If this section was sold to people as a self-contained day walk, then I'm pretty convinced that nobody would bother to do it; the only reason I can imagine why anyone would drag themselves out of bed to walk from Bellingham to Byrness is because it's part of the Pennine Way, and once you've come this far north, you might as well finish the bugger. The journey is completely without merit and it's just one more reason why I'm delighted to be leaving the Pennine Way tomorrow; I've really had it with this bloody track.
It's not the physical difficulty of the Way that's got to me; I'm able to cover 15 miles a day reasonably easily, and even with the uphill climbs and swampy bog, a day this long is now pretty routine. The thing that gets to me is the sheer stupidity of walking through this kind of terrain in the first place; today started with more depressing moorland and it finished with a long and very tedious walk along forestry roads, through the soulless man-made pine forests of Kielder.
I suppose I should be grateful that it didn't rain, and I should also be pleased that my gaiters kept my feet perfectly dry despite quite a few miles of utterly waterlogged marsh; but all I care about is that I've now completed the Bellingham-Byrness section of the Pennine Way and that I'll never, ever bother to do it again.
Moor, Forest, Byrness
This is where I normally get all lyrical and manage to squeeze 1000 words out of even the most insipid day. I've long subscribed to the theory that you're only a writer once you can write 1000 words about a fridge and maintain the reader's interest, but even I'm not going to waste 1000 words on this northern stretch of the Pennine Way.
Then again, there is something I need to get off my chest. I've already harped on about what I think about the Way, but before I leave it tomorrow and head off into Scotland, I'd like to take this opportunity to slag off the publishers of the Pennine Way's official leaflet, because it's rare that one gets the opportunity to read such a load of ill-informed rubbish in one handy, compact leaflet.
First up, under a heading 'The Pennine Way for Everyone', the leaflet kicks off with these wise words:
Today many walkers, in search of an adventure, take up the challenge of completing the Trail in one continuous walk over a couple of weeks.
I'm amazed that this is how they introduce the Pennine Way. Doing the Way in a couple of weeks is pushing it even for the strongest walkers – I wouldn't like to try it, even now – and statistically speaking, most people who pick up this leaflet are unlikely to be at that level of walking.
To me, the Pennine Way is definitely a three-week walk for everyone except the insane, and to mislead people at the very start of a glossy official leaflet is nothing short of irresponsible. Have you ever wondered why so many people give up after only a few days on the trail? Blame the Countryside Agency, I say, who wrote not only the introduction above, but also this hilarious piece of claptrap:
The Trail is well signed and looked after to high standards to ensure one of the best walking experiences in Britain.
Um, are we talking about the same Pennine Way here? 'Well signed?' That's nothing short of a lie, and coupled with the main photo, showing a young girl sitting by High Force in pop-socks, shorts and a T-shirt that obviously hasn't been struggling under a pack for the last few days, I can't help wondering whether this leaflet was written by a team of marketing executives who've never even been to the Pennines.
Still, they did get one thing right: their marketing catchphrase for the Pennine Way is 'Once in a Lifetime.' I'm sure that's exactly how most people feel after finishing or, more likely, giving up. Roll on tomorrow...