Our Pennine Way Adventure Continues…
So far we’ve only used 5 blister plasters and taken 8 Ibuprofen tablets. That’s good going considering we’re well over halfway!
Join us on a cyber journey of some of Britain’s finest countryside. Alfred Wainwright might not have been that impressed with the Pennine Way trail through northern England. He thought it was a ‘trudge’ with not enough waterfalls. But he must have loved this view! We certainly did. Walking to ‘High Cup Nick’ and seeing the perfect U-shaped valley has definitely been our high point to date…
The ‘wow’ factor! Fantastic views down the U-shaped valley at High Cup Nick.
Day 16 – Wild Camp to Dufton. (14.7 miles) – Wednesday 9th July 2014 – ‘Good Old Nick’
Day 16 was a swift get up and go! We set the alarm for 5am so we could try and sneak off before another major attack of the midges. No such luck however as they were hovering around the tent as usual waiting for us to appear. Cue the usual 5 minute midge massacre as we try to swat as many as we can. (Ok, not good for boosting our karma ratio but well and truly justified). Wondering why they seem to love us so much, Wayne later Googled what he could about midges, discovering they are attracted to our carbon dioxide as well as dark colours and sheltered environments. No wonder they love hovering around our tent, backpacks and ‘us’ so much. Breathing out carbon dioxide all night in a closed environment such as a tent is just the invitation midges need to have a good old party. And of course, when we pitched our tent at the wild camp spot, the first thing we looked for was a sheltered area out of the wind. Bad move! Now we know the facts, we’ll be much more midge aware!
One good thing about midges – they make sure we get an early start!
Rejoining the Pennine Way after our wild camp past Middleton in Teesdale.
Our early morning walk followed the River Tees.
Not a gentle stroll along the river as we had expected!
Anyway, after a stressful start, the day got better. A large part of today’s walk was along the River Tees, which was really pleasant as the sun began to shine. There was some scrambling over boulders that we didn’t expect. Likewise we weren’t expecting the huge waterfall and giant dam that appeared at Cauldron’s Snout.
A bit of boulder scrambling along the way!
In front of the unexpected waterfall!
Perfect spot for a photo.
The dam at Cauldron’s Snout.
Continuing along a better trail.
But the highlight of the day was undoubtedly ‘High Cup Nick’, a large U-shaped valley created by a glacier a long time ago. (If you want more facts, remember Google is your best friend!) As it was a bright, sunny day, the views down the valley were simply stunning. The actual U-shape of the valley is so large that it’s hard to fit it in its entirety on your camera screen (unless you happen to own a wide angle lens like Wayne).
Approaching High Cup Nick.
Great for a geology lesson – the perfect glacial valley.
Wayne’s favourite spot on the Pennine Way so far!
We had a ‘selfie’ shot in front of the valley and picked a spot for lunch where we could enjoy the view (along with lots of other day walkers, the most we’ve seen along the route so far).
As we left High Cup Nick we saw wild horses as we made our way down off the mountain. But the best sight of all was the view. It was such a clear day that we were able to see as far as the Yorkshire Dales to the left, as well as some of the famous peaks of the Lake District to the right.
A pair of book-ends!
Stunning views down the valley.
Leaving High Cup Nick…
Fabulous weather affording us wonderful views!
The mountains of the Lake District in the distance.
And then it was just a simple stroll downhill all the way into Dufton! It was an early arrival for us at the campsite. We reached the Grandie Caravan Park around 4pm and promptly made use of the shower facilities in view of our wild camp the previous night. Arriving early also gave us chance to do some laundry and buy some fresh eggs from the local cafe. There was even time for some last minute sunbathing and catching up with writing the blog diary.
Definitely a day on the Pennine Way to remember.
Day 17 – Dufton to Greg’s Hut. (9.4 miles) – Thursday 10th July 2014 – ‘The High Point’
Today was to be one of our shortest walking days. From Dufton to our destination, Greg’s Hut, which is a bothy in the hills maintained by volunteers, it was only 9 or so miles. So this gave us the chance to have a more leisurely morning at the campsite instead of our usual get up, pack up and go. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast of omelette wraps (we can’t believe how many eggs we’re eating) and finally set off around 10.30am.
The long road out of Dufton.
Walking around Brownber Hill.
‘If your name’s not down, you’re not coming in!’ We had to pass the horses whilst going through this gate.
It was a long, gradual uphill walk out of Dufton, which was fine apart from the section along a narrow track that was covered in nettles and swarming with midges, our favourite friends! As we continued up through farmland we were able to watch some farmers rounding up the sheep with their trusty dogs, which was a welcome breather at that point.
Enjoying the view.
The first of many cairns today.
We headed up to Knock Old Man at 794 metres, then on to Great Dun Fell, unmissable for miles around due to the Radar Station positioned on top, then to Little Dun Fell at 842 metres where Wayne set his tripod up for a time lapse as there was a wonderful view with the clouds moving in.
Reaching Knock Old Man.
Beautiful reflections at the top.
But with water comes the dreaded bog!
Continuing on to Cross Fell, the highest point on the Pennine Way.
Probably the tallest cairn ever!
The highest point of the day however was reaching the top of Cross Fell, which at 893 metres is also the highest point on the entire Pennine Way. It was incredibly blustery up there, but a new shelter proved invaluable in shielding us from the penetrating wind.
The cairn marks the spot!
Reaching the ‘trig point’ at the top of Cross Fell.
It was only a short distance from this point until we reached Greg’s Hut, named in honour of John Gregory, a keen climber, who was killed by an avalanche in the Alps in 1968. (His parents funded much of the restoration work of the hut in memory of their son, in conjunction with the Mountain Bothies Association.)
As we had good weather we didn’t stay inside the hut, choosing to pitch our tent in the garden at the front of it. Although basic, we can see how the hut is invaluable for hikers when the weather turns providing a much needed place of shelter and respite. It can be very bleak out on the fells, with no sign of civilisation for miles around.
We head to the bothy, ‘Greg’s Hut’.
Rustic but does the job!
The main room inside the hut.
Our lovely pitch at the front of the hut.
Deciding whether to cook outside. The midges won so we went indoors!
The hut also proved a good place for Wayne to cook dinner so we could be out of the wind and away from any midges hoping for a feast. On tonight’s menu it was Thai cuppa soup, followed by Chinese super noodles, followed by a Bounty bar and hot chocolate!
Our a-la-carte menu for tonight!
A great sunset to end the day.
We were lucky enough to see a good sunset from up there too before we retired to the tent. The other good thing about the hut is that there’s no fee, so much like a wild camp we enjoyed a ‘freebie’ night, but slept far more soundly without fear of being caught camping on private land!
Day 18 – Greg’s Hut to Alston. (10.5 miles) – Friday 11th July 2014 – ‘Birthday B&B Pick Me Up’
We were in high spirits today as our destination, Alston, had been earmarked as a rest day the following day, which was Wayne’s birthday. We set the alarm for 6am, had breakfast in the hut (ooh back to lovely porridge, not so lovely made with water instead of milk however), got packed up and left by 8am. Yay, on time for once!
Solar panel in action – Wayne making full use of the sun!
A beautiful tarn we passed on the way.
It was quite an easy walk. The track was clearly marked and mostly flat so we averaged a speed of 2.7 miles an hour, a good pace with our heavy backpacks. (We usually aim for 2 miles per hour with a full pack and when there’s a lot of elevation change). We reached the village of Garrygill in what seemed like no time, which was our halfway marker, so we sat on the village green for a drink and a snack.
Not far to go…
We were looking forward to arriving in Alston by lunchtime so we powered on, getting there around 1pm. After doing a quick reccy of the town (it was a lot smaller than what we were expecting) we headed to The Pantry, a nice, cosy cafe, where we treated ourselves to a proper lunch. After living mainly on packet food for a couple of weeks, the jacket potato and salad I ordered was just perfect. The owner was really chatty and amiable and the added bonus was the free Wi-Fi, which meant we could finally upload some pictures and post an update of our progress along the Pennine Way.
Walking into Alston.
The friendly ‘Cumbrian Pantry’, complete with free Wi-Fi!
After lots of packet food, this was quite possibly the best jacket potato and salad EVER!
Alston was proving a winner until we headed to the only campsite in town, which did not fill us with much enthusiasm. Set at the back of a scrapyard, complete with some old sofas and a couple of rubbish skips outside Reception the place looks rather dodgy. As no one was around to check us in, we made a rash decision to get the hell out of there and book into a cheap and cheerful B&B we’d spotted in town. Well it was Wayne’s birthday the next day after all. So it didn’t take much convincing to decide to treat ourselves to a proper bed for one night after 17 nights of camping.
It didn’t take us long to spread out!
For £50 including full English breakfast, we checked into a double room with ensuite shower at the Victoria Inn, which as well as it’s B&B status, doubles up as a pub, as well as an Indian restaurant, which is bizarrely ran by a Chinese lady who seems to be constantly rushed off her feet!
The lovely Chinese owner Tian trying on my backpack!
If you’re not too fussy, it’s good value for money and does the job, so it was perfect for us. Especially as all we wanted to do was have a hot shower, get some laundry done and stretch out in a real bed! The TV and tea/ coffee making facilities were just an added bonus (and gave us the chance to stock up on some tea bags and sugar!)
Well birthday celebrations are not complete without a few beers, so as we were staying the night we decided to have a mini pub crawl and celebrate Wayne’s birthday a night early. We got changed and headed straight to the Turks Head, which felt like a ‘locals’ kind of pub, then moved on to the Angel Inn, which looked to be serving some fantastic bar meals, then finally settled in The Cumberland, which was recommended to us for serving ‘real ales’. For such a small town, there was a large number of public houses to choose from!
‘Stay calm and drink real ale’. Of course!
Birthday drinks in The Cumberland!
We finished the night off with a bag of chips and curry sauce, just in time before the chippy shut at 10pm. And then it was off to retire to our nice, comfy, warm BED. The sleeping bag was well and truly banished for the night!
We were wise to stock up on food rations for the next few days pre- birthday drinks!
But as with all good things there comes a price and ours was forfeiting our planned rest day the following day. As we had spent extra on the B&B and because Alston didn’t really have enough to keep us occupied for an extra day without spending money, we were moving on. We still had our miles to cover after all! So Wayne’s actual birthday was going to be spent hiking 18 miles, one of our longest days yet. Boy, we were not looking forward to that one!
Find out how we got on in the next installment of our Pennine Way adventure – Days 19 – 21 coming soon!