Langdon Beck to Alston
While in the pub last night I bumped into the chap I’d met on the moor after Tan Hill the other day. He – Jim – was also staying in the youth hostel so we strolled along the road chatting. When I asked him if he was walking the Pennine Way for a holiday he told me that he was actually getting paid for walking it. He was asked by a publisher to walk the route and to check a guide book to make sure it was ok. Not a bad job if you like walking.
Jim also told me that he’d spent a few nights in his bivi bag out in the open, doing four nights on the trot at one point! This wasn’t something he’d recommend me doing on my walk and to be honest it’s not something I’d like to do ever!
The night at the youth hostel was ok, certainly better than I thought it would have been. I thought it was going to be fully booked for the night but in the end it was just me and one other guy in the room we were in which had bunks for eight people. Sod’s Law played its hand though as this chap snored like you wouldn’t believe! I struggled to get to sleep – opting to sleep with my headphones firmly planted in my ears – just to wake up at 5am with him still snoring. I was shattered so it was a good job I only had a fourteen mile stroll ahead of me.
The breakfast at the youth hostel was pretty good, certainly better than yesterday’s, and set me up for the day ahead. So all in all, my first experience of a youth hostel wasn’t a bad one, ignoring the snoring of course but that’s what you get with shared accommodation and I can’t really hold that against the hostel now can I? I’ll admit it though, if there’s an alternative to a youth hostel where I can have my own room, I’ll take it every time!
Today’s walk wasn’t the one I’d originally planned for my route to John O’Groats. I was supposed to be walking to Dufton along the Pennine Way but as I couldn’t find anywhere to stay when I was booking my accommodation at Russ’ place I had to change my plans and miss out that dog-leg section of the Pennine Way.
I was now heading straight to Alston and when I first looked at the route I wasn’t too happy as it looked as though I was going to spend all day walking up the B6277 – not the most interesting of walks – but if that’s what I had to do then that’s what I had to do. On closer inspection I figured out that I could cut some of the road out, eventually picking up my original path at Garrigill.
Feeling a little more hopeful for a not too dull day I headed off at 8:35am and started along the B6277 for the first three or so miles. Not too far out of Langdon Beck I heard a car toot it’s horn from behind me. Initially I thought it was someone about to offer me a lift, which I would have to gracefully decline without offending them too much, but no…it was Helen and Koert again! Would you believe it? They were heading to Garrigill where Koert was picking up the trail again having finished there the day before.
We had a little chat – Helen again taking my photo – and then they were off. That was the last time I’d see Helen as she was off home this weekend and it would more than likely be the last time I’d bump in to Koert as he was now ahead of me on the trail and I doubt I’d catch up with him before the end of the Pennine Way.
It was lovely to see them one last time though and it’d been great crossing paths with them these last couple of weeks as they really helped to lift my spirits on some tough days. Helen, if you’re reading this please drop me a line – you’ve got my email address or use the contact form on the site – as I really would like to keep in touch.
The walk along the B6277 was a bit of a nightmare mainly down to the motorbikes. Is that road a famous one for them to hammer round or something as they all seemed to love going at light speed round it! I was far more concerned about them than the cars and I was so pleased when I reached the lane I was going to take to cut the corner, and in doing so cutting out a very long drawn out climb too.
Looking at my maps showed that although this lane was a dead end, there was a track at the end of it that rejoined the B6277 at the top of the hill. Trusting my maps I headed down the lane past some old farms and the remains of Lady’s Rake mine, finally reaching the end of the road and the beginning of the track. The gate to the track wouldn’t open for love nor money so I had to clamber over it, something I don’t enjoy doing with the pack on my back but it’s easier to do it that way than taking it off and trying to get it over the gate and then climb over.
I took a little break there as there was a little climb up to the road, but it was only half a mile long and 250ft, the sort of hill I now eat for breakfast but it was nice to take my boots off for five minutes as my feet were beginning to heat up a bit as it was beginning to get very muggy indeed.
I shot up the hill and had to endure another mile and a half on the road, dodging the bikes again, before I finally hit some cross-country walking, heading down to pick up the South Tyne Trail.
It was great to be off the tarmac and the walk down to the trail was very pretty, again taking a break to try and cool myself down in a little gorge with a small stream running through it. I did pass one little stream that had a lovely pool of water at the top of it and it was all I could do to stop myself taking my boots and socks off and sitting there for the rest of the day with my feet dangling in the cool water. I knew though that if I did that I’d never make it to Alston so I dragged myself away and carried on with the day’s walk.
I wasn’t exactly rushing today but I made it to Garrigill in good time. Koert had already warned me that the pub on my map was boarded up which was a real shame as I could have murdered a nice cold drink by then. There must have been something going on though as there were loads of cyclists in the village, with more coming along the road. I assume there was some organised event going on, but as the pub was shut I didn’t stop to find out.
I picked up the Pennine Way again the other side of Garrigill, walking along the river South Tyne. There was quite a bit of shade from the trees but I was beginning to feel the effects of the heat by now. It was a lovely walk though except for all the flies and bugs along the riverside. I guess I’d better get used to that as I’m sure it’ll be far worse when I get in to Scotland?!
Reaching a bit of higher ground before reaching Alston I finally got a signal on my phone. Finding a stone bench at the top of the hill I thought I’d take five minutes and phone Andy for a chat. It seemed like a long time ago since we last spoke and it was great to catch up with him. As I’ve said before, these chats during the day really do help…when I’ve got a signal of course! I also had a chat with Matt just to let him know I was ok and nearly at my destination for the day.
I made it to the Cumberland Hotel in Alston in good time and upon arrival I enjoyed a very nice pint before going to my room and sorting myself out.
All clean from the hot day’s walking I went back down to the bar, plonked myself on a bar stool at the bar and didn’t move until it was time to go to bed. I sampled all of their fine ales and even ate my dinner at the bar after the manager said that I could – I guess he took pity on me and thought it’d better not to get me to move about too much after hearing about my walk?
I had a great evening and all the staff and locals were really friendly. I even got a pint bought for me by one of the locals when he found out I was doing my walk for the British Heart Foundation – top bloke! I certainly fell on my feet booking this place for the next two nights.
Even though I wasn’t initially looking forward to today’s walk it actually turned out to be a very enjoyable stroll indeed. Yes, the road bits weren’t the best but the rest of the walk was really very nice. My feet did really well today too, probably their best day yet! Dare I hope that they’re finally sorting themselves out? Time will tell on that one I guess?
I know I’ve not made a big deal out of percentages complete or miles covered for a while, not even when I passed the 50% mark the other day, but today I cracked the 600 mile mark, no small achievement in anyone’s book. I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve managed to cover such a huge distance on my own, but there’s still another 500 miles to go…best not think about that too much me thinks!?