Day 26. Haltwhistle to Alston. 18 miles -Why trains are better than cars.
Having rested for a full 24 hours in Haltwhistle (where I did nothing but cook and eat bacon and avocado rolls, drink whiskey and watch Netflix), I was ready to get back on the trail - but not just any trail, oh no. I was casting aside the horrid drudgery of the pennine way and seeking out the lesser known South Tyne Way, an oddly direct path as it follows the route of an abandoned industrial railway. The downside was that this was rather tricky to find, but after spending half an hour or so whacking away nettles and branches with my hiking poles I eventually found myself on the path, did I say path? I meant motorway. After the unnecessary diversions, hills and marshland of the PW, the South Tyne Trail cuts rights through the landscape always taking a direct and flat path, I loved it. To add to the atmosphere of the walk through the woods you are, quite literally, on the abandoned tracks. Ruins of stations that hadn't seen use in 50 years cropped up every 10 minutes or so, as did information plaques telling of the industrial past of this section of England. There were also 3 huge viaducts to cross today which made for some excellent views.
It felt good to be off the PW, making actual time for a change and so the miles melted away as I pretended to be a train delivering much needed industrial supplies from one corner of the country to the other. So content was I that I found myself only 3 miles outside of Alston without even realising it, far ahead of my check in time at the Victoria Inn so I slowed my pace and did some research, only to find that my destination was the birthplace of my other favourite Thomas, the cheery blue, Ringo Star-voiced tank engine, a pleasant and unexpected surprise. Alston also boasts the country's only cobbled A Road but that very hard to get excited about.
Upon arrival, I found Alston to be a lovely Yorkshire town (at least I think it's in Yorkshire), but utterly dead - everything was closed including my accommodation. I had opted for the 1* Victoria Inn to keep my budget down, but looking up at the faded veneer and cracked plaster I was having second thoughts. My hostess graciously let me in early and I was pleasantly surprised, the pub was ancient and in much need of some TLC, but warm and cosy inside - better yet there was a queer arrangement with an Indian restaurant that used the kitchen facilities in the back. This meant my hostess was running a B&B, the bar and running both orders and waiting food for both takeaway and inside customers, but she managed impressively. The Indian was fantastic and I met the only other lodger at the Inn that night, a man named Don, an old felrunner who would be preparing a 100 mile circuit to be ran (in one go!) by other nutters later that month. Having walked about 20 miles a day I shuddered at the though of running 100 miles up and down the pennines in 48 hours. Takes all sorts I suppose.
I bade Don farewell until the morning and headed to bed, unsure quite what to think about Alston. But still, today had been an excellent filler day, not a great deal had happened, there had been few monuments or moments of peril, but on a walk this long you need those nameless days to make up the mileage and this one had definitely served its purpose well.