Day 74 – Bellingham to Byrness

The trail guides described today’s walk in some very purple prose: “The twilight world of Kielder”, “abandon hope all ye who enter here”, and “typical Pennine Way purgatory”. Unsurprisingly, I was feeling a little nervous when I set off. Fortunately, after the horrible weather yesterday today dawned bright and sunny, with a fresh breeze – pretty much perfect walking weather.
Shortly after I headed off, I met a father and two sons coming the other way; I nodded good morning, only to have him say “you’re the land’s end to john o’groats lady, aren’t you?” and ask after my children. I was startled to say the least, but it emerged that he had stayed the previous night in the same campsite as four Australian walkers who I had chatted to the day before, and they had told him about this crazy woman walking the end to end trail.
Still smiling, I headed up out of Bellingham towards the open moor, but what a difference to yesterday! The heather was so purple it was almost glowing, and even the fields looked fresher after the rain – everywhere was green and purple and blue. The good weather continued, and I had the good fortune to meet two very nice women, Erin and Michelle, both walking the whole Pennine Way solo. We walked the rest of the way together, chatting and sharing our walking stories, and what might have been a fairly dull walk seemed much shorter and easier.
With the exception of a section over Brownrigg Fell, which was very boggy, the path was wet in places but not as squelchy as yesterday, and the views were much better. Even the dreaded ‘twilight world of Kielder’ (a long section through the Kielder forest, a huge manmade plantation of spruce and pine) turned out to be a fairly pleasant saunter on a wide forestry track with the occasional burn and views across the hillside.
We seemed to arrive in Byrness much quicker than I had expected, and I said my goodbyes to Erin (who was due to complete the 26-odd miles to Kirk Yetholm in one go the following day, a mammoth feat) and to Michelle. I met the Australians again at the end of the day too!
Arran and the kids picked me up in Byrness (not sure it’s really big enough to be a village) and we opted for the ‘toll road’, a narrow forestry road heading almost directly back to the campsite. Unfortunately, the road is used by logging trucks and was very uneven; about halfway back we blew a tire and had to stop to change to the spare. Bit of a learning experience, and both Arran and I got eaten alive by midges.
Highlights: green and purple moorland against the blue sky; the huge ‘beehive’ cairn on Padon Hill; no twilight world here!

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