Haltwhistle to Bellingham
I awoke this morning as early as ever and for some strange reason I felt wiped out. I couldn’t figure it out as it’d been a relatively easy walk yesterday. Not the best way to start the day that’s for sure.
Breakfast was good – way more than I could eat – and it wasn’t long before I had my gear on and I was checking out. Once I’d paid my bill Christine, the lady who seemed to do quite a lot at the hotel from making the bread for dinner to handling the bar and reception, gave me £10 towards my sponsorship which was very much unexpected and greatly appreciated. A quick chat with Christine and I was out the door.
The climb out of Haltwhistle was a lot harder than it should have been this morning. I guess the way I was feeling this morning was more than just in my head? I couldn’t seem to get going and fought all the way to the B66318, the road I had to cross before getting to Hadrian’s Wall. I really don’t know what was wrong with me as it wasn’t too hot this morning after the rain last night/this morning but I was clearly struggling.
When I got to Hadrian’s wall I was overcome with emotion and couldn’t stop crying. I think the enormity of everything I’d achieved over the last almost two months. Being there, 620 odd miles down the road from when I started was just amazing and I was extremely proud of myself.
Ever since learning about the Romans at school I’d always wanted to go to Hadrian’s Wall and to be there, touching the stones and seeing the remains of milecastles, well, it was just fantastic. A childhood ambition finally ticked off!
Composure gained I headed off along the wall for the next four or so miles. This was tough walking, and I can’t imagine what it must have been like all those many years ago for the centurions posted there. The landscape was clearly right for defending the wall but it went up and down quite a lot, very much like my second day’s walk to Porthleven.
There were quite a few people walking along the wall, some of which I stopped for a quick chat with, and by now the day was beginning to heat up a bit. I was dripping in sweat as I made my way up and down the wall’s route and at one point I began to think that it was a bad idea to choose this route, especially at the beginning of a longer day.
I made it though and shortly after midday I turned away from the wall to follow the Pennine Way to Northumberland National Park. Just over half way to the tree line I decided to stop and eat my lunch, using a style as a make-shift seat. There wasn’t any shade from the now rather hot sun there but I knew I needed to boost the energy reserves after a tough few miles along the wall.
Lunch over with I headed down the track and who should I bump into again? Stephen, the chap I was walking with yesterday. I thought he’d set up camp for the night but he told me that he was just drying everything out after last night’s heavy rain. We had a quick chat but knowing I still had a good number of miles ahead of me I shook his hand, said goodbye and headed off. It was a real shame as I would have loved to have stayed there longer catching up again. You never know, we may end up a John O’Groats at the same time…that’d be weird wouldn’t it?
Finally making it to the trees I followed a track through them, which was a shame as I was hoping that the trees would give me some shade from the heat of the sun but no such luck unfortunately. If that wasn’t bad enough I soon found myself walking across Haugton Common which gave me absolutely no break from the sun. This was turning out to be a difficult day for sure even with the breeze.
The common tackled it was back in to the trees, this time on a much smaller path and some well needed shade from the sun. The only problem now was the breeze had now disappeared and things started to get a bit stuffy. Never happy am I?
Before leaving the relative shade of the trees and attacking Broadpool common I found a shaded spot under a tree and took another break. The heat was really beginning to get to me and I wasn’t happy about it as I still had at least six miles to go and I was struggling.
As I sat there a couple walked up to the style with their dog. They were out training for some mad four day event in August – mountain biking, running and god knows what else – but they stopped for a quick chat, which was great because it took my mind off how bad I was feeling.
Chat over with they headed off up the path I’d just come down. I put my boots back on and left the shade of the tree to conquer the common, something I’d desperately tried to delay as long as possible. Sitting there though wasn’t going to get the day’s walking done was it? The common was as much fun as I thought it was going to, i.e. none!
Knowing that the signal on my phone had been in and out all day, a couple of miles down the road I took a break and phoned the girls. Alice sounded quite amazed when I told her I was sitting in a field with lots of sheep. She asked me if I was stroking them but I told her that they kept on running away from me as they were obviously scared of me. She laughed. It was great to chat to them both – Elisa’s conversation being a touch on the short side – and it really helped to put a smile on my face.
Unfortunately that smile didn’t last very long. Why is it, on the longer days of this route, there’s always a nasty hill at the end of the day or near the end of the day? It drives me mad!
The climb up to the relay station up to and over Shitlington Crags – I know, don’t laugh too much – was a nightmare. My feet were hurting, the heat was almost unbearable and I was not enjoying myself by this point and struggling up hill was exactly what I didn’t need to be doing. I made it though, again with considerable swearing, most of which was directed at myself, and I headed along the track past the relay station.
I was getting tantalisingly close to Bellingham now and a short walk across a field with cows in it I found myself looking down on the village…phew, almost there!
The last mile and a half was torture. My body was beginning to fall apart and it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other by the time I was walking along the main road through Bellingham.
I found my place of residence for the night, went to my room and stood in the shower for some considerable time trying to wash off today’s walk. I was completely exhausted and almost fell asleep on my bed before I got a chance to go and get something to eat! I hobbled downstairs though for a drink and got a very filling steak and chips to try and fill up the energy reserves.
The emotion felt when I reached Hadrian’s Wall this morning seems so far away now after the torturous walk this afternoon which is a real shame. The walk was stunningly visual, with the changing landscape throwing up craggy rocks, sweeping landscapes and forests, but that couldn’t help to raise my mood once I’d begun to suffer from the heat. Will I ever get used to walking in the sun? I don’t think so somehow.
Fingers crossed tomorrow’s walk, which is shorter, goes better than today’s and that I manage to catch up with myself a bit.