Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Day 38 : Bellingham to Byrness

Wednesday 21st February 2007

Distance Walked: 16.6 miles
Start Time: 8:32
End Time: 14:24
Elapsed Time: 5:51
Weather: Foggy, then bright. Drizzle later.
Distance walked so far: 737.8 miles

Alfred Wainwright, the great overlord of British walking, believed that the Pennine Way should end at Hadrian’s Wall, and he was right. Instead it continues for fifty dreary miles until it nudges over the Scottish border and, if it didn’t, it’s almost certain that no one would choose to walk here. It is devoid of features and imagination.

My morning mood lifted with the fog and, as the light burned through to reveal the views below, I was admiring the way the bright morning sun toyed with the low drifting cloud on the hills and the horizon. Oh, how pretty, they’re drifting this way. Oh, I can’t see anything. Oh, I’m walking through marshland. The path is submerged. I’m sinking. My feet are wet. Bugger.

Walking is all about adapting plans to suit the conditions and my condition was that I was sick of the slow trudge through swamps. A detour down to the road from Abbey Rig and a few hasty minutes of replanning, and I was stomping along the lanes and tracks, free from the wetness and free from the Way. Not only was it liberating but it actually made sense, which for me was quite an achievement. Here the walking was smooth and easy, and led directly into the fringes of Kielder Forest, the huge, soulless expanse of firs, where the Pennine Way sheepishly rejoins me.

Kielder is manmade, and it shows. There's a lack of life and character, and the miles go by slowly. Finally I emerge onto a road through the trees. This is Byrness, a place that barely exists. If Wainwright had had his way there may be nothing here at all. Now there is a petrol station, a youth hostel, a hotel and the “First & Last CafĂ© in England”. I nip inside for a slow nibble of a chicken pie whilst the rain begins to fall outside, then head up to the Byrness Hotel where I’m initially greeted with desolation before eventually locating the entrance and being assaulted by three of the loudest, yappiest dogs you’ll ever see.

The standard of B&Bs varies greatly, but this feels mostly like someone’s house and my unwelcome presence is tolerated in small measures. I retreat to my room and think of Scotland, for tomorrow I will have walked through an entire country and will begin the assault on a second.

Song of the day:

The Shins
“New Slang”

I'm looking in on the good life /
I might be doomed never to find /
Without a trust or flaming fields /
Am I too dumb to refine?


Atomic Monthly said...


Shame you couldn't pass us on the way up to Scotland - would have been fun to hang out bunting for you.

This will probably be one of my last posts as am going away for a while, so i have one more question that I have been afraid of asking but I have plucked up the courage now. So here goes...

Dave - do you want a biscuit?

Yours, anagramatically

Atomic Monthly

DaveG said...

Please don't go Mr Monthly. I need all the help I can get.

And yes, I do want a biscuit.

Nicole said...

Reading about your journey (which you describe lovely, by the way) reminds me of driving cross country, and how it really is so liberating and a great way to find out about yourself when you have nothing to do but think.

DaveG said...

Thanks Nicole. Don't think and drive. It's dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I think you are a bloody hero.........oh not in the way of fireman and paramedics and the like. And, probably not like Rutherford or Curie, but a hero nonetheless cause you had a dream and you made/are making it happen. Having stumbled on your blog by way of a "minor celebrities" ;-) web page, I have become delighted and enthralled in your journey.

You are my bloody hero Dave.