|The Pennine Way|
Milecastle 39 on Steel Rigg
The last of the easy walking was behind me. From now on I would tramp at least 20 kilometres each day for the four days to the end of the Pennine Way at Kirk Yetholm. A good day for the first of these days awaited me - bright sunshine through high fleecy clouds and little or no wind.
|Once Brewed||YH||0870 770 5980|
|Saughy Rigg||B&B||01434 344120|
|Twice Brewed Inn||Pub||01434 344534|
|Vallum Lodge Hotel||Hotel||01434 344248|
A few minutes after leaving Twice Brewed, I came back to the Wall at Peel Crags. Here you have the option of actually walking on the Wall itself - there are wooden steps to the top and to take you off again. For a few metres you can walk (almost) in the footsteps of the Roman garrison. Up on top of the crags I could hear but not see some climbers below me. The crags along the course of the Wall are favourite spots for those that like to dangle from vertical bits.
I dropped down to the best preserved of the milecastles - see the photo above. Milecastle 39 has its walls preserved to a good height, the cobbled path between the north and south gates is mostly intact and you can see the foundations of various very cramped buildings inside it. There I was joined again by Ian and Marilyn along with some others from the youth hostel. A short climb up from the milecastle and we were on Highshields Crags with good views down to Crag Lough at their foot and Greenlee Lough out in the valley. All four of the loughs in the valley (including Grindon Lough off to the SE and Broomlee Lough to the NE) are shallow lakes occupying basins scooped out in the last ice age. Their fate is to become bogs as has happened to Caw Lough which is marked as open water in older maps but is not visible now.
Beyond Highshields, the path drops down through a plantation of pine, elm and sycamore. After a steep climb past the grassy mounds of Milecastle 38 and Hotcrag Farm, we came to Hotbank Crags and then the drop to Rapishaw Gap where we reluctantly left the Wall behind us via a ladder-stile over the wall (note the small 'w') blocking the Gap. For the fit and energetic among you there is a detour available continuing along the Wall to the best of the excavated Roman forts at Housesteads (Vercovicium). This may only be 2 kilometres total added to the days walk but you had better figure on more than 2 hours added to your time (mostly spent at the fort). A better plan may be to do this as a day trip from Twice Brewed - then you can spend as much time as you like and even explore the Wall further on.
With a few glances back to the Wall, we followed the Pennine Way across Ridley Common (fairly marshy ground with a few patches of heather and a pretty burn). Past the lane to East Stonefolds farm we entered Wark Forest along a logging track with plenty of evidence of logging to either side. The forest quickly closed in as we followed the track north and uphill. As soon as we left the track for a green path through the forest one of the unmentioned hazards of the Pennine Way surrounded us - millions of gigantic flies! They were so bad that we walked with various items of clothing draped around our heads. One of them (a horsefly I assume) gave me a nasty nip on the hand.
Luckily there was only a kilometre of this before we reached the block of moorland that indents the side of the forest. Here the flies were less obvious although they still bothered us at our break in the shelter of the sheepfold protecting a group of stunted pines. A quick dash through another kilometre of forest brought us to a side road between Stonehaugh and the B6320 road. What was better was that the flies no longer bothered us.
A short bit of road-walking and we left the road (opposite the lane to Ladyhill Farm) and traversed another short section of forest to more grassy moorland. The path drops beside Fawlee Sike past a delightful little waterfall on the right and then climbs briefly over Longlee Rigg to drop again to Warks Burn. The footbridge is a good place to appreciate the rocky, birch tree shaded cleft through which the burn makes its way. A short climb brought us to Horneystead farmhouse where we stopped for tea from the owner - an original eccentric Englishwoman. Just by the farmhouse are the ruins of a fortified bastlehouse or peel (built around 1600).
Bellingham from past Shitlington Crags
From here to Shitlington Hall (really just a farmhouse) there is not much to mention - just 2-3 kilometres of field-walking with a patch of road-walking thrown in for good measure. The Pennine Way passes through fields to The Ashes farmhouse and parallels a minor road before crossing it at Leadgate (there is B&B available at Hetherington, 1 km from Leadgate). The best bit is met next at the buildings of Lowstead overlooking Blacka Burn where the gray stones of two old bastlehouses blend delightfully into their surroundings. The gardens here are especially scenic. The walking itself is nice - few navigation problems, good footing and a few interesting sights. A farm track brings less than a kilometre of minor road-walking before fields are traversed to Shitlington Hall.
At Shitlington Hall the Pennine Way climbs up the hillside beside a fence and wall and then clambers through Shitlington Crags (just a few metres of rock outcropping on the brow of the hill). Before the radio mast on the heights we stopped for a rest and perusal of the route we had crossed to the south. Beyond the top we could see the houses of Bellingham (locally pronounced as 'Bellinjum') enticing us onwards with the green wood of Hareshaw Dene to the right. However the Pennine Way left one obstacle in our way - a boring 2 kilometre walk into the town. The occasional glimpses of the North Tyne River lessens the tedium of the road-walk. In Bellingham we split up to our various stops for the night - the youth hostel, camping ground and the Cheviot Hotel in my case. When walking around the town keep an eye out for a memorial to the Boer War and a cannon from the Chinese Boxer Rebellion.
One point to note: Bellingham is the last fully serviced place on the Pennine Way. If you need money or supplies get them here. There is a small post office/shop and a gas station in Byrness but neither can be guaranteed to have a wide range of items.