hard on the feet. However, once we got on the vehicle track with the large loose stones, it became more difficult. Both Brian and I had sore feet.  Lunch at the tea shop in Thwaite and then the invevitable climb back up. After I left Keld I found the walking OK but I think the map I had in the Pennine Way North was off a bit where the path leaves the last farm. Anyway, I kept on with compass and eventually got to the top where I found Connie who was waiting for me. We walked on to Tan Hill for a wonderful bath (much better than showers for soothing aches, particularly on the feet, as I am sure you know). After a couple of pints and a light supper it was early to bed.
Tan Hill to Middleton: The wind howled all night so I knew what I faced this day. When we left the inn, the wind was blowing so hard it was hard to stand up without support. Fortunately it was behind me the entire day as was the rain it brought. The walk was, frankly, pretty easy and I made it in 6 1/2 hours. I think the wind may have done something to hasten me on. Although it rained most of the time my gear kept me completely dry. I did not see a single walker. Connie met me where The Way comes in to town and we went to our B&B. Dinner was at a pub outside of town called The Strathmore Arms. Both Connie and I agreed Middleton had no charms when it came to pubs or eating places. In any case ale and food was good at Strathmore but my exit was not. I was standing at the bar waiting to pay when I stepped back to let someone by. Suddenly it was like some fool was sticking several ice picks in the back of my leg. Mind this was completely without warning. I shot up in the air and the pub cat I had stepped on let go of my leg and took off running. Talk about a sobering experience!
Middleton to Dufton: The weather forecast was for bad weather. It was not accurate. The weather was worse than bad. For the first few miles up the Tees things were OK. However, once I got to Widdy Bank Farm things went downhill in a hurry. It really started to rain and the wind was directly in my face. I saw a few people (it was Sunday) heading out past me but no one foolish as me going on up. The rain slacked at Falcon Clints but did not stop. Cauldron Snout was really roaring. Once I passed Birkdale Farm the rain resumed in force. The wind was directly in my face and was pretty strong. If I faced directly into it, it was what I imagine getting a tattoo feels like. Head down and periodic peeks at the compass. My glasses were useless because they were covered with rain. I forded Maize Beck, shipping a little water in one boot and continued up the valley. The mist came down and visibility became almost nil. Fortunately there was someone in front of me. I never saw who it was but from time to time I could see a boot print in the mud. I estimate the visibility was no more than 25 yards. When I got to High Cup Nick I could just sense a void. The photo in your journal of Nichol's Last is something like I saw but I could not see the rocks just mist and darkness which must have been the rocks. The wind was so strong at that point that I had to brace myself with every step. I continued around High Cup and visibility improved a bit. I finally came to a sheep corral, the first sign of civilization in several hours. I never knew something so homely could look so good. Also, the way marker on the corral was like a ray of sunshine. Just beyond, the mist lifted a bit and I could see a village down below. Whether it was or not, I decided it had better be Dufton. Well, it was! As I went to push the doorbell on the B&B where we were staying, Connie opened the door. She was just heading out to look for me. I covered the 20 miles in 8 hours, stopping only for nature and to shift my pack. Once again, my rain gear did the job and I did not ship a drop. Dinner was at the Stag and I had a drop of single malt whisky, something I had promised myself for several hours that day.
Dufton: Layover day
Dufton to Alston: I met Brian the afternoon of the layover day and we took off the next morning at 9. This was not a good day but nothing like "over the top" as I called the walk from Middleton to Dufton. The weather was poor with a little rain but the mist and wind were fierce. We followed the path around the radar installation on Great Dun Fell but the mist was so thick that the "golf ball" was just barely visible as an outline. Cross Fell was very windy and misty but the stone shelter gave us a few minutes rest. Going down Cross Fell we took a wrong turn and wound up well below Greg's Hut in the peat bogs. After over an hour of struggling we managed to cut the road down from the hut and from there it was a pretty easy stroll to Garrigill and then on to Alston. Con was waiting by the youth hostel and we went on to our B&B. Dinner was at the Turk's Head. The publican warned me the ale I chose was strong. I told him I had just come over Cross Fell and he said I needed a whisky. It was a good idea so I had one and the ale as well. Brian met us for a drink and another through walker named Steve, also from Stoke-on-Trent, joined us. He was doing The Way in 16 days with no layover but he is only 38. He had tried it 10 years ago and broke his leg coming down Fountains Fell. He walked with us the rest of the way.
Alston to Greenhead: This was an easy day. The weather was good and the path not bad. There was a little bog but nothing like upcoming days. My right ankle was starting to bother me. The problem was first noticed when coming into Dufton. I have, essentially, no ligaments in that ankle from previous injuries, including breaking it. The joint no longer sprains, it just dislocates, leaving me with no support and the foot stuck out at right angles from the lower leg. I have to bang it on the ground, after I fall, to get it straight again. No problems like this on the Pennine Way but the joint became increasingly painful the rest of the trip. It did not help that we got lost on Blenkinsopp Common. Again all of us commented on the lack of way markers when you need them. We met Connie at Greenhead Hotel where the four of us drank Cumberland Ale and laughed a lot. We agreed to meet the next day as Steve and Brian were staying at the youth hostel. Actually we had a pint together after dinner with Steve having a little whisky as well.
Greenhead to Steel Rigg: An easy day. At least not too many miles. The weather was overcast and the wind ever present. Walking up and down the ridges along Hadrian's Wall works up a sweat and when the wind hits, the chill is pronounced. This was one of my favorite parts of the walk with the Wall and the views to the north. Connie met us west of Steel Rigg and she drove us to the pub at Twice Brewed where we had lunch along with some pretty good ale. It was agreed we would meet the next day in the pub parking lot. Connie and I spent the night at Bowes Hotel in Bardon Mill. We drove to Corbridge for ale and dinner. We had stayed there in 1999 and we enjoy that small town.
Steel Rigg to Bellingham: The first part of the walk was along the wall with the usual up and down and the wind and the chill. Once again the views were wonderful. After leaving the Wall, the path was pretty level, especially though the very dark forest areas. We made good time, stopping for lunch on top of the hill above Shitlington Crag. The weather was clear but with the usual breeze. Unfortunately my ankle decided to bother me from lunch on so it was limp time into Bellingham. The walk along the North Tyne from the bridge downstream into town was lovely. Connie was parked in the town square and reading when I walked up to her. She was surprised at the good time we made. Bellingham was very busy. It was the weekend of the Kielder Challenge and there were a lot of up and coming executives just waiting to hone their management skills in the border forest the next two days. Dinner was at the Cheviot Hotel, the only place in town with cask ale. The husband at the B&B told me the walk from Bellingham to Byrness was "easy" as he had allegedly done it. I say "allegedly" because none of us agreed to the descriptor "easy" at the end of the following day.
Bellingham to Byrness: This was a very long and hard day. Aside from the very boggy nature of much of the path, the weather turned on us. The wind was ever present and from time to time the rain just poured. Brian and I became separated from Steve a couple of miles before Byrness. The weather had improved so it was off with the rain macs. Well, as I often said during my journey up The Way, "The Pennine Way never lets you go." That was certainly the case here. We were about 250 yards from the Byrness Hotel where Connie and I were spending the night when the heavens just opened up. Off with the packs and on with the rain gear. Connie told me later she happened to be looking out the window of our room when she saw Brian and me walking up the road to the hotel in the driving rain. She described us as "plodding" along with our heads down and one foot in front of the other. Steve beat us to the hotel and the warm fire. No real ale but the cider was not bad. We all had dinner together along with a couple of pints of keg ale and off to an early bed, setting a 6:30 meet time the next morning for the final push over the Cheviot.
Byrness to Kirk Yetholm: A long day indeed. There was no rain or mist at least but a very strong wind that was almost constantly on one's port bow. I estimate the strength to have been about 40 mph. A long grind of 26 miles. We 3 had a late lunch at the second mountain rescue hut, below The Schil. I took a photograph of Steve and Brian eating. When I got back I showed all the photos I had taken to my brother. When he got to the one of Steve and Brian in the hut he commented that they looked "exhausted." I told him that's because they were as was the person taking the photograph, me. After that last pull up The Shil into the face of that gale it was the low road into Kirk Yetholm where Brian's wife met him, Steve's lady friend met him and Connie met me. The Band of Brothers had made it. Drinks at the Border Hotel for us followed by dinner with Brian and his wife. Steve had to hit the road for Stoke-on-Trent for work the following day. Connie and I spent the night in Kirk and then made our way back to Heathrow where we flew out on 23/9.
When we sat down in the Border Hotel with drinks in hand I proposed a toast. I had been working on it most of the day over the Cheviot traverse. I first apologized to William Shakespeare and then, stealing a lot from Henry V I said
                                    This story shall the backpacker teach his son;
                                    And a day on The Way shall ne'er go by,
                                    From this day to the ending of the world,
                                    But we who have walked it shall be remembered-
                                    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
Since I have returned I have done a lot of thinking about what walking The Pennine Way as a through walker meant to me. As I have told Connie, it is difficult to talk about the walk without sounding like you are bragging. A friend asked me if it was like backpacking in our local mountains, The Trinity Alps or the Marble Mountains. I reflected a bit and then told him that I had done nine 50 mile hikes with my Boy Scout Troop, taking 8 days to do the 50, carrying everything on my back and The Pennine Way is "infinitely harder." He seemed surprised.
In closing, let it just be said I am very glad I did it, I would not do it again and I view the walk as certainly one of the greatest achievements of my life.