I’d requested an early breakfast for this morning, despite it being Saturday and feeling a little selfish at asking Dave and Christine to get up even earlier to provide for me. However, I wanted an early finish as I had about 2 1/2 hours in the car at the end of the walk.
I was out just before dawn (who’s normally such an early riser) and walking across thawing farmland with low cloud across the valley and the threat of rain in the air. I only had about 8 miles to go today and I was hoping to be back at the car for about midday, which would allow me to get home in time to watch Soccer Saturday on Sky. My boots, still wet and cold from yesterday didn’t make for a pleasant start, but once I’d equalised the temperature I was OK.
I would finish today’s walk at the point where the Pennine Way strikes away northwards, away from the Wall, into the forests and I would turn south instead, to reach the station at Bardon Mill. That would mean I could hopefully find someway to return to the station as a start point in the future and still have Bellingham within striking distance of a day’s walk. I don’t expect to be back until the New Year now, the daylight hours are just too short and there is some sort of family celebration planned for later in the month that my attendance is required at.
For such a relatively short section of path, I did quite a bit of up and down work this morning, I certainly had a sweat on. Shortly after dawn, the skies decided to break their embargo on raining on me and I got quite wet over the course of the next hour or two. It wasn’t bad, just steady and the wind was fairly light, so although I got drenched, I was warm enough even with just baselayer and Paramo coat on.
I reached the highpoint of the wall, at Windshield Crags and the view northwards was almost non-existent, completely covered in low cloud or mist. I really don’t fancy doing the next section until it’s dried out a bit, or better still, completely frozen over. The forests are muddy at the best of times, but after weeks of horrible rain I can imagine they are going to be a quagmire.
One of the beauties of walking so early, late in the season and with such poor weather is that the wall is so quiet. I’d not met anyone walking it last night and again this morning I was alone. I saw a car in the Steel Rigg car park, but didn’t see the occupants. I eventually passed a group of four walkers coming in the other direction as I climbed above Crag Lough, almost at the end of the day. That makes 6 walkers I’ve passed in 4 days.
I’m still not convinced that much of the wall we see now is original. The stones are probably original, but I think a lot of reconstruction has been done over the past couple of hundred years. I don’t really mind – seeing the shape of the milecastles and the turrets gives you a feel for how cramped the conditions must have been and how much wall they had to guard.
I left the wall just after Crag Lough and took a good track down to the B6318 and then up onto Barcombe hill where I bagged the trig point. The crossing of Thirngrafton Common was fun, it was squelchy and strewn with dead bracken which made for some interesting footing in places, but I was soon walking under the A69, through the village and down to the station.
I was pleased to see my car was still in one piece and unmolested. I had feared a station parking ticket or something, but the car next to me was there when I left so it looks like it gets used for long term parking quite a lot. I stripped off all my wet clothes and put on the clean gear I’d left in the boot in anticipation of a wet walk. The drive home was great – Saturday traffic in the winter is pretty light.
So that’s the end of my Pennine Way adventures for this year I think – unless I get a particularly good winter day on which to revisit High Cup, as I’d like some winter photos for the book and the day I was there I got almost no pictures at all, good or otherwise. I can do that in a day walk from Dufton, covering the Maize Beck alternative route at the same time, which I still need to map.
The only other sections south of the wall that need doing are the 30 miles from Marsden to Hebden Bridge, whci I’d like to do as a two-day backpack and the awful, pedantic section between Alston and Knarsdale which I bypassed of course.