|Outline Map →||Route file →|
Date: 20 Jun 2005
Start: Ravenglass. Update:- The good public car park is now Pay-and-Display unfortunately, it was free when we did this backpack.
Finish: Berwick-upon-Tweed rail station.
Maps: We produced our mapping for the route from Memory Map Navigator (MM), a meticulous task to minimise weight. We plotted the route in MM and output high-resolution images of the map sections as bitmap files, then used Photoshop to resize them and arrange them on the minimum number of A4 sheets. The familiar sections in the Lake District were reduced considerably in scale to fit more area per page, while the rest were reduced a little to retain the fine detail. By printing on both sides of good quality 180gsm paper, we had the entire route mapped at 1:25000 on 9 sheets: total weight after a little trimming - 85g.
|Day 1||Ravenglass to Ravencrag Tarn||14.3 miles (23.0km)|
|Day 2||Ravencrag Tarn to Wythburn Head||9.6 miles (15.5km)|
|Day 3||Wythburn Head to Measand Beck||16.5 miles (26.6km)|
|Day 4||Measand Beck to Castle Hill||20.8 miles (33.5km)|
|Day 5||Castle Hill to Benty Hill||18.0 miles (29.0km)|
|Day 6||Benty Hill to Haltwhistle High Plantation||20.3 miles (32.7km)|
|Day 7||Haltwhistle High Plantation to School Crag||19.6 miles (31.5km)|
|Day 8||School Crag to Lamb Hill||21.3 miles (34.3km)|
|Day 9||Lamb Hill to Weetwood Moor||19.4 miles (31.2km)|
|Day 10||Weetwood Moor to Cheswick Black Rocks||18.3 miles (29.5km)|
|Day 11||Cheswick Black Rocks to Berwick-upon-Tweed||5.0 miles (8.1km)|
This was our first really long distance backpack since 2002. The packs felt heavy as we heaved them on at Ravenglass car park, partly due to all our food supplies for the traverse of the Lake District and partly a psychological effect when thinking about the magnitude of the task ahead!. We planned to reach Shap early on the fourth day for the first restocking, but at least water was available at many points on this Lakes section and we didn't need to carry much. It was warm and sunny here but the humid clag was slow to clear from the inland mountains - the long approach was an advantage today and all would be clear later.
Passing the Roman bath house, we took the track that joins the Cumbria Coastal way by the Esk estuary, an attractive wooded walk out to the A595 and Muncaster bridge. The steep climb up towards Barnscar got us into gear, followed by a gentle walk to Devoke Water where a group of walkers were gathered by the cairn at the western end. From here we would see nobody at all for the rest of the day. A track leads through Woodend Farm to the fell road and we climbed NE by Freeze Beck, contouring the slopes to Wormshell How. In hindsight it would probably have been better to traverse the minor tops of Great Worm Crag and White How despite the extra ascent, but it was a pleasant line and all the tops were clear.
From Wormshell How a thin path curves down to Grassguards Gill at the forest edge and joins the path beneath Harter Fell. A steep climb of 1000' from the SW gains the summit and a great view of the mountains ahead. It was tempting to pitch right there, a feeling that would be repeated quite a few times in the days ahead, but being mindful of the schedule we pressed on towards Hard Knott. We climbed from the pass road to the exquisite Ravencrag Tarn, which furnished an excellent pitch with phenomenal clear views of the mountains in the evening sun.
We were fortunate to enjoy the views from this superb spot last evening, as the mist and mizzle had engulfed everything at dawn. Hard Knott has many rocky knolls and boggy areas with only sketchy paths, and is a tricky fell to navigate in mist, but weaving around northwards we arrived at the summit tor and views of at least... a few yards. The new electric fence descends north and a path L to Lingcove Beck is accessed through a gate.
The thick veils were starting to rise as we began the ascent on the R of the beck. Eskdale is a magnificent place even in these conditions, as streamlets pour down from dripping crags that sporadically appear and disappear in the curtains of vapour. One must keep a careful eye on navigation in this grand mountain dalehead as it would be easy in mist to ascend to the wrong col, but the unmistakable cone of Bow Fell dramatically appeared and spared us the need to double-check our line. Descending a little to ford the fan of streams, a discernible path climbs steeply on the R of Yeastyrigg Gill and the angle levels off to Ore Gap.
Descending to Angle Tarn, there were a few walkers snaking up to Esk Hause as we took the path around Martcrag Moor. Nearly all the tops were clear now as we ascended along Stake Beck to Thunacar Knott and on to High Raise, which were surprisingly deserted. An easy descent brought us to Greenup Edge and Wythburn Head, where we decided to pitch. The original plan was to pitch lower down the valley, but the breeze was diminishing fast and there would be a problem with midges. This would add more effort to day 3 but we got an early night.
History repeated itself in the morning. Again there was thick windblown mist down to the valley floor and a very boggy area to be navigated, but all the streams converge reliably at Wyth Burn where we know there is a path on the R side. After a couple of boggy bits we picked it up and followed it down past attractive cascades and waterfalls, though it was so dark that the camera would not take without flashing and the photos were terrible. A path swings R by the wood and on to to Dunmail Raise where we began the ascent to Grisedale Tarn alongside Raise Beck, which was foaming white today and more than compensated for the mist.
It was eerie to hear waves lapping on Grisedale Tarn just one contour beneath us but not being able to see it. Finally, right at the shore, the water came into view, well just a few yards of it anyway. Lower down Grisedale we cleared the mist, and it suddenly turned warm and sunny as we crossed to the R side and walked into Patterdale. The small Post Office unexpectedly had some energy food that I could eat. One of the big headaches in long backpacking trips is my dairy product intolerance, and most manufacturers seem determined to put milk in everything, especially in the limited selection stocked by small shops. We had an extra snack before the hot climb to Boredale Hause.
A welcome cooling breeze had developed as we took the excellent contouring path to Angle Tarn, which looked particularly fine with the glittering sunlight on the water. The wind suddenly became very strong as we reached the dimunitive but beautiful Satura Crag Tarn, and we managed a photo only by lying down and placing the camera on a rock. There were superb views as we traversed the summits of Rampsgill Head and High Raise. The standard C2C descends to the Haweswater shore, but a high level walk to Measand End is a much better option, at least in good weather. A grassy cart track leads reliably all the way from Low Raise to Measand Beck, where we made a sheltered pitch. We had made up the time and were surprised and pleased to be on schedule.
The wind had abated almost completely this morning and it would be hot and sunny all day, but the problem was now midges!. After packing most things indoors, we hurriedly collapsed the tent and descended by the waterfalls of Measand Beck to the Haweswater shore track. From Burnbanks we took the access track that winds around the expansive moors to Keld and walked into Shap for the Co-op. The main restocking would be in Appleby later today, so we only needed food until evening, some of which we ate on the spot and disposed of the rubbish. There are public toilets in Shap which the local authority plan to close, but there is a petition inside against this - sign it!.
A motley selection of walkers were setting out on the standard C2C path, some of which we looked at and thought "my God, what happened?.". Anyway, we walked that route as far as Oddendale then left it to follow the path above Dalebanks Beck to the attractive village of Crosby Ravensworth. Another footpath follows Lyvennet Beck to Maulds Meaburn. Brackenslack Lane and footpaths lead easily to Bandley Bridge and Appleby, where we restocked supplies for 2 days at the Wholefoods shop and Spar. Our restocking points were all near the end of the day from now on, and we ate the evening meal on the spot to avoid carrying it.
Crossing the A66 to the Stank Lane path, footpaths lead NE through Flakebridge Wood to Castle Hill where we started to pitch on a small rise. We hadn't noticed the bullocks in the bottom corner of the field, who ambled up to surround us inquisitively. Fearing damage in the night, we packed everything away again and moved on to the next field where we fortunately found one flat spot by a wall just out of view of any dwellings.
The morning was warm but cloudy as we walked the footpath to the lovely Dufton Ghyll Wood, managed by the Woodland Trust. Dufton has good public toilets that are actually open early - excellent. The Pennine Way (PW) to Knock Fell is a long and gradual climb, which was welcome in the warm still air, and there was a cooling breeze at the summit. The early mist on the tops was clearing nicely now as we traversed Great Dun Fell and Little Dun Fell to Cross Fell, the highest point of the walk. It is said that on a very clear day both the Irish Sea and North Sea can be seen from the summit, which would be very appropriate on this C2C route, but we have never witnessed such clear conditions here. The mountain outlines in the Lake District could easily be seen and looked a long way behind us now.
Leaving the PW, we set off towards the two little visited remaining summits of the range - Melmerby Fell and Fiends Fell. The traverse from Cross Fell is totally trackless but not difficult, and this wild and deserted area has curricks and rock fields dotted about. Approaching Melmerby Fell, the easiest line is to head for the wall corner to the SE of the summit and walk up the easy grassy ridge. The onward path to Fiends Fell is clear and crosses Little Knapside Hill. A short way beyond we joined a track down to Hartside Cross cafe on the A686 and on through a new gate on the far side to the open fell. Hartside Height is a short climb beyond, and the rain started as we pressed on E to Benty Hill, a pitch we have used before. The windblown mist and rain was really cold by now, but the tent was soon up and we settled down in our bags to eat.
The rain continued in the night and reduced to windblown mizzle as we set off down the ridge above Gilderdale. We reached the old mine track that joins the PW lower down and provides an easy route to Alston, where the mizzle stopped. We restocked some supplies for the day at the Wholefoods shop and Co-op and made use of the driers in the good public toilets.
Our route northwards was the South Tyne Trail, the highest narrow gauge railway in England. Colourful tourist trains still operate between Alston and the first station at Kirkhaugh, thereafter the railway bed is a walking and cycling route. When we set off, some passengers and children were being ushered on board by a guard in a teddy bear suit. The path starts promisingly alongside the railway but soon degenerates into a very thin line through dense waist-deep vegetation, which was sopping wet after the rain. This really needs to be cut back and better maintained, fortunately it persists only as far as Kirkhaugh station where the main trackbed takes over and the trail becomes more agreeable. There was compensation in the fine displays of wild flowers, including many orchids.
Most of the trail is pleasant walking with good general views of the South Tyne valley. Lambley viaduct is an impressive Grade II listed structure, 260m long with elegant stone arches high above the valley, and is the highlight of the trail. The final section of the trail into Haltwhistle was frankly a bind, a hard-surfaced cycle route in the now hot sun which was very tiring on the feet.
In Haltwhistle we bought and ate the evening food at the late Co-op and restocked for the following day. All the Co-ops we visited had basically the same range, which included just one brand of dairy-free flapjack that I could eat, made by a local Rothbury company. They were very good energy food and tasty, but really dense and heavy, you could build a wall with them. A couple of miles NE was our intended pitch just North of High Plantation, which was a good one except for the lack of wind and consequent midges - a steamy evening in the tent!.
A short walk North is the PW, which we joined at Hadrian's Wall and followed all the way to the Cheviots. It was to be hot and sunny all day, which made the Wall section quite tiring as it contains quite a lot of steep ups and downs. Windshields Crags is the highest point on the Wall trail and the views are extensive for such a modest height. There are significant sections of Roman stonework to peruse hereabouts.
Beyond Highshield Crags and the lake of Crag Lough, the PW leaves the Wall trail and crosses expansive grassy moors and forests towards Bellingham. Much of the PW to the Cheviot range is characterised by broad views of rolling hills, and the forest sections are not generally oppressive and closed-in like some we have seen. We really enjoyed the route, notwithstanding the reflected heat of the blazing sun from some forest tracks, but that is not a common situation!. The road walk into Bellingham has been shortened from the line on the map by a footpath at Kings Wood, which bypasses a section of the road and emerges near Eals Burn. The public toilets in Bellingham were closed when we arrived at 6pm - a big black mark for the local authority. At the Co-op we restocked for 2 days to last us over the Cheviots to Wooler. For the next 1½ days we would see only two people on the route, one of whom had an enormous army-style pack. Beyond Blakelaw Farm there are two path options signed for the PW, we took the higher one and made a good pitch on School Crag, this time with a good cooling breeze.
This was to be the hardest day, over 21 miles with significant ascent involved, but the die was cast - we had to make Wooler for the shops and get beyond to pitch. Another sunny morning rewarded us with grand views over the heathery moor from Whitley Pike. Past Padon Hill, the notoriety of the steep 'path' inside the forest wall that climbs to Brownrigg Head has been documented before, a wet glutinous bright russet bog that can only be partly circumvented by walking gingerly on top of the ruined wall - and this was on a hot summer day. Forest tracks are then predominant down to the forestry car park and toilets at Blakehopeburnhaugh, where an attractive footpath follows the River Rede to a campsite. A forest track leads on to Byrness.
The steep ascent to Byrness Hill through the forest was a very sweaty and punishing climb in the sun and stifling heat, but there was mercifully a stiff cool breeze as we emerged from the trees. We enjoyed the short clamber through the rocks to the edge where we took time out and cooled down with a good view over the valley to Catcleugh reservoir.
Looking ahead to the complex structure of the Cheviot range, it is difficult to make out the overall line but the route is clear initially, climbing to the boggy Houx Hill. Descending Ogre Hill to a signpost, the PW heads E and drops to the Roman camp but we followed the contouring path that rejoins it below Brownhart Law. It was getting fairly late now and we decided to eat before the pitch, but the breeze had disappeared and the midges were out again, and we ate our food while walking up and down to minimise the problem!. We had intended to make Beefstand Hill, but at Lamb Hill we were ready to drop and called it a day. It was a very comfortable pitch despite the tussocky ground and we were out like a light.
There was a cloudless sky in the morning and it would again be hot and sunny all day but with a cool breeze. Searching around Richard Cleugh for water, the main stream was almost dry but we heard a faint sound of trickling water in a side channel. It was a tiny spring which yielded superb clear water, so cold that mist formed on the bottles. We drank our fill and stocked up for the day, proceeding with renewed vigour.
Much of the PW hereabouts is now paved or duckboarded across the boggy wastes and flanked by oceans of cotton grass. It was ten years since we were last in the Cheviots and we have never walked this main ridge, which we found very enjoyable. Windy Gyle was the first mountain summit and gave grand views. Approaching Cairn Hill we were surprised to see a group of motorbikers riding on the side path to Auchope cairn. Arriving finally at the Cheviot, we remember that this summit is similar to our infamous Black Hill close to home, having been described as an English megabog, but doesn't have quite the same jaw-dropping desolation.
Descending NE to Scald Hill and across the saddle to Broadhope Hill, a mown heather path then drops E to the bridleway track that runs initially NW. A short way along, a signpost directs L away from the main track and the bridleway line curves around NE to the ruins at Broadstruther and becomes a very pleasant path down the valley on the L of Carey Burn. The fords on the map are now smart footbridges. (Note: the initial track that appears to lead easily down into the valley actually climbs back into the hills on the other side, as we discovered. Be sure to fork L as indicated at the aforementioned signpost).
As Carey Burn bends SE, a waymark indicates the footpath line NE that climbs through the wood to a plateau that revealed the first glimpse of the North Sea. At Wooler Common farm, the footpath to Wooler is signed over the forested Kenterdale Hill - this is St. Cuthbert's Way (SCW), which would provide an easy link to the Holy Island causeway. At Wooler Co-op we bought the remaining supplies and headed out on the SCW to Weetwood Moor, a very pleasant open area of easy terrain which gave a good pitch well behind the large radio station installation and out of view.
For 2005 there is a diversion on the SCW due to the closure of Weetwood bridge, which adds a mile to the route mainly on roads via Fowberry bridge and Hettonburn bridge. This was no great hardship early in the morning and there was virtually no traffic. Rejoining the usual route at East Horton, we reached St. Cuthbert's cave. There is a path directly to the cave mouth and a side path climbs L to rejoin the official route outside the wood. Today was cooler and cloudy, and the Cheviots were wreathed in mist behind us. There was very light drizzle for a while.
The SCW follows easy forest tracks and lanes through Fenwick and across the railway line to the sea and L to the causeway road. We had driven along the causeway a few weeks ago and didn't fancy the idea of a long out-and-back along the road, so we walked up the coast on the edge of the beach to the caravan site. Here we joined the access road as far as the golf clubhouse, but we now think we could have continued on the beach line. At the clubhouse, a footpath heads out to the beach and we walked on the sand to Cheswick Black Rocks. We made a pitch in the thick vegetation above the dunes, which was very comfortable once flattened.
Rain in the night left a legacy of thick grey mist on the coast. We crossed a stile onto a track behind the dunes to begin the last few miles to Berwick. The track becomes a minor road, and at the bend where it turns L to the level crossing, a signed footpath continues along the clifftop to Spittal, adding some good coastal scenery despite the gloom. Beyond Spittal and Tweedmouth docks, we crossed the old stone bridge over the Tweed and walked through the town to the rail station, with plenty of time to buy food and drink for the return journey starting at 09:28.
Two changes are required, the first is at either Edinburgh or Newcastle. In our case:
09:28 Berwick to Edinburgh (10:20)
10:56 Edinburgh to Carlisle (12:14)
12:43 Carlisle to Ravenglass (14:20)