A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 29 June 2007

Another Post

I walked the Pennine Way in late April and early May and loved every single mile. Springtime is a good time to do it - it was so enjoyable this year when there was lots of sunshine and very little rain. Birdlife was abundant - plenty of curlews, skylarks, golden plovers, peewits, meadow pipits, wheatears and stonechats on the moorlands; and dippers, common sandpipers, and grey wagtails in the river valleys. I saw a peregrine being harried by a raven near the Hen Hole cliffs in the Cheviots, and a ring ouzel at Widdy Bank Farm in Upper Teesdale. I came across very few other end-to-enders. Most people seemed to be walking the Way in 2 or 3 day chunks. One couple I met had been knocking off bits of it for years with their two dogs. They were having a great time. We should be very proud of this grand long distance footpath, Britain's first official National Trail, which runs for 260 miles from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm just over the Scottish border. It was the brainchild of journalist and rambler, Tom Stephenson, who'd been inspired by the USA's Appalachian Trail. Opened in a ceremony on Malham Moor in April 1965, it was much more of a challenge for those early walkers than it is now - before the worst boggy sections had been overlaid with flagstones (slabs or "setts" taken from the redundant Northern cotton mills and imaginatively recycled). Highlights for me were Swaledale, Teesdale, Hadrian's Wall and the Cheviots. Not to mention the super-friendly Harlequin Pub/Restaurant in Cowling. But it's all terrific. There's very little road walking, and it's very civilised to be able to drop into a country inn most evenings. Though it's surprising and exciting how far away from civilisation one can get - especially on the Yorkshire moors and in the Cheviots - while walking up England's backbone. Some think of the Pennine Way as Britain's longest pub crawl. Others may remember it as a very long conversation with sheep. Of course it's both these things and much, much more. It's whatever you want to make of it. It's a wonderful walk and one of our national assets - right up there along with microbreweries and morris dancing.

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