The Northumberland stretch of The Pennine Way - Part 5 - Bellingham to Padon Hill

Day 12 (Sunday 27th June 2021) - After a bit of a break from the Pennine Way due to some leave and an overwhelming urge to do a border raid into Scotland after travel restrictions were lifted (and what a brilliant break it was of late snow in May and red squirrels thanks to a superb morning spent at Neil McIntyre's hide, a treat that had been at the top of my wish list for years), I headed back over to pick up where I left on Sunday as the forecast was for a dry day. I drove over to Otterburn, stopped off at Otterburn Mill for some crisps, Fentimans lemonade and a great big slab of their Rocky Road (which was amazing and had huge, whole red juicy cherries in it!), and then drove up the single track road to park up near Padon Hill. There's a tiny bit of space to park a very small car on the verge near where the Pennine Way crosses the road, leaving enough space so as not to obstruct the gate so that farm vehicles can still gain access. Having parked up I headed southwards away from Padon Hill to walk to near Bellingham, which is where I'd got up to back in early April.

I've been to Padon Hill many times as I love how peaceful it is there, with fabulous views all around. It's a location that features in the Northumberland book for it's great views, very large 'pepperpot' cairn, swathes of purple-pink heather in late summer and, if you're lucky, you may see roe deer or a small herd of free roaming ponies there. There's plenty of other wildlife there too, including grouse and skylarks, butterflies, lizards and other heath-loving creatures. And there's sheep, lots of sheep - this is Northumberland after all, where, allegedly, sheep outnumber people 3 to 1. So, this is a spot I've visited often, but I've always just walked along the stretch of the Pennine Way that leads north to the cairn, never along the stretch that leads south. This is one of the things I'm really loving about doing the Pennine Way - exploring the places in between the familiar places I know and love - in this case the bit in between the valley and waterfall at Hareshaw Linn on the outskirts of Bellingham (also in the Northumberland book!) and the cairn at Padon Hill.

The weather was ideal hiking weather, cool, cloudy but bright, with a gentle breeze, and dry, and the ground was great underfoot, soft after a little bit of rain the day before - but the boggy bits were mostly dry as, other than the day before, we'd not had much rain for a while. And the route was up and down gentle slopes too, all in all a very pleasant days walking along the Way to Bellingham and then back. By the return journey the sun had come out and it was glorious weather, perfect for working up a thirst for a pint when I got home, and some ice-cream!

Highlights of the day included:

* Meeting fellow hikers and stopping for a natter - I've not actually met many other people while hiking the Pennine Way, which can be a plus if you're inclined to be anti-social sometimes like me :-D - but it was really nice to briefly chat with these hikers, and to hear of their adventures - 1 was doing the whole Pennine Way in a continuous hike, which is impressive to a soft day walker like me, and 2 others were hiking from Lands End to John O Groats - how incredible is that, very inspiring! Friends and I are doing a Lands End to John O Groats virtual challenge, so to meet people who are doing it for real was fantastic.

* Sitting for lunch and seeing a great big yellow and black Dragonfly zip by and then land within a few feet of me - this was the middle of the day and it was hot, not a time when insects stay still for very long, but it looked stunning, so I tried to sneak up on it - incredibly luckily it stayed still long enough for me to get some snaps. On sharing these on Twitter folk kindly advised me that it was a Golden-Ringed Dragonfly - how cool is that! A picture of it is included below. From the Wildlife Trust site:

'The Golden-Ringed Dragonfly - A voracious predator that will even eat other dragonflies, the Golden-ringed dragonfly is the UK's longest species. It can be found around acidic streams in moorland and heathland habitats.'

* Tiny butterflies, hundreds of them flitting about the heather, grasses and buttercups - far too fast in the midday sunshine for me to photograph, but didn't stop me trying, and failing, many many times to creep up on them - great fun if fruitless from a photos point of view.

* Loads of flowers, more buttercups than you can shake a big stick at, some early flowering pale pink heather, bog beans (it felt very right to see bog beans on the very boggy route that is the Pennine Way!), thistles, some stray ornamental poppies and all sorts.

* The Rocky Road was pretty good like.

* And it's always nice to just be out walking in the countryside, it was a lovely day, no drama, but super chilled out and soul-food good.

Next stretch will be to go past the cairn at Padon Hill and into miles and miles of deep, dark, conifer forest (looks a bit scary!) to Byrness, and after that I start climbing up - very exciting - I'm hoping to time it so that I hike the Border Ridge around when the heather is coming into flower - can't wait!

Here are some pics from day 12 of my Pennine Way journey.