Thursday 13th April 2017
Travelled up with Andy from home to Byrness, Northumberland, where the Expedition stopped last September. Was up at 6am and out the door by 6.30. We slept in the cabin in the garden so as not to wake everyone (mainly so as not to wake animals). Faffy dog ended up with us in the cabin last night. Was nice and warm in there and useful for getting used to bedding down on hard surface.
Took until 1.30pm to drive up to the starting point. Good journey with alternating feelings of relaxation, enjoying the view and feeling nostalgic about the territory I’d already walked through, and quiet anxiety about what I was headed for.
When we reached Byrness had difficulty recognising the route I’d taken to get off the Cheviots. Finally decided on a forestry path and said goodbye to Andy. Felt very novice stood there having picture taken.
The route up onto the tops didn’t look at all how I’d remembered it when I was coming down – lots of sawn tree trunks – quite desolate looking. But when I turned around and looked back down I recognised the view. Before it had seemed quite verdant and I was enjoying the sight of deer ahead of me, but I suppose winter had intervened, and that was at the end of an arduous few weeks not the beginning of something even longer. Was reassured on the right path by seeing the Bothy perched on the opposite hillside that made such an impression on me before.
The pack felt heavy and my hip hurt. The hip strap of the pack seems to slip loose all the time. Feel quite fumbly. Once back at my high point of last year, I decided to take the slightly longer route onwards – a dogleg out to Chew Green Roman Camp (extensive raised earth mounds) – and have set up bivi here. Not very happy with my tarp arrangement – too few pegs to make it work by stretching it between my walking poles so I’ve used my trowel as one peg and letting one of the loops flap free in the wind. Have SOME shelter from the side of an earth mound but not much. Luckily no wind.
Hip hurt when walking quite a bit but just trusting it’ll settle down. Have no idea how my bivi bag will perform. Think I might not get in it tonight unless it gets very cold – which it very well might! If I don’t use it at least that will prevent condensation wetting sleeping bag. Have brought my cacoon sleeping bag liner which I might use.
Wish I didn’t feel so inept.
Looking down to the Coquet stream and Dere Street (old roman road) on opposite hillside. Many warning signs and military shooting/shelter constructions. It’s 8 miles from here to Windy Gyle (ominous name!) – a mile from there to Border Gate where many doing the route choose to wild camp because it’s half way across the Cheviot route. I’ve only come 4.5m today. Seen a couple heading onwards and notice on my map that the first mountain refuge at Lamb Hill is only 3.5 miles away, but I don’t want to cop out of my first night outside and take shelter – nor share my first first night if the couple are headed there.
The sun just came out (5.20pm) but there are also a few rain clouds about. Maybe I’ll get inside bivi bag tonight just in case?
Haven’t been feeling hungry at all, so not sure whether I’ll have anything tonight. Had a pie and cake at lunch at Tebay services so probably don’t need anything anyhow.
Have been feeling VERY unsure about this. Felt much harder to leave the car (and Andy) than to take a train and start walking as I did at Hawes in September.
Have a sore spot on my middle toe, left foot, which is one reason why I think a very short day is in order to begin with. Don’t want to do myself in so early on.
Good Friday, 14th April
Bivi last night at Chew Green. Messed about for ages getting camp set so was glad to have stopped walking so early. Decided to use the bivi bag and found it really comfy and a reassuring thickness. Was VERY good to have a hood on it so I could look out while still wrapped up warm. Became VERY windy so eventually the noise of the tarp flapping got so annoying that I got out and released the guy attaching the foot end of the tarp to my other walking pole and just pegged it out at ground level.
It clouded over for quite a few hours and rained lightly on and off. Used walking boots to lift my head off the ground and put pack at my feet because started slipping downwards. Worked well. Long night – slept on and off. Clouds cleared and stars came out. VERY cold on my face but body stayed quite warm. Could feel my toe hurting – VERY BAD so early on!
Currently at mountain refuge hut on Lamb Hill having left camp at 7.00 and arrived here at 9.00. Can hear red grouse – lovely. Dawn chorus this morning very interesting. A sound like a deep vibration that moved eerily around the hillside making oooooohhh noise (ghostly). Heard lapwings, grouse and many songbirds. Enjoyed listening.
Didn’t want to get up but glad when had. Ate a bit a sauerkraut, and a few hazelnuts and prunes.
Quite a lot of water on tarp but could just shake it off. Magic!
The walk to the hut was hard. Left shoulder sore. But felt like a very familiar feeling. GOOD. LOVE THE EMPTY HILLS. Got a good view of the hills I’m headed for on the Saint Cuthbert’s Way, once I’ve reached Kirk Yetholm.
Hip not too bad now it is warmed up but twinges every so often. Sticks essential.
It’s 3.00ish and I’m now at Auchope Mountain Hut and considering my options. Too early to consider stopping here, but the weather has got up a bit. Saw a couple outside hut from a distance but they left prior to me getting here. Good. Hut is the same as Lamb Hill – basic but nicely kept. Benches around the walls. Not damp (like Cross Fell Bothy in the Autumn). But much smaller and just benches.
Today the morning miles seemed to go on forever, but pm has been good. Long/sharp pull over the Cheviot massif – v.v. Slowly done. Heard several red grouse and more songbirds as well. The ground is nowhere near as bad as last September – much drier, so I haven’t sunk too deep in anything. I suppose the weather has been quite dry, and with it being early in the season, and not too badly trodden, the ground hasn’t been turned too mushy.
VERY WINDY this afternoon coming down to Auchope at Hen Hole. Nearly lost buff and pack rain cover – added to which the wind kept slapping bits of my jacket into my face. Reminds me of how I used to feel in the Cairngorms in Winter.
When/if the weather abates going to head towards Kirk Yetholm and try and find available trees to settle under. Might make phone contact now so I didn’t need to tonight. Feel I should at least let Andy know that walk is underway now. I’m looking at a notice on the wall giving Mounthooly WiFi password (joke?).
Incidentally the new, untried selfie stick broke this am. Well, I never really held with that idea anyway.
RAIN now outside. Will stay put for a while.
It’s now 7.30pm. I’ve yomped down off my route to a forest for the night. Many fallen trees. High wind. Creaking everywhere. Complicated getting into forest over fences. Very dense right to the ground. Found suitable opportunity. Set up bivi at 6pm, just in time before the rain.
Have taken the chance to strip off, clean and change – feel better for that. Put dry sleeping clothes on for tonight. Will have a nip of whisky, a bite of pemmican, then off to sleep when it gets dark. VERY COLD. Wearing duvet jacket and down booties.
Saturday 15th April
The night was very cold and extremely windy. Ended up putting duvet jacket and duvet boots back on inside my sleeping bag. The sound in the forest was deafening at times (wind on the forest sounds like a waterfall), and the trees creaked and groaned. Got quite worried about a collapse. Decided to turn on phone so that if anything happened to me I could be found.
Fitful bursts of sleep in between loud gusty spells. Comfortable, but I had difficulty getting that way (I’ve comfortable). Woke at 5.30am and started getting fixed to go, but wasn’t out till 7.30 because of trying not to get too cold. Was joined by a Robbin (fat) who followed me about as I packed. Gave him a ball of fat. I’m finding my pemmican too fatty so will have to take time picking the meat out of it.
Had the hard climb out over barbed wire and back up through the heather to the prow of the hill to regain the Pennine way. Glad to take the lowland route then to Kirk Yetholm (basically just descending). Did my first foraging – gorse buds very sweet at the moment (early in season). Plenty of sorrel once I’d got down to the tracks.
In Kirk Yetholm now. 11.15am. Done about 5m. Church bell peels. Good feeling. Spurs me on. Kirk Yetholm bigger than I imagined. Came as a shock to hear all Scottish accents now. Still very cold/windy. Dumped selfie stick and gash in bin (kept Bluetooth controller from selfie stick). Seen a board with both the Pennine way and St. Cuthbert’s Way, former advises compass, map reading ability, mountain equipment etc. whereas latter talks of lovely views, churches and tea shops. Will now be taking St. Cuthbert’s Way to Melrose.