Saturday 28 July 2007

Scottish Borders + Stirling: Jedburgh- Drymen [20th - 28th July]

[Update 9]

Still missing our new friends and the nice atmosphere of a national trail, our route quietly progressed through the vast Scottish landscape. A day on St Cuthbert's Way was lovely, no bog :-), roman roads, meadows and rivers, ending with the Eildon Hills sat neatly in a row of three. Two days off near Melrose Abbey gave us a chance to make use of the laundry room, me, the luxury of a hairdryer, Will, to cook up some fresh food and Daisy just enjoyed sleeping. Next was a lovely day on the Southern Upland Way, it was more hilly and even the suncream made a rare appearance! A lamb decided to kiss Daisy - priceless, and we received some more midge avoidance tips to add to the collection, citronella, lavender oil, Tiger Balm, Avon's Skin So Soft.... however everyone says that 'nothing' will stop a seriously large swarm!

As soon as we reached deeper valleys and moorland, so the rain returned, but thankfully just a heavy shower this time. At Cheese Well Spring, we had a to leave a gift for the fairies in exchange for some water, so we left our lucky penny which had got us safely through the midlands and a pink liquorice allsort. A thunder storm ended the day with an awesome display of training Chinook helecopters that looked like they were just missing the telephone lines overhead. Daisy wasn't impressed.

On to Peebles and the second dearest campsite along the way, but it did have an interesting toilet arrangement in a castle courtyard and we managed to get the weather (rubbish again) on GMTV. It was then on to more rugged hills with really annoying flies that seemed intent on getting up our nasal passages, the butterflies were nice though. Rachel, from the Pennine Way was right, Scotland does have the most butterflies. An old drove road led us to some rather large Highland cows and their seriously fluffy, teddy bear like calves, then on to a high moorland area called Cauldstane Slap. The clouds had formed 3 Scottish flags in the sky, but we had to press on as it was a 27 miler to the campsite. Thanks for the donation from Jean at Linwater caravan park :-).

My goodness, I still can't believe we did 42 miles the next day!! There was reason behind our madness though and Ray Jardine's book (our lightweight backpacking guru) said that it was possible when necessary. Our End to End guide book said that we would need to pass through a built up area that was "slightly riskier than climbing over Cross Fell (on the Pennine Way) in bad weather" and if we feared for our security then we should box around it! Heck, we'd already passed through some 'shifty' areas and the guide book didn't mention those, so we completely boxed around the area and aimed at the only campsite on route which was unfortunately 42 miles away. We passed some slag heaps that looked like a mini Aires Rock, and follwed the thankfully flat canals, through a long dark dripping tunnel, passed the Falkirk Wheel, more canals where the wind and hurtling dragon flies was against us, then a bit of road where Daisy had a 3 mile rest in Will's sack and eventually on to Drymen. Fifteen hours later with nothing but corner shops full of yucky chocolate and crisps to fuel us along, we fell in our tent before cramping up, ate two slices of ham and a Turkish Delight and slept rather well. Needless to say we took a painful day off in Drymen (the shops for food were still 2 miles away - ouch). When we arrived back, the campsite was full of backpackers that were also ready to do our next national trail, the eagerly awaited West Highland Way.

Thursday 19 July 2007

Durham, Cumbria + Northumberland: Keld - Jedburgh [11th-19th July]

[Update 8]

After the highest pub in England, some more rolling bog and sprigs of heather, we were in Durham. We passed through Cumbria briefly where the rivers and waterfalls were amazing in full force. Friday 13th we all had sore feet from the bog, including Daisy's paws, so she had to go in Will's rucksack for 2 days. Cross Fell was our highest point of the trip at 893m and also the coldest so far, with no view and plenty of rain. Although we did see a flock of birds doing their 'Carlsberg' thing, like a swarm of bees.
We had a cold shelter in Greg's Hut where dried fruit couldn't quite hit the spot, but Rachel's hip flask of brandy warmed our cockles :). A fast march and some silly jokes later we were down.

Alston was a 'memorable' place with a post apocalyptic scrapyard and campsite. Jonathon's dad joined us here briefly, and treated us to the Worsley family specialty of sausages and shared some interesting facts about storing eggs while backpacking :). We bought yet more warmer clothing here, weighty but we couldn't face the damp cold anymore.

The sun came out for Will's birthday on the 15th and we reached Hadrian's Wall where we treated ourselves to a midgy pub meal (Daisy keeps us outside), but it was heaven. There at the 'Roam n Camp' site we met Terry, shortly to turn 71, who lives in a horse drawn cart and doing the Pennine Way for the sixth time. The nice lady there gave Daisy some food enabling her to recover enough for more walkies. After more bulls, bog and a barbed wire fence we arrived late at Bellingham, after 21 miles.

A nice day off followed and we stuffed ourselves with BBQ food after trying in vein to clean our socks and soothe our sore feet. We also finally met another end to ender, Tom, so we shared experiences as we were going in different directions. The next day to Byrness was even boggier and ended with midges from hell (apparantly worse than Scotland, but we'll have to see). At the first and last cafe in England we bid farewell to Terry and headed up more boggy forests, but some stunning dewy views of the Cheviots.

When we reached the Scottish border we had to sadly leave our Pennine Way walking companions who had kept our spirits up, made us laugh and shared backpacking syles (the laid back one is really contagious). Watching them go off in the distance to even boggier hills and a free half pint at Kirk Yetholm as they had completed the whole Pennine Way, we felt strangely vulnerable and alone as we had to head NE to Jedburgh.
Although I've probably painted a bleak, boggy Pennine Way, it has by far been the best part of the trip so far, no doubt because of the interesting people we've met along the way.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

West and North Yorkshire: Marsden - Keld [5th-10th July]

[Update 7]

Yep, it's still raining. Sorry if you're sick of hearing about the wet stuff, but in the simple life of backpacking, food, feet and the weather dominates the day. I think we've hit our lowest point in the journey (hopefully)!

We started the day with food bags in between our socks and trainers in a n attempt to keep dry feet. Quickly failing, we passed a tempting train station, some scary village dogs and a creepy farm with police warning signs "Cottaging and Cruising is illegal"!? We raced to the Post Office to collect the next set of maps posted from home (thank you nice lady at Mytholmroyd PO for your donation), then, exhausted and soaked we reached Heptenstall.

Here the emotional roller coaster of our journey was thankfully raised by two offers of tea and one offer of a warm house for the night (unfortunately Daisy hates cats [I'm assuming they had a cat here!]) before hitting rock bottom at High Greenwood Farm where after about 28 miles we were turned away at 8pm as the weather was so 'bad'. We tried the charity bit but clearly her lush green grass was more important - fair enough, but she proceeded to blame the situation on us and that we were being cruel to the dog (a choice of walkies or being home alone all day? - hmm). We bit our tongues (until further up the road) in the hope of finding a friendly farm whilst questioning our sanity.
Thank you Jon and the Blakedean Scouts who were having a BBQ and let us stay in the graveyard next to their hut. We flopped into our tent and slept well despite realising that we were in a coffin shaped tent. There was no sign of 'The Green Lady' who supposedly haunts the ground, although Daisy seemed to bark at one of the showers in the morning!!! Perhaps she just wanted a bath? Jon's mum made us tea in the morning and lifted our spirits some more :) The simple pleasure of brushing my teeth whilst sat on a radiator was heaven.

Out in the wind and rain again we crossed the bleak moors to Top Withens ruin, supposedly Emily Bronte's inspiration for Wuthering Heights, so the sounds of Kate Bush stayed in our minds a while on the flagstones and bog. stopped raining!
Despite Will receiving an unwanted collagen injection in his lip from a local midge, things were looking up. In Cowling, dripping cooked fish 'n' chips were marvelous and I finally had a bit of power in my phone after the solar panel had been waterproofed and strapped to my back for days.

A dry 4 days followed which made the moody moors more hospitable, then canal and limestone valleys led us to nostalgic locals and passionate Pennine Way walkers. Busy looking at the only canal, river and train crossing point we missed the shop, but Daisy seemed happy with pork scratchings and pasta. After climbing Pen-y-ghent, Horton-in-Ribblesdale was our half way point which we celebrated with cider and pork and apple burgers.

Then, two days following the stench of dead rabbits and dodging 'Bulls in Field' we had marshmallows around a midge expelling campfire in Keld with some new fellow backpackers who we'd see along the Pennine Way, Jonathon, Rachel and Adam. But whatever happened to Pete?

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Derbyshire and South Yorkshire: Thorpe - Marsden [28th June - 4th July]

[Update 6]

At last, a dry day as we entered Dovedale. Stone cottages, herds of walkers and sheep s@#t laden hills immediately lifted our spirits. The famous Stepping Stones were well hidden in the sparkling river after all the rain, but the limestone valley was amazing - and only one horsefly!
By the end of the day the rain was back, but Derbyshire's friendly locals and pretty villages proved good motivation.

We discovered the best ever melt in your mouth pasties and Well Dressing mosaics at Youlgreave before reaching the lush green Chatsworth estate and then the gritstone and peat on Stanage Edge. No climbers to be seen here for a change, just giant ants, Highland cows and a good few content toads.

On reaching our 500 mile point at Hathersage - yippee - we treated ourselves to a couple of days off. Our equipment is falling to bits and I've had to buy some thermal leggings - some summer! Our senses seem to be at one with nature too as we can detect the clean, washing powder smell of other people before we see them, which can only mean that we stink. Will's Auntie Les and Uncle John confirmed our 'au de damp' smell, but treated us to a well missed roast dinner - thanks :)

After sitting out what we thought was the worst of the weather, the heavens opened even wider when we rejoined Stanage Edge. The 'Alternative Pennine Way' passed lots of interesting rock formations, reservoirs and brown frothing rivers to meet wild moors of flowering heather...and mud. A mountain hare, grouse and laughing curlews helped to keep Daisy interested as we entered and left South Yorkshire to meet the actual Pennine Way. Unfortunately the man at the campsite said the rain was here until August...eek and added that this was the official end of the Pennine Way (2 days in) as most people give up here. I could see why!