Friday, 17 June 2011

Chrissie and Dixie's Pennine Way odyssey, May/June 2011

Chrissie wanted to do the Pennine Way so, a little recklessly perhaps, once we'd decided to buy a motorhome I promised that, when we'd got it I'd support her with this aim. So, over the spring of 2011 we had a number of weekend trips where I dropped Chrissie - and Dixie - off at various locations, picking them up again later in the day for grub and accommodation.

Now it was Chrissie's mid summer term break and over the two weeks she hoped to complete the route, aided and abetted by Dixie, not to mention Tilly and me. So, we set of on the Friday evening for a wild camp just north of Keld in Swaledale. My personal agenda was to wild camp for as many nights as possible over the fortnight.

On here, I'll focus on mine and Tilly's view of the trip. For more on the actual walk visit Chrissie and Dixie's blog via the link at the bottom of the page.

So, prepare yourself for lots of, "and here's the van at..." type pictures.

And here's the van at ... a location just north of Keld and south of the Tan Hill Inn. Very windy!

The next morning we kicked - sorry, dropped Chrissie and Dixie off at aforesaid inn. You can just see Chrissie's blue jacket as they cross the fence on their windy start.

Then the two of us set off west for a short way before stopping for a moorland walk. We walked into the wind up to some old mine workings and this hut which was so well maintained it could only be used for shooting - but don't get me on that soapbox ... please!

Despite my misgivings about blood sports I wasn't too proud to shelter from the wind inside.

But Tilly wasn't too sure about the gate. I did try to explain how lucky she was cos I reckon it's normally used to keep gundogs OUT! She wasn't having any of that rubbish,

insisting she needed a bath ... and a stick ... in that order.

We meandered our way back over the moor. Tilly having great fun leaping into every bit of water she could find. She's obviously keenly in touch with the heritage of labrador retrievers, descended as a breed from water dogs from the Labrador/Newfoundland region of Canada - so she says anyway.

You can just see the van as a small silver speck in the distance.

Tilly was a touch disgusted at being tethered up outside the van while she dried off in the wind.

Refreshed by coffee and pork pie - Melton Mowbray of course - we set off for Bowes on the A66, where we were due to meet the intrepid duo. And we found this excellent wild camp spot a little way out of the village.

And while Chrissie and Dixie rested, Tilly and I waked into Bowes for a newspaper, only to find ... not a single shop of any kind. Oh well.

Next day, after leaving the adventurers, and having now had two wild camps, we set off for the Camping & Caravanning Club's site at Barnard Castle to avail ourselves of their Motorhome Stop-off facility. This is available at many C&CC sites and means that, for a payment of £6.60, you can empty your waste tank and loo and fill up with fresh water. So we did.

And then, after a wander round their excellent dog walk, we went into Barney for shopping and I treated myself to a Costa Coffee lunch. On the way into Middleton we found a trail on a disused railway line for a quick, exhilerating walk. Then it was off to Middleton in Teasdale to pick up C&D - really can't be bothered typing Chrissie and ... oh, I nearly did! This was our next wild camp for the night.

Beautiful views as the sun went down.

From here C&D set off across the hills to Dufton. It's a strange dog leg in the route, taking in the grandeur of High Cup Nick. We searched without success for a wild camp spot around Dufton so, instead, pitched up here, right in the centre of the village.

A nice spot, if a little pricey.

We walked up to High Cup Nick to meet C&D, then returned for a well-earned rest for all.

From Dufton, C&D planned a two day leg with a wild camp on Cross Fell, so, after perusing the maps, Tilly and I decided the best plan was a return to our previous wild camp, since our next pick up was just north of there at Alston. Before settling down for the evening we got some much needed exercise along the trail we'd discovered a couple of days back.

That night the weather became exceptionally windy and I was a little concerned for C&D in their little lightweight tent. Turns out they had an eventful night - see their blog.

Next day, after a pleasant moorland walk for Tilly and I from the van, we met up again in Garrigill, just south of Alston, where Dixie insisted on sharing a much-too-small front seat with an indignant Tilly,

 and had a tolerable wild camp spot here.

Dixie had been limping for a while on the previous leg so Tilly acted as her understudy when we dropped her and Chrissie (C&T, please keep up) off in Alston. Dixie and I had a look at the small train waiting in the station.

Then we were offf in search of a camp spot near Haltwhistle. In the end we elected for a night at the C&CC's site there, and C&T walked to the site. We actually all had a days rest with two nights at this lovely site in the woods on the edge of a nature reserve. The next day, temperatures were in the high 20s and it would have been too warm to walk a dog anyway, so this stop was quite fortuitous.

From here we dropped C&D off at Hadrian's Wall for another two day leg while we set off on a shopping trip. We filled up with fuel on the A69 then went to Tesco in Hexham for a "big shop". On returning to the van I noticed my lpg level indicator was well down. Chrissie has spent ages on the 'net collating info on lpg retailers so I pulled out her file and found ... nothing nearer than Newcastle, about 25 miles away. I phoned a local Shell station - found using my Garmin satnav database - but not only didn't they sell it, but knew of no-one closer than ... Newcastle. So off we went to ... Newcastle. Having filled with lpg at Morrisons in Byker we turned round and headed for our actual destination; Kielder Forest and a possible wild camp. Success!

And a nice view of Kielder Water.

The next day we went for a wander, looking for potential camp spots for later on, around some quiet roads we'd explored before.

We had a lovely walk up the river from Bellingham and back across the moors. On the way we discovered, in the back streets of this small place, a garage selling lpg ... if only we'd known! Then we collected C&D and returned to our spot used the previous night where Dixie helped Chrissie repack her rucsac.

After we left the dynamic duo - off on another two day leg - Tilly and I went for a great walk along the reservoir trail and back through the forest. On the way we passed the Wave Chamber.

And Tilly did her best Loch Ness monster impression whilst swimmimg with a stick.

 After our walk we made for the C&CC site at Bellingham. Because we'd just flipped into the C&CC's mid-season I could get my over 55s discount so that meant I could stay the night for £9.58, less than £3 more than a Motorhome Stop-off charge; no contest!

Bellingham's a very good, level site with great showers.

It was pleasantly warm and Tilly took the opportunity to chill out in the sun.

After a peaceful slumber we set off on another Kielder Forest walk.

We found a, rather short, fire tower.

And Tilly took the opportunity for a little running practice.

On our way to pick the others up we encountered some wild Exmoor ponies - a little disorientated maybe.

We picked the hikers up at Byrness and made for the C&CC site at Jedburgh, across the border in Scotland, for a break.

Chrissie was concerned about taking Dixie on the next section since it meant two overnight camps and little chance of water. After lots of consideration and much examination of maps we found an alternative. The next afternoon we made for the, supposedly, dead end valley of upper Coquetdale. Finding a wild camp spot we settled in.

This was an interesting location, set as it was, on the very edge of Otterburn military training camp. The military were busy training, hence the red flag.

We were close to the site of a Roman fort on Dere Street.

From here, the next day, C&D walked back to Byrness ... and back again, while Tilly and I made up our own route around the Roman fort and across the moors passing this sign along the way.

We had great views north into Scotland,

and along the border fence following the route of the Pennine Way.

We got a rare shot of C&D approaching the van.

Then moved along the valley for another wild camp.

The following day we set the travellers on their way again and Tilly and I drove out of the end of the dead end road ... along an unmapped military road - open today I hasten to add. We passed this sign.

We wound our way down the valley,

trying hard not to disturb this magnificent bull, scratching his neck on a tussock,

 and then continued to our next pick up point near Cocklawfoot and another wild camp, calling in at Jedburgh for another motorhome stop-off at the C&CC site and shopping on the way.

We were parked right next to a ford.

We spent a quiet night here before C&D set off on their final leg to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland, but not before enjoying splashing through the ford.

After accompanying C&D on the start of the final few miles we had a leisurely drive to Kirk Yetholm.

It wasn't long after lunch that we spotted these two, emerging through the mist and rain.

We forced them to pose for this shot by the sign,

before dragging them inside for hearty soup and jumbones (dog delicacies); tea and sympathy.

And after all the above we made our way round to our final campsite; the Caravan Club's River Breamish at Powburn.

This is a great site with a superb dog walk. We'd arrived in time for a charity tea party and we even won a raffle prize.

The final day saw us on a leisurely drive home through the Dales, tired but happy. We all slept really well that night.

 Over the two weeks we'd used campsites for only 6 out of a total of 16 nights.

C'est finis!

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