Tuesday, 29th July.
Complete walk, 147.8 miles.
Complete walk ascent, 7381m (24,216ft).
So that's that then, the 2014 walk completed. I could do with hiring a brass band to do a fanfare one year. As it was there was a lady at the bus stop where I finished at Once Brewed, a crossroads just off Hadrian's Wall with nothing there except a pub (called the Twice Brewed Inn), so I droned on about it to her till the bus arrived.
Sitting on the bus I realised that I'd done 9 days walking since I last used anything other than my feet as transport. I was quite impressed with this, but also quite relieved to be delivered somewhere, in this case Haltwhistle where the train station was. You seem to be able to get a train from anywhere in Northern England, it makes Mold look rubbish.
I noticed a couple of things today that told me it really was time to go home. The first was that I was incapable of walking slowly any more and was tanking along every single path. There was more ascent than I'd expected but it made little difference. So I tanked out of Allendale (no fight last night, I'm a little disappointed to report), alongside a river, along a road, across a stunning, tree covered ridge, through a stunning, tree covered valley, across quiet moorland, up a track, along a Roman wall and down a road.
The other thing I noticed was that here in Northumberland I had run out of Pennines to walk on. It was still undulating, but there was nothing you could call a mountain anywhere ahead of me as far as I could see. This is odd because I met the Pennine Way yet again today (Unpaved! Hooray!), before it headed north to.... what? Well actually I know it still goes quite a bit further north yet, but like I said before, there were no Pennines left to put a Way on!
The best bit of Hadrian's Wall.
The other best bit of Hadrian's Wall.
The weather was overcast, as it usually is on Hadrian's Wall and especially at Housesteads (Eek, lots of tourists!), but it improved considerably towards the end of the walk and was lovely in Haltwhistle. While I wait for the train I am sitting in the Black Bull with four elderly gentlemen who are listening to the cricket on the radio. It's very relaxing and a good time to reflect on a few things.
Firstly, three best ofs and two thank yous:
Best day - day 6, the Howgills.
Best accommodation - Old Hill Inn (though the owners of Brownber Hall and Bongate House were lovely).
Best meal - the mother of all cheese ploughman's at Allendale Forge.
Thank you - to the 'Friends of A Dales High Way' group for sharing this blog, I do appreciate it.
Thank you - to Sue Townsend, author of the wonderful Adrian Mole diaries, the last of which has accompanied me on this trip. Brilliantly funny and politically razor sharp, if you haven't read them you must. Sadly Sue passed away recently, taking my hero Adrian with her.
Although I've done a number of long distance walks over the years, it's five years since I started doing one on an annual basis. So I started when I was 45 and I'm doing ok at 50. It makes sense then (to me!) that I now aim to still be doing them (and wanting to) at 55. I think my back will have a large say in this. It's been great once I'm on the move each morning, but it drives me mad when putting socks on or getting up from the breakfast table is a chore. I've had no problems at all other than this, so I'll just have to keep a close eye on it (which is tricky when it's behind me).
The weather was ridiculous, and I thought last year was good! I've never walked for so many days in such good weather anywhere in the world. Ok it did verge on too hot occasionally, but what would I have wished for instead, the usual low cloud and drizzle? I don't think so. Nearly all of the time it was a joy to walk in.
The best thing of all though was the varied terrain. Like Offa's Dyke and the Cambrian Way, it was constantly changing as I walked. I'm not sure where else this would happen, so maybe it's no surprise that the majority of long distance walkers I met weren't British. Our landscape does seem to fascinate people from all over the place, which is maybe why in the last six years I've not considered a walk abroad. That doesn't mean I won't though...
Just before catching the train I moved to the Railway Inn, a terrible pub next to the station which had no hand pumped bitter at all. But at least I could eavesdrop. The barmaid was doing a crossword but was asking a bloke drinking at the bar all the questions, including:
Barmaid: Edgar Allen something, rhymes with 'low', 3 letters.
Man: Bloody hell I'm not helping you with this one. How do you know it rhymes with so?
Barmaid: It says so here, look.
Man: Well that doesn't leave you much to do does it? Have you got any letters in it?
Barmaid: Yes it starts with 'P'.
-- Posted from Kev's iPhone