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]

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Day 17 - Acomb to by Harwood Forest

17 April (0830-1710)
Distance: 18.5 miles (Tot: 312)
Fitbit steps: 43500
Weather: heavily overcast morning, a shower after lunch, then sunny intervals. Very windy and cool.

We didn't have to repeat last night's never-ending road in leaving the campsite this morning. Instead, a pleasant woodland path led directly from the tent to rejoin a different road further north.

Road was, unfortunately, the prominent feature of the morning. They were quiet lanes (on the longest section we were passed by more bicycles than cars), but after a total of 7.5 miles of tarmac, we were ready to leave the road when we reached Little Bavington.

In between two of the road sections we had taken a byway, but we weren't too happy with that either. It has been deeply rutted on each side by 4x4s, and deeply rutted in the middle by motor bikes. That left us with some thin strips of lumpy grass on which to walk, and it wasn't a happy experience (the photo shows a bit of that byway, but not one of the particularly offensive bits).

Perhaps the better route altogether would have been to follow Hadrian's Wall much further east than we did, then to pick up St Oswald's Way (which we did join, but rather later). That route would have been about 8 miles, compared to the 5 of the one we took, but it would probably have been proportionately nicer than our 'hypotenuse' route (or, as I would usually say, 'hippopotamus').

A later hippopotamus route didn't work out well either, as I didn't pay enough attention to the map and we foundered in a field of sheep for a while before cutting our losses and heading for a road. The last hippopotamus of the day worked out better.

The most alarming incident of the day came not long after I'd commented that we'd not yet encountered any bulls on this trip. Fate had been tempted and soon we found ourselves with a herd of curious cows, with bull in tow, trotting towards us. Having successfully cornered us, we had two options, but rather than escape through a gate in the wrong direction, we adopted the 'approach with confidence, waving arms and shouting' technique, which fortunately did the trick nicely. I imagine that those of a nervous disposition around cows wouldn't have enjoyed those few minutes!

We arrived in Kirkwhelpington before 3pm, giving us rather a lot of time to kill before continuing on for a wild pitch. Happily, the sun had come out, so we whiled away a good chunk of time on a bench on the playing field. It was rather more pleasant than our earlier lunch spot, huddled up on the steps of a chapel, trying to get out of the worst of the howling, cold wind.

St Oswolds Way would have been followed for most of the final hour and a bit of the day, except I feared it would involve more tarmac, so little local paths were taken instead. No sooner than we had joined St Oswald again, we left him for good, as he veered off in an unhelpful direction, leaving us to yomp off in a different direction across a tussocky, barren landscape, to find ourselves a home for the night.

(Martin: thank you for the weather update and have a good weekend, wherever you are going.
Conrad: that sounds very similar to the alternative route I had plotted, which saw us join the Pennine Way by Bellingham. It got ditched in favour of the one we're taking on the basis of not fancying another repetition of the PW quite so soon.
Louise/TVPS: thank you for the shopping advice and info. Much appreciated.)

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