Pennine Way: Day Fifteen

19th May 2010 – Once Brewed to Bellingham – 15.4 miles

“I cannot explain.” She spoke in a low, eager voice, with a curious lisp in her utterance. “But for God’s sake do what I ask you. Go back and never set foot upon the moor again.”
Miss Stapleton to Watson – Hound of the Baskervilles

Never again! I promise never again! I will never stay in a Youth Hostel ever again. It was a freakin’ nightmare last night. Of the 69 people in the hostel (I asked the lady behind reception how many were staying), well of those 69, at least 50 were kids between the age of 7 and 13. I know Youth Hostels were designed that way, but to be in such close proximity to so many kids, none of which I can exert any sort of authority or control over is my worst nightmare. The worst thing was that the adults who were in charge of them also refused to restrict their behaviour in any way. The result is 50 kids running around and shouting, fighting, playing, chucking stuff and generally having a great time, until well after 10pm.

I didn’t sleep very well either, I’m not used to sharing with three strangers, and I never really managed to relax enough to sleep properly. Each turn in the bunk caused it to creak – same for the other three too – so lots of creaking then lots of snoring and lots of heavy breathing and the occasional fart (although, to be fair, that may have been me).

By 06:00 I’d had enough so I decided to get a head start on the 19 other people who shared the single toilet and shower in our section of rooms. There were 4 blocks of 5 rooms, each room with four people in, each block having one shower and one toilet. I didn’t fancy joining a queue behind a couple of dozen kids at 07:00.

I had breakfast with Tony at 07:30 and it too was bedlam; 50 kids banging trays as they queued up, waiting for the serving hatch to open. We had to shout to communicate – over the dull roar from the little darlings. One of the guys who had shared our room, an archeologist digging at Vindolanda had been right when he greeted out entry into the room the previous evening with “welcome to Hell”. He and the fourth person in our room had been here for a week or so, while they both worked at the dig, and they’d had to endure the noise and chaos for 4 days.

Left to Right: First climb of the day - Steel Rigg, Tony climbs the steps on Steel Rigg

Left to Right: First climb of the day – Steel Rigg, Tony climbs the steps on Steel Rigg

It was with immense relief that we were out into the quiet of the car park at 08:30, and up to the formidable first climb of the day, Steel Rigg. No walk should have to start with such a fierce ascent, but at least it was fairly short. Unfortunately that wasn’t the last, and we made a series of steep descents followed by equally sharp ascents as we walked the 2 or 3 miles of Hadrian’s Wall to Rapishaw Gap.

Left to Right: Milecastle 39, An unconventional view of Sycamore Gap

Left to Right: Milecastle 39, An unconventional view of Sycamore Gap

From there we turned north, heading for the forests. Tony and I had made a loose agreement to walk together today, but our paces really didn’t match. He has a much bigger pack and walks quite a lot slower than I do. So in the end I made my apologies and I left him just as we climbed the logging road at the start of the first forest section. We were booked into the same B&B for the evening, so we knew we’d see each other later.

Rapishaw Gap

Rapishaw Gap

The road made good walking, but soon the PW is diverted off onto a grassy track through the trees and as we know, forestry paths rarely dry out properly and this one was no exception. It was muddy and boggy in places and I was constantly looking at my foot placement. Despite this, I really enjoyed the confines of the conifers and the forest was mostly new and relatively open. The path then crosses a wide common (Haughton Common) which is quite wet and would be even more so after bad weather. Once again I was thankful that we’d had so little rain recently. The short open stretch soon returns to forest though and this time it’s “old” growth conifers – tightly packed, straight lines of trees which allow no light to reach the floor and the place feels dark and oppresive. Another section that I enjoyed for completely different reasons. Eventually though the forest spits you out and I returned to high fields and farmland, interspersed with little wooded valleys and farm access roads.

Left to Right: Into the forest..., and back out again...

Left to Right: Into the forest…, and back out again…

...and back in again.

…and back in again.

At some point in the middle of the day I’d developed a nagging pain in my right ankle, it felt like my boot was laced too tight, but I knew it wasn’t. I loosened the right boot anyway, but that didn’t help, so I then unlaced the top two eyes of the boots and left it loose at the top, but secure around the lower foot. That didn’t really help either. So I took 2x 500mg Paracetemol and 2x 400mg Ibuprofen and that seemed to help quite a lot. The pain never went away, but it eased as I continued walking – I slowed down and took it easy from about 13:00, I knew I had plenty of time and not too far to go now.

I limped through the fields that approach Shitlington Crags, somewhat dreading the apparently steep ascent up to its resident radio tower which I’d been seeing for a couple of miles now. The climb wasn’t that bad, even with my ankle, it was horribly muddy and shitty – thanks to the cows that had been pastured there, but navigable without too much problem.

Shitlington Crags

Shitlington Crags

I bagged the trig point in Ealingham Rigg, a short diversion – and one that would have been ignored if it had involved any additional height gain. The PW then follows a wall for a while and then cuts across scrubby fields to reach the road into Bellingham.

Bellingham

Bellingham

I stopped in the Cheviot Hotel for a Diet Coke and the Coop for some lunch items before presenting myself at Lynn View B&B at about 15:30. I was welcomed with tea and biscuits and about 30-40 minutes later Tony arrived. He’d had a bad afternoon too, his right ankle had started to cause him problems! Very odd. He seemed to think it might be Tendonitis or something similar – he knows what it’s called in German, but his dictionary isn’t all that clear on the translation.

We walked back into the village together, primarily to see if he could get something from the chemist, but also to get him some items for the next couple of days lunches. We spoke briefly to a LeJoG-er who Tony met in Malham.

In the evening we went to the Rose & Crown for a drink and dinner and for the first time since Keld I got to speak to more than a couple of PWers at the same time. Tony had already met most of them as they were staying in bunkhouses and hostels or camping; there was Dave and Andy and Dave’s wife, an American lady called Suzi a camper whose name I didn’t catch and another solo walker called Steve who I’d seen a few days ago somewhere. I only know that because be mentioned his red gaiters and I recall being amazed to see anyone wearing bright red, full length gaiters.

It was a good evening, with Dave and the camper both being big Macc Lads fans, so we spent a while outraging the others with selected lyrics from Macclesfield’s primary music export.

The food in the Rose & Crown is excellent – don’t let appearances fool you. From the look of the menu to the look of the pub you’d expect very poor fayre, but what they served up was both huge and good quality, and very cheap too!

Steve, Suzi and the camper are headed for Byrness tomorrow and the party of three are having a rest day.

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