The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Day 16 - Stanhope Common to Acomb

16 April (0700-1630)
Distance: 20.5 miles
Fitbit steps: 49000
Weather: early wall-to-wall sunshine; high level cloud later. Markedly warmer this afternoon

The day started with Mick getting a kick in the face. There he was, innocently lying all snug under the quilt, when I transitioned from the 'making tea' to the 'drinking tea' position, catching Mick's jaw with my foot as I did so. He reckons that with the number of times I accidentally kick, knee, elbow or thump him, he qualifies as a battered husband.

It was an early hour of day to be kicked in the face too, as I'd requested an early start, so as to cover the miles, buy groceries and arrive at our night-stop early enough to use the laundry.

So, it was just 7am as we hoisted our packs and left our pitch (an excellent pitch, even if I do say so myself). By virtue of having slept at the bottom of a valley, we started with a get-the-blood-pumping climb back out of that valley. Moorland was the theme of the morning, and it was incredible to see quite so much of nothing, save a couple of large chimneys (right on the moor) telling us that there used to be industry in these seemingly barren parts.

Good navigation (with, perhaps, a little luck thrown in) saw us land within a reasonable number of paces of stiles (or in one place, a waymark pointing straight through a fence with no evidence that there's ever been a stile) when we encountered fences during our descent off the first bit of moor.

A little lane, a pleasant path through a bit of forest and a bit more lane took us out of County Durham and into Northumberland at Blanchland. For us, today, Northumberland started with an absolute lung-buster of a hill. It did, however, offer excellent views back whence we had come, and the moorland onto which it led us was gentle on us, as was the forest road which followed.

From the little collection of houses that is Juniper, it's only 4 miles to Hexham by road, but why walk a road when there are (for a less direct a route) field paths instead? And so over fields and along byways we went, only hitting the road a short way before Hexham.

Our biggest resupply yet was needed in Hexham (our next shop isn't until Selkirk on Sunday - eeeek - Easter Sunday - that's not promising from a shopping point of view, is it? Wish I'd thought of that earlier!) where I nearly cried as I searched and searched, covering what felt like an extra mile or so, for the things I wanted in the big Tesco.

Our night-stop was another 2.5 miles further on according to the map, but I'm sure that the last lane went on for twice the distance it should have! Eventually the lane did end, the campsite was before us, and with relief our parcel was handed over.

Having paid our pitch fee (£17.50 - ouch!) we were shown to the scankiest bit of ground. Had the fee been more reasonable, I would have accepted it, but for that much money, I expect something half-decent, so I rejected it. We settled on another spot in the end, but it's still not great. It became slightly better when the warden returned to apologise for overcharging us and to give us a £2.50 refund. All being well, tomorrow night's pitch will be better - and free, although it won't have much in the way of facilities!

(Conrad: two offers of tea doesn't bring us close to your record of receiving hospitality! Unrelated to that: where did your LEJOG route take you after Rookhope Burn?
Martin: if we hadn't climbed up so steeply during those 3 minutes, I likely would have made an about turn! What's the weather for the weekend for the Borders (Jedburgh and Selkirk area)?
Mike K: that would have been really useful to know yesterday!)

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  1. Easter in Scotland? Should be okay. It's only the north west and the isles that might be tricky I'd 've thought.

  2. I went via Blanchland also, then Dukesfield and camped on a site on Hexham Racecourse where the guy let me stay for free when he heard what I was doing. Onward from there to Haydon Bridge then north to Wark, Bellingham and Kielder. I reckon we may coincide again later.

  3. You may get a bit of drizzle tomorrow (Thursday) then a nice couple of days, but on Sunday a front is coming in from the east, bringing cloud and some rain by Monday. Next week looks cloudy with showers. I'll update you again tomorrow, but then I'm away until Tuesday.
    Have fun!

  4. Yes and we've complained about that place with no stile too. We're hoping to get one soon. I suspect you went through Deborah Wood, which is one of my adopt-a-path paths, which is why it's so good, obviously (a bit muddy in parts...)