To say exploring this stretch of The Pennine Way was a bit higgledy-piggledy would be an understatement as things didn't quite go as planned due to 1. forestry works, 2. a tiny new-born lamb fast asleep beside a gate (so cute!), and 3. a sheep dog nipping my ankles. None of these things were major dramas, though - they made this stretch all the more interesting and fun - I hadn't expected that, I'd thought this stretch might be a bit of a trudge. I've been really surprised by The Pennine Way, I'd thought it might be a bit unremarkable for some stretches (stretches of other National Trails that I've hiked have been), but I've loved every single step so far, rain, bogs and all, and am very much looking forward to the next bit. But first, a little look back to the stretch between Greenlee Lough and Bellingham.
Day 10 (Saturday 10th April 2021) - On day 9 I'd pretty much reached Greenlee Lough | Northumberland Wildlife Trust (nwt.org.uk), so I decided to drive to Stonehaugh • Northumberland National Park and park there and then hike back to Greenlee Lough, then back along the trail to the junction, and then maybe start heading north towards Bellingham for a bit before then hiking back to my car at Stonehaugh.
It was a gorgeous, sunny day but cold with intermittent hail/snow showers, but it wasn't too windy so conditions were ideal for walking. My plans were scuppered, though, when I'd hiked two miles or so south towards Greenlee Lough to discover that the trail was closed due to forestry commission works that were due to end on 17th April. So I walked back but it was still early so instead of calling it a day I carried on heading north to just follow the trail and see how it went. And that was when the first hail storm arrived - and it was fantastic! I was walking past dense conifer plantations and was caught in a flurry of tiny hail stones swirling around me and the rich dark green trees. Half a mile or so later and I broke out onto open moorland, the hail storm passed and there was blazing sunshine as larks rose from the long grasses and sung overhead against a backdrop of fluffy clouds and blue sky. The Way headed up and over sheep-grazed hillocks, traced the line of a drystone wall, passed windswept hawthorn trees and then dipped down into a small copse of oak trees overlooking a deep gorge at the bottom of which ran a wild, gurgling beck. Small trees and primroses cloaked the slopes of the gorge and the branches were alive with tiny song birds flitting about in search of buds and small insects, mostly blue tits and also marsh tits (a new bird to me , ID'd with help from folk on twitter - thank you!).
The copse was sheltered by a moss-covered, dilapidated dry-stone wall that provided good shelter, so I stopped there for lunch and to watch the birds, before continuing north and down into the gorge. Then The Way headed up the other side of the gorge and over fields to a metal gate. Just the other side of the gate, though, was a tiny new-born lamb that was fast asleep, so, rather than risk disturbing the sleeping lamb (admittedly I couldn't resist taking a little video of it though as it was so sweet, video below), I decided to call it a day and walk back to Stonehaugh.
I think day 10 was about 12 miles all in all, a good walking day with really fun conditions and cute new-born lambs, perfect! Ooh, and I'd popped into Corbridge and bought a humongous slice of triple-layer Victoria sponge cake with fresh cream and raspberry jam from Grants Bakery (amazing cakes, highly recommend visiting them!) so it was all good even though things didn't quite go as I'd planned - so long as nothing bad happens, then I love it when unexpected things happen, makes trips more of an adventure! Here's a little collection of pictures from day 10. I didn't take a picture of the Victoria sponge cake, but I did get a photo of a tower of macaroons on display at Grants Bakery!
Day 11 (Sunday 11th April 2021) - The forecast for Sunday was still a mixture of sunshine and hail showers, too good to resist, so I headed back to The Way - who cares if home gets a little dusty, jobs can wait! So off I pootled to Bellingham, parking up at the Hareshaw Linn car park on the edge of this pretty and historic market town (Hareshaw Linn is fabulous, the walk along the Linn to the dramatic waterfall in a cavernous gorge is superb, but that's a whole other blog - you can find out more info here Hareshaw Linn Waterfall).
Upon leaving the car park and crossing the bridge over Hareshaw Burn I spotted a dipper under the bridge - which set the tone for the whole walk - it was just brilliant! I could jabber on and on about day 11, but I'll just pop some pictures here instead. I didn't quite make it back to where I'd reached the day before as I decided to turn back after an encounter with a pack of sheep dogs - one was as soft as anything so I gave it a good fuss, the second was pretty laid back and not particularly interested, but the third was circling me nipping my ankles - I think it hadn't seen a human other than the farmers for a while and was a little unsettled by me, so I decided to not take any chances by crossing the threshold it was guarding and headed back to Bellingham. I was back in Bellingham for about 3, so I hiked along to Hareshaw Linn while I was in the 'hood, and then went to Happy Valley in the village to get their amazing special friend rice and prawn crackers for tea - I'd hiked about 15 miles so that takeaway went down a treat!