Day 17 - September 18th 2004

Bellingham to Byrness - 15 miles


I slept pretty well until the Challengers staying in our B &B left, as they made sure they were not the only ones awake. Fortunately, I was able to return to sleep so finally awoke feeling rested. Connie and I had a good breakfast and talked with the owner of the B&B. He told me he had walked the part of the Way from Bellingham to Byrness and it would be easy once we crested the first hill. After today’s walk, I felt either he had never done the walk or was telling me it was easy to make me feel better. Since it was raining and blowing when I left, the choice of gear to wear was easy; it was “full field” all the way. I met Brian and Steve at the appointed location and headed out, having to get directions once we started up lanes at the north end of town.

The initial part of the walk, once we cleared town, was pretty easy with odd rain showers but a rather stiff breeze. However, once the day was over, I referred to it as a “bog nightmare.” Until we reached Padon Hill it was the typical up and down with intermittent bogs but not too difficult. However, that all changed once we reached Brownrigg Head just beyond Padon. It was boggy and slabs heading down from the shoulder of Padon Hill to what the book describes as a “marshy saddle.” Well, the author got that right but completely neglects to mention the very muddy and wet ascent up to Brownrigg Head. You are pinned between a stone wall and a stand of trees with no room to maneuver around the bog so it was just squelch, squelch all the way to the top. Once there, I spoke the mantra “The Pennine Way is hard” which got a small chuckle from Brian and Steve.

The aforementioned book shows that just beyond Brownrigg Head, walkers enter the forest. The author writes “the ground is firm and any wind and weather is elevated to the tree tops.” That might have been the case if there were any tree tops but it appears that after the book was written, loggers paid a visit and there were no trees of any kind close to the Way. In addition, the ground was anything but firm, consisting of one bog hop after another. We stopped for lunch by a small creek. Just before we were leaving, small showers started up. Brian and Steve kept walking while I decided that it was off with the pack and on with the mac. It was a very wise move as very shortly thereafter the skies opened up with a downpour.

I continued on with no sign of Brian and Steve until I came to a small gully to the side of the path where I found them both doing the off with the packs and on with the macs routine. It was then walking down the ride, dodging the main bogs until we finally came to an opening where there were signs of civilization. Once again, lack of way markers caused Brian and me to walk, along with Steve, up a path which seemed good at first but then seemed to head into a logged over area. Steve continued on while Brian and I returned to the main path, removing our macs as the weather seemed to be improving. As we walked down the road into Byrness, there was a very sudden and dramatic change in the weather so once again it was off with the packs and on with the macs. Connie was looking out the window of our room in the Byrness Hotel as Brian and I trudged up the drive with our heads lowered in that downpour. She said it was pouring so hard that all future rains would be judged by it.

At the hotel, it was off with the gear and into the bar where Steve was already seated. Once again no real ale but a warm fire and pints of cider along with laughs helped bring things around. Connie and I then up to our room while Brian and Steve walked up to the hostel after we set a time to meet for dinner at the hotel. In the room, I organized my gear for the walk over the Cheviots tomorrow and then down for drinks and dinner. I had two pints of McEwans dark, keg and not that hot but the best on offer. Stoked up on carbs for dinner in preparation for tomorrow and we agreed to meet at the start of the Way at 6:30. It was then up and to bed at 8:30. This was a poor day. The rain was unpleasant but the main problem was the bog situation. They were plentiful and deep and that makes walking quite difficult. However, the most troubling thing was pain in my left Achilles tendon. It was a little painful at the start and got worse as the day progressed. I believe the very uneven ground and bogs brought the pain and caused it to get worse. Hope that right ankle and left tendon make it through tomorrow. 

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