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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Day 59 - Garrigill to Slaggyford

Garrigill is very quiet, we had an excellent night’s sleep with no traffic noise and the 200 year old thick walls in the cottage muffling any sound inside. At breakfast we had some time talking to Debbie and Nicki who were the other guests at the B and B. They are doing the whole of the Pennine Way over three weeks. Despite various injuries, they were cheerful and upbeat and clearly enjoying the experience. They met through the Guides as teenagers, a very impressive pair of women.

Today was another farewell day. David drove home this morning via watching Wycombe play in Bolton. We’re not going to see each other for over 5 weeks, which feels a long time. When I see him again it will be for the very last week of the walk. These reunions and farewells are challenging. I find that seeing my most treasured people is both wonderful and very difficult. It’s fantastic to have support and someone to lean on, but it can mean that my inner support structure then rather relaxes, which can make it all feel much harder and more emotional. I have been delighted to see him, but there’s a large amount of energy taken up with getting the show back on the road when he leaves. So a couple of farmers got my tearful face as I determinedly walked away from him after he’d accompanied me to the PW this morning. They dealt with it with an uncomfortable ‘how do?’

It was a good thing that today was not an especially challenging one, so at least I didn’t feel daunted by the walk. Only ten miles, and not specially hilly. I’m so grateful to the people who’ve messaged me to check how my leg is doing. It’s lovely to know that people are reading this, and that you care. Thanks, I really appreciate it. The hamstring is still problematic, but it now feels more just extremely tight than the worrying pain from before. I’m hopeful that it’s on the mend. Shout out to Tasha for sending me some extra stretches to do - they are definitely helping. So it meant that I could observe geographical features instead of just thinking about what was hurting. David pointed out that we had passed the watershed when on the fells yesterday. And today I could see that whereas the Tees was running towards me, the Tyne that I followed initially today was running away from me. It’s grown as a river already, with aspirations here for the giant it will become.

It was good to meet Jo walking in the opposite direction to me. She’s doing the PW, aiming to end up in the pub she works at in Sheffield. We talked about the pressures that can be added to a challenge by walking for a charity - she had done the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path for charity before, and had decided to do her current walk for herself. It made me think about how I feel about walking for TVAA. I don’t think I feel under more pressure to complete it because of their tie-in, most of the pressure I feel is self induced. Seeing her was great, it cheered me up in the initially lonely start of the day.

After an easy four miles of leisurely strolling, I arrived in Alston. I sat chatting to Tasha on the phone for a while on the outskirts of the town. It’s been good to make connections today. Alston is attractive, with cobbled streets and a central market building. It’s another town, like Barney, with proud plaques describing local history. A good place to have a coffee and an excellent piece of home baked ginger loaf. Today has had some very good cake in it.

As I was gently walking down the hill I saw a group of excited looking people ready to cheer something. They were spectators of the Isaac Tea Trail race, an ultra marathon. It follows the path taken by Isaac Holden in the early 19th century. He was a travelling tea seller, working out of a grocer’s shop in Allendale. He sold tea to farms and outlying hamlets, taking a route that took 36 miles. In the end he became a philanthropist, raising money to establish a fresh water well in Allendale. The race follows his route from that well, going to many of the remote farms to which he sold his tea. Things are more tech now, the spectators could follow the progress of the runners using trackers in their vests.

I chose not to follow the Pennine Way for the next section, but instead to walk on the River Tyne Trail again, along the route of the South Tynedale railway. Given even the official books suggest this as an improved option to the fiddly field crossings of the PW, this seemed a much better bet. I’d already done loads of stiles in the first section this morning, so I was happy to take uninterrupted flat walking. This railway walk was different to the others I’ve done so far, in that it was walking along an existing line. It’s a preserved 2 foot narrow gauge heritage railway, which takes passengers periodically through the day. I’m not an especial train buff, but these old lines with their Thomas the Tank Engine type trains were appealing.

It was exciting to cross into Northumberland. This border country is a part of the walk I’ve been really anticipating, it’s a bit of the world I hardly know.

I walked along the track as far as The Nook. This is a cafe on the road that is attached to a farm shop. As has been the case over the last few days, it was heavily supported by bikers. This is biker country, with quiet roads in dramatic scenery. I’ve seen large groups of them in many of the villages and towns round here, and my landlady this morning spoke in a matter of fact way about how difficult it is to go round a corner and find a biker’s body on the road, as if it was a normal part of life. There are accidents every weekend, many fatal.

Apart from the cafe, the other reason to go to the Nook is that it is the entrance to Epiacum Roman fort. This was probably built in AD 120, around the same time as Hadrian’s Wall, to control lead and silver mining in the surrounding hills. It is largely unexcavated, but is impressive nonetheless. I took a couple of miles’ detour to walk round it, struck by the shape of the ramparts in the grass. It was also helpful to see an artist’s impression of how the fort would have looked. The Pennine Way runs very near the structure, and was the main road to Carlisle then. It would have been a very much more bustling place than it is now.

As I was picking my way down the hill through the woods I was passed by a number of the runners in the Tea Trail race. They seemed remarkably fresh and cheerful given they’d run 20 miles and had another 15 to go. At the bottom of the hill was a road, marshalled by Kevin and Kirsten. They were giving up their Saturday to check that the competitors weren’t run over in their quest to overtake each other, and offering water with a side helping of motivational cheering and whooping. As I approached they could see I wasn’t a runner, so curtailed the encouragement. I then told them what I was doing, and was rewarded not just with whooping but also a little dance.

From there it was an easy three or four miles into Slaggyford. Another great bed and breakfast where I was made to feel like part of the family by Norma and Colin and their charming grandson Harry. I was given tea and lovely fruit cake on arrival, a warm welcome with suggestions for my route and things to see and then I was cooked a delicious dinner. Feeling cared for at the end of a day is so welcome.


Distance travelled: 10.7 miles

Total ascent: 900 feet

Calories burned: 1459

Dinner at Fell View B and B, Slaggyford - really delicious

Salmon and vegetable traybake with dill mustard

Home made treacle sponge with ice cream

Video of the day

Total number of miles travelled - exactly 700!

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