Day 24. Byrness to Bellingham. 16 miles - the Pennine Chronicles part 1: 'So very bored'.
As you can probably guess from the title, today was not a walk to live long in the memory, instead I'll start with the exciting gossip I picked up at breakfast. So the Forest View Walkers Inn sits roughly 30 miles from the northern terminus of the Pennine Way (from now on I'm just writing PW, get used to it) at Kirk Yetholm, and as such people often book 2 nights here and get a lift from the owners there and back to tackle the long last leg in 2 segments. As a result I was now chatting with people who had just walked 15 miles north of here, and would be being driven back up there after breakfast to finish the PW (just to ease you in, PW = Pennine Way, got it? Good.) Well, it turns out my mystery walker, the man doing the same walk as me that I got tantalisingly close to at Alness, the man who I'd been hearing about across all of Scotland, was now somehow inexplicably behind me. Separate groups of walkers confirmed his presence north of Byrness and I managed to glean a few more facts about him. His hair is grey, his coat is red, his pack is blue and he sometimes wears glasses, he is from the southern part of the UK, loves to chat, and walked from Land's End to John O'Groats in 2017 for charity and is now doing the reverse for leisure. If you think this is quickly devolving into some weird, twisted game of Guess Who, then you're absolutely correct. Well after today's relatively short 16 miles I had a number of big days before meeting my sister, Annie, at Horton-in-Ribbesdale on May 9th. My plan was simple, stay ahead of this man until the 9th by making at least 20 miles a day, then when my pace slows he'll overtake me and we can finally meet. I still didn't have his name, a firm facial description, blood type, his ranking of the Back to the Future films (is it 1,2,3 or 1,3,2?) or his favourite flavour of crisp, but I would have to make do with the limited information at my disposal.
As I've rambled on too long without a photo, you now get to see the breakfast picture before hearing me go on about it - a rare treat. Now I'm objectively biased towards the Walkers, it had been my favourite place to stay to date on the whole walk (Navidale at Helmsdale was pretty close though), so I felt inclined to score the breakfast highly before even seeing it, happily they did not disappoint. As you can see it was a slight mix up in formation, with double hash browns coming off the bench to replace black pudding, who had played many consecutive breakfasts to be fair and could probably use a rest. As had become more and more common in the modern breakfast game a separate bean container had been deployed to great effect. Breakfast stalwarts sausage, bacon, egg, tomato and mushrooms all started, whilst the manager (or chef, whatever) opted to play a second rasher of bacon out wide on the wing. Controversial? Possibly. But we all know it's what the fans want to see. 9.5/10 (only because I'm comparing to the Broughton's 10/10 and they put a sprinkling of herbs on their eggs. When you get this good, breakfasts are separated only by the finest of margins).
Right, where were we? Oh yeah there was a walk today - I was quite excited for it actually, see some people hate the PW, others actively loathe it with a fiery passion, only a very select few seem to sing its praises and I was determined to find out why. I didn't know exactly what to expect, but I thought there would be sweeping hills or marshy bogs or something relatively extreme at the least, after barely 3 miles the only extreme was my complete and utter boredom.
Endlessly long deforested paths, gruelling climbs that immediately descended only to climb again, and eventually just grey, forlorn moorland as far as the eye could see. It certainly wasn't difficult, but as first impressions go me and the PW were not off to a good start.
And that's actually it for the walk, it was rubbish. If you ever need to dissuade someone from walking or need to deter someone from the countryside, take them on a walk from Byrness to Bellingham. In no time at all they'll be pining (sorry) for urban comforts and setting fire to the moors. To summarise the last few miles, I saw a donkey stood staring directly at a wall despite the fields behind it, learnt it was pronounced 'Bell-in-jumm', and had a lovely chat with Glenda, my wonderful Airbnb hostess, but nothing much else really happened. Well it's my 29th birthday tomorrow, so maybe the PW will be on better form.