Walk Day 44 – Alston to Haltwhistle

Day 44 – May 22 Alston to Haltwhistle
 Weather: Sunny and hot  B&B: Manor House Inn (£39)
 Departed: 9:00 Arrived: 14:45  Walked: 4h 17m Rested: 0 hr 54m
 Distance Today: 13.7 mi / 22.05 km  Total Distance: 692.93 mi / 1115.16 km
 % Complete: ~ 60.46%  Pint of the Day: Wylam Gold Tankard
 GPS Track for: Day 44

It promised to be sunny and hot today and one look out the window proved the forecasters correct (again). With temperatures predicted to hit the upper 20’s it would be a shorts and sun screen day for sure.

When I entered the breakfast room I found the two Dutch walkers were staying at the Cumberland Inn too. They invited me to sit at their table and we recounted our experiences of Cross Fell and that long dirt track. They are heading to Greenhead today and so it’s unlikely I will run into them again.

I was away by 9:00am and it was already very warm. I walked through Alston and down to the old railway station where I picked up the South Tyne Trail, a track that follows an old railway line all the way to Haltwhistle. The first section covering the 3 to 4 miles between Alston and Kirkhaugh has been laid with what appears to be a narrow-gauge track. The trail follows the railway although the South Tyne river was never far away. The scenery was gorgeous and a welcome change from what was on offer on the second half of yesterday’s walk. One advantage of doing LEJOG is that you’re not tied to the Pennine Way like PW walkers are and so you can take advantage of alternatives like this one.

After Kirkhaugh the railway ends but its obvious that they are looking to extend the line to Slaggyford. The rail bed is in various stages of development with some sections ready for track laying and others barely started. From my quick glance at the information boards placed along the trail I believe the last train ran between Haltwhistle and Alston in 1976, after decades of decline. I assume the new railway is a volunteer effort and will be primarily for tourists.

After Slaggyford the rail bed reverts to a walking and cycling path. Fortunately they are using a grit-stone base rather than tarmac so its much nicer to walk on than the Tarka Trail was back in Devon. The fantastic scenery continued and occasionally the breeze picked up and helped to cool things down.

Four miles beyond Slaggyford was Lambley and its impressive railway viaduct. Most of the old railway stations are now private homes and so in order to reach the viaduct I needed to follow the footpath down the hill, underneath the viaduct and back up the other side. Once on top the views of the South Tyne river were excellent. The trail continued on through woodland and open fields, eventually coming to Featherstone Rowfoot where I enjoyed a pint of Wylam Gold Tankard ale at the Wallace Arms pub. It was now the hottest point of the day and all the beer drinkers sought refuge from the sun under large patio umbrellas.

I followed the trail for a couple more miles before taking a shortcut up a hill and down a pasture and woodland to join a minor road that I followed into Haltwhistle. I was checked into the Manor House Inn by mid-afternoon and headed back outside to check out the town. Surprisingly many shops were closed and by 4pm all of them were. Even Sidney, BC stays open until 5pm on a Saturday! Unfortunately there is no free wifi service in Haltwhistle other than the library which is closed from noon Saturday until Monday.

I’ve decided to trade my rest day for a short walking day instead. My plan now is to walk to Housesteads Roman Fort (along Hadrian’s Wall) and then bus it back to Haltwhistle. If the timings are right I might bus it to Hexham for a quick visit and then take the train back to Haltwhistle. I spent a couple of days in Hexham in 1996 and iI remember it being a great little town. The Tourist Information office also mentioned there is a café (Café Nero) that offers free wifi. On Monday I’ll take the bus back to Housesteads and then continue on my walk to Bellingham (pronounced Belling-jum).

Overall a cracking day with fantastic weather and wonderful scenery. The forecast is for another hot one tomorrow with a small chance of showers in some parts of north-east England.

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