Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Greenhead
Follow my progress as I attempt to walk the length of the UK, from Dover to Cape Wrath, wild camping every night. This chapter is the second part of my walk along the Pennine Way, from Horton in Ribblesdale to Greenhead. I met my family again here. My eldest daughter joined me for this section.
If you’d like to see an overview map of my whole route from Dover to Cape Wrath, it’s here.
Day 19 (day 5 of Pennine Way) continued: Horton in Ribblesdale to Dodd Fell Hill
After meeting my family for lunch in Horton in Ribblesdale, I resupplied my food, snacks, wipes and meths, and also made some changes of gear. I’d got some new socks, thank God, as the others were smelling pretty bad by now. I was now wearing the Darn Tough hiker socks that I’d walked LEJOG in and a new pair of light hiker socks. My wife had washed my Rohan shirt for me so I swapped back to that. I didn’t really want to, as my Icebreaker merino shirt was still warm and comfortable even when it was wet. However, my wife insisted I change it (I can’t imagine why). I don’t want to admit this, but it was a good decision as the next few days were quite warm, and the Rohan shirt is better than the Icebreaker in those conditions.
My daughter Zoe and I set off back on the Pennine Way. We were aiming for Dodd Fell Hill to camp. The sun had finally come out after the deluge this morning, and the wind had dropped. This lead to a lovely afternoon’s walk through gorgeous scenery, past rivers and little valleys.
When we reached Dodd Fell Hill, I found the best wild camp spot of the trip so far. We had stunning views from our tents and watched a beautiful sunset. I felt a bit sorry that my wife wasn’t there to see it with me, but she had stayed in the village to climb Pen-y-ghent in the morning.
Day 20 (day 6 of Pennine Way): Dodd Fell Hill to Kisdon
I slept well last night and woke to amazing views over the valley. There was a clear blue sky and a cool breeze – perfect. After breakfast and coffee, we packed up and away about 7.45am.
I did notice that I had some slight condensation on my tent (the Notch Li), which had dried before I packed it away. Zoe’s tent (the Terra Nova Pulse) was soaked. I made a note to remember to get it out to dry it when we stopped later in the day – I had got out of the habit of doing that!
We followed an old stony track to Hawes, with a fairly steady climb and descent into the village itself.
Here we found a lovely upstairs cafe, The Wensleydale Pantry, serving a full cooked breakfast. I highly recommend it – good value and service. Hawes was really busy, with numerous cafes, pubs, accommodation and shops for resupply. It’s a very pretty place.
From Hawes, fortified by our breakfast, it was a really steady long climb up to Great Shunner Fell.
There were great views from the top. The stone walls cross here and there are benches so you can sit out of the wind no matter what direction it’s blowing. There were a few people up there, but we were lucky and got a corner bench out of the wind. We made lunch here (dehydrated meals).
It was a faster walk down to Thwaite but not overly steep. It was a lovely walk, helped by a glass of my resupply wine that I carry with me in a plastic wine bag. The paths were good with only a few boggy bits to dodge (surprising given the rain yesterday). There were quite a few flagstones over the worst bits.
There was a cafe in Thwaite, but it was closed when we passed through at 6pm. So we carried on over the river, where I was able to filter some water for camp later.
We climbed steeply for a short time and then followed a nice path around Kisdon.
We camped here with great views over a small valley. Unfortunately we had to retreat to our tents at about 8.30pm because the wind had dropped, allowing the midges to come out to eat. It was the first time on the whole trip I’d had a problem with flies.
Another walker came past at about 8pm. I would have liked to have chatted to him for longer, and especially get his kit list. He looked pretty light – possibly another gear nerd like me. He had passed me a few days back when I’d been on the phone to my wife, so I couldn’t talk to him. (Editor’s note – Alex, was that you?!)
Day 21 (day 7 of Pennine Way): Kisdon to Blackton Reservoir
It had been a comfortable, quiet night and I slept well again. I woke at 5.30am, made breakfast and coffee but let Zoe sleep. She was exhausted when we camped last night. I think we’d walked about 18 miles, but it was quite a climb over Great Shunner Fell and she is carrying nearly a week’s worth of food. Knowing her, she’s probably got about 5kgs of snacks too!
We were away walking by 7.45am. It was the first time outside of Scotland that I’ve had to wear my midge head net. We walked around the hill and dropped to cross the River Swale near Keld.
The Pennine Way doesn’t go into Keld, and it’s quite a climb to the village. We stopped near the waterfall on a bench so Zoe could have her breakfast. Then we climbed and followed a track out on to the Pennines to Tan Hill.
We reached the famous Tan Hill Inn at 10.45am during a short shower, so we were glad to go indoors and sit down. It was close enough to lunchtime to stay, as they were serving food from 12 noon. Tan Hill Inn is a popular and busy pub, but the service wasn’t great. The food was fine though, and the fire was alight!
The path from Tan Hill to the A66 crossing was pretty boggy and sometimes hard to follow. Then on a not much better path it was a fair climb over Cotherstone Moor, with good views.
We stopped a little earlier than planned because we passed a perfect camping spot next to the river flowing into Blackton Reservoir.
Day 22 (day 8 of Pennine Way): Blackton Reservoir to High Cup Nick
You just can’t beat being woken by sunshine on a tent and the sound of a river flowing nearby. It had been a very peaceful night with no people at all, and no sounds other than the river and a light breeze in the trees. There weren’t even that many birds tweeting about. And amazingly, no slugs for a change.
We were lucky there was a breeze as this spot would have been midgy hell – we were camped in long grass under trees. It helped that it was full sun as well, which midges don’t like. Wusses.
We had coffee and breakfast, and were away about 8am. What is it with teenagers and laying in late?! The wind dropped at this point and the midges came out in force, so we finished packing in double-quick time.
It was a nice walk over Mickleton Moor, and between Selset and Grassholme Reservoirs. We then headed up Harter Fell and into Middleton-in-Teesdale. The Pennine Way follows the River Tees for a little while and we stopped here for an early lunch at 11am.
The walk past Low Force and High Force waterfalls was lovely, and the only time we saw many people.
We stopped again for a second lunch at 3.30pm at Forest-in-Teesdale. After this it was a great climb up by Cauldron Snout and another lovely waterfall.
Then a long slog on a track past a very remote farm at Birkdale.
The track continued most of the way up Rasp Hill, which was hard going this late in the day. Then we followed a path down to Maize Beck to camp at 8pm.
I made coffee and a meal, and even had time for a full wash in the river and do some laundry. It was lovely to be camped here with my daughter, as we camped here before last time we walked the Pennine Way when she was 9 (she’s now 17). I’ve got great memories of her and her brother playing in the river here.
Day 23 (day 9 of Pennine Way): High Cup Nick to Alston
We woke to drizzle this morning – I was not impressed, as we’d fallen asleep under a clear sky. The drizzle stopped about 8am and the cloud was pretty high level, so we felt hopeful for the rest of the day.
By 9am we had packed up our reasonably dry tents and were on the move again. This felt like a half day to me after my more usual 6am starts! As we didn’t need to drop into Dufton only to climb out again, we went cross-country from Maize Beck across Dufton Fell to re-join the Pennine Way at Knock Old Man.
This route was easier going than I expected. There was a sort of path along the river to Great Rundale Tarn, and then it was cross-country through long grass to join the path again at Knock Old Man.
The route was fairly up and down over Great Dun Fell, Little Dun Fell and then finally on to the summit of Cross Fell (the highest point of the Pennine Way). The mizzle started again with a vengeance here, and the wind picked up to about 20mph+. This made crossing the summit quite difficult.
It was so windy, that when I stopped for a wee, it never hit the ground… we were very glad to make it into Greg’s Hut for lunch and a coffee.
It was still windy and mizzly when we left Greg’s Hut. I’d been chatting to a guy called Johnny who had set off from Alston that morning. He had been at the hut for a while, worried about whether to continue to Cross Fell summit and Dufton, or turn back to Garrigill. I tried to give him the confidence to go on, but it wasn’t going to be easy for him with such a head wind and mizzle blowing into his face. He was fit as his home was Edale, but it was still going to be hard work. I hope he got on OK.
It seemed a long walk to Garrigill and we were looking forward to a drink and maybe a meal in the pub. It was a fairly rough, stony track all the way down. The pub was shut when we reached the village, so we had a snack on a bench and carried on walking towards Alston. I felt sad to see the pub and nearby shop so run down, as 10 years previous they had been so busy.
We found a camp spot in an empty field along the way.
The weather cleared in the evening, enough to allow our things to dry off a bit. However, the wind dropped too, and this brought the midges out. I have a midge head net in my pack ready for Scotland (I’m carrying it already because it’s so light), but I’ve been surprised at how often I’ve needed it in the Pennines. It makes a big difference to my sanity while I’m putting my tent up, and then I can zip the inner up to keep the little buggers out. I don’t know how people in tarps survive. We retreated into our tents and the rain started at about 8pm.
Day 24 (day 10 of Pennine Way): Alston to Greenhead
The rain woke me in the night, and it continued falling heavily. We had breakfast, packed up as much as possible inside the tents and then headed off.
We were roughly following the river in sheep fields all the way to Alston. When we arrived there we found only one small shop open (plus a Spar shop in a garage on the way in). It was a lovely little tea shop that sold all sorts, and best of all had two seats so we could eat in.
We had breakfast rolls, coffees and hot chocolates as they were such good value.
We left Alston in the rain again, so took the easiest route to Lambley along the Pennine Journey route and a disused railway line. It took us under the impressive viaduct at Lambley. From there, we walked a short way up the A689 to join the Pennine Way again.
We were straight into bog hopping. The path dropped into a lovely hidden valley with a river racing through it, fit to burst its banks with all the rain. It was impossible to keep dry feet over Blenkinsopp Common. At one point, we were wading nearly knee-deep in water which was impossible to bypass.
The Pennine Way goes round the village of Greenhead, but we followed the Pennine Journey route again to take us into the village. I had arranged to meet my wife here at the pub, and Zoe would go back with her.
However, the pub was shut (it looked closed down). After re-arranging to meet the next day, I carried on on my own to camp near Hadrian’s Wall.
It was hard knowing my family were so close. They were staying in Hexham for a few days to resupply me before heading home. I was missing everyone, but I have got this far wild camping every night so I am sticking to the plan. Before I climbed Snowdon on my LEJOG, I had to stay in a B&B for two nights due to a storm. I had been so close to walking the length of the country, wild camping every night. I am determined to achieve it on this walk from Dover to Cape Wrath.
Read the next section of my travels here: Dover to Cape Wrath Chapter 9: The Pennine Way part 3
Further reading and links:
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