The Pennine Way, 1983

Day 11: Alston to Hadrian’s Wall, Sunday, 7th August

20.6 miles in 11hrs 25 mins (09:15-20:40). Very hot all day.

Accommodation: Car park at 204¼

Alston – Slaggyford – Burnstones – Lambley – Wain Rigg – Gap Shields – Thirlwall Castle – Milecastle 42

Today’s wake-up time was 07:15. There was no sign of any stirring from Richard or Sally so I took a walk to see if the café down the road was open for breakfast. Needless to say, it was not, so it was back to the good old muesli again. I bought a paper for the first time on the trip, but there was nothing newsworthy in it: it seems that we’re not missing a great deal in the outside world. Nobody came to collect payment for the campsite, so that was £1 saved, but it’s hard to feel guilty when you consider what little was provided to justify such a charge.

Slaggyford proved to be a big disappointment. For a start, the plastic donkey had gone walkies from The Island, and hopes of refreshments were dashed when we discovered that it has only a GPO-shop: shades of Lothersdale exactly one week ago. There was a pub advertised, a mile further up the road and off route, but it seemed too much of a detour to make. We changed the route slightly from Slaggyford to Burnstones, and walked along the disused railway track: it was much easier going and less complicated than the official route, even though there were several fences to be climbed. On reaching the road at Burnstones, there was a sign to the same pub that was indicated at Slaggyford – only this time it was a mere 300 yards away! So, off we detoured without hesitation this time. Others (Dave, Sean, Andy, Neil, and later Pat and Ivan) had thought likewise – and quite rightly, too, because the lunch of sausage, egg, beans, and chips was far too good to miss (and paid for, of course, by courtesy of the campsite at Alston!).

Then the day’s walk became boring again. Wain Rigg marks the end of the Pennines (and not a moment too soon!). There was one confusing bit after Gap Shields Fan: we almost took a wrong turning left because Wainwright’s scale seems to be way out there (Oh, horror!). We found out later that everyone else agreed with that, and that the teachers actually took the wrong turning and then had a long walk along the road.

Tea was taken at Thirlwall Castle. They had had a busy day there, because the owner was in a right state trying to manage our orders: it took ages for my cup of tea to appear, and he’d got the rest of the teas and coffees mixed up. We got talking to someone there who had set out to do the walk in 8 days with two others: they’d already packed in, and he looked thoroughly knackered! Pat and Ivan joined us on the next stage, eagerly awaiting the “great moment” when Hadrian’s Wall would come into view for the first time. It is definitely not exciting! Richard had said that the bit we would be doing that evening was flat, but it was constantly up and down: if that was the flat bit, what on earth was tomorrow’s section going to be like?! Perhaps Richard uses “flat” in the same way he uses “easy” e.g. “an easy walk”.

We arrived at our pitch after 20:00. We’d decided on a car park before Milecastle 42 after a girl at Dufton who was going north-south had mentioned to Richard that she thought there might be room for a tent there. The trouble was, everyone else was making for that spot, too. When we arrived, the teachers were sat eating beside the three lads’ tent. Apparently, a warden had been up to them and wanted to know if the tent was theirs – which, of course, it was not. They’d told him innocently that they were making for Once Brewed (or was it Twice Brewed?), but he didn’t believe their innocence. He was OK about it, though, and said it would be all right to pitch so long as we cleared off early in the morning. They’re trying to avoid having caravans parking overnight, but two of those Dormobile contraptions sprang up later. We took a walk down the road to the one and only pub. It was a very snobbish place: they didn’t sell crisps because they were “a restaurant, not a pub”. Don’t believe it – it is a pub, albeit one with no crisps!