Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Pennine Way

Bellingham → Byrness

lichen.jpg Distance: 15.54 miles
Ascent: 648 metres
Duration: 5 hours 48 minutes

Into the forest
« Not walked | Not walked »

walking-on.jpgThe weather changed overnight, and we began the day under thick grey clouds, a stiff breeze and lower temperatures. The dark sky made a fitting backdrop to an early climb up onto the heather moorland above Hareshaw House. The ground underfoot became increasingly wet and soft as we moved north, with the bog cotton, moss and heather joined by bilberry and the occasional stunted spruce. Looking back from Padon Hill, there was a distant outline on the horizon of what we thought was Cross Fell, a reminder of the distance that we've travelled this week.

fallen-trees.jpgThe open moorland soon gave way to commercial forestry, some of which had recently been felled. It's strange to think of this as harvesting — we're much more familiar with standard crops such as wheat or oil seed rape — but it's the reason that the forest exists at all. Walking along the stony access track, we didn't get to experience being in the dense planting, although a couple of short deviations from the road took us along wooded paths speckled with wild flowers and short birches.

river-rede.jpgThe onward path takes a lovely route alongside the River Rede, emerging onto the A68 at St Francis' church near Byrness (which, we've learned, is pronounced Burr-ness, and while we're at it Bellingham has a soft 'g': Bell-in-jum). It's well worth stopping to look inside the church — there's a monument and commemorative stained glass window to the men, women and children who died during the building of the nearby Catcleugh Reservoir which supplies drinking water to Tyneside. The idea that children lost their lives as a result of industrial accidents, as recently as the beginning of the 20th century, hardly bears thinking about. As much as this is a beautiful landscape, it's also had a history of hard, unforgiving labour.

Notes for future walkers:

  • Avoid the worst of the boggy bits and the fallen trees by turning west just before the trees at NY 814 936, then following the minor road north past Gibshiel into the forest, joining up with the formal route again at NY 799 955.
  • Although the guidebooks recommend avoiding the footpath detours off the track through the forest, we found both to be quite delightful.

Posted by pab at 17:28 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!