Thursday, April 19, 2012

How I'm gettin' on

I am sitting writing this in front of a coal fire at the Youth Hostel in Dufton, Cumbria. I am the only guest. 

As is the case most evenings, my thoughts right now are centred on going to bed, reading for a while and thinking about what the next day holds. 

All the same, it occurs to me that people might like to know how the journey is going. So I'll try to explain how it looks from here with about 660 miles behind me and some 400 or more still to go. 

At times the path behind me seems immensely long. I occasionally review it while I am falling asleep at night. Sometimes a whole section of the journey is a complete blank and then the only thing to do is to go back a little - nearer to the start, to a part I remember - and to 'walk back in' to the forgotten part, to rediscover it again.

To be more specific: yesterday I set out from the youth hostel ... but I should explain, I've jumped ahead; I'm now in Once Brewed, by Hadrian's Wall; it's two days since I wrote the first part. 

... I set out in sunshine and under a clear, blue sky, climbing steadily along a sunken, tree-lined path, past abandoned barns and farm buildings, away from the village towards the high fells. And, as has been the case for weeks, the fields are full of sheep -the ewes moving to one side on my approach, followed by the lambs, who wait for a while before running to their mother and suckling at her roughly for reassurance.

The tops of the fells are swathed in cloud or thick mist. The distinction is important because mist will burn off in the sun, whereas cloud promises rain or worse. 

It turns out to be cloud and after a long climb across open moor, past the remnants of snowdrifts, I am in it. There's a bitter east wind blowing and when the clouds open it's not rain that lashes my face but a fine hail. Raising my head to glimpse what's ahead, I take note of a ghostly stone cairn on the sky-line, a vital landmark in the otherwise featureless, mist-enshrouded landscape. Over the next three hours, working from cairn to cairn and occasionally, when no cairn is visible, with aid of a compass, I work my way across Knock Fell, Great Dun Fell, Little Dun Fell and Cross Fell - the highest point on the Pennines. 

On the other side of Cross Fell is Greg's Hut - an unlocked bothy - in which travellers can find some shelter from the elements. There's a dry sleeping platform and a stove and it's clear that people pass the night here - either out of choice or on account of the weather. 

After Greg's Hut there is a long, 7-mile walk along an old miners' road. Not describing it in detail is a fair reflection of it's interest. The road leads down to the little former mining village of Garrigill but the day isn't over till I've walked a further 4 miles through river meadows to Alston where I seek out a bed for the night. 

All in all a fairly ordinary day. 

(I must post this on my blog now. I have a good Internet connection and there's no time for polishing)


  1. Somehow you make even the hail lashing into your face sound attractive. And the distant cairn glimpsed through mist your only guide... Amazing journey. Look forward to hearing more. Well done!


  2. Eleven miles after lunch sounds impressive to those of us who like twelve miles a day and our bags moved for us...