One or more cruxes of the Pennine WayMarch 31st, 2007
Upon pondering my progress along the Pennine Way, I started to look at how things might pan out from a logistical point of view, the further north that I continued. Once the section between Littleborough and Marsden is out of the way (hopefully soon), things extend beyond the realm of the day trip and overnight stays, weekend trips even, become a necessity. The land also gets wilder as you continue north, a joy for the hill walker but a challenge for users of public transport like me. And unfamiliarity with an area adds to that. Because I have been that way more than a few times, the Yorkshire Dales sections shouldn’t prove to be too much trouble until I get beyond Ribblesdale. Hawes, Thwaite and Keld will be new to me but that’s an attraction in itself, seeing new places and enjoying scenery afresh. It will also mean exploring the transport options and they seem to extend from the east. The same applies to Teesdale though Dufton is accessible from the Settle-Carlisle railway, at least on foot. Between Alston and Bellingham, the Newcastle-Carlisle railway and assorted bus connections help access to Alston, Hadrian’s Wall and around. Beyond Bellingham, things require even more care with Byrness having limited transport options though they do suffice with good planning.
However, all that still leaves a 27 mile section before Kirk Yetholm is reached. There are mountain refuges along the way so purchasing a lightweight sleeping bag such as PHD’s Minimus or Piqolo has come to mind. I also got to wondering if there were any ways to split the marathon journey into more manageable chunks, especially as I am not trying to do the entire Pennine Way in one go. That this is not straightforward becomes obvious when one peruses a map; as one goes north along what becomes the Scotland-England border, the sparsely populated Scottish side is evident to the left and it is a good distance to habitation on the English one. For example, crossing the Cheviot from Wooler and continuing from there is next to a twenty mile day. Ingram and the hamlets of Upper Coquetdale (accommodation is provided in Alwinton and Harbottle but it does not come cheap) may help but long walk-ins are involved from these too. This is wild country all right and I believe it to be the crux of the Pennine Way so that overnight stay in a refuge seems to be the best way to overcome it. Anything has to be better than a one day (up to 14 hours walking at my speed) marathon.