Woke up at 6am, thigh and hip forcing me to rise in agony. I had slept in an awkward position to save the pristine sheets from my bloody heel, but this had irritating consequences for me. I tried to get more sleep, but the pain was too much.
Dad arrived at 8am to relieve us of excess luggage, provide some fresh supplies and some pages printed from Google maps. He offered to take our packs to the next stop, and we set of at 10.30, each 18kg lighter. Without packs progress wasn’t too bad, despite Robert’s rusty knees, my stiff hip and Robert’s stomach ulcer. We had barely made it out of Byrness (really a hamlet situated at the start of the Pennine way) when Robert clutched his stomach and complained of pain and sickness. Fortunately Euan came to the rescue with a packet of crisps, which he promptly refilled with a mixture of cheese and oats. It was important that Robert kept eating, and the right food stuffs, so that his stomach might survive the next 400 miles.
We walked around a maze, created by the forestry commission for their own cruel amusement. None of these tracks were on the Google map, but somehow we made our way through the wet woodland, stopping on a felled tree for more cheese and oats. We emerged onto a B-road, but apparently it wasn’t one corresponding to our map. I’m still not entirely sure how that happened, the map seemed to fit well with what we were seeing. I used this as an analogy to explain various epistemic theories to Euan and Robert. Philosophy helped keep my mind from the tedium of the grey, repetitive landscape; I’m not sure it did anything but compound that tedium for my two companions.
We eventually reached a T-junction that wasn’t anywhere to be found on the maps. We had a hunch that we had slowly deviated from our course, and with this unprompted feature of the road there was finally no room for denial. We sought the help of a silver-haired woman, her talkative five year old daughter and a pony called Coco. This country trio sent us round some trail: a “short-cut.”
We emerged from some woods at a farm. Desperation caused us to boldly ring the doorbell. After a few minutes a fatigued looking man with a red nose and greasy hair answered the door. His clumsy mannerisms and disregard for his own property prompted us to assume that he was drunk. He told us to go straight through his land, to Charlton. His directions were a little confusing, but we set off through his back garden. His pet lamb bounded around us, striking up an affinity with Euan, who tearfully bid it goodbye as we climbed into a field. We followed some dry stone walls and confronted some horses. Robert has a long standing fear of cows. I don’t blame him, they’re curious creatures with a lot of muscle, but I think his fear is misplaced; cows are a bit stupid, they just want to see if you taste like grass. Horses on the other hand are more devious. They have strong kicking legs, mad, cynical eyes and the speed of the wind. With some nervousness we eased past them, praying all the time like a tightrope walker slowly making his way over an active volcano; these beasts were unpredictable.
This walk was going to transform me; I wanted an understanding of the land, but really I had all my experience in the city. The North of England made me realise this, but sadly by the time I began to make peace with the countryside I would be back in the urban scenery of South England.
Finally we found the road, which wound its way to Bellingham. Apparently my Grandparents held a birthday bash there one year previously; memories trickled into my mind as I recognised landmarks. The scene was grey and somewhat discouraging as we made our way to the local Co-Op. This trek was to make us true patrons of the Co-Op. However, we didn’t realise that we wouldn’t see another one for quite some time, and so we stocked up on trivialities; some food for dinner and some flavoured milk for Robert’s ulcer. Robert is not a fan of milk, but it was the best thing for his stomach, so he drank a couple of litres of the strawberry variety. Euan searched for the skips, but found only dead ends and locked gates. He made it into someone’s back garden, but even they had nothing of use in their bins. We got some vegetarian spring rolls from a Chinese take away and started the last leg to Stonehaugh.
We left Bellingham, striking out for the hills. My hip was in agony, but oddly it felt fine going up hills. After a long hike over all sorts of criss-crossing paths we made it onto the final page of Google maps, at which point we received a number of frantic messages from Mum and Dad. We joined a road, noting a sign that promised a measly three miles to Stonehaugh, but already the sun had set, leaving us in dim light.
Feet burning and hip disintegrating we finally saw the campsite and hamlet of Stonehaugh across a ravine. We took the looping road round and dragged ourselves forward. There was little light, and the depths of the ravine were engulfed in a thick blackness. It was painfully taunting to see our destination just beyond an impassable, but short stretch of space; why did they not build a bridge and cut off this last mile?
We made it to the hamlet and were welcomed by a port-o-potty which Euan eagerly used. We arrived at the campsite just as the owner we embarking on a journey to search for us. He was incredibly kind, giving us a discount on the pitch because of the charitable nature of our walk (I didn’t think doing this for charity would actually pay off, I said to Robert). We set up camp in the empty site; a peaceful place with a central shower-block powered by wind turbines. This shower-block is clean and well organised; very nice, despite the lights apparently being on a timer (I resorted to using my iPod as a light source).
Nat and Bryde meet us tomorrow, after a brief ten mile hike to Twice-Brewed. Hopefully we’re not too fatigued and aching to carry the packs again. Sadly my hat got mauled in the day bag. A shame, after I’d kept it in pristine condition for four years of International travel.