All posts by jamesphiliprobinson

Day 5 – Twice Brewed to Kellah (or Wall, Wall, Train, Bog, Memories)

0500TwiceBrewed
Once or Twice Brewed?

The first of our two shorter days began with light drizzle. Not sure how it would turn out we opted for being fully prepared and put on our waterproofs (including trousers) this proved rather over zealous and they were soon removed.

0501TheWall
What a view!

The views along the wall are quite impressive. Oddly I don’t much remember walking the section to the west of Twice Brewed as a child and as much as walking along a two thousand year old wall can feel it all felt very new.

0502TrigPoint
What a convenient leaning post.

Soon after starting we were at this trig point which one imagines is useful in some ways to the Ordnance Survey (or at least was). It is so very strange to think that when we first started walking around here 20 yeas ago my father only just had his first phone and the number did not yet begin ’07’!

En-garde!
En-garde!

I always imagined that the two foot high wall had somehow survived the last 2000 years by a mysterious fate but it is clear to me now that this is the consequence of some serious restoration work over the last, many, years. Without the restoration it just looks like all the other Roman Roads in Britain.

Don't walk on this road it's a wall.
Don’t walk on this road it’s a wall.

As soon as we were satisfied the rain had stopped we took our waterproofs off which was, of course, a sure sign it was about to rain again.

Keeps it dry.
Keeps it dry.

Once off the wall my altitude projection indicated a strong uphill climb. Sadly this, combined with my desire to make it to Kellah as soon as possible, meant we had to pass on the very tempting sign at the level crossing indicating that afternoon tea was available at Greenhead until 4pm. We did, however, get to enjoy an old ruin.

IMG_1288
Kelvin Macleod wants to film someone refurbishing me.

Before setting off my partner asked whether or not there was any chance I might die on this trip. Of course the answer she was looking for was, ‘of course not darling do not be so silly,’ but that would not really be true. I knew that there were roads that needed to be crossed.

IMG_1289
More dangerous than climbing the Cheviot?

From our trip so far it would seem that the path to Kellah from the top of Greenhead Clough is one of the worst parts of the path. In my humble opinion it is because there is no path.

IMG_1297
Can you see the path?

Foolishly, I have had a form of ‘GPS vision’ akin to ‘tunnel vision’, which due to the accuracy of my location information leaves me unable to look around the map and insted I tend to focus on the green diamonds that make up the legal PenNine Way. Having completed this section I am convinced that there is no identifiable path around the legal route on this stretch but the map contains a path which we should have seen and which is there.

Still no path.
Still no path.

Having trudged through the bog we met a walker with some rather bad sunburn on the tip of his nose. Soon after we landed at Kellah where we greeted by a very heavily pregnant Teasdale the younger. Staggeringly, I would swear that Mrs Teasdale had not aged a day since the first time she took me out to feed the lambs as a boy. What is more this B&B comes with that most rare of all things – do-it-yourself laundary!

I went to Halton Lea Gate once, it was a disappointment.
I went to Halton Lea Gate once, it was a disappointment.

Day 4 – Bellingham to Twice Brewed (or Breakfast, Wow, Hut! Bog, Wall)

The Northumbrian Breakfast
The Northumbrian Breakfast

Of course it’s a play on the idea of an “English” breakfast but I’d never come across it before. I’m quite sure that it was “just” a Full English and it was delicious. We were very keen to fill up for the day as we had been told by the Australian man at the end of day 1 that this was the journey that had “broken him”. Given the bogs we had seen on yesterday (which he had therefore also seen before telling us how bad this stretch was) we were certainly apprehensive. I can’t fault the accommodation at the Cheviot there had been some confusion about what time we were coming down for breakfast but this was accommodated.

0401Post
It’s a lot easier without all that junk.

Bellingham has a Post Office which opens at the astonishingly early time of 0630. Consequently before having breakfast I had been able to ship back to Solihull over 7 kg of unnecessary frippery. Including a camera, excess clothes, flash gun, flasks (to be fair I sent one of these back), glasses, gloves, an additional water bottle and the first map (which we were now off). I also took this opportunity to drop down from carrying a 4 litres of additional water to 1 as the platypus lasts until 3pm easily and it is simply a matter of being a little more thrifty with the water consumption.

0402Pylon
A big mast like this means 4G.

It was however a good day for twitter. Once up on the hill the phone signal was staggeringly good and we were often in receipt of 4G.

0403Onward
Onward!

Having run out of (or at least been about to) Compeed it proved necessary to wait for the Chemist to  open and so we were not away until after a quarter past nine. In away this proved fortuitous. The vast majority of people walking the Pennine Way fravel North. As well as making the path feel more like it’s down hill (at the North Pole one would have more Gravitational Potential Energy than at the Equator) it has the benefit that when walking from Greenhead or Twice Brewed into Bellingham about 6 miles out there is this rather wonderful little shed on one of the farms.

0404Hut
All we have is a stable.

One could not miss the signs and it really is just off the path. The owners of the farm apparently walked a very long way down the pacific coast of America and with the owners mother having once run a tea shop at the farm they wanted to do something for walkers. It’s really funny because in the centre of a town I’m sure that the environmental health officers would shut it down (even operating on a donations only basis) but up the side of the hill it is truly wonderful to be able to stop and use a flushing toilet, have a shower, if so inclined (I wasn’t), do a load of washing, and even eat a home made scone with tea made with pasteurised milk (many guest houses don’t even offer this)! I doubt the owners of the hut will ever read this but I would like to genuinely thank them it is a marvellous thing to do and I hope the donations are sufficient for it to continue to be worth it.

0405Erosion
Erosion – more powerful than man.

0406Gale
Wind – more powerful than woman.

There were some truly brilliant examples of both the power of nature and the power of humanity today. The storm which uprooted the above trees must have been tremendous (there were dozens) but the man power required to build the enormous Hadrian’s wall is also staggeringly impressive. As we came out of this little wood we gained our first glimpses of the wall and it looked exactly as I remember it from my childhood.

0407HadriansWallApproaches
I can see the waaaall.

I had perhaps hoped that the track would continue to be so well laid all the way up to the wall, but alas it was a track to a farm and before we got to the wall it was diverted off towards the farm with a clear sign indicating that it was private. Bizarrely in the final approach there was a sign from the Northumberland police advising all that the Bothies were not to be used for wild parties. I am not sure but if wild parties are going to happen, and they are, then I would have thought that a bothy in the middle of nowhere would probably be the best place as it will annoy the least number of people.

0408HadriansWall
Seemingly a knee high wall is all you need to keep the Picts out.

we are using my first ever iPhone app as a navigation ad on this trip to keep us up-to-date with what proportion of our planned elevation and distance we have completed. This is much more useful that simply knowing how far you have come because occasionally one will go off the path or back on oneself or meander slightly and there is nothing so disheartening as to think you only have 2 miles left when in fact you have 5. Consequently we have at altitude graph planned out for each days trip and this last section to twice brewed was so hilly it looked like a thick blue line rather than the zig zag it really represented. But the view from the top was phenomenal.

0409HadriansWallPano
I can see why they wanted to keep the Picts out.

You know you are near twice brewed when you this tree (made famous by being?) seen in the Robin Hood Prince of thieves film. I am not sure why Robin Hood would land in Britain from the Holy Land and on his way to Sherwood pass this enormous tree on this enormous wall. However, there were more trees in them days and perhaps the forest was simply bigger.

Back in England but without my Moorish Morgan Freeman
Back in England but without my Moorish Morgan Freeman

From the tree the Twice Brewed Inn is very close by and I was very glad to see that my Compeed had mainly held the blistering within it today.

0410Blisters
Getting better all the time.

Day 3 – Byrness to Bellingham (or Track, Bog, Flags! Blisters, Pint)

0300WelcomeToKielder
Get a stick and flick!

It doesn’t make for very good blog or photos but today started with the most beautiful road. The walk passes through the beautiful Kielder forest where the sign clearly states that if your dog egests some fecal matter than they don’t want you to bag it up in a little plastic bag but to ‘Get a stick and flick’. Apparently when people were much less bothered about dog waste the insects used to take the nutrients out of it and put it back to work in the environment. I’ve still been lucky enough to avoid having to think about such matters in human form.

Unfortunately as with all good things the beautiful path eventually ended and we were plunged into a muddy wooded bog. The path was incredibly muddy and even though there had not been any rain for 4 days in the area it seemed incapable of drying out. The only benefit that I have so far seen of bog is that it provides the most perfect conditions for some exceptional mosses to grow over bits of tree – sometimes its hard to be sure that what you are seeing isn’t actually some sort of alien life form.

0301CrawlingMoss
I’m coming to get you.

This path was clearly along some much older boundary as it in the near distance one could see several boundary stones marked with the initial CH

0302BoundaryStone
Don’t cross me.
0303Flags
Flags!

This bog but was really unpleasant but having spoken to a man about it in the Bar at the end of day 1 we were concerned that the worst was yet to come as he had told us that the Bellingham to Twice Brewed section had ‘completely broken’ him. Oddly this improved our spirits slightly as it meant that where we were now was not the worst it was going to be. The best thing about bog though is that if it is really bad it gets covered in flags and today I remembered to take a picture of some.

0304LunchSTone
Why has this not been cut into flags?

The remainder of the journey into Bellingham was fairly uneventful. We had lunch behind this awesome stone.An important lesson about map reading was learnt after lunch. When the pennine way was designed the ability of any person to read maps was such that immediately local factors like “here is a well worn path going along a very similar bearing to my direction” would override “the path is this way”. One of the many benefits of using the GPS is that in general it allows us to keep on the path so when we see a way mark that contradicts the GPS we could safely ignore it.

0305PWMarker
Your map is wrong, I am right.

Except of course that this can lead you to walk off on to a bog. But at least you will get some fantastic views.

0306Panorama
What a view.

I wanted to show how much it was hurting to go through all this walking and I think the following picture can do better justice than my words.

0307Blisters
You should have seen it before I cleaned them up.

But the great thing about walking is that there are sufficient Weigh Watchers ProPoints to wash away the pain with a jar of cider in the bar!

0308Pint
Get a thirst first.

Day 2 – Trowes to Byrness or (Bog, Flags, Wow, Bog, Slide)

0201NiceView
Pretty hills.

Something that is very difficult to capture with a picture are the characters that you meet while walking the way, resting in a guests’ lounge or supping a pint in the pub. Even though one could obviously just take a picture of the person that you have met it would certainly not do them justice and would not represent them the way that you saw them.

While waiting for our evening meal last night we met an Australian man who had walked all the way from Edale but claimed that he had had his spirit broken by the bogs between Greenhead and Bellingham. It’s quite boggy up on the Cheviots but for the most part the amazing Ranger Service have been up on the moor laying out the most enormous slabs of stone to make walking through most of the worst bits actually more pleasant than walking on the less boggy bits (as these don’t have flags!) Suffice it to say this left us very worried about our Day 3.

0200Hill
Sigh, breaking the trip in half means walking back up to the path.

When I first learned that two seats had become available on the mini bus I must confess that I was a little disappointed. Having completed a 28 mile practice walk with 2km of elevation I felt sure that we would be able to able to manage this 25 mile walk with only 1.4km of elevation. I wished this at no time more than walking these first two miles of the second day it seemed like all this hill (300m) and distance (4 miles) was for no actual benefit particularly since as we arrived at Windy Gyle at 11 a.m. only four and a half hours earlier than we had been there the previous day.

0202NiceView
Wow, what a view!

These pictures are all very pretty but they are starting to look a bot same-y perhaps I will have to start focusing on cloud formations.

0203NiceView
That better not be a rain cloud.

The weather was really beautiful again today, better even than yesterday. Our rain coats were able to stay well and truly inside our bags and unlike yesterday we had sandwiches – care of the Forest View Inn – which made for a great lunchtime treat. I think Dad found the going much easier I think after having identified a large number of items which could be deposited at the Post Office in Bellingham (so even though he would need to carry them to Bellingham he able to leave them at the Forest View with in the confines of our loosely defined ‘rules’ of what counts as cheating.

0204TheMoneyShot
The money shot

With the day coming to an end there was a large due south stretch which being up on the hill meant that we were in prime evening sun territory and I knew that I would be sun burnt when we got in. The stretch finished by this Cairn which seemed like the perfect opportunity to sport my Barclays t-shirt. After all they have agreed to match any funds that I successfully raise for 2nd Dukinfield. The view from the Cairn was pretty amazing but it is clear that the sun is setting out over Byrness resevoir.

0205NiceView
Fat alien sat on a cushion?

0206NiceView
Who does this reservoir serve?

We had originally planned that we would walk the whole of the journey from Kirk Yetholm to Byrness in one day. As discussed earlier if we had done so we would have arrived here at least four and a half hours later. That would make it 11p.m.

0207Hill

It feels like it might rain soon, this hill is very steep and the sun is starting to go down over the next hill along and all I can think is how stupid an idea it would have been to come all this way in one day. We could have got to the top of Byrness but would have had to get down in our Survival bags as it would have been complete madness to attempt in the dark.

0208AtNight
It’s a jungle out there.

Towards the end, about 7p.m. we very near to the end of the journey and I thought it prudent to ring ahead to ensure that an order was put in for our evening meal. No sooner had I assured Joyce of the Forest View Inn that we were would be arriving within 15 minutes did my life flash before my eyes as I slide backwards at the top of a very muddy bank. Fortunately no harm was done except getting a little muddy. Fortunately the Forest View Inn has a wash basin in the drying room to allow me to hand wash my clothes and a large brush for dusting mud off that I could use in the morning to dust the dry mud off my trousers so we could set off on our way to Bellingham.

Day 1 – Kirk Yetholm to Trowes Farm (or Hill, Bog, Flags! Bog, Bus)

The breakfast at Blunty’s Mill was beautifully presented and (most importantly for a walker) prepared as early as you like (7am!) and hearty. I don’t have a picture but the basil leaves on the tomato were a delightful touch that I will not soon forget.

0100routeMap
The Walk

The route of the Pennine Way is long and this sign from the Northumberland tourist board seems to recommend doing it in 24 days which would probably be a little ridiculous since even the split they have devised here would require you to be fit enough to do 15 miles in a single stretch.

The day begins with an easy climb up the Schill

0102MustWeClimbThat
Who said this was easy?

The scenery was breath taking but there was a group of cows on the path and I don’t know if it’s some deep dark memory but I am rather wary of cows. Whatever was going to happen it seemed that there was one cow in particular that was rather reluctant to move. In this situation sadly I have still yet to train myself to get the camera out first rather than try to think through the situation calmly and rationally.

0103Cows
Not so big now, are you? Little cow.

No, Little cow is not the name I use for my father though I may keep it in mind in case he ever becomes a vegetarian. It was a difficult climb but once at the top you could really see an long way across beautiful countryside.

0104OnTheSchill
I’m the king of the .. Schill?

0101AwesomeView
Is that the Schill masquerading as the view from the Schill?

Sadly even with our amazingly early start we were walking too slow and were not able to take the quick detour to the top of the Cheviot. I think it really would have been only a time suck (rather than requiring too much additional physical exertion) as there is virtually no additional climb and it is only 2.4 miles. However, our instructions were the bus leaves at 5pm and we didn’t desperately want to get stuck in Trowes for the night with only a Survival bag for comfort.

With it being Bank Holiday weekend it seems a lot of people had the alternative plan to ours and we must have seen eight or nine walkers who were completing their treks South-North on that day. The weather stayed in our favour and we safely arrived at Windy Gyle at about half past three in plenty of time to make the two mile journey off route to the pick-up point.

0106WindyGyle
This is a large pile of stones.

It seems I am ever very keen to “bind my future self” and had been very confident as to where our pickup point was located on the map but as we approached the top of Windy Gyle I felt a great need to hurray to the top in the hope that I would meet some of our fellow travellers who were being picked up in the same location to just verify my expectations. The instructions for the pickup location had not included an OS Grid Reference and so I had attempted to translate a narrative description into a grid reference. We did meet such a group (who were much fitter than we were and so beat us down by at least a quarter of an hour). They were willing to share the laminated instruction sheet with us, allowing me to take a picture of it, and it eventually transpired that I had been correct with my Grid reference conversion so we would have been fine.

0107JoycesBusToTheRescue
To the rescue!

We arrived at Trowes farm to find our 6 co-collectees awaiting us but before the amazing mini-bus service provided by Joyce Taylor of the Forest View Inn. The bus arrived on time and whisked us on our way to their inn in Byrness. I should say at this point that if you are contemplating doing the Pennine Way (in either direction) I can not recommend the Forest View strongly enough. The bed, breakfast and evening meals, transport and drying room all this for two nights at just £99 per person. An absolute bargain and well worth the money. Our accommodation was en-suite and I think they said that all their accommodation was so.

0108RushHourCheviotStyle
Rush Hour Cheviot Style

Day 0 – Birmingham to Kirk Yetholm

Photo 29-08-2015 10 23 06
Is this my train?

Here we go – why have I agreed to do this? Well I think it is a (not very) secret ambition of my father to complete the Pennine way and it isn’t something that would be a huge amount of fun on ones own. We tried before (in the month before going up to Cambridge 10 years ago) and failed.

Did I say this bag is heavy, really heavy (though probably not soldier heavy) weighing in at a whopping 22kg!

Of course if you are going to follow me over this trip you are likely to do it for 2 main reasons:

  1. Awesome pictures of the Pennines (though I think almost any such picture is likely to look awesome)
  2. Gruesome pictures of blister pain. I can promise these but you’ll have to wait until my just giving page is live it seems like a good opportunity to tap you up to donate to the Scout group I am doing this in aid of.

It probably won’t be to see pictures of Train stations like these:

Bye Bye Birmingham
Leaving Birmingham for 3 Weeks!

Not been here since the night after my Cambridge interview!
Not been here since the night after seeing Christ’s for the first time.

I understand that to get people to read a blog its important to create suspense and surprise so here goes. While travelling on the above train in to York I checked my National Rail Enquiries App and it told me I only had 4 minutes to make my connection at York. With Dad also catching that connection and with us both having Advance tickets I began to get nervous. Would we get on the train, would we be able to use the later train, would he be able to use a later train if his train arrived on time, would we get to sit in First class and enjoy a complementary sandwich.

It turned out that the app shows departure and not arrival times! Can you believe it something about trains that I didn’t know!

Eventually we arrived in Berwick

Berwick
So this is what all the fighting was about.

After taking two buses (which between them went past 55 stops) we arrived in Kirk Yetholm were we stayed in a lovely guest house Blunty’s Mill which was run by a young man named Charles who I rather cringe-worthily kept referring to with the feminine pronoun (her) when speaking with a man who was either a father or neighbour despite having corresponded with him by e-mail several times and each of them having been signed off as Charles. It’s an example of everyday sexism and I am ashamed.

00lodgings
Blunty’s Mill

With an early start planned we were early to bed following dinner at the Border Hotel who very kindly moved our reservation from 8pm to 6pm. Though I should say I found it a little unusual the way we were asked to sit in the bar but I am sure no one came in to take our table in the Restaurant but the food was quite good and at £80 for 3 courses between 2 people with a bottle of wine made me Dinner at Gaucho with Mark and Hannah last week look very expensive.

£135.50 Birmingham To Leeds Return or is it £51.90?

My partner is travelling tomorrow to Leeds for the day. As she will be in court first thing in the morning she needs to leave so early there isn’t a feeder train in to Birmingham New Street from either Birmingham International or Solihull. The journey looks pretty quick only 1 hour 52 minutes which is comparable with the taking the car (though the car would have the advantage that it leaves from her house and will stop at the court rather than needing someone to take her into birmingham at this end and hire a taxi at the other!)

The fee for this service? £135.50.

To my mind that seems a little expensive. The client is paying but when they asked what the fee would be the hearing was scheduled for the afternoon so she told them the off peak ticket price of around £50. Unfortunately now that the meeting is going to be occuring at 10am an off peak ticket is not an option.

As it happens I am a bit of a train anorak. Don’t get me wrong I’ve never stood at a train station writing down the numbers of the trains that have come through but I do find the state of the train network after denationalization to be so complicated as to be fascinating. Particularly since it happened before computers. I’d love to go in depth into the various vagueries of the national routing guide but that can wait for another post. In this post (finally!) I’m going to talk about ticket splitting.

Some people may have heard of ticket splitting. The Moneybags Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, even had an incredibly bad computer program written to try and help people with the process but despite being worth over £100m he seems unable to have hired a moderately competent computer programmer and just written a useless app that doesn’t work and which you can’t order tickets through.

As I stated earlier the walk up fare is £135.50. However, the fast trains from Birmingham to Leeds also stop in the following locations:

  • Tamworth
  • Burton on Trent
  • Derby
  • Chesterfield
  • Sheffield
  • Wakefield Westgate

Therefore using a bit of jiggery pokery we can get the following pay table for travelling between stations on this route:

BHM TAM BUT DBY CHD SHF WKF LDS
BHM 7.8 15.8 18 67 82.5 112.5 135.5
TAM 7.6 7.8 19.6 52.5 64 90.5 101
BUT 15.4 7.6 7.2 24.7 26.2 50 63.4
DBY 16.7 14 7.1 17.9 20.9 39.5 44
CHD 33.5 26 22.2 11.1 6.3 11.9 21.1
SHF 41 32 25.8 20.6 5 11.4 13
WKF 49.5 45.5 41.2 33.5 11.4 9.4 5.8
LDS 58 50.5 43.8 40.5 15.7 10.5 3.3 Derby

Now clearly if one buys the following three tickets

Birmingham New Street to Derby £18

Derby to Sheffield £20.90

Sheffield to Leeds £13

Then you’ve saved a fortune.

Can’t be bothered to do this by hand? There is an amazing website http://www.splitticketing.com also available through rail easy which does it all for you. I love this site and can’t recommend it enough. It is so good that I stopped trying to write my own once I’d found it and I’m vary happy to pay the 10% of saving that they ask for.