Pennine Way 2007

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 1 - Planning and Home to Edale

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Planning the Walk

Having walked the Pennine Way twice before, once in each direction, it didnít require the same amount of planning as would normally be the case. I was quite happy with my seventeen day schedule from 1994, so intended to follow that in reverse, as that had been when I walked from north to south rather than the more usual way south to north. However, thirteen years had elapsed since then, so there were bound to be a few changes with regard to available accommodation. Many rural youth hostels have been closed over recent years, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that many along the Pennine Way had managed to avoid the axe. The only ones that had been lost were Keld and Bellingham, whilst Crowden had just been rebuilt: the new hostel opening this year.

To get up to date on B&Bs, I found a copy of the Pennine Way Accommodation Guide online and was able to work from that. Not wishing to find a lot of places already fully booked, I started to book in March. I intended to start my walk on Monday 4th June, travelling to the start on Sunday 3rd. The reason for setting off on the Sunday was because our hotel was going to be very busy over that weekend, so I didnít want to leave until after the rush was over. Most people set off on either a Saturday or Sunday, so I would be a day or two behind them. There were some advantages and disadvantages to this. In one respect this would make it easier to book accommodation, as there would be less people trying to book for the same time, whereas when it came to doing the walk, there would be less people that I would meet up with along the way.

My first booking of Edale Youth Hostel was no problem, but the second one at Crowden drew a blank, as the new hostel was fully booked with school parties Ė part of the reason for the funding being found for the new building. The warden suggested their Ďlocalí B&B, which was about a mile away, but not too far off route. This actually helped a little in balancing up the daily mileage by knocking one mile off the first day, which had been increased by nearly two miles by the walk from Edale Youth Hostel. The next place on my list was Globe Farm at Standedge, but, when I phoned, I was told that they no longer did B&B, so I had to start looking for somewhere else. The best option was to drop down into Diggle, which would add a little extra mileage, but day 2 and day 3 were both fairly short, so this would not present much of a problem.

Mankinholes Youth Hostel and Malham Youth Hostel both had beds, and between the two hostels I was able to book a B&B in Cowling instead of the one I used previously in Ickornshaw, as that one was no longer listed. In Horton-in-Ribblesdale I discovered that the Golden Lion had a bunkroom, so I was able to book there instead of Dub Cotes Bunkhouse, which is in a lovely setting, but quite a way from the village and its facilities. Hawes Youth Hostel was OK, but then I was faced with the fact that Keld Youth Hostel had closed, as was Baldersdale, and accommodation in this area is very sparse. Keld is often very busy and fully booked, as it is on the Coast to Coast walk as well as the Pennine Way and both Keld and the area round Grassholme have no pub within reasonable distance, which would tie me into eating at the B&Bs. It then occurred to me that I could easily carry on past Keld to Tan Hill Inn, and from there I could reach Middleton-in-Teesdale, a village with plenty of B&Bs and other facilities. The Tan Hill Inn were even advertising a new bunkhouse opening this year, but when I tried to book I was told it was not going to be ready, but I was offered a room in the staff accommodation instead.

From Middleton-in-Teesdale, it would be possible to walk to Dufton with a push, but I had already booked Langdale Beck Youth Hostel by this time, and there was also a tough dayís walk to face from Dufton to Alston, so I decided to leave my booking of Langdon Beck in place and just have a short day of less than 8 miles as a rest day. Dufton, Alston and Greenhead youth hostels all had beds available, but Bellingham hostel is now closed, though this was never an ideal hostel, as it was only self-catering. Bellingham is a reasonably sized town, so it was not difficult to book B&B there. Byrness hostel is still open, but now privately owned, so I booked there too. Although Byrness hostel is still officially self-catering, the new owners go half way towards providing meals, which is very helpful to walkers.

All that now remained was to book at Uswayford Farm, in a remote valley about a mile and a half off route half way along the Cheviots, but I rang only to find that the farmerís wife was going to be on holiday then. This left me with two options, the first being to walk the whole 25 or so miles in one day, the other being to use the services of one of the B&Bs in Kirk Yetholm, who will arrange to collect people from a point two and a half miles off the route, returning them there the next day and allowing them to walk to the finish with only a small day pack. I am never keen on pickups unless they are absolutely essential, and the latter arrangement all seemed a little bit strange, staying at the finish the night before completing the walk, then returning to finish properly the next day. In the end, I decided to do as most people do and go for the whole lot in one day, starting off early in the morning so as to finish at a reasonable enough time to get a meal on arrival. I do not particularly like doing such long stretches in one day, as they tend to turn an enjoyable walk into a feat of endurance, but as it would be the last day of the walk, I would be able to rest the next day. My final night in Kirk Yetholm Youth Hostel, one of the Scottish YHA hostels, was then booked and all my accommodation was complete.

The journeys to the start and from the finish took a little planning in order to get the right connections between buses and trains, although all the timetables were online, making this a great deal easier. It wasnít helped by the fact that I was travelling to Edale on a Sunday, when there is a very limited rail service, but it just meant I would have to spend more time waiting for connections. Although all the trains could be booked online, I was surprised that, even a long time in advance, no special saver fares were on offer, only standard ones. My daughter then suggested that I tried checking each leg of the journey separately, and sure enough, I found that I was then offered a vastly discounted fare from Berwick-upon-Tweed to York. I also realised that the journey from Rhyl to Manchester, which I would cover at the start and at the finish, could be booked as a return for little more than the single fare, just leaving the other bits of the journeys to be booked as standard singles. All was now in place and it was just a matter of waiting for the start day to arrive.

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Diary of the Walk

Day 0 - Sunday 3rd June - Home to Edale

Distance: 2 miles to Edale Youth Hostel

The time had finally arrived for me to set off so, having packed all my things following a list that I have used for many walks, with a few amendments from time to time, I was driven by my daughter to Rhyl station. I offered to get there by bus, which would have been free with my bus pass, but she insisted in saving me from the indignity of travelling by public transport. I have no problems with this, but she has had a few bad experiences so sees it as her daughterly duty to protect me from this whenever she can.

The limited Sunday train services meant that I had changes to make at Chester and Manchester Piccadilly, where I had to take a coach to Hazel Grove then wait over an hour for the train to Edale. The journey was largely uneventful; the weather was very sultry and the journeys through the urban sprawl of Greater Manchester depressing. I donít like big cities at the best of times, though some capital cities with broad avenues, fine buildings and large open spaces, can be interesting for a limited period of time. The northern cities and towns, built up around the Industrial Revolution, however, are a different thing altogether and, though many have been given facelifts, they are generally places I prefer to avoid. What makes matters worse is that the railways always tend to run through all the worst of the industrial squalor and urban decay.

A great transformation took place once I caught the Edale train from Hazel Grove as, after a short time, green fields and hills came into view and I was transported into a completely different world. A long tunnel finally led towards Edale itself, and the cool air within the tunnel was a welcome relief from the sticky, humid air elsewhere. I have spent a lot of time in the past walking in this area, so all the hills were familiar and evoked fond memories of the walks I used to do. One of the favourites of these was the Edale Skyline walk, a complete circuit of Edale, starting from Hope and Lose Hill, then over Mam Tor and round the edge of Kinder Scout to Win Hill and back down to the start.

I had booked Edale Youth Hostel without stopping to think that it was nearly two miles from Edale station, which meant that I would have to walk over a mile and a half to get to the start of the Pennine Way the next day. I could have found accommodation quite near to the start as there were B&Bs as well as a bunkhouse in the village, but it didnít matter, as it was a pleasant walk along the dale to the hostel, which is a fine old building in magnificent grounds. It took about 35 minutes to walk there, and by the time I arrived, I was soaked in sweat in the warm, humid conditions. Dinner was already being served when I arrived, being from 17.30 until 19.00, but as there were only 5 hostellers in, they wanted to finish early if possible so, after a quick shower to freshen up, I went to the dining room. I had a very nice meal of garlic bread with goatsí cheese, roast beef dinner and strawberry gateau, washed down with a pint bottle of Black Sheep.

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Grounds of Edale Youth Hostel with Lose Hill behind
Edale Youth Hostel grounds
Lose Hill and Back Tor from above Edale Youth Hostel
Lose Hill and Back Tor

A phone call home revealed that a band of torrential was following me from the west and should arrive tomorrow Ė not the best prospect for the first day, but I would just have to wait and see what was in store. A short stroll up the hillside above the hostel revealed fine views across to Lose Hill and Mam Tor, but it was not long before a cool breeze sprang up and a few darker clouds appeared in the sky, causing me to return to the hostel.

The room I was in was part of a new block, partially funded by EU money. The four rooms were all en-suite, mine, and I think all the others, had full disabled facilities, with a shower room that was big enough, not just to swing a cat, but to swing several cats at once. The only criticism was that the en-suite, in common with the toilet facilities of many energy saving hostels, had the light operated by a motion sensor (NO, not that type of motion!), and there was a very short time delay before the light went off. The only way to avoid this was by waving my arms about on a regular basis to avoid being plunged into total darkness. Despite the brand new plumbing, there was only a tiny trickle of hot water from the washbasin tap in the room, though the shower worked fine without any problems.

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