|The Pennine Way|
Padon Hill currick
Another misty start to the days walking. However you cannot blame any mist for the navigation mistake I made on starting the walk - turning left instead of right on exiting the hotel. Maybe it was too much amber liquid the night before! Anyway, it was not until I noticed that the green dale of Hareshaw Burn was on my right (about 10 minutes later) that I realised my mistake. I quickly backtracked into the town. One benefit from the unplanned detour: I noticed an interesting church conversion at the end of town (worth a look at if you are looking around the town).
|Bellingham||YH||0870 770 5694|
|Bridgeford Farm||B&B||01434 220940|
|Brown Rigg||Camping||01434 220175|
|The Cheviot||Hotel||01434 220696|
|Crofters End||B&B||01434 220034|
|Demesne Farm||Camping||01434 220258|
|Lyndale Guest House||B&B||01434 220361|
Back on the correct route, I followed the West Woodburn road downhill and then uphill past the Bellingham Youth Hostel. The road is left when the Pennine Way goes up the access lane to Blakelaw Farm and through the interesting collection of farm buildings into the fields on the other side. Up above the top of the Hareshaw Burn woods, the path forks - I took the lower fork which avoids disturbing stock in the enclosed fields near Hareshaw House. North of the farm a wide track is joined - the remains of a small railway line for a coal mine - and followed to the B6320 minor road.
Over the road the track dives into moorland covered with heather. It is clear on the ground but not very visible from a distance with the heather growing over it. The climb to Deer Play is not hard and gives good if limited views across the gently rolling moors. The direct route to Whitley Pike is followed by a sharp descent down to a minor road at a cattle grid and gates. A tiny bit up the hill is a large named sandstone boulder (Grey Mare) covered in pockmarks. The marks are natural, unlike many other boulders in the area which were incised with 'cup and ring' marks by the former Bronze Age inhabitants of these hills.
The Pennine Way takes a gentle walk up the side of Padon Hill following a fence. At the highest point of the path, I took a short detour rightwards to the 5 metre high Padon Hill currick - constructed in the 1920's by the Morrison-Bell family (who lived in the nearby Otterburn Hall) this appropriately bell-shaped monument commemorates the Scottish preacher Alexander Peden. He was a Nonconformist Presbyterian in the reign of Charles II and brought his practitioners to out of the way spots to avoid persecution. The currick is embedded in a platform of stones, many of which were brought to this lonely place by the worshippers. It is well worth a close look and also gives some good views of the surrounding countryside.
Flock of moths next to a stone wall on Brownrigg Head
I followed the fence down to a wall by the new plantation that almost surrounds the farm of Gib Shiel. The wall lead me up a short steep ascent to Brownrigg Head passing along the way a "flock" of emperor moths darting around. Here the Pennine Way turns left along a fence and drops into the Redesdale Forest where it joins onto a 'road' (now used mainly for logging) that used to be the route by which sheep were driven from Redesdale to Bellingham. The walk along the road is very boring - the only excitement is keeping an eye out for the occasional logging truck.
The end of this boring section is signalled by appearance of Blakehopeburnhaugh Farm (the longest place name in England although nearby Cottonshopeburnfoot may displace it as recent maps have it as one word rather than two as previously). From there it is just a short distance to the River Rede and a chance to soak my road-weary feet in nice cold water. Note that the official Pennine Way route is impassable from here. The choice is to either walk up to the A68 road and follow it into Byrness (very boring along a busy road) or follow first the north banks of the Rede (up to a bridge) and then the south side (through forest) and then cross the river again to Byrness. The second option is much the better one despite the couple of points where the path may be overgrown by tall grass.
I ended up near the Byrness church - a nice little building - with the Byrness Hotel in front of me. However my nights lodgings were at a B&B in the village itself so I turned left along a track that 500 metres later got to the village (the post office/shop and Byrness Youth Hostel are also here). I found myself sharing the B&B with Marilyn and Ian Charles. Fortification for the following long days was taken at the Byrness Hotel with many other Pennine Way walkers - good beer, good food, great company and worth the short walk from the village.