"A Walk on the Moors" - John's Pennine Way Ramble, Day 16 - July 16th 2000, Byrness to Kirk Yetholm -The Last Day
|Day||Date||Start||Finish||Approx. Miles||Hours Taken||Accommodation|
|16||Sun. 16th July||Byrness||Kirk Yetholm||27||10.75||B&B - The Border Hotel, The Green, Kirk Yetholm, Kelso, Roxburghshire, TD5 8PQ, Tel. 01573 420237|
Click on any picture to go to a larger version. to go to the full set of Pennine Way photographs for this day.
After fifteen days and about 250 miles I was about to embark on the final day of the Pennine Way and the longest leg of the whole route. We got up early and Noelene cooked the four of us the traditional breakfast that we'd have otherwise missed. We were going to need every ounce (or gramme) of energy today. She even did packed lunches for us and one for Peter too who, it turned out later, had also got one from the Byrness Hotel. Uncle, Auntie and I left Byrness YH at around 07:10, knowing that today's walk was going to take about eleven hours. Wainwright in his Pennine Way Companion logs the day at twenty nine miles, including the needless schlep to the top of The Cheviot. We were to miss that dubious pleasure out, as I'll explain later, and logged our walk at twenty seven. And that was far enough, I can assure you!
The weather was fine but overcast as the three of us left Byrness and began the walk close to The Byrness Hotel up a wooded climb where Elaine had thought the path would be disgusting!. But it was fine, peaty and dry with overhanging bracken and hardly a midge in sight. We climbed the rocks to the top of Byrness Hill with fine views back to the village and Catcleugh Reservoir in the distance. The path continued to climb up to Houx Hill and I felt good , realising that this was the culmination not only of more than two weeks walking but of a dream I'd had for a long time. We reached the border fence and, further along, the Way offers the choice of continuing in England or crossing into Scotland. None of us could face the excitement of crossing the border at that time of the morning (actually, Harry said that he couldn't stomach the idea!). So we stayed on our own side. We took the alternative, very poorly defined route across tufty grasses and quite a few muddy morasses. I could imagine how difficult a walk this would be in poor weather and others told of just following the fence to guide them for mile upon mile.
All through the walk I'd been dictating my impressions as I went, with the intention of putting the transcripts on the web too. Today I recorded something each half hour or so, noting the time, location, miles done and distance to go. It was the final countdown (wasn't that a song by Europe or someone?)! We passed by where there were supposed to be the remains of a Roman Fort. Well, we certainly saw the interlocking hills of Coquetdale, fine views to Scraesburgh Fell but no sign of any Fort. Mind you, I wasn't convinced that we were going exactly the right way, but I didn't like to mention it because Uncle Harry is always right (well, just about, when it comes to navigating).
We continued to follow the fence and, at one stage, we thought we saw Peter, but a long way back. Maybe we were wrong. The path was in good condition at this point and the going considerably easier than a mile or two previous, gently rising and falling. This is very open moorland with no signs of habitation and even sheep in short supply. The books say that this is the least populated part of England and I guess most of the people nearby were walking steadily north that day. Later we met Dutch Peter and Meryka who had seen some of the goats that are believed to have roamed this area for 1,000 years. I guess that they got lost on a Pennine Way walk too!
The going became more boggy but firmed out again as we reached the first of the two wooden survival huts at Yearning Saddle (mmm!) and inside were the aforementioned heroic Dutch End to Enders, Peter and Meryka. We had a quick stop, signed the book, leaving a message for Peter that he didn't see, and carried on. Dutch Peter and Meryka went wrong here but caught us up later on. We climbed Beefstand Hill and the weather, previously overcast, gradually became sunnier and warmer but with a welcome cooling wind. It was turning out to be the perfect finish as the views became more and more stunning in the crystal clear air. We passed Russell's Cairn where Harry and Elaine posed for a photo, he now declaring himself King of Scotland as well as Yorkshire!
The very wet parts of the Way here had been repaired and protected with stone flags or wooden boardwalks, much kinder on my poor sore feet. But I felt both good and sad that this would be my last day on the Way. I was beginning to feel the emotion of all that had happened and all that I'd achieved, mixed with the knowledge that I wouldn't be putting my boots on tomorrow and setting off on a twenty mile walk. There were no tears in the eyes, though (well, not yet, anyway!). We passed the ancient drove road of The Street, leading down to Coquetdale and passed a guy who'd set off that morning heading south for Edale. He congratulated us and we wished him luck. He looked young, fit, strong, well equipped and should have had no problems reaching Derbyshire.
We walked up Windy Gyle where the wind did, indeed, become stronger but nowhere near the almost hurricane in which Harry and Elaine had walked the same path a few years earlier. We were making good time, crossing the half way point in just over five hours. Peter and the Dutch couple were catching us fast and at Clennell Street we were walking together for the first time during the day. Peter almost immediately stopped for a bite to eat (well, he did have two packed lunches and quite a lot of sheep to get through!) and the other Peter and Meryka continued ahead of us.
We began the second half of our final day climbing up to the trig point at King's Seat where Harry rightly claimed his throne. There then followed a steep uphill to Cairn Hill and Hanging Stones Rock (sounds like somewhere out of a cowboy film!) and, with the sun shining brightly, the views became breathtaking. We could see for probably twenty miles to the north, south and west with only The Cheviot itself preventing eastward views. Shortly after we reached the place where it's possible to climb to the top of The Cheviot. But our attitude was bugger that!
Here's what Wainwright says about The Cheviot:
|The Cheviot is the highest but the least attractive of the border hills, ..................... Most walkers will arrive at the west top of Cairn Hill, where the detour starts, already tired and will, if favoured by survival and after due passage of valuable time, return to the said west top of Cairn Hill none the richer and a good deal wearier after floundering for two miles through filth and pathless peat hags that demolish the spirit and defeat the flesh without even the reward of a good view. Indeed, they may even find, after the toils of getting there, that the Ordnance column on the summit, which stands on a grassy mound in a sea of squelchy black ooze, is inaccessible because of bad conditions underfoot.................... The Cheviot stands well away from the border, and after experiencing it one can readily understand why the Scots wanted no part of it. Do it for the record or to satisfy your conscience, if you must, but do not expect to enjoy it. In mist and rain give it a miss altogether.|
Wainwright feels much the same about Black Hill and his accurate view of that early hill in the walk convinced me to heed his advice about The Cheviot.
We carried on taking a steep downhill to the second refuge hut. Uncle and Auntie were a little ahead of me and, with now only a few miles to go, I didn't stop. But the scenery was quite wonderful and shortly after the hut I rounded a bend and caught sight of the second view of the Way that took my breath away. It wasn't quite as spectacular as High Cup Nick but College Valley takes a good second place. I stopped for a while on my own to wonder at the majesty of it, with the stream of College Burn in the bottom and a white painted farm in the distance.
There was then a long and very hard climb to the top of The Schill, the last summit of today and therefore the last of the whole Way. I passed Elaine on the way up, gamefully plodding to the crest where Harry was already holding court to a group of walkers from Tyneside. Elaine arrived and the two of them carried on while I waited for Peter who stopped for refueling (what did he have in that bag!). Dutch Peter and Meryka arrived and I began the descent with them via the optional low level route, crossing the border for the first time. The remainder on the Way was now firmly on Scottish soil. I began to become more and more emotional (as indeed I do now as I write this some two months later), remembering the fifteen days gone, the good times, struggles, companionship and many other mixed feelings that made this walk one of the pivotal points of my adult life (much better than sex for the first time, I kid you not!).
Anyhow, there were still a few miles to go and my feet were becoming unbearably sore and weary. At last the six of us - myself, Peter, Harry, Elaine, Peter and Meryka were a group and we were determined to walk into Kirk Yetholm together. We crossed Halter Burn and onto the tarmac road into the town. In these last few miles we were all sharing the same emotions, the elation of a wonderful achievement, glad that it would soon all be over but knowing that we would sorely miss all that had happened to us during the past two weeks.
We climbed a small hill, still following the road, rounded a bend and there were the first few modern bungalows of the outskirts of Kirk Yetholm with the top of the church peeping above them. We walked down the road in a row, like a pose of gunslingers moseying into town in a bad cowboy film. But our arms were raised in triumph, not in surrender. Suddenly and almost unexpectedly there was the village green and the Border Hotel, the official finish. And there was Noelene, faithful as ever, photographing us all the way in. We were jubilant and, beneath the End of the Pennine Way sign, we opened the Champagne she'd bought us. We'd done it. I'd done it. And no-one or nothing could take away the unbelievable sense of achievement that I felt.
We celebrated with pints of IPA in the Border Hotel bar, sat outside in the sun, signed and wrote in the finishers' book, basked in the glory that only we ourselves were aware of, posed for photos and felt fantastic. Ordinary day trippers to this wonderful village looked on us with some bemusement. "I've just finished the Pennine Way", I said to one lady. "That's nice", she replied. Only someone who'd done it themselves could understand.
Dutch Peter and Meryka had now done about 1,400 kms and had only around 600 to go! They were far from their finish and she was going into town tomorrow to get her hair done. We were going home!
Peter and Meryka
Phew! What overall impressions could I have of the final day. The emotions were more difficult to deal with than the actual walking. And, as I've already said, I still feel them as I write these words on the North Sea ferry between Rotterdam and Hull a couple of months later. The highlight of the final day, of course, has to be the finish but there was, apart from the walk from Langdon Beck to Dufton, the best scenery of the whole Way and amongst the best weather in which to appreciate it. I'd never walked so far in a day before and I may never again. The goal, the finish at Kirk Yetholm, the help of Harry and Elaine and the support of Noelene, who I could sense willing me on, saw me through.
I'd seen many wonderful sights during the sixteen days but none were better than the bar of the Border Hotel!
Anyone for the Coast to Coast next year?!
Chocolate pudding, chocolate sauce, ice cream AND cream!
Broughton's Bitter (not bad for a Scottish beer)
to go back to the itinerary or to return to the starting page.