The main items of camping gear I used were new to me as I had 'binned' my failing kit on my aborted Pennine Way attempt in 2014, so I had a new tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and stove. I rarely buy really expensive items of walking or camping gear as I do not backpack in winter conditions and I don't really see the point. I also feel that much of the more expensive brands are over-hyped and tend to look for good quality, middle range kit. The most 'expensive' items were my trail runners made by La Sportiva but these were purchased at sale price so the price wasn't excessive. I'm not going to list every item I took but here are the main items and my views on their effectiveness having used them on the trip.
Friday, 10 July 2015
As I read back through this blog more than a year after my Pennine Way adventure, I am struck by how pleasant the whole last day looks from the photos. This is because the only photos I took during the day were at the points were it wasn't actually raining, in other words, the beginning, end and the temporary clearance as I approached the second refuge hut. The rest of the day was a battle against the elements, through rain, fog, wind but most of all, the flooded, squelching peat. In complete contrast, the second section of my hike to Cape Wrath couldn't have been more contrasting. I walked for twenty-two days in May 2016 from Kirk Yetholm, where I finished the previous year, to Strathcarron in the Highlands in glorious weather with only a couple of wet days on the West Highland Way.
Thursday, 9 July 2015
Waiting for the bus in Kirk Yetholm
I stood outside the Border Hotel for a while in something of a daze. Never had a days walking taken so much out of me and yet I felt physically fine, just mentally exhausted. I took some photos and then went into the hotel to see if they had a room available, even though I knew they didn't as I had phoned ahead from Bellingham but I had hoped that they may have had a cancellation. A very helpful member of staff checked and confirmed what I already knew and I asked if he could recommend a guesthouse, which he did. I followed his directions and knocked on the door of a fine looking building whereupon the door was opened and upon enquiry, I was told that they did indeed have a room and soon I was wallowing in a hot bath, soaking way the trials of the day but still feeling a little shell-shocked.
Wednesday, 8 July 2015
Climbing Byrness Hill
The alarm on my watch went off at 4am. I lay still for a minute or two listening but couldn’t hear much apart from the occasional rustle of a sleeping bag as someone nearby turned over in their sleep. I ran through in my mind what I needed to do before I got out of the tent.
Tuesday, 7 July 2015
I was awoken by the sound of rain pouring against the bedroom window and was suddenly thankful that the campsite owners had not been at home the previous evening. After an excellent breakfast and a chat with the landlady, I gathered my belongings and set off into the village where I was now pleased to find that the rain had stopped, although the sky was still threatening. I headed out of the village on a steep lane followed by a walker I had passed in the high street who had managed a cursory 'hello' but didn't seem to want to talk beyond that. At the top of a hill, the path veered off of the road along a farm track and out on to the open fellside. Today's section was described in the guidebook as ' a dolly', which was apparently local vernacular for 'easy' and at only fifteen miles, it was certainly shorter than most recent days had been and was what the book suggested was exactly what was required as preparation for the final days test. After crossing the fellside, I passed another farm and the heavens opened and the rain began to fall again. I usually wait a while when rain starts before I put on any waterproof clothing to see if it appears to be setting in for any length of time but this seemed a fairly heavy downpour so I stopped immediately and put on my jacket. The way crossed a road to follow a narrow path through deep heather up onto the summit of Deer Play. From here, the Cheviot Hills, were now clearly visible on the horizon and I wondered what tomorrow had in store for me as I had decided to tackle them in one crossing, a distance of around twenty-six miles, instead of breaking the leg into two days. I passed a walker heading in the opposite direction and headed for the summit of Whitley Pike and could clearly see another walker in the distance, who I seemed to be catching fairly quickly and having noticed that his jacket appeared quite bright, assumed it was Tony.
Tony on Whitley Pike
It wasn't long before I caught the figure, which did indeed turn out to be Tony, and we stopped to take each others photos on the summit of Whitley Pike as Tony explained about a detour he had been advised to take that avoided an extremely boggy section in Redesdale Forest, after the summit of Padon Hill. Indeed, the guidebook mentioned this section and described it as being 'a horrible stretch, a stiff climb through trees, wet, boggy and thoroughly unpleasant'. The alternative Tony had been advised of was along deserted country lanes and rejoined the Pennine Way on a forestry track the other side of the this section. I didn't need much persuasion and we set off from Whitley Pike and descended to the road and the deserted tarmac, which eventually passed through a gate by a farm and became an unsurfaced track through the forest just before the Pennine Way rejoined from the right. The next few miles followed clear, wide forestry roads that we could see stretching out for miles in front of us and we just ambled along at a reasonable pace knowing that the day was not going to be taxing in any way. Every now and then, the Pennine Way left the main forestry tracks for more grassy, boggy paths through the trees but we ignored these as we knew that the only rejoined the track further along, so it seemed pointless to sacrifice the obvious tracks when we could be saving our energy for the last day on the Cheviot Hills.
Road through the forest
After a while, we spotted Gordon and Rowan sitting at the side of the track brewing up a cup of tea and we stopped to chat. They had been unaware of the alternative to the thoroughly unpleasant track and confirmed that it was indeed accurately described. In fact Gordon still hadn't calmed down from squelching through what he described as being probably the worst section of path he had ever encountered and said that if the person responsible for the creation of the Pennine Way route hadn't already have passed on, he would have been only to happy to help him on his way! Tony and I left the two of them to their tea and carried on along the track for a few miles before arriving at a picnic area by a car park where we stopped for a break. We were now less than an hour from Byrness and our overnight stop at the Forest View Walkers Inn, so we relaxed and rested while enjoying the sunshine and as we sat were joined by Rowan and Gordon, who seemed to have calmed down a little.
Gordon and Rowan take a break
We left the picnic area together and the four of us walked to the Forest View and although the owners weren't present, they had left the gate open so we went inside and helped ourselves to tea and coffee sitting in the pleasant conservatory overlooking the garden. There then followed an excellent evening as many more walkers turned up followed by the owners Colin and Joyce, whose service, besides offering bed and breakfast, was second to none and included meals, a bar service, snacks and breakfasts. Colin even provided a boot cleaning and sock drying service for free! Campers were also allowed to camp behind the hostel for free as long as they purchased dinner in the restaurant, which is what I did and after dinner, settled down in the bar with a couple of beers talking with Gordon and Rowan. It was quite sad that this would be my last opportunity to speak with them at length as I planned to set off at five o'clock in the morning to complete the trail and they were stopping around the halfway mark, thereby taking an extra day, so I wouldn't be seeing them again. Eventually, knowing that I had a very early start, I retired to my tent to rest before the final test.
Forest View Walkers Inn, Byrness
Monday, 6 July 2015
On the Roman Wall
I was now approaching Crag Lough, which signalled that my trip along the wall was coming to an end and as I marched along at a fair pace, I met a couple walking in the opposite direction whereupon the male half of the pair greeted me with a 'Hola, que tal?'. His surprise, and particularly that of his partner, who burst out laughing when I responded with 'Muy bien gracias, y tu?', was total. Presumably, I was the only walker that morning to reply to him in his own language. I forged onto Hotbank Crags, the last climb along the wall before descending to Rapishaw Gap, where I crossed the wall and left it as the Pennine Way now headed for Wark Forest. I stopped in the gap between the wall and the forest to look back at the Whin Sill, the escarpment of dolerite that the wall sits on top of and tried to imagine what it must have been like for the Roman soldiers garrisoned here in the wild outpost and even more pertinent, for the tribes approaching from the north. I followed a wide track along the boundary of the forest for a short distance before leaving it for a narrow, grassy and boggy path into the woods. This was a completely new experience along the Pennine Way, as so far, the way had only briefly courted any woodland.
Approaching Shitlington Crags
Sunday, 5 July 2015
River South Tyne
The grassed over remains of Whitley Castle/Epiacum
The huge 'Rhubarb plants' The old lady can be seen to the left of the telegraph pole
My mind drifted back to the summit of the first 'Black Hill' and the large gathering on the summit and I wondered what Alan was up to and how far Patrick was ahead of me as he forged his way towards John O'Groats. So much had happened in the intervening days of the walk since that gathering on the second day that it now seemed to have occurred on a different trip altogether. The Black Hill I was now passing wasn't anything like as sociable a summit as the previous one and had nothing to cause me to linger and it wasn't long before I was descending through fields and around a golf course to the road at Greenhead. Here, I crossed the road and headed for Holmhead Guesthouse and camping barn in the shadow of Thirlwall Castle and Hadrian's Wall. As I approached the gate to the guesthouse, a woman inside cleaning the windows saw me entering and promptly turned away and walked off, ignoring me. I walked up to the door and rang the bell whereupon she returned and opened the door. After enquiring if it was okay to camp, she directed me to a garden at the rear of the house and told me to wait for her husband, who soon appeared, told me where to pitch, pointed at the shower and toilet, relieved me of seven pounds and promptly disappeared. As I began unpacking my gear on the picnic table in the garden, I was joined by an attractive but surly looking young girl in very tight, very short, shorts and a top that probably revealed a little too much cleavage. I said hello as she sat at the table with a coffee but I got very little in response and it quickly became clear that I was 'in the way', so I moved my gear over to the garden wall where I pitched the tent and started organising myself for the night. The girl had now been joined by two others and Ms.Surly and one of her friends began playing badminton on the lawn and I had to frequently throw the shuttlecock back to them as it landed in among my camping gear with monotonous regularity.
When I had finished setting up the tent, I escaped from the amateur badminton players by heading for the shower, which turned out to be something of a joke. Having entered and locked the door, I realised that 'the shower' was nothing more than a single toilet cubicle with a shower head fixed to the wall and a hole in the floor for the water to drain away. There was no space to get changed or to stow your clothes to stop them getting wet while you showered. The whole toilet cubicle would be soaked while you showered. I was confused, surely this wasn't right but after a while I realised that this indeed was 'the shower'. I looked at the 'interesting' pipework supplying water to the shower and taking the shower head out of it's holder and aiming it into the sink bolted onto the wall underneath, switched on to check out how hot it was. Well, it wasn't! It was cold! I decided that there was no way I was going to shower in cold water standing in a toilet cubicle, so I had a wash in the tiny sink and changed my clothes. When I emerged, Rowan and Gordon had arrived and begun setting up the tent and I appraised them of the shower situation. Ms.Surly was now posing by laying stretched out on the lawn, practising for her next photo-shoot before realising that no-one was taking any notice of her and flouncing off into the bunkhouse. Later, I headed into the village to the Greenhead Hotel for dinner where I met up with Tony for the first time since leaving him on the Corpse Road below Cross Fell. He joined me for dinner and I discovered that he was a sports reporter for a local newspaper and also heavily involved with Oldham Athletic football club where, among other things, he wrote items for their programme. He turned out to be a really nice guy and I enjoyed his company as we ate. Later, we were joined by Rowan and Gordon and had a pleasant evening before we headed back to the 'campsite' leaving Tony to cross the road to the hostel where he was staying.
Saturday, 4 July 2015
The predictions had been correct as for the second time on the trip, I spent the night in the tent with a thunder storm for company, only this time, there was a fairly strong wind as well. The storm seemed to go on most of the night, although I’m not sure when it started exactly, I just remember being woken in the night by the tent flapping in the wind and the sound of the thunder and the flashes of lightening. In the back of my mind I was making contingency plans for the next day as the route would be crossing the highest point of the trail over Cross Fell at around 3,000ft above sea level,a mountain notorious for bad weather. In fact, the summit of Cross Fell is the only place in the country that has a named wind, the Helm Wind, which if it is blowing makes the summit a place to avoid at all costs. I had already decided that if the storm hadn’t blown itself out by morning I would have a rest day, the first since setting out from Edale, which now seemed like a lifetime ago. At some point, I must have drifted back off to sleep and when I woke again at around six am, the storm was still very much alive, the thunder and lightening accompanied by strong winds blowing through trees in a nearby copse accentuating the ferocity of the storm. I poked my head out of the tent to see if Rowan and Gordon were packing up only to find that they had already left! I couldn’t believe that they had set off so early in such bad weather on today of all days! I certainly did not envy them being up on the highest fells of the walk in a thunderstorm. I wrapped my sleeping bag around me as the storm howled and wondered what I would do in Dufton for a whole day as apart from the campsite, the only other facilities were a cafe and a pub. I decided that I would stay in the tent in the morning if the conditions didn’t improve before going to the cafe for lunch and then go to the pub for dinner in the evening. In between, it would be reading and listening to music. I decided to wait until 10am before making a final decision and I dozed fitfully as the thunder crashed around the tent. At around 08.00 I woke again to the sound of calm and left the tent to visit the toilet block. The storm had gone! The sky was a featureless, flat grey colour and it was still a bit breezy but it was clear that the worst had passed. I washed and returned to the tent and began packing up and was packed up and on my way by 09.30am, which was probably the latest start of the whole walk but I was just grateful to be underway. I left the pretty village via tracks and paths that skirted fields initially, with the conical shape of Dufton Pike adding some interest to the landscape while off in the distance, on the track ahead, I could see a group of four walkers heading up toward the summits, which were invisible in their shroud of clouds. I have something of an aversion to meeting other walkers when I am walking alone and will often take action to avoid meeting them if at all possible. It isn’t that I am particularly anti-social but when I am hiking alone, I inhabit a sort of ‘bubble’ of my own creation by trying to turn off any internal dialogue and simply try to ‘absorb’ my surroundings. I like to try and become a part of what I am walking through and meeting other walkers inevitably means conversation, which destroys this.
Knock Old Man
Wind shelter on Cross Fell
The path now climbed steeply through the mist alongside a stream and part of me was glad that the conditions, despite the views being obscured, were at least calm and dry while part of me was ruing the fact that if the weather stayed like this I would not see any of the scenery from the highest peaks of the walk. Knock Old Man and Knock Fell are the first of a series of peaks in a ridge walk culminating in the infamous Cross Fell, which at a little under 3,000ft is not only the highest summit on the Pennine Way but the highest outside of the Lake District. In fact, it is only a couple of hundred feet lower than Scafell Pike, which is the highest peak in England. A large shape loomed out of the mist and resolved itself into the shape of a very large cairn off of the side of the path which signified that I was on Knock Old Man. This was soon followed by a smaller, scrappier cairn on the top of Knock Fell. As I squelched around on the summit the path momentarily disappeared and I drifted slightly off course, which I soon rectified with my GPS unit, which I had switched on when I entered the mist. It wasn’t long before I was back on the trail again and picking my way along in the silent, opaque world when I became aware of a shape in the gloom ahead of me. Having assumed it was another rocky cairn I surprised when I realised that it was wearing a rucksack and after a few more paces saw that it was a walker wearing a bright yellow jacket standing reading a guidebook and looking confused and lost. Suddenly, he heard me approaching and in what seemed to me a tone of relief said’ ‘Are you all alright?’. I assured him that I was and he admitted to a certain amount of uncertainty regarding the route and having seen my GPS unit, asked if it was okay to follow me, which I of course agreed to. He didn’t seem to have any other maps than those in the book, which of course neither did I, but I had taken the precaution of loading the whole route onto my GPS unit for just such an eventuality as this as I didn’t want to rely on the maps in the book alone. These maps were perfect for fine conditions but in whiteout conditions on a mountain top were not sufficient for navigating. Besides the guidebook and GPS, I had a conventional compass, an electronic compass on my watch, which also boasted an altimeter. Of course, the GPS unit has all of this and more so I wasn’t too worried about getting lost. In fact, during the whole 260 odd miles of the Pennine Way, I never strayed more than a few metres off course and this was usually when I wasn’t paying much attention. Once I discovered that I was not on the way, it took only a few minutes to switch on the unit and find my way back onto the correct route. We followed the GPS track until we reached the tarmac access road to the radar station on the summit of Great Dun Fell whereupon we both agreed to follow it to the top instead of leaving the road to follow the Pennine Way, which veered off right across moorland a few metres further along. By now, the wind had picked up and was blowing cold and strong across the tops as we approached the radar station and passed through the gate into the compound. I quickly realised that we should have turned right just before the gate and I was marvelling that we were standing right next to the large white ‘golfball’ radar dome that Alan and I had first seen days before from the summit of Great Shunner Fell but I could now not even see it's outline in the whiteout. We descended from the station and by now the wind was so strong that I had to stop and put on an extra layer as I was cold and we continued steeply up onto the summit of Little Dun Fell. From the summit cairn, we continued through our empty, white world as the way climbed comfortably along the top of Cross Fell to the impressively restored, cross shaped, summit wind shelter. The mountain was originally called 'Fiends Fell' and had a fearsome reputation for dense fog and strong winds accompanied by the howling noise of the Helm Wind. The mountain was blessed by St. Augustine and renamed Cross Fell. The barman in the hotel in Middleton in Teesdale had told me a story of a young female hiker caught in a fierce thunderstorm on the summit who was so terrified that she hid in a ditch for over an hour to let it pass. I can imagine in conditions such as those it would indeed be a pretty awful place to be but apart from the fog and an 'ordinary' wind, we reached the impressive reconstructed shelter with ease.
On Cross Fell
'Golf Ball' on Great Dun Fell
We passed a bothy, a walker’s shelter known as Greg’s Hut soon after joining the road and it quickly became obvious that I walked at a completely different pace to Tony who was soon lagging behind me. As I deliberated telling him that I was going to make my own way now that we were out of the fog and the way was obvious, the decision was taken out of my hands when Tony said that I may as well go on ahead as he said he was a ‘plodder’ and wouldn’t be able to keep up with me. Relieved, I said ‘goodbye’, and off I sped, feeling extremely energetic as I skipped over the rough surface of the road. I was feeling jubilant, my idea of laying in my tent for the storm to pass had paid dividends and although I hadn’t had any views on the mountaintops, the passage over them had been fairly straightforward and I now felt like a greyhound released at the start of a race and although I wasn’t in any particular hurry, the simple act of moving quickly along the Corpse Road was extremely liberating and I sped on, pausing briefly to chat with three female walkers, before continuing on my way. The surrounding countryside felt lonelier and emptier than any on the walk to date and feelings of solitude washed over me from every direction. I knew that from here on, the terrain, the eight miles or so along Hadrian’s Wall apart, would be lonely and empty until the finish at Kirk Yetholm.
The Corpse Road to Garrigill
The appearance of the tiny village of Garrigill in the valley below signalled the end of the long descent along the Corpse Road and I stopped for a while to chat to a couple resting at the side of the road who were very interested in the hike and asked me numerous questions about equipment and the weight I was carrying. They had walked parts of the Southern Upland Way in Scotland, a long distance coast to coast walk I had completed in 1999 and were impressed that they had finally met someone who had walked the whole trail as despite being one of Scotland’s National Trails, it is very underwalked. I bade them goodbye and headed down into the village where I called into the pub to see if they had any rooms for the night but one of the drinkers at the bar informed me that the pub did not provide bed and breakfast but if I followed him across the road, would show me where I could enquire about staying in the bunkhouse. We arrived at the house to discover that the woman in charge of the bunkhouse was out horse riding but the man got the key from her husband and I was soon settling into the bunkhouse above the village hall. There were eight bunks in all but I seemed to have the place to myself and downstairs I had full facilities including a kitchen and showers. I spent some time sorting out my gear including washing off the peat from my clothes and rucksack and charging all my electrical gear, making full use of all of the electric sockets in the building. Later, I returned to the pub for dinner, which for the first time since setting off, I ate alone, which is always a little dispiriting in a pub full of people but the food was good and the landlady friendly and I returned to the bunkhouse for a comfortable night’s sleep having made my choice from the eight available beds.
Friday, 3 July 2015
We rose early in the hotel and I packed my rucksack and readied myself for the day ahead. We had breakfast, which had been laid out in the kitchen for us because of the early start and were soon out on the street heading for the newsagents where I needed to pick up some snacks and drinks for the day ahead. Soon, it was time for going our separate ways and we said our farewells before I headed back out of the town to the river and Alan headed back to the hotel to prepare for his trip back home. It was sad in many ways that it was over for Alan as we had spent a lot of time looking forward to the trip and we had walked over halfway together, but as in the previous year, I was once again alone on the trail.
River Tees, near to the junction with Langdon Beck
Wheysike House (abandoned)
On top of Cauldron Snout
River Tees, near Cronkley Scar
Looking back to Falcon Clints
Thursday, 2 July 2015
East Gill Waterfall
We set off from Keld and climbed into the mist across Stonesdale Moor, an area that didn’t meet with Alan’s approval, before eventually arriving at the Tan Hill Inn, where we were greeted by Rowan and Gordon who had taken a room for the night in the pub and were standing out on the pub's terrace drinking tea. We stopped and had a chat while watching a lone walker setting off from the pub along a moorland road that paralleled the Pennine Way. According to Gordon and Rowan, the walker was following the Pennine Way but had been frightened off of following it across Sleightholme Moor by someone in the pub who had told him a story of a young girl walker falling into a sinkhole that had opened up in the path.
We bade Gordon and Rowan farewell and set off across the moor, ignoring any scare stories. The moor in bad weather would certainly be difficult to navigate, although there are white marker poles at intervals to help. As we yomped along following Frumming Beck, we could see the solo walker along the road ahead off to our right and we hadn’t been walking long when he suddenly stopped before turning off of the tarmac to cross rough ground towards the route proper. I remarked to Alan that it seemed odd he had been frightened off of an official route like the Pennine Way because of a story heard in a pub that warned of sinkholes but was prepared to risk crossing rough ground in the same area. Probably more by luck than judgement, he managed to safely negotiate the rough ground and intercepted us on the path. In fact, I suspected that he had looked back and seen us and decided that as we hadn’t come to any harm, it was safe for him to return to the route proper. Also, walking with others would give him the confidence to cope with any obstacles encountered on along the way.
Tan Hill Inn
He introduced himself as Gordon and we chatted for a while as we walked and we were bemused by the fact that despite it being dry and quite warm, he was wearing full waterproofs, including leggings and gaiters, which must have made him very hot. It was after crossing the moor that the route crossed into County Durham and almost immediately, it became noticeable that the signposts became few and far between. At one point, as we climbed a low ridge, it became necessary to switch on the GPS to locate the path, which was no big deal but after the luxury of having plenty of signage to follow, I now had to keep checking the route more carefully to avoid straying. Gordon was fully equipped with map and map case, GPS and all of the route and waymarks written on the map, so it was quite amusing that virtually every route decision he made turned out to be incorrect.
On God's Bridge
After we had stopped for a break on God’s Bridge, a natural limestone crossing over the River Greta, Gordon set off in a completely different direction only to realise after a few yards that he had gone the wrong way whereupon he turned to follow us. This happened again just after crossing the A66 and it wasn’t long after this that we realised that Gordon walked much more slowly than us so we told him we were going to ‘crack on’ and soon left him behind. As he was only walking the one day from Tan Hill to Middleton in Teesdale, this being the one section he had missed when he walked the Pennine Way sometime earlier, he was in no rush but even so, it did feel slightly mean to carry on without him but trying to walk at someone else's pace is very tiring. As it happened, we never saw him again. We crossed Bowes Moor at a good pace and soon the reservoirs came into view ahead in the Baldersdale valley, which signified that we had reached the halfway point in the whole trek. Descending, we approached the road at Blackton Reservoir and as we stepped onto the road, Alan felt something ‘give’ in his knee and this incident was to change the whole walk for both of us. Alan had recently recovered from a knee ligament injury from exercising at the gym, which physiotherapy had repaired in time for the start of the trek. It now appeared that the problem had resurfaced. We hoped that he would be able to ‘walk it off’ and continued around the reservoir, passing Hannah’s Meadow, which had featured in a television documentary many years earlier telling the story of a woman living a very hard, lonely life in the area without the luxury of electricity or running water. We ploughed on over numerous ups and downs towards Lunedale and as we climbed onto Harter Fell, it became clear that Alan wasn’t going to walk off his injury as I could hear him wincing in pain as we climbed stiles and descended steep inclines. The prominent wooded hilltop of Kirkcarrion came into view, indicating that we were close to the town of Middleton in Teesdale, which came into view in the Tees Valley below.
The last two miles or so were slow progress as Alan struggled downhill trying not to put too much pressure on his injured knee and eventually he limped down to the road just outside the town, close to the campsite. After a short walk we reached the reception office only to find it closed, as was the bar, where Alan had hoped to get a drink as he had run out of water some time earlier and was quite dehydrated. After the midge ‘nightmare’ Alan had suffered the night before in Keld, I pointed out that as the River Tees ran close to the campsite, we would probably have the same problem with midges here. We sat on the seats outside the bar to deliberate our options and it was here that the whole walk changed as Alan announced that he would be unable to continue the following day with his injured knee. This meant that I would be walking on alone as I had decided before we had started that if for any reason Alan pulled out that I would continue with the walk. After a brief discussion, we decided to walk the short distance into town where at least Alan would be able to get something to drink and we could also look at the option of obtaining a room for the night.
As we reached the main road in the town, Alan crossed the road to a shop to buy a drink and I went to see if I could find a room. I called in at the most likely looking place but they only had double rooms, which they weren’t prepared to drop in price for single occupancy. This is a strange strategy I always think, when bearing in mind that it was late afternoon and the likelihood of anyone else coming along was very slim, so it would surely be better to be making some money than none at all if, as was likely, the rooms would stand empty for the night. I returned back to the street and found Alan limping along the road and we both went into a nearby hotel where we were pleased to find they had a twin room for a reasonable rate. The receptionist couldn’t have been more helpful and we were soon in the room making tea and watching Wimbledon on the television. We attended to the usual daily routines of showering and washing clothes but everything had now changed with my decision to continue on alone and a mixture of excitement and apprehension now dominated my thoughts. After we had finished attending to our various chores, we headed down into the hotel bar for dinner and enjoyed a good meal and a few beers, which would now be the last we would enjoy together on the trek.
Middleton in Teesdale