Alston to Haltwhistle
I‘m pleased to say that taking a break from the beer last night, after drinking for most of the afternoon, and drinking girly non-alcoholic drinks for the rest of the evening paid off – no headache or anything this morning when I woke up…hurrah!
I wasn’t feeling too bad, a few aches and pains, probably more from not walking than from walking which is just mad, and I got my stuff together and down to breakfast nice and early.
I never hang around too long with breakfast, just eat it without rushing too much, go to my room, grab my gear, check out and then out the door. I didn’t have too many miles to do today but I knew that tomorrow was a longer day so sooner started, sooner finished and sooner resting this afternoon.
The heat of the sun was already pretty bad when I left the Cumberland at 8:40am and I wasn’t looking forward to walking in it for the next five or six hours I can tell you. I still don’t handle the heat very well but what else can I do? I guess I could just not walk for the day but then I’d never get to the end of this adventure would I?
I headed out of Alston and picked up the South Tyne Trail by the station. The path ran down the side of the South Tynesdale Railway, of which only the two and a quarter mile stretch from Alston to Kirkhaugh still operates narrow gauge passenger trains. The rest of the disused sections that make up the South Tyne Trail are open to both walkers and cyclists, which meant today’s path was pretty good and flat.
About three miles into the walk I spotted another walking coming down a much harder path on my left. He was carrying quite a lot of gear and I must admit I wondered why he was struggling across the farmland when he could have been on the nice path I was on. I took a break at this point as my feet were beginning to heat up and I thought it wise to give them a little air before they started to suffer too badly.
Rest over with I continued along the disused section of the railway line and at a gate I bumped in to the other walker, not literally of course. We said hello and as we started to chat it transpired that he – Stephen – was also walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats having left on the 5th of May, two days before me. We’d taken slightly different routes to get where we were but seeing as we were both heading towards Haltwhistle along the same path we decided to walk together.
Stephen was doing his walk to raise money for the Christie Men Matter Appeal, a small charity committed to raising awareness of men’s cancers and how to reduce the risks of developing a life-threatening problem from them. So, if you’ve sponsored me (and if not why not?!) and are still feeling in a generous mood please head over to Stephen’s Just Giving page and help him make his walk worth while. Thanks you lovely people!
Fortunately for us, as we continued along the path we were given quite a lot of shade from the heat of the sun by trees but there were still sections that left us out in the full gaze of the sunshine and trust me, it was pretty hot by then.
The first really interesting point on today’s walk was the Lambley railway viaduct, which we had to cross. The viaduct was completed in 1852 and was in use until 1976. It was an impressive structure and the view from it as we walked across was very nice indeed.
Stephen was originally planning on staying at a campsite just outside Rowfoot – yes, he was camping unlike me, living the life of Riley while I made my way up the country – but as we came up to Rowfoot on the trail it wasn’t even 1pm so he wasn’t sure what to do. Spotting the “PH” sign on my map we decided to take a well earned brake, especially as the pub was just a few yards off the trail.
As we approached I was silently praying that it was still open and not boarded up like the pub in Garrigill the other day, and to my great relief it was – woo hoo! The Wallace Arms was a lovely pub and the pint and sandwich I had for lunch hit the spot nicely. I thought I’d treat myself to a pint seeing as there were only three or so miles left to go of the day’s walk so I didn’t think it’d hurt.
Fed, watered and rested we picked up our gear and headed off into the sun, determined to get to Haltwistle in good time. I know I had a longer day’s walk ahead of me and the earlier I got to the end of today’s walk the more time I’d have to relax before the next one.
I’ve got to say it, Stephen kept up a good pace – we averaged 2.6mph for the walk which is pretty good going – and we made our way in to Haltwhistle shortly after 2pm, after having made our way over Haltwhistle railway viaduct, also known as Alston Arches, built in 1851.
Stephen and I said goodbye as he headed off to his campsite and I found my way to the Centre of Britain hotel, so called because Haltwhistle claims to be at the geographic centre of Britain – equidistant from the sea as measured along the principal points of the compass. This claim however is somewhat tenuous as it requires the northern extremity to be taken as Orkney instead of Shetland. I didn’t care though. There’s a signpost in the square with directions and distances to different places in the UK which I took a look at – 290 miles from Portland Bill in Dorset…nice!
My room at the hotel was a chalet styled bedroom in the courtyard, designed on two levels. It was great and having a small lounge to sit in and it almost felt like a little holiday cottage with the bedroom being on a mezzanine floor.
Once I’d sorted myself out and cleaned myself up I headed out into Haltwhistle to see what was about and to post another postcard off to the girls. I didn’t wander round too long as my feet were a bit sore after the hot walk today so I headed back to my room to talk to the girls, which as ever put a huge smile on my face.
Not wanting to go too far for a drink or food I thought I’d try out the restaurant at the hotel, especially as it’s been Michelin recommended for the last four or so years. I have to say it, the food was wonderful and I’m now sitting here completely stuffed to the eyeballs!
Making the most of the restaurant I ended up having a full three course meal starting with Gravlax, which is basically salmon cold-cured with sugar, salt, and fresh dill, followed by roast leg of lamb with a cranberry jus and finishing it all off with a chocolate mousse torte with chocolate shavings…yummy! Lee, if we’d stuck to the original plan of meeting me in Haltwhistle I’d have treated you to a meal here instead of just the pub, sorry. Another time matey.
Even though the route for today’s walk was a little plain to say the least, having company for the vast majority of it and again falling on my feet with a cracking place to stay and eat, I find myself in a really good mood and in high spirits.
The mood’s been greatly boosted by the realisation that I’m only a couple of miles away from Hadrian’s Wall, a short stretch of the walk that I’ve been looking forward to doing since I sorted the route out what seems like a long long time ago now. This also clearly means I’m very close to crossing the Scottish border too which is just an amazing thought!
A bit of a longer walk tomorrow so I’d better get this posted, my pint drunk and my backside off to bed!