I decided to walk the Reivers Way as it took me back up north, I was walking hills I’d covered as a child and figured it would involve some tough terrain similar to Scotland. Ideal training for the later stages of LEJOG.
I packed my kit and traveled up on the Friday. Carrying 13.5kg on the bus and train wasn’t pleasant and I immediately thought about how I could trim the weight even more. I hadn’t packed any food and still it was heavy.
After a good night at my Dad’s having a few beers, food and a catch up I was dropped off at Corbridge train station. The starting point of the walk for me.
Day One – Corbridge to Allendale
The weather was warm and sunny but the trails were muddy underfoot from the recent rainfall. Following my route was pretty easy going until I got to Steelhall Wood. Bad weather and recent logging activity had eaten up the trail so much I couldn’t get through. I had to find a way round.
You can’t make it out but the mud was ankle deep. It wasn’t so much a problem but just a pain for the first day so I found another route round and got back on track.
The rest of the day was pleasant, and I took in some nice forest trails along rivers, but when I got to Allendale Common I started having navigation problems. I forgot what it was like to navigate the moors and find trails that didn’t really exist on the ground.
I followed my pacing estimates and checked compass bearings but knew something was wrong when I checked my position and realised I shouldn’t be walking up hill. I backtracked to my last know location and checked the map. I couldn’t figure it out. There were tracks on the map but nothing on the ground at all.
At this point I got the phone out and checked my location. I was where I should be. I saw a house and road so headed for it. I’m not above checking with someone else to save time and hassle. Rather than knock on the door I followed the road up a hill until it ended. Great.
It was by sheer dumb luck that I saw a bridleway sign pointing to Allendale Town so I followed it and reached my first end stage. I had planned on wild camping in Allendale but struggled to find somewhere around the location I’d scouted. I was being watched by locals.
I traveled on for a bit and, after checking in with a friend, found a little place above the river. It wasn’t ideal but it had to do as it was getting dark.
I fell asleep after eating, listening to the sounds of the river and distance noises of life in Allendale. It was a bank holiday weekend so plenty of people out partying.
Day Two – Allendale to Wark
I left Allendale early after a good night’s sleep. There was some wind during the night, and the tent sounded like it was flapping, but it was still intact and standing when I woke.
Most of the morning was spent following muddy river trails and, in some cases, along paths that didn’t exist due to land slide or erosion. But it was easy going, manageable and in some cases just beautiful.
I was finding the pack heavy so I started thinking on things to drop. I had a Hilleberg two man tent so decided to get a one man and there was pieces of kit I figured I could do without. Food was also something else I needed to rethink. On the southern stages of LEJOG I knew I wouldn’t need to carry much but up in Scotland I had to be smart about my resupply points so not to carry so much.
I left the river trail and started for Housesteads on Hadrian’s Wall via Bardon Hill. It was here I stopped to eat and the girls working there kindly filled my water bottles.
I got chatting to a guy about walking and cycling. He had this gorgeous husky called Christian and as I ate he kept looking at me with big begging eyes (the dog, not the guy) It was nice talking to someone and having a conversation. I didn’t catch his name but if he reads this (I gave him my details) then thanks.
I finished up and pushed on for Wark. Walking along the Wall was nice again but it was a lot busier than a month ago. I left it at Sewingshields and headed north. At this point the walk got slow and difficult.
The moors were boggy and forest tracks ankle deep in water. It started to become hard work. In hindsight I should have taken some photos but I was too busy just trying to pick my way through.
After a while I made it to Wark and rather than wild camp I took a chance on a B&B. It had been a demoralising afternoon and I wanted to lighten my pack, dry some things out, have a shower and sleep in a bed.
Day Three- Wark to Elsdon
After a good nights sleep I repacked my bag and posted some kit home. It wasn’t much but anything to lighten the load. Even though it was raining heavily I also found my spirits lifted after a night in a bed and a belly full of food. I donned my waterproofs and headed out of Wark.
I wish I’d stayed in bed. It was another day of waterlogged forest tracks and bogs. Hour after hour of difficult terrain. I knew it was good training but started to bitch and moan. I would get the odd spell of respite along roads and paths but after a while I was back to bogs.
I wasn’t far from Elsdon so carried on hoping the pub on the OS map was open so I could get some good. When I got there there was no pub. Great. I was wild camping that night so made the decision to eat into tomorrows miles for a bit.
I filled up my water bottles at the local community centre (which is open at all hours for this very reason) and climbed up Landshot Hill. I stopped at the top, looked over and saw rain clouds approaching. I carried on for a bit and the heavens opened.
Rather than persevere I got the tent up and climbed inside. I changed clothes, made a hot drink and got settled.
The rain stopped after a while and the wind started. I honestly thought the tent was going to lift so went out to check the pegs. All good. Then I looked at the view. I couldn’t have picked a better spot.
I was getting a decent mobile signal so phoned a few people, listened to the radio for a bit while I cooked some food and then looked at the terrain for the next few days. I had some decisions to make.
Day Four – Elsdon to Rothbury
I woke up after a restless sleep. The wind didn’t let up and rattled the tent all night. My thoughts had also turned to day five. I really didn’t fancy another day walking 22 miles through waterlogged tracks and bogs.
This day was a short 12 miles to Rothbury and I was stopping in a bunkhouse so it gave me a few hours to assess my options.
For 10 miles I had more bog and waterlogged forest trails with the added bonus of knee high cotton heather and unsteady ground. I fell twice and got my foot caught, twisting my knee in the process. I was fine but my mind was made up.
This was meant to be a training walk and fun. It stopped being fun so I ploughed on to Rothbury aiming to figure out how to skip the walk on day 5 and get a bus to Wooler.
The last few miles did make it worth the walk though. I got to Simonside and looked up. I last walked this way when I was a kid. I remember it being bigger.
After making my way up and across the top I looked down over Rothbury. I arrived at the bunkhouse by lunchtime and was shown around. This had to be the finest bunkhouse I’d stopped in and I had it to myself. There was a kitchen, lounge, Sky TV and they even did my washing!!! If you’re ever in Rothbury and want somewhere to stay I can recommend Tomlinsons.
I got settled, showered and went out for food. I’d made the decision to skip the next day and head straight for Wooler so looked up bus times. It would take a few hours but I knew it was the right thing to do.
I walked back to the bunkhouse and stopped by the river to cool my feet off. It felt good as I sat in the sun and enjoyed the quiet.
I slept for a bit in the afternoon, chatted to a friend and went out to get a takeaway.
Day Five – Rothbury to Wooler
This day was meant to be a 22 mile walk to Usway Ford, a half way point to Wooler. Usway is in the middle of nowhere with nothing around it. I had fancied the idea of camping here but just couldn’t face another day of the shitty terrain.
I got the bus to Wooler, found a campsite and pitched my tent. Rather than sit around I went for a walk to the Cheviot. I had hoped to get up and down but it was a three hour walk there and maybe a few hours to get up and down. I didn’t give myself enough time but at least I got out into the hills. It was a lovely day to be out walking ground I last covered when I was a kid.
I got back to Wooler, grabbed some supplies and sat in the sun watching the clouds pass overhead and the rabbits playing.
Day Six – Wooler to Bamburgh
After a good nights sleep I woke, showered, packed my gear and headed for Bamburgh. It was looking to be a hot sunny day with a cool breeze so I made good time. Leaving the moors and boggy terrain behind for gentle hills and coastal tracks.
Most of the day was spent following St Cuthberts Way to Belford. My pack felt good, I was getting used to the weight and starting to have more fun. After lunch in Belford I headed for the coast and Budle Bay. What a view. I think I sat here and watched the wildlife for 30 minutes. It was so peaceful.
I dragged myself up and headed to Bamburgh Castle and the end of my walking day.
At this point I had planned on wild camping but it was early afternoon and had plenty left in the tank so kept going to Seahouses. They take a strict stance on wild camping on the beaches in Northumberland so I figured I’d find a campsite down the coast and make life easier.
I found a place and opted for the bunkhouse with it being my last night. Again I had it to myself so I showered and walked into Seahouses to get food. I planted myself in a beer garden to eat.
Looking out across the harbor I considered the last few days and thought about my walks to come. I was looking forward to the adventure they would bring.
Day Seven – Bamburgh to Alnmouth
I woke early after a good night’s sleep but felt physically tired. After some stretching I showered, had breakfast and was away by 7. The plan was to get the 3PM train to London from Alnmouth and I wanted to take time walking down the coast and enjoy my last day.
I joined the trail at Seahouses and headed for Beadnell. The weather was good and the views down the coast clear. After negotiating through Beadnell’s back streets I walked along the beach, singing to myself and enjoying the time I had. It really was a wonderful day and I had a lot to be happy about.
I got off the beach at Newton-By-The-Sea and walked more coastal trail until Boulmer. This was the home straight and after a short while I saw Alnmouth. I sat and looked across the little town and pondered what I had learnt about my kit choices, reading weather, the route and myself.
I felt more confident and looked forward more to my little walk and the adventures that lay beyond it.