|The Pennine Way|
Windblown tree on the way to Batey Shield
The morning saw me striding along the railway on a blustery, sometimes overcast day. There were certainly no navigation problems for me as I raced up to Slaggyford ('slaggy' is local dialect for muddy). The old railway trackbed provided good, dry footing all the way. At a couple of points I had to clamber over rickety fences where farm tracks crossed the railway. I recommend this route as a fast way to cover the first 9 kilometres of the days walk.
|Alston||YH||0870 770 5668|
|Blue Bell Inn||Pub||01434 381566|
|Brownside House||B&B||01434 382100|
|Cumberland Hotel||Hotel||01434 381875|
|Hillcrest Hotel||Hotel||01434 381251|
|Nentholme Vegetarian Guest House||B&B||01434 381523|
|Kirkstyle Inn, Slaggyford||Pub||01434 381559|
At Slaggyford I left the railway for a look at the village (which has a nice pub - Kirkstyle Inn) and then stayed with the Pennine Way for a couple of kilometres. The Pennine Way drops down into a nice crossing of the Knar Burn with a good view of the viaduct holding the railway. A small climb up to Merry Knowe farm is followed by a descent to a minor road and then I left the Pennine Way again. This time I followed the road past the couple of houses at Knarsdale and went up the A689 road to have a look at a pub (mentioned by Wainwright) there. Bit of a disappointment - not only was it closed but it wasn't anything special (not worth the detour).
A little further along the road and I took a fork up to Burnstones (a substantial house that used to be an inn). There I stood on the Pennine Way once again. However I did not follow it but backtracked slightly and rejoined the railway. This route is shown as part of a circular walk in the OS book 'Pennine Way North (Bowes to Kirk Yetholm)'. The reason in this case was to have a look at the big nine-arched viaduct over the South Tyne at Lambley. Once more I was walking fast - even faster when shooed along by buzzing flies in Softley Low Woods. The viaduct is worth the detour even if you stick to the Pennine Way as it traverses the moorland slopes on the Maiden Way (the course of a Roman road) and have to walk to and from it on the road.
By this time I was pretty thirsty - fast walking and a humid day helped. Rather than risk my rather depleted supplies I decided on yet another detour. I walked past the Pennine Way and along the road to Halton Lea Gate where there was a shop with all sorts of goodies (the extra couple of kilometres was worth it).
Back at the Pennine Way, I left the road and walked past some old mine workings (Lambley Colliery). Past Black Burn the path leads through overgrown, marshy pasture until the ruined High House barn is reached. The Pennine Way wanders down to Hartley Burn (nice place for a break) and then climbs gently through fields to Ulpham and Batey Shield farms (this was where the above photo was taken).
Back to Hartleyburn Common from Eadleystone on Blenkinsopp Common
Once past Greenriggs Farm the Pennine Way breaks out into bare, bleak moorland. The problem here is not the lack of a clear track, but the presence of many paths winding through the grass. If you head on a NE bearing though you will eventually come to a wall. I went too far east and had to follow a fence along a clear boggy track up to the wall - maybe it is a common mistake. Over the wall the Pennine Way rises up to near the summit of Black Hill passing the tumbled stones of Eadleystone (a good place to look back at the last of the Pennines - I was standing on their very northernmost foothills).
Dropping down from Black Hill, the path takes a direct route to Gap Shields Fan and then turns sharply right to avoid crossing the busy A69 road too soon. The Pennine Way takes another sharp turn (left and downhill) a kilometre further on and descends along the edge of a nice wood to the A69. The Pennine Way itself continues across the road and up to the first signs of the Roman Wall - the Vallum, now a shallow ditch once marked the southern boundary of the Walls military zone. I left here for the rather boring walk along the road to Greenhead and then through the village to the lane leading to my nights stay at the Vicarage. This B&B is one I strongly recommend. The house is a large 2 story building in a fairly big and well-kept garden. The room I was in was enormous. Greenhead also has a youth hostel.