Langdon Beck to Knock. 15 miles
Weather very unpromising first thing, but not too bad by the time we left the hostel. Fair walking to Cauldron Snout, very good time made. Slower time but still good progress on to the Maize Beck crossing point. Long rest here (except Frank) before proceeding at a good pace to High Cup. Lunch taken here before proceeding downhill. Arrival in Dufton welcomed and a rest taken. The walk to Knock Y.H. over roads was fairly quickly accomplished and we had to wait for 5 O’Clock to come.
20 miles Knock to Alston
Very low cloud present so bad weather route taken on road from Knock Y.H. to Great Dun Fell W.T. station. Cloud entered about 1500′, very strong wind and extremely cold on top, so we all put thicker clothes on in the shelter of the W.T. station before setting off by compass for Little Dun Fell which was quickly reached. Cross Fell was some time further off and arrival at the top of the scree left us with a problem of finding the O.S. column since visibility was only ~10m. Almost got lost on the descent after eating lunch on top, but eventually found the old corpse road and walked to a bothy (mile 172) which we entered. Mist cleared suddenly here so we proceeded on a long slog to Garrigill (this part seemed endless). A half hour rest in Garrigill before proceeding at a fair pace along the South Tyne Valley to Alston. Here we got a lift to Ninebanks Youth Hostel (and back).
25 miles Alston to Once Brewed
At this point, my written diary seems to give up, but I do recall a lot of walking on the road around Slaggyford, and then finding it a very long way, particularly along Hadrians Wall, which has a lot of up and down. We were quite late getting in to Once Brewed Youth Hostel, and quickly formed a very low opinion of the warden who seemed to fancy himself as some sort of tin pot dictator.
From Once Brewed, we walked, mainly through the endless (and very midgey) plantations of Kielder Forest, to reach Bellingham, where the Youth hostel meal was so big that I had to go and lie down for some considerable time. The following day, to Byrness, was also dull walking through the forest.
The final day of the Pennine Way (going north) is also the longest, at 27 miles, to Kirk Yetholm, and starts out along the edge of the huge MOD ranges, heading up to the Scottish border. Even in these days, long before talk of Scottish Independence, there was a border fence – though no armed guards… The border wiggles, and the route cuts corners, so the fence isn’t as useful for following in the mist as you might hope (and we tended to need, in this cloudy, wet summer), but after the big shortcut north of Chew Green, we were following the fence most of the way, across great quaking sphagnum bogs. There’s much gentle up and down, with various rounded minor summits. Eventually, at a corner in the fence, a great brown track heads off on the English side – the ‘optional’ detour to the summit of the Cheviot. Wainwright says things like “Ghastly at first, then improving” and “Do it for the record or to satisfy conscience, if you must, but do not expect to enjoy it. In mist or rain, give it a miss altogether.”
We’d walked a hell of a long way to get to this point, and were in a spirit of dogged determination not to miss anything that we might later feel obliged to come back for. The weather was not too dire, and we weren’t about to even think about not ticking the Cheviot. It wasn’t as bad as he’d made out, apart from a ring of saturated vegetationless peat, inches deep in water, like a moat round the trig point. We splashed on through, the hell with it ! And we did enjoy it – to our amazement, not far off the top we met a couple out walking (I think they must have come up from the side), with not much in the way of rucksacks or foul weather gear, struggling up in rather lightweight footwear. The young lady was having a bit of trouble getting across a peat grough (my memory, surely distorted by the ravages of time and retelling of the story, is that she was in high heels), and had just passed her handbag across to her partner as we squished our way past. We gave a cheery hello and passed on, struggling to keep straight faces… From the sounds behind us, I think they might have been heading for a divorce!
Back at the border, soon after, the fence became a wall, and we turned left, finally entering Scotland properly. The way is now more often down than up, and soon starts to lose the slushy peat for firmer footing. Wainwright’s guide parodies the mental state of folk who have got this far with comments on the outskirts of Kirk Yetholm like “30 m.p.h. sign – SLOW DOWN!” and finally “STOP! This is the end. Son, you have walked the Pennine Way.” Yep, we had, and we were glad to stop (decades later, it’s still the longest continuous walk I’ve done, and by far the wettest).
We were booked to stay at the Border Hotel – a night of comparative luxury, but, and far more important, back then, there was still a free pint available for those who had walked the full distance, courtesy of Wainwright, and we made haste to claim ours. No evidence had to be produced – the landlord had been seeing walkers stagger in for many years and he just knew which ones had really done it. We were all under drinking age, but no-one batted an eyelid as we took our pints and retreated to a warm corner.
The next day, it was all over, we took our final photos and got into the car for the journey home (handy things, parents). I think this was August 29th, a Thursday.