Trails and trials of the writer who walks
Now this photo might confuse Pennine Way experts, because it’s not on the Pennine Way. It’s part of the South Tyne Trail which many a Pennine Way cheat (including me) has followed up to Haltwhistle. Have you noticed how the Pennine Way will never take you along low ground if there’s a bit of boggy high ground within spitting distance?
When I’d dragged my feet into Alston Youth Hostel the night before, I was already a day behind schedule, hence the cheater’s choice.
On a day when the sky never cleared, and the rain never stopped, until early evening, I was quite happy to plod along the South Tyne Trail and delighted to walk across the Lambley Viaduct.
May should not really have been so wet, cold and windy, but the contrast of leaf colour from unfurling yellow to shimmering green, and the displays of wild flowers that bested anything on offer at Chelsea Flower Show (in my opinion) were a great compensation.
When I was a child growing up in Devon, wild primroses were a common sight in the hedgerows but something I never see in the rural area of Lancashire where I now live. Are they less common? Or is it a matter of geography? The cliffs along the Berwickshire Coastal Trail (I know this was supposed to be a Pennine Way trip. No, I didn’t get hopelessly lost) were polka-dotted with these lovely flowers for as far as the eye could see. (Sometimes my eyes could see all of two hundred yards when the mists cleared).
And I must mention something very special about Alston Youth Hostel: it’s fronted by tall fir trees in which red squirrels frolic around their feeding stations. You can watch them close up from your own feeding station – the hostel dining room – while you have your breakfast or tea. Alston is a charming market town but most facilities are situated up a very steep hill (can’t imagine why the Pennine Way didn’t divert to make sure you go up and down it). However, weary wanderers, the hostel almost jumps into your path as you approach Alston, you spot a large late-opening Spar shop almost in the same glance, and if your feet can carry you a few metres further, the Cumberland Inn has an excellent selection of beer and food. I took one look at the sign: ‘Mmm, beer, you know to want it …’ it said. And yes I did.