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We cross the river by Wynch bridge and so to Low Force where we stop for tea and to admire the scenery. We continue up the river bank. High Force is something to behold. We hear it well before we see it! From this side of the Tees we see it in all its glory.
There are many falls and lots of white water as we progress along the bank but soon it begins to quieten and becomes quite tame. The quarry takes us by surprise after all the natural beauty. It has its own form of grandeur though and looks as if it has grown out of the landscape.
After a short climb to Bracken Rigg, which, incidentally, has no bracken but is dotted with juniper bushes, we arrive at Saur Hill. The weather turns really nasty with high winds and black skies. As “camping” is advertised on a board we take advantage and pitch. The farmhouse, where we get water and wash in the kitchen sink (if you dare pass the farm dog) is further away than it looks. We have to leave the field, cross the beck by a wooden bridge and walk up a long access track. The farm yard is full of portaloos. This is a mystery to us but we are assigned one of them. For this we are charged the same rate as a site with full facilities!
The day begins in sunshine but rapidly deteriorates and before we reach any height we are in thick fog and drizzle. Cross Fell would be no place to be today, we convince ourselves.
The road is a minor one and we only see one car all day. It is very open and climbs steadily. I'm sure there would be far reaching views if we could see them
We arrive in Alston tired but satisfied we have reached our goal and finishing the way is now possible in the time we have left.
We walk down the cobbled street and sit outside a pub for a rest and a pint. A miner, complete with helmet and black face, walks out of the pub and up the cobbled street. This is surreal. It feels like a film set.
We camp on the other side of Alston close to the steam railway station. We manage to dry our clothes in the huge dryers on the site.
We rejoin the path. We go over several commons, Blenkinsopp Common being a particular horror. It is so wet we dare not stand still as the water seeps over our boots! Whether looking at the map or blowing the nose the order of the day is - keep moving! This is a bit of a trudge and the way is not very clear but we are in good spirits as the sun has been shining all day!
We arrive in Greenhead. We have had two long walking days and decide to reward ourselves with a meal in the pub. Not only that, we left Alston this morning before the shops opened. There is a welcoming sign outside the pub "home cooked meals". We lick our lips. Unfortunately, it transpires that they are not serving any meals today. There is a wedding. They will not even provide a sandwich! We dine on peanuts.
We are now in Roman territory and begin to walk alongside Hadrian's Wall. We certainly start to get a sense of history.
Walking the wall is very atmospheric. It is windy and drizzly but the sun keeps trying to shine. It makes for an eerie light. I can almost see the centurions.
The terrain is very undulating, like walking a fairground ride.
We reach the trig point on Winshields Crags. We take a break, have a brew and admire the view.
We turn off around Crag Lough for Once Brewed where we enjoy a jovial Sunday lunch with fellow PW walkers in the Twice Brewed pub. They tell us that the section of the path we missed at the beginning of the day yesterday, was a quagmire. Charlie feels vindicated and I concede that perhaps he was right.
We camp at Winshields Farm. We are visited by a peacock.
After a miserable soggy squelch through the forest, where even the signposts grow lichen, we emerge into a charming pastoral landscape and come across this little haven. The barn is equipped with chairs, tables and even a sofa! There is tea, coffee and a kettle. There are cakes!! There are cold drinks in the “fridge” - a barrel of cold water. There is a price list and an honesty tin. We spend too much time here. We have a second brew and watch the swallows feeding their young in a corner of the barn.
We continue over Shitlington Crag. The way up and over the crag is a joy and the rigours of the forest are well forgotten
We cross some rushy moorland and camp about a mile and a half outside Bellingham.
After pitching, we walk the mile and a half into Bellingham for fish and chips and then a couple of pints in the The Black Bull. Of course, we then have to walk one and a half miles back again! It was worth it!