I sleep well in the little room I have to myself. I am a bit surprised to have no blisters after walking so far in wet boots yesterday. But I am really tired. I can tell that the effort took it out of me. No breakfast here so I put on my still damp boots and, after a cup of tea, set off via the co-op to buy something to get me going.
     It starts to rain as I set off again and I take shelter in the quaint little market square thingy (I am almost sure that that is the correct technical architectural term) and put on my overtrousers. For once this turns out to be the right decision.

I am opposite"The High Place" fish and chip shop. Last night the chips were ok and the fish pretty good but I also got mushy peas which turned out to be dark brown when I opened the pot. Lovely! I didn't eat them, hungry as I was. There is also a shop I didn't notice last night that apears to sell bloodied wax hands and such like. Handy.

It is still raining as I set off properly, down the hill to the station for the South Tyndale Railway, and then along the side of the railway.

Today's walk is another one entirely on the path of an old railway, and it is reasonably short, so should be easy after yesterday's exertions. If only the damn rain would stop.

Just before the train sheds a little way down the line I am greeted by a guy who I spoke to in the Youth Hostal last night. I don't know his actual name but he has one in my head with is Tory-Boy-Feart-O-Sheep because we spent a pleasant hour talking about all the animals that we were scared of. He won easily as even if the importunious sheep on Kinder Scout were annoying I can't say I was scared of them. And the cow thing is only because of this spring's experiences.  Dogs are anothe matter and we discussed dogfuckwits and their apalling ways after I got bored of terrifying him even more than he was already with my mad cow stories.  Tory boy? He seemed to think the coalition was going to do some good and he lent me his copy of The Times.

Anyway, Tory-Boy-Feart-O-Sheep has to get on as he is meeting his father (who is good at kicking dogs he says, but also told me was with him when a flock of sheep chased them both out of a field when he was young), so he overtakes me, just as I am getting to the steam engine. The guy working on it is freindly and we exchange a few words about the dismal weather.

And on I go. Despite the rain the verges of the path are cheering, dotted with flowers including more orchids which seem to be ubiquitous in the North Pennine valleys.

I pass a bank covered in rose bay willow herb and meadowsweet. The countryside beyond is beautiful too. This would be a great walk if I wasn't so done in and the weather was not so miserable. Like yesterday the rain comes and goes for a while. But the coming is getting more than the going.

After Kirkhaugh station there is a barrier across the tracks. But the track continues, no barrier between the cinder path and railways. I  pass a digger.

Work is clearly ongoing to extend the line.

Eventually there is only line, awaiting sleepers to be fitted.

 After that it is just cinder path for a while. It is raining hard again now and, after a couple of gates across the path I come across something entirely unexpected. Here the path has not been renewed. It is overgrown, boggy on the ground, not unlike that disused railway track near Kirkby Stephen. I  had supposed this route would be like the Cloud Trail or Northampton to Market Harborough cycle way.

Maybe it will be soon, but in the meantime my boots soon get soaked again as I slosh through the mud and puddles. At least the overtrousers protect me from the wet vegetation.

Fortunately, this section doesn't last that long before opening out to a turfy walk with views on either side. I see a sign for the Lambley Viaduct. If I remember right is is three miles. This seems to take hours to get through, despite the good going and easy gradients.

The cinder track returns a little later. My camera is now wet again and behaving very strangely. Not shutting down completely like yesterday but turning itself off and on again. I suspect that I have abused it once too often.

I have a real love hate relationship with this camera which is a Kodak. I bought it for its 10x zoom. But it was pretty cheap and it turned out that photos taken at 10x were pretty awful and grainy.

That I could accept. But it has the most annoying switching system ever. There is a little wheel on the back of the camera, small, fiddly and plasticy, which is how you turn it on and off and to various settings. This infuriates me every time I use it, especially in bad weather. You keep turning it beyond off onto another setting it is so small and hard to turn properly.

But though it was a great disapointment when it arrived (having been ordered online) it has taken some good photos over the four or five years that I have had it. Almost all of the pictures on this blog have been taken with it.

Of course, I should have been using my waterproof Olympus for the last two days but I didn't bring it to cut down on weight. And it just does not take such good photos as the Kodak so given the choice the Kodak won.

I am really finding this walk an effort. My feet may not be blistered but they are sore and I have no energy at all. Slogging through the rain is a real effort for all that the track is flat. I guess I have just had enough for this leg. But it is a pity as the path is great and the countryside around is truly lovely.

Through some woods I get my first look at  Lambley Viaduct which took the line over the South Tyne. It is quite spectacular.

Sadly someone has a house right on the way so I have to take a path down, knees complaining as I go, right to the bottom, before taking another one back up again. Oh well, at least I get a glimpse of a red squirrel to reward me for my pains.

And so across the viaduct. Not too near the edge. Too vertiginous for me. But great views up and down the valley.

There is a bench on the other side too so I sit down and have some water and food. People pass. The first I have seen apart from two workers walking to the new part of the railway since Tory-Boy-Feart-O-Sheep.

I pass a car park a little later which explains it. The rain has stopped but it is getting too warm in all my wet weather gear now. I trudge on barely able to apreciate the countryside around me as I am too tired. Yesterday really did take its toll.

But the path is a good firm track, through woods and by fields. Glimpses of more extensive views over the valley occassionly show through the trees.

I go through a cutting, grass banks sprinkled with scabious and other wild flowers. By some woods and, suddenly I am parallel to Haltwhistle.

There is a footpath marked that looks like a short cut. I take it but find it is a right of way through a hay meadow rather than a path. This takes me through a cow field. A stile takes me into woods on a steep slope down to the next meadow. But I cannot find the path. The one I take leads me through woods, but there is a line of fence. I go under it but there is no sign of a stile and a barbed wire fence blocks my escape. I go back but can see no sign of a path the other way either.

There seems to be nothing for it. I take out my Hebridian walkers secret weapon. A couple of bits of pipe insulation which go over the barbs. These are too close together and I only have a couple of bits, but I get over without damaging myself or the fence.

Crossing the next field I spot a stile. As I reach it I look back. I can see the stile I wanted, much further along after the wired off path had dwindled to nothing. Maybe there was another stile at the top? It must remain a mystery because the sun has come out, briefly, and I am walking down a quiet road in the company of a young mum and a toddler, before passing a field with a horse and donkey and going over a bridge to Haltwhistle station.

I have lots of time so limp into Haltwhistle. Though it is Saturday it seems to be asleep. Some shops are shut. A gang of young boys hangs around bored in identicit nike trainers and other gear. I get the feeling that Haltwhistle would be a hard place to be different.  But this is late July and Saturday and Haltwhistle bills itself as the centre of Hadrian's Wall visiting. I am surprised it is so somnabulant.

In the middle is a thing, claiming that Haltwhistle is the centre of  Britain. I find the claims a little bit questionable but it is the case that I had decided Haltwhistle was definately half way in my walk.

But there seems no need to linger so I get the first train into Newcastle.

I have visited a few great cities on this walk. Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester was not entirely new to me but I cannot say I knew it. But Newcastle is something else. It has a reputation for a nightlife noted for drunken excess even by British standards. But I arrive in the middle of the afternoon. Actually before that. Some of the people on the train are loud, crop headed young men headed for a piss up and already half cut.

 It is a shock after four days of walking through sparsely populated country and quiet country towns and villages. But not enough of a shock to prepare me for Newcastle. The place is insane. The centre is very handsome but what striked me right away is the number of hen and stag parties. Large women dressed as fairies or with tee shirts with their names on, identifying one as the bride, stagger (remember this is 3.pm) around. One offers me a plastic kids potty full of change and asks me for something incomprehensible due to slurring. Only afterwards do I realise she wanted me to contribute to their getting pissed fund.

I am primarily in search of dry footware, secondarily for something to read and I find some new deck shoes in an Oxfam shop. I don't really want deck shoes so I squelch off in search of a TK Maxx without luck as no one in Newcastle seems to know where anything is. When I return the shop is crowded with young men with shaven heads. One is trying on a black flapper dress, the Oxfam shop ladies helping, offering advice. I buy the shoes and then get Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island in another charity shop.

I buy the shoes and go and get some beer and food for the long train journey home. Going up to the coop I am confronted by a shapely girl's behind dressed in a scanty black knickers and fishnet stockings and a short white tee shirt. She is doing something with a stag party. As I go back I almost bump into a tall figure and realise that it is Peter Tatchell. He looks as bemused as I feel by the scenes of reeling drunkeness and fancy dress that are growing in number all the time.

Back at the station I see lots of police vans and can hear dogs barking inside some of them. They were not here when I left. Preparation for tonight? The number of stag parties of young guys prowling, already half pissed suggests there might be plenty of trouble. Some are bound to bump into each other before long.

But as I drink a coffee in the station I see police assemble and then hear the football chants. Newcastle have been playing Carlisle in a friendly.  A mass of chanting young men pours out of the station into the hen/stag madness beyond.

But I have had enough of it so I just sit on the platform and start reading my new book.  Bill Bryson, who is new to me, soon has me laughing out loud as I await my train.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Peter Tatchell - there's someone I haven't heard of for years. Good to know he's alive and well in the UK.

    I enjoy Bill Bryson but my memory of that book is the firts chapter where he's staying in a guesthouse in Dover run my a Mrs Smeg or something, and I thought - what sort of young backpacker is he that stays in a GUESTHOUSE where he has a whole room to himself??? Backpackers stay in hostels. I don't think I had a room to myself anywhere in the UK ever when I was his age doing the same thing.


  2. Anonymous said...

    Oops, forgot to say - you're nearly in Scotland!! Wow.  

  3. Spencer said...

    Hi Louise. Yeah, that is a good point. I find it wierd and wildly extravagant when I stay in bed and breakfasts and I am in my fifties!

    When I was a young backpacker it was mostly friend's floors or ditches.  

  4. Anonymous said...

    Enjoy yourself. I am from Stornoway too. I posted on Cif, under hte name 'NapoleonKaramazov' until I resigned this year, I still read Cif though and followed the links to your blog.

    Enjoy your walk. Hope it all goes well. I only moved away from Stornoway this year, moved to Glasgow, trying, and failing to find a job :(


  5. Spencer said...

    Sorry to hear you gave up CIF Charles. Good luck with the job hunting.  

  6. ChooChoo said...

    Just came across the link to your blog from CiF. Half way through, roughly, in July - when did you start? And how do you do the stages (with work commitments etc)?

    Fondly envious. Been cramped up at home for months - have to submit a thesis in a week's time. I'm not a walker, but would like to become one, and intermittently haunted by the idea of doing the camino in Spain some day. Enjoy yours!  

  7. Spencer said...

    Hi, Choo Choo, sorry about the delay in publishing your comment, I just got back from a five day stage of the walk!

    I started just about a year ago (September 2009).

    My sympathies with the thesis. One of the things that impelled me to do it was that I did an MA (part time for two years) and that cut into my walking time and fitness really badly. So I wanted to do something to redress the balance.  


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