Alston to Greenhead (18 Miles) Tuesday 20th August 2002

Our plan for today had been hatched early and as it had been based on intelligence provided by someone who had been there, done that, it couldn’t fail. This was to avoid the PW and take the South Tyne Trail along the South Tyne Railway, a small line operating steam engines. However, the shape of the pear soon appeared. The South Tyne Way was covered in thick vegetation which was saturated with dew and overnight rain. We abandoned the Way and tried walking along the railway, hoping not to get run down by a train. The ballast and sleepers were hard work and soon we were plotting a course back to the official PW route. The moral of this story is – never trust a sailor ashore.
After passing through Slaggyford (lovely name, really ought to be a town in Essex) the PW took to the moors and a nearly trackless route through saturated cotton grass. It took us an age to find somehwere remotely dry to sit down for lunch. Today was not turning out to be a good day. In the afternoon, by correctly reading some subtle contours (my proudest moment of navigation of the whole trip) on Hartleyburn Common (North Side) we found ourselves walking through purple heather and over Roman lumps in the ground, into Greenhead.

At the hostel there were a few other guests. One was a chap with that vaguely military air of an officer from a technical regiment (well I know of no other class of people who wear ironed small-checked shirts with collars, oh, and a moustache) and he was reccying parts of the PW for an attempt the following year. Hmm, also a military trait. The other guy was, well, a spanner. Each time he spoke to us he had a different story. His most convincing claim was that he was a gardener from Kent (probably mowed the grass in the municipal parks), I took an instant dislike and did my best to disuade him from further conversation. He: “what do you do.” Me: “I read other peoples email.” He: “Oh a spy?” (said in all seriousness). Keith said “I thought you were going to start a fight with that bloke”. Am I really that confrontational? I later mentioned to Keith that one day I expected to see that mans picture above a photograph of missing children. (The big news story was the Soham Murders.) Later that evening we were having a quiet drink in a pub across the road with a couple who had moved to Greenhead from Leeds. Spanner turns up, and Lady from Leeds was most Yorkshirley forthright in suggesting he go away and bother someone else.

It had been a bloody tough two days, tomorrow was to be short, and we were going to be joined by friends. Even Mr Spanner couldn’t spoil that, could he?

~ by @mmonyte on August 20, 2006.

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