Greenhead to Kirk Yetholm
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 third and final part of my walk along the Pennine Way, from Greenhead to Kirk Yetholm. From here, I join the final long-distance path of my trek: the Scottish National Trail.
If you’d like to see an overview map of my whole route from Dover to Cape Wrath, it’s here.
Day 25 (day 11 of Pennine Way): Greenhead to Bellingham
It was 6.50am, I was out of the tent and packing my rucksack when someone shouts out, ‘Morning!’ It was a chap in shorts and T-shirt with a dog, wandering past down a very steep hill. There was no path to speak of. I guess he was the farmer out for a morning walk, as that was the only building in his direction and he definitely wasn’t on a footpath. He was also definitely local as it was a cold, misty morning.
I had breakfast, coffee, packed up and was away by 7.15am. I never start the day with coffee at home, but I love a treat while I’m camping.
It was an enjoyable walk along Hadrian’s Wall with hardly a breeze, sunny spells and very warm. The views were great. Although I was grateful for the sun, it made the many steep climbs along this section a little bit harder.
There was a drinks van in a car park I passed, but he wasn’t opening for another 20 minutes or so. I carried on, and put what I saved on a latte cappucino thing towards paying off my mortgage.
A little later I passed another parking area with an outside tap for filling water bottles. Very useful – thank you, Northumberland National Park!
I made it to the Pennine Way turn-off north at 12 noon, and stopped for lunch. It had been a busy stretch of the walk, with lots of day walkers and families walking a stretch of Hadrian’s Wall. Just as I’d rehydrated my meal, my wife and three of my children roll up – enjoying their own walk along Hadrian’s Wall after a visit to Housesteads Roman Fort! It was lovely chatting to them for a while, then it was time for me to head north.
The path through the woods and across Haughton Common was really boggy, all the way to Warks Burn.
Just after crossing the river and climbing the hill, I came to a farm – Horneystead. They had a shed open with a toilet, hot and cold drinks and a hiker box. There were seats inside and out, and I was extremely grateful. I had a coffee and actually remembered to fill my water bottles too. I left them all my loose change, without even bothering to count it – I was just so grateful that they trusted people enough to use their barn.
The path on from Horneysteads was easier going, through fields, tracks and very quiet roads.
I passed Shitlington Hall and climbed through Shitlington Crags to pass the transmitter and camp.
I had had enough by then, as it had been hard going along Hadrian’s Wall. Bog hopping had sapped all my energy.
Once I’d set up my tent, a number of cyclists raced past heading for Bellingham. They only spotted me beside the track once they were level with me, so my tent can’t stand out that much.
I’d camped high but there was very little breeze, so the midges were out in force. I retreated to my inner tent and slept well.
Day 26 (day 12 of the Pennine Way): Bellingham to Troughend Common
I woke to a dry morning – just – and walked off the hill into Bellingham.
The path was in the fields next to the road, and then I followed the road itself for the last mile or so into the village. I had arranged to meet my wife here at 8.30am, and she was there dead on time. She was staying in a static caravan in Hexham, and she took me back there so I could have a proper meal, a rest and a shower. (Editor’s note – it was not in that order. The shower definitely came first). I was also able to sort out my gear and maps for Scotland. She then dropped me back in Bellingham – at exactly the point she had picked me up – later in the afternoon.
Gear changes for Scotland:
I swapped back to my EDZ merino pants, and left my Icebreaker boxers and all my socks to be washed. I replaced my socks with Darn Tough hiker and light hiker socks. As the conditions are likely to be much wetter, I added Sealskinz waterproof socks and my EDZ zipped microfleece. I hadn’t used my neck gaiter at all yet so I took that out of my pack.
My Rohan shirt was quite (VERY) smelly (my wife may edit that as she opened all the car windows as soon as I got in), so I swapped it for my freshly washed Icebreaker shirt again. I also swapped the Sea to Summit bag (which is not waterproof) for a heavier standard Sea to Summit dry bag. I restocked all my consumables (meths, antibacterial wipes, coffee, kitchen roll, dehydrated meals and snacks). Most importantly, I added my Scotland A4 printed maps for the first half of the Scottish National Trail.
Emma dropped me back in Bellingham at about 6pm. I walked until 8.45pm and camped up on top of Troughend Common.
Day 27 (day 13 of the Pennine Way): Troughend Common to Windy Gyle
I’d been only just warm enough last night, wearing my Inov-8 merino hoody and placing my down jacket over my sleeping bag. The morning was breezy with broken cloud.
I had breakfast and was away at 6.45am. The paths were boggy so I was grateful for the waterproof socks I’d picked up yesterday. If nothing else, at least I had warm feet!
Soon I realised I had made the wrong choice of path to follow, and I was actually on a sheep path. I had to cross some rough heather to get back on to the Pennine Way.
After a steep climb and a better surfaced-path, I joined a good forest track. However, it seemed to go on forever. Just before Bryness there was a nice path to the camp site, and I saw my first red squirrel of the trip. I stopped for lunch at the second bridge just before the climb up on to the Cheviots.
At 12 noon I started the climb, knowing it would be 25 miles before I descended again into Kirk Yetholm. Initially the climb was steep, then steady over some tops. It was very windy, but luckily the Pennine Way had turned. The wind was on my back and it blew me to Lamb Hill mountain refuge hut for 3.45pm.
I stopped here and made dinner with some wine my wife had resupplied me with – just to lighten my load, of course. I had needed to add 3kgs of water to my pack before I started the climb to the Cheviots as there’s no water up here.
It looked like rain as I went over Windy Gyle at about 6pm, and I didn’t want to start the next day wet. I set up camp at the next available spot, although I did have to be a bit inventive. I placed myself between lumps of grass.
Luckily the rain didn’t come to much, even though I could see it throwing it down in the next valley. It was a lovely evening and the sky cleared for amazing views from my sleeping bag. I felt very lucky to be there, and I was really looking forward to starting the Scottish National Trail tomorrow. It felt like a massive milestone had been achieved getting here. I was also pretty chuffed that I’d beaten my previous record of walking the Pennine Way in 17 days. This time, I’d walked it in 14.
Day 28 (day 14 of the Pennine Way): Windy Gyle to Kirk Yetholm
Wind and rain woke me at 6am. This was not good, as I still had some high tops to do today.
It was a very wet and windy walk over to Auchope mountain refuge hut. When I got there I was soaked to the skin and it was only 9.30am. I stopped for coffee, breakfast and a warm up. It had taken me longer than I expected to walk over Score Head and round the 743m cairns.
I left the hut at 10.15am, thinking I only had to climb The Schil (601m) then it was only a few miles, and a steady descent, into Kirk Yetholm and the start of the Scottish National Trail. This walk was starting to get real.
It was a really boggy path to The Schil and then a nice walk on a grassy path down. I chose the low level route off the Cheviots as I’ve done the main high level Pennine Way route before.
It was a nice walk around the side of the valley to join the road into Kirk Yetholm. One last surprise in store was a steep descent to the pub, and then I had made it.
I stopped at the Border Hotel and was glad I did. Great service, good food and very good beer. It had been mizzly all morning, but as soon as I entered the pub it started chucking it down, and continued all the time I was in the pub.
It made me really feel for a young lady I’d met earlier in the day, heading off up into the Cheviots. I loved her attitude to hiking and her nerve to do it on her own, and camping too. Good luck to her and I hope she lets me know how she got on. She had a day ahead of her in this weather!
But now my attention must turn to the last, and greatest, challenge of this walk from Dover to Cape Wrath: the Scottish National Trail.
Further reading and links:
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