Monday, 18 June 2007
Bellingham to Byrness. 1 Hiker, 2 dogwalkers & a toad
Why oh why do we never learn? Heat, hills & a hangover are not a good combination on a long day's walk. We'd had to say farewell to Angela, Peter & Jenny & now regretted staying up too late talking & drinking until the small hours.
So, here we were, back in Bellingham, not ready & prepared for a gruelly stretch on the Pennine Way to Byrness. It had taken us until nearly lunchtime to start walking because of the complicated car arrangements & as we waved to Angela & Jenny from the bridge the sun was up high & hot. They were going for a look around Bellingham & we (Hilary and I ) were heading for the river...and ended up back in the village at the Co-Op. This was the point we COULD have started from. Not wanting to bump into A & J again after saying our goodbyes we went up & out as quickly as our fragile heads would let us. The first few miles were really hard. With no breeze & open moorland Hilary wasn't the only one who didn't think she could make it. Finally reaching what we thought was "Whitley Pike" we cheered up & took a photo. Only 1.5 miles to the forest & shade. Only we couldn't see any forest ahead & that's because we hadn't reached the pike. 2 miles later we did, took another photo & made our way down. Looking skywards we said "Give us a break Soph." and at that moment the sun went behind a cloud & a slight breeze picked up. Just as well as there was no shade in the forest. On the wide & long track through Keilder Forest & the Northumberland National park we counted the horizontal tracks that criss crossed the paths to relieve the boredom of this boring walk. We'd only met one hiker, two dog walkers and a petrified toad.
A group of "council" type houses wasn't what I expected a Youth Hostel to look like . We knocked on the door of the house that said "Reception". "Are you the lady who wants a single room?" the owner said, looking me up & down, and I was led to the next front door marked "Bedrooms" Finding the room had three beds I expressed my surprise. "Well, you wouldn't have got this in the summer you know" she said tartly. Feeling I ought to bow down & be eternally grateful, I couldn't, as my knees wouldn't let me.
Hilary left, she had a long drive home & I made myself "at home" making good use of the three beds for map spreading. I took a shower, carefully following the instructions. I did as I was told, "The red light will come on in approx. 30 seconds" 10 minutes later I finally got hot water.
I went to the third front door "Kitchen & Lounge" to await my next instructions. I had to choose a frozen meal, put it in the oven & come back in 40 mins. In the fridge would be a salad & a chocolate pudding, with my name on it, was on the counter top all for only £5! I quite like this youth hostelling, all the notices telling you what to do, cuboards labelled, so you know where everything is. It appeals to my sense of order. "Everything in it's place & a place for everything" as my Mum used to say. The only thing I don't like is sharing rooms & conversing with fellow hostellers. Unfortunately, at breakfast, this was unavoidable. Sitting at my table (It had my name & breakfast on it) the guy at the next table entered into conversation. We chatted knowingly about the pros & cons of "The Pennine Way" Was this me talking? Am I turning into a nerdy trekker? I needed to get out of there & back into civilisation. Byrness was a strange & desolate place, but I did find out why. The owner told me it the houses had been built to house woodcutters & their families. There was a school, a shop, a post office, a pub & a village hall. All now gone apart from the hall, a sad looking wooden hut. The YHA were running a hostel in two of the houses & that was being rundown, due for closure. She and her husband took it over, renovated & expanded & were now running a very successful, efficient business.